WE KNOW ABOUT CREATIVITY AND OLDER ADULTS
OF ARTISTIC OR CREATIVE EXPRESSION
TO RELATED INFORMATION ON THE INTERNET
"Some of the most powerful works of art have
been produced by older Americans by hands that have engaged in years of
hard work, eyes that have witnessed decades of change, and hearts that
have felt a lifetime of emotions. Our whole society benefits when older
Americans use their talents and experiences to become involved in the arts
as creators, teachers, mentors, volunteers and audiences."
Hillary Rodham Clinton, from a monograph
for the National Assembly of Local Arts
Agencies, Americans for the Arts, in 1996.
by taking inspiration from the young in spirit who remained creatively
active all their lives: Goethe completing Faust at 80; Titian painting
masterpieces at 98; Toscanini conducting at 85; Justice Holmes writing
Supreme Court decisions at 90; Edison busy in his laboratory at 84; and
Benjamin Franklin helping to frame the American Constitution at 80."
difficult to separate spirituality and creativity, as both are tied to
the notion of self actualization, stepping beyond oneself, transcendence.
Creativity is viewed to have universal meaning that extends beyond time
and self. Creative activity combines the energies of feelings imagination
and thought. Some believe that the approach of one’s end of life actually
creativity with increased urgency, intensity and energy.
This section on
creativity is also quite related to Activity
and Leisure. Please refer to that section for additional activities
that may bring meaning and spirituality into older adult lives.
WE KNOW ABOUT CREATIVITY AND OLDER ADULTS
"Imagination is the highest kite one
of creating and one’s attitude, the way one approaches the project, may
be more important than the actual product or tangible outcome. Studies
have shown that creativity may emerge during periods of loneliness and
depression. Elizabeth "Grandma" Layton , an older Kansas woman, used line
drawing to develop great talent and highly regarded art. As a result of
her drawings, she overcame her depression, thus illustrating the ability
of creativity to overcome physical or emotional decline or loss.
-- Lauren Bacall
There are many benefits to artistic
expression. Creativity meets developmental needs and is an essential part
of the human experience. Creative expression may accomplish many of the
Give a sense of control over the external
Make something positive out of a loss,
bad experience or depression
Maintain an individual’s integrity
Make thought and feeling clear
-- (Ebersole & Hess, 1998)
In a 1991 issue of Generations
focused on creativity), several scientists recounted their qualitative
observations of the power of creative expression in older adult lives.
Berman examined the importance of personal journal or diary entries as
stories of immense worth and creativity. Through in-depth interviews,
Rugh (p. 28-29), studied Florence Kleinsteiber, a very ordinary
Oklahoman, who found "workin’ on this art has helped me to bring it all
together where I feel more complete…more at peace with myself for things
that happened way back years ago." Through the detailed study of Francisco
Goya’s life and works, Winkler found evidence of moral expression and teaching
about the human spirit through the visual arts.
Adapted from S. Arieti,
Lehman's research (1953), was a pioneer
effort to connect chronological age with creativity in his well known,
and Achievement, which suggested that it peaked at 35 years. This may
suggest that creativity is reserved for the young. But we understand
today that the typical age curve is an average of hundreds of separate
age curves and is based on career age, not a function of chronological
age (Simonton, 1991). People differ in the timing of their creative expression.
Interest in the related areas of spirituality
and creativity is growing. In the lead article of the October 1999 issue
of The Gerontologist, "Nature, Spirituality, and Later Life in Literature:
An Essay on the Romanticism of Older Writers," Waxman explores the connections
among creativity, nature and spirituality. The article focuses on how experiences
in nature generate spirituality by examining past and current literary
works. Waxman particularly reviews the works of older 20th century writers
who call readers to age well by rejecting the "productivity" of aging;
reaching, through nature, beyond the social and physical to the metaphysical.
improved health and a decline in ageism have changed the opportunities
for development of creativity in older adults. There are countless examples
of quite famous and talented artists who have continued, improved or begun
artistic expression late in life. Carl Sandburg, the poet; Pablo Casals,
the famed violinist; and Grandma Moses, folk painter, are just a few who
have demonstrated these possibilities.
of creativity have been identified
encourage cretivity, including:
Preparation - where time and experiences foster
Frustration – expression and approach are
Incubation – the idea takes shape
Illumination – the approach becomes clear
(Ebersole & Hess, 1995)
Elaboration – a plan is developed and built
||Being alone allows
the person to make contact with the self and be open to new kinds of inspiration.
||Periods of time are needed to focus on
inner resources and to be removed from the constraints of routine activities.
||Allows exploration of one's fantasy life
and venturing into new avenues for growth.
||Allows the mind to wander in any direction
without restriction and permits the similarities among remote topics or
concepts to emerge.
|One must practice recognizing similarities
and resemblances across to perceptual of cognitive domains.
||A willingness to suspend judgment allows
one to be open to possibilities without treating them as nonsense.
|Conflict can be
transformed into more stable creative products.
||A state of awareness that permits the
person to grasp the relevance of seemingly insignificant similarities.
||A devotion to the techniques, logic, and
repitition that permit creative ideas to be realized.
(Creativity: The Magic Synthesis, 1976)
Individual and societal influences may
block opportunities for artistic expression . Aging changes, such as arthritis,
may limit one’s mobility. Economic status can inhibit access to programs
or places that offer artistic expression. Geographic distance or terrain
may prohibit artistic exposure. Discrimination based on sex, ethnicity
and age may block opportunity. Cultural differences and deeply held values
may inhibit the exploration of new ways to express oneself.
OF ARTISTIC OR CREATIVE EXPRESSION
There are many ways to express creativity
and many variations within these:
Rhythms cross all cultures and aspects
of life. Many cultures use non-verbal gestures in the patterns of their
daily lives, such as Polynesians who use their hands in daily communication.
There are numerous ways to use dance in creative expression.
Individual expression; tap, ballet or modern
Dance clubs for couples as social occasions
Specialized groups, such as line dancing,
square dancing or ballroom dance
Exercise dance through fitness clubs
Music is universal and familiar in some
form to all peoples. Even if one cannot sing or dance well, most can relate
to rhythm. One can enjoy music individually and personally or enjoy it
publicly in social settings. The many forms of music make it adaptable
Studies have proven the therapeutic use
of music in exercise, communication and memory improvement for frail and
demented persons. Music therapy is an approach where individual programs
are prescribed and created by professionals to change behavior. Its positive
effects have included:
Self expression, such as writing lyrics
Music can be enjoyed and expressed
creatively in many ways:
Moving to music
Learning a song
Studying music history
Learning a new instrument
Building an instrument
(Ebersole & Hess, 1998)
In recognition of the potential value
of music therapy, Congress has allocated monies through the Older American
Act to fund research, training and education in music therapy.
Poetry is much like music with rhythmic
appeal. Contemporary poetry may not appeal to the current cohort of older
adults. They prefer more traditional patterns with rhymes and free verse.
Koch (1977) explained how to use poetry with older adults. Matsumoto refined
these strategies in 1978. The following are
modifications of their strategies to create interest in poetry for older
Translate the poetry for those who have a
different primary language
Recite poetry individually and in groups
Attend and listen to public presentations
Set a poem to music, a favorite song
Focus on particular type of poetry such as
contemporary, children’s poetry or specific works of a poet
Create humorous limerick or poetry for special
Write a new poem about a particularly favorite
Use a cultural focus for a poem
The theater is a wonderful forum for artistic
expression. In performing before others especially with older adults, an
atmosphere of trust is needed with structure, acceptance, non-judgmental
surroundings and rules. Older adults have been used in the theater in many
There are many ways to express one’s
self creatively in the theater.
Storytelling/ Oral Histories
There are many theater groups focused
on older adults. It has been found that drama offers an older adult the
chance to leave his/her own role and take on new ones with different futures,
hopes and dreams. This may have a healing effect.
(Ebersole & Hess, 1998)
In your own community you may look to a
variety of different agencies and institutions for creative activities
For artistic interests:
Schools or universities
Civic Theaters (for example, The Barn Players
of Johnson County Kansas, a senior troupe; and The Lyceum in Arrowrock,
MO, a professional group)
Service Groups (such as the Tomahawk Drama
Service League, a children’s theater league seeks to arouse awareness in
theater in the local school children)
If a program is not available in your area,
start one by contacting existing groups.
Nonprofit art organizations (national and
Schools and universities
American Society on Aging. (1991). Creativity
in later life, Generations. XV(2) pp. 1-72. Entire issue.
American Society on Aging. (2000). Reasons
to Grow Old: Meaning in later life, Generations. XXIII (4) pp. 1-96.
Ebersole, P., and P. Hess (1998). Toward
Healthy Aging: Human Needs and Nursing Response. (5th Edition) St.
Louis, MO: Mosby-Year Book, Inc.
Koch, K. (1977). I Never Told Anybody.
New York, NY: Random House.
Waxman, B.F. (1999). Nature, spirituality
and later life in literature: An essay on the romanticism of older writers.
39 (5) pp. 516-524.
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