Today I stumbled across an excellent article about creative aging. Creative aging is something that I see some admirable seniors around me doing without even being conscious of it. University professors or business-owning seniors tend to think of it as simply doing their jobs: keeping abreast of new ideas, hanging out with a range of different age groups, traveling to expand their horizons, and constantly solving different types of problems to keep their brains young.
Today’s article addressed a different problem, though. What happens when you reach that point in your life, but have no resources to travel, or any access to a vibrant environment?
In California, Tim Carpenter and John Huskey are attempting to solve this issue by integrating affordable housing with centers that promote more creative, active lives for seniors:
The Burbank [senior art] colony is the showpiece of EngAGE, an organization started in 1997 by Tim Carpenter. He was working for a health care company that built primary care centers for senior citizens when he met John Huskey, a Los Angeles developer of affordable housing.
Carpenter and Huskey began to talk about how to combine what each of them was doing. They had originally contemplated establishing acute-care health centers in senior apartment buildings, but now had a different idea. “We live in a society that’s very acute-care based — we wait till someone’s sick,” Carpenter said. “We decided to try to get people to take on healthy behaviors without having to go to the doctor.”
I especially love their conclusion that the modern health system works to fix things that are broken, but that real healing occurs by living active, engaged lives. One of the most interesting conclusions discussed by the article is that the activity that promotes the biggest increase in problem-solving ability in seniors is… acting!
The researchers Helga and Tony Noice (she is a psychologist, he is an actor) gave nine 90-minute classes to a group of adults. Some did theater training, some trained in visual arts and another group did nothing. After four weeks, the differences in cognitive function were astonishing. The theater trainees scored nearly a 60 percent increase in problem-solving ability (with visual arts, that ability declined) and the gain was sustained. The Noices believe that theater is especially good for the brain because it requires engagement on many levels — emotional, physical and intellectual.
Put down that Sudoku!
Here are a few more resources: