Today's seniors are generously advantaged by a great assortment of creative activities and outlets. They are encouraged to explore them as therapy for some of the challenges that come with adjustments to daily living that include a greater amount of leisure time and longer lives.
As creative expression distinguishes humans, it also provides us with an elixir for dealing with life issues. Whether it's engaging in sports, writing a novel or scrapbooking, creative endeavors keep seniors engaged in life, stimulate memories, while offering choice and control.
Creative involvement appears to have medicinal benefits for those who are challenged with physical or mental issues due to stroke, heart attack, dementia or other factors. For example, studies have shown that those with Alzheimer's open up and communicate well through collage work.
One of the leading proponents of the medicinal use of creative activity is Gene D. Cohen, MD, PhD. Director and Professor of Health-care Sciences and Professor of Psychiatry at the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities, George Washington University, Washington, D.C. He is also the author of The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life (Harper Collins).
Dr. Cohen is the lead researcher of a 25-year study on creativity and aging in more than 200 senior citizens. Regarding the relationship of creativity and health, Dr. Cohen says, "Expressing ourselves creatively can actually improve health, both mentally and physically. Creativity is a natural, vibrant force throughout our lives-a catalyst for growth, excitement and forging a meaningful legacy."
Dr. Cohen also makes some other key points regarding the importance of creativity to wellness. They are:
- Creativity reinforces essential connections between brain cells, including those responsible for memory.
- Creativity strengthens morale. It alters the way we respond to problems and sometimes allows us to transcend them. Keeping a fresh perspective makes us emotionally resilient.
- Challenging the brain can relieve sleep and mood disorders.
- Reading, writing and word games increase one's working vocabulary and help to fend off forgetfulness.
- Capitalizing on creativity promotes a positive outlook and sense of well-being. That boosts the immune system, which fights disease.
- Having an active, creative life makes it easier to face adversity-including the loss of a spouse.
When addressing the longevity of seniors, we need to look at more than the immediate needs of food, shelter, finance and physical health. There is much more to a truly healthy, rounded and fulfilling life than this. These things can be meaningful to a person, especially towards the end of their life. If we remember this, we will be much more likely to have a happy ending to our story.