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Celebrate the creativity unleashed with an ageing brain


Contrary to intuition, recent findings show the ageing brain resembles the creative brain in a number of ways. 

The ageing brain is more easily distracted, and uninhibited than a younger brain—functions that parallel creative brains. It is also somewhat more disinhibited than the younger brain (so is the creative brain).

Aging brains score better on tests of crystallized IQ (accumulation of knowledge and experience). Again, creative brains use this function to make novel and original associations. The question is why not ‘unleash’ this creative potential in people getting older?

Rather than retirement new thinking might focus on ‘transition’ time to undertakings with a cultural value such as art, music or writing. New activities will also continue to keep the brain ‘young’. 

For eons so-called ‘older’ people have been making their mark in fields of original endeavour. Combining bits of knowledge into novel and original ideas is what the creative brain is all about.

Thus, having access to increased internal warehouse of knowledge provides fertile ground for creative activity in the aging brain.

Consider Millard Kaufman, who wrote his first novel, the best seller Bowl of Cherries, at age 90.

Then there's 93-year-old Lorna Page, who raised eyebrows in the United Kingdom with her first novel A Dangerous Weakness.

Following in the footsteps of Grandma Moses (who did not take up painting until in her 70's), former patent attorney John Root Hopkins turned to art in his 70's and had a showing of his work in the American Visionary Art Museum at age 73.

There are numerous examples throughout history of the creative power of the ageing brain: Benjamin Franklin invented the bifocal lens at the age of 78. Thomas Hardy published a book of lyric poetry at age 85. Frank Lloyd Wright completed the design of the Guggenheim Museum in New York at age 92. Giuseppe Verdi wrote Falstaff, perhaps his most acclaimed opera, at the age of 85.

Ageing people can add value to existing creative accomplishments. 

My Generation, originally released by The Who in 1965, has become a music video hit by The Zimmers, a group of 40 seniors in their 70's, 80's, 90's and older. Under the leadership of 90-year old lead singer Alf Carretta, group members jive, smash guitars, kick over drums and rock away for the cameras. The name of the group is derived from the brand of walkers made popular in the United Kingdom creator of Zimmer Frames. 



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Date Published: 16 February 2018

Review Date: 16 February 2022