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08 Aug 2022

Creative thinking and the ageing brain


Contrary to intuition, 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).

Ageing 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 being considered the ‘end of the line’ focus instead on new undertakings with a cultural value such as art, music or writing. New activities will 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 an increased internal warehouse of knowledge provides fertile ground for creative activity in the aging brain.

Timeless examples of things improving with age

  • Consider Millard Kaufman, who wrote his first novel, the best seller Bowl of Cherries, at age 90.
  • Then there's Lorna Page, who at 93 raised eyebrows in the United Kingdom with her first novel A Dangerous Weakness that focused on lost love and betrayal.
  • 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.

Talking ‘Bout Our Generation

Ageing people can add value to existing creative accomplishments. Case in point is the release of the song My Generation, originally released by The Who in 1965, it became a music video hit by The Zimmers, a group of 40 seniors in their 70's, 80's, 90's and older.

The group took its name from the Zimmer frame, the United Kingdom and some parts of New Zealand term for a mobility aid known in some other places as a walker.

My Generation, originally released by The Who in 1965, it became a music video hit by The Zimmers, a group of 40 seniors in their 70's, 80's, 90's and older.

Click here to watch the video

The band was created as a feature in a British Broadcasting television documentary which aired on 28 May 2007. The feature of forming the band and recording a single was intended to give a voice to the feelings of isolation ‘suffered by the elderly’. The Zimmer’s logo is a parody of The Beatles' logo, as is the image of them walking across Abbey Road which was part of their promotional material.

The oldest member, Buster Martin, claimed to have been born in 1906, although some sources indicate he was born in 1913. Martin died in 2011. Former lead singer Alf Carretta died on 29 June 2010, aged 93. When the final singer, John Langridge died the group disbanded but the memory carried on.


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Date Published: August 2022

Review Date: August 2025