I’m participating in a program called “Aging Matters” created by the Orange County Commission on Aging. This eight-month series of classes is designed to help organizations serving seniors. As a baby boomer, writing for and about issues facing baby boomers, it’s hard for me to grasp that designation will apply to our generation. (And, in fact, already does. How many of us are already receiving “senior” discounts at movie theaters, restaurants, and even for airline travel). Thus, I’m experiencing heightened awareness about the aging issue (and, of course, my aging joints are serving as constant reminders of my personal plight with aging issues).
I’m finding I am more likely to read articles and pay attention to news shows featuring the topic of aging. I found this article written by Peggy Klaus called, Embrace Your Age and Conquer the World. I don’t know about conquering the world so much, but maybe conquering my own world would be a worthy pursuit. Klaus argues that in spite of, or perhaps because of, ageism (discrimination based on age) we Baby Boomers should “start to own, even embrace, how old we are”. She says it’s the perfect time for a major cultural attitude adjustment. Hmmm… maybe this aging thing just got a lot better.
Klaus cited a Northwestern University study in which the author opined that people who are 55 and even 65 have more innovation potential than 25 year olds. Apparently there has been a large upward trend in the age at which innovators begin their active careers.
In a segment entitled “Awesome Aging”, the CBS Morning Show featured Jeffrey Kluger, science writer for Time Magazine. Kluger contended creativity increases with age. He referenced studies that have found the brain continues to grow in those areas involving creativity. The very deterioration we dread actually enhances creativity. Kluger says, “The walls break down. It’s no longer language in the left hemisphere and art in the right. There is a free flow of information back and forth.” He added, “Wisdom is a bi-product of creativity. What is wisdom but creative thinking?” This must be why Frank Lloyd Wright, Pablo Picasso, and even Galileo did some of their best work in their 80s.
Creativity is a central thesis of Be Brave. Lose the Beige. We go so far as to urge people to “exercise” their creative muscles. As adults, we have come to recognize the validity of exercising our bodies and minds, but somehow, once we get past the age of ten, we often pay less attention to our creative muscles. And, just like physical muscles that fail to be engaged, so can our creative muscles begin to atrophy. Creativity is not just about participating in the visual or performing arts. It’s a way of thinking about and approaching one’s life, a way of viewing the world. It’s doing mundane things in a novel way. Even a little creative thinking can produce seismic changes in our lives.
So, I agree with Peggy Klaus. This is a perfect time for a major cultural attitude adjustment, and let’s start with us- the Boomer Generation. After all, there are a lot of us- 80 million to be precise. Rumor has it over half of us will celebrate our 100th birthday and beyond. How do you plan to creatively spend these next 20, 30, or 40 years?