The Benefits of Creativity and Imagination


If you were asked to list creative activities for seniors, what would you say? Would you mention painting? Woodworking? Flower arranging? And if you were asked to try something thought of as “creative,” such as dance, poetry or pottery, what would be your response? These traditional activity ideas for seniors often prompt the reply, “I’m not creative.”

The journey and the destination.  

Creativity isn’t only about the end result. It’s also about the process of creation. Forms of art such as dance, poetry, theater and painting arise from a creative process that’s based on an openness to new ideas and creating novel outcomes.

When you embrace something new, try a new approach or think outside the box, you’re engaging in creativity — as surely as any performance or visual artist. Thus, creative activities for seniors aren’t just about making art. They can take a wider definition. According to research on creativity in older adults, “The process of creating, and one’s attitude toward life, may be more important than the actual product or tangible outcome.” It’s this journey of openness that is the foundation of creativity, and it’s available to all of us at every stage of life.

Which stage of creativity describes you? 

While brains may age, creative abilities do not. As we grow older, we gain knowledge, emotional maturity and practical life experiences. We have the advantage of being able to look back and the ability to integrate these disparate pieces into profound insights. These growing insights about life start the itch for creative expression in our own unique way.

How we express our creative energy is shaped by the four phases of the second half of life:

  •   Midlife (40s to 50s) — These years motivate an evaluation of one’s personal and professional life. We look for ways to make them more gratifying. We combine insightful reflection with a drive to create meaning.
  •   Liberation (60s) — We experience the freedom of retirement and time to explore new ways of expression. We are more comfortable with ourselves and less concerned about what others think.
  •   Summing up (70s) — We look back at our life to divine its larger meaning. We become the keepers of cultural history and want to share our life’s wisdom. We’re motivated to give back through community involvement, volunteering or creative writing for seniors, including autobiography and storytelling. The summing-up process may spark new creative activities left unexplored until now.
  •   Encore (80s) — Our creative expression is focused on making a statement or completing unfinished business. We add to the contributions we’re making toward our communities and families.

What does it mean to be creative? 

You can tap into your creativity in many ways. For some seniors, the traditional arts are their creative home. They find happiness and social connection through making art with others. Painting, pottery, dance, and other traditional forms of art become a way to express ideas and emotions and make sense of the world around them. The profound effect the creative arts have on physical and mental health is seen in the practice of art therapy. Just the smell of paint, its feel and its colors, opens up new paths for those affected by dementia or language loss.

For other seniors, creativity is part of a problem-solving attitude to life. Reports from The Boston Globe and The New York Times showed how older adults responded to stay-at-home orders during the 2020 pandemic.  Unable to attend in-person exercise classes, some adopted new technologies, participating in virtual classes for Zumba, weight training, yoga, meditation and the like. Others made the most of their surroundings, using a hallway or staircase for walking, and water-filled milk jugs for strength exercise.

Different types of people are drawn to different creative pursuits:

  •   Are you more social? You may enjoy starting or joining a discussion group, meeting with friends, joining a club, or video chatting regularly with family and friends.
  •   Are you more musical? You may enjoy learning or revisiting how to play an instrument, singing, listening to music, or attending a concert.
  •   Are you more spatial? You may enjoy drawing, painting, sculpting, scrapbooking, taking art classes, making cards, gardening or flower arranging.
  •   Are you more kinesthetic? You may enjoy walking, golfing, hiking, cycling, taking yoga or Pilates classes, swimming, dancing, acting, or performing.
  •   Are you more logical/mathematical? You may enjoy Sudoku, working out brainteasers, organizing a collection or playing cards.
  •   Are you more verbal/linguistic? You may enjoy writing, telling stories, or participating in a writing group or book club.

Creative activities are a path to discovering new strengths because of our age, not despite it. They bring a sense of meaning, purpose and joy to our lives. And in Broadview’s unique art and academia-infused lifestyle on the Purchase College SUNY campus, there’ll be an unmatched array of creative activities for seniors. Residents will audit classes of all kinds, attend events at the Neuberger Museum of Art or The Performing Arts Center, and interact with faculty and students. Creativity and lifelong learning will be woven into the tapestry of Broadview life.

Continue your journey of growth and discovery. Join us for an upcoming lecture or be part of the Broadview Book Club led by professors of Purchase College. Contact us at (914) 417-4201 to participate or to learn more.