You might ask: is it possible to become more creative in later life, or does creative capacity decline as we age? Dr. Gene Cohen, Director of the Center on Aging, Health and Humanities at George Washington University and past president of the Gerontological Society of America, wrote a fascinating book in 2000 titled “The Creative Age – Awakening the Human Potential in the Second Half of Life”. He maintains that it is good news for boomers who want their later lives to be special because gerontological studies have shown that the potential for creative expression in later life is not the exception, but the rule, that “it is remarkably universal in possibility” and that it is hard-wired into our species, innate to everyone regardless of background and may find expression simply in ways we develop new self-understanding or in a broader way that affects our community or culture. In fact, the unique combination with longer life experience magnifies the possibilities tremendously. He distinguishes between private creativity with a little “c” and public creativity with a big “C”. The first applies to individuals who set small challenges for themselves and have brought into being something that has enhanced their life and given satisfaction, while big “C”” creativity may produce a book or painting or cure for a disease. He cites experiments that show not only the brain’s plasticity – its ability to change with use, but its remarkable capacity to respond to envinronmental challenge and that all of this capacity continues as we age. Further, it is important to exercise our creative muscle as well as our physical muscles as “scientific evidence confirms the importance of creative stimulation to maintaining brain health and a healthy brain maximizes our capacity to deal successfully with our environment and the health challenges awaiting us”.
He cites many examples of people in later years who had suffered longstanding adversity and psychological trauma who were launched on a new creative path with support and encouragement. With many examples, he challenges the myth that the greatest accomplishments of mankind’s best and brightest minds occur early in their careers. In fact, his book is full of sidebar sketches of individuals who were creative producers of work into very late age.
The obstacles that restrict our creative impulses and hold us back are “fixed psychological patterns, fixed ideas and social situations…to liberate ourselves at any age…we need to re-examine these limiting factors to find or build a way around them”.
So now we know we have the capacity and the experience to keep creating in our lives, and coaching gives us a tool to bring new directions into being. Don’t just live in retirement, create your retirement! Just as with financial planning, there are those who can do it themselves, but for most people, buying a book on retirement planning won’t do it. They need support and help to ask themselves the right questions to keep them on track and disciplined in their pursuit of the goal, to help release their hidden dreams.