Anyone reading our blog of late has probably concluded I’m obsessed with turning 60. Now while that might be an exaggeration, I am more likely to read articles and pay attention to news shows featuring the topic of aging. That is why I read with interest an article in the New York Times last Sunday 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, I thought to myself.
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. Benjamin Jones noted in a paper titled, “Age and Great Invention” there has been a large upward trend in the age at which innovators begin their active careers.
A CBS Morning Show last week featured Jeffrey Kluger of Time Magazine in a segment called “Awesome Aging”. Kluger contends 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.
I can’t tell you how affirming these two articles are. Creativity is a central thesis of Be Brave. Lose the Beige (our blogsite and book title). 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.
While I have always enjoyed participating in creative activities, I’m feeling as though I’m on creativity steroids at this point in my life (at age 60). My brain is a virtual popcorn machine with new ideas/creative thoughts continuously popping up (probably more because of my ADD brain). My husband and I consider ourselves entrepreneurs. I think we must conceive of new business ideas every other day. The process of conception (much like in the other kind of conception process) is the fun part– the brain storming process; the excitement of a new idea; the hope of making the idea an income producing one…
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.