Why Creativity Matters: Longevity & Creativity
Mary Catherine Bateson, in her book, Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom, asks the question, “If you had a home and suddenly you were going to add a room into it, what would it be about? How would it serve your life? What would you fill it with? What would you use it for/ do there? What would it feel like?” She goes on to draw the analogy between our new found longevity and this house under renovations. Our longevity has added 20 to 30 years to our lives and it is like having a whole new room added onto the house we live in. Not only does it give us a new space that we must create and use, but it affects how we live in the entire house. According to her, “We have not ‘added’ years to life, tacked on at the end. We have changed the shape and meaning of a lifetime in ways we do not yet fully understand. We have opened up a new space partway through the life course, a second and different kind of adulthood that precedes old age, and as a result every stage is undergoing a change.”
We tend to think about creativity as only belonging to a select few, a rare breed of people that live in the right sides of their brains. However, this cultural myth may rob us of our need for the creativity each of us possess as we decide what to do with this new room of our lives, these extra years. According to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary creativity is defined as, “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.” A more concise definition is “bringing something new of value into existence.” That working definition of creativity sounds like just what the doctor ordered! As an aging society, we must begin the process of redefining and transcending traditional ideas such as the relationship between work and purpose, the role of aging adults in the workplace, retirement as perpetual vacation, and aging as physical and mental decline. As the baby boomer generation finds itself caring for parents while aging themselves, they also find themselves as pioneers in redefining what it means to age. They are working longer, starting new careers and lives later in life, and forgoing institutional care for customized alternatives: all of which require this transcending creativity. So, here is food for thought as you intentionally think about and build the life you want with the years you have: What will your new room be about? What will you do there? What will you fill it with? How will it make you feel?
Published on April 15, 2013.