We all have it–creativity, and those creative abilities could increase with age. Consider some of the ways you might express your creativity. For example, have you ever told stories to your grandchildren about your experiences growing up? Have you looked at an empty space in your yard and envisioned a beautiful garden that you then planted? Have you ever taken a recipe and modified it to make it your own? Have you ever experimented with something or planned a lesson to teach? Are you good at brainstorming or seeing various points of view? Do you ever feel inspired to take action on a passion you have? Do you see connections between things or ideas that others might not immediately see? Each of these questions relates to creative activities.
What Does It Mean to Be Creative?
Creativity can be defined in a number of different ways including creating new ideas, seeing relationships and patterns, being original, questioning assumptions, thinking outside the box, generating solutions, and much more.
Arne Dietrich, a professor of cognitive neuroscience suggested four different types of creativity in a 2004 article for the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. In his article, he provides a framework for understanding creativity based on neuroanatomy. Dietrich claims that different parts of the brain are used for different types of creative activities.
Drawing from an article by Hitesh Bhasin, here are the four types of creativity Dietrich identified:
- Deliberate and cognitive creativity: This type of creativity is one that researchers and other problem-solvers might use. Usually, these people have a lot of knowledge in a particular area and are able to draw on their background for their achievements. Imagine experimenting in the kitchen until you create that one perfect batch of fudge—one that is better than any other recipe you’ve tried.
- Deliberate and Emotional Creativity: Some individuals realize their creativity by combining both emotional and logical thinking. Imagine trying to think about what you want your future to look like as you reflect on things you’ve enjoyed in the past. You may start out using a logical approach but may then start noticing patterns in your life. All of a sudden, you have that moment when you see expanded possibilities for your future.
- Spontaneous and Cognitive Creativity: When using this type of creativity, we usually have relevant knowledge about something but can’t figure out a solution to a problem. Then, out of the blue, the solution comes to us when we’re not even thinking about it. For me, I do some of my best thinking in this area when I’m out jogging. I’m not trying to figure things out, but answers do come to me out of what feels like ‘thin’ air.
- Spontaneous and Emotional Creativity: This type of creativity is when people have sudden flashes that give new insight or lead to a new discovery. People we think of as great artists and composers are likely to draw on this type of creativity. This isn’t the type of creativity we can hone through practice.
How Might Aging Make Us More Creative?
Some research does suggest that we become more creative as we age. One explanation is that as we lose some of the white matter in our brains and become a bit less focused, we also may have greater potential to creatively recognize new possibilities and connections.
In her article, Creativity and the Aging Brain, Shelley H. Carson, Ph.D. said, “Aging brains score better on tests of crystallized IQ (and creative brains use crystallized knowledge to make novel and original associations).” She also noted that aging brains tend to be more uninhibited and distracted, much like the brains of the young.
Do you remember the creative freedom you felt as a child? You could color the sun pink or green, and you didn’t care as much about what others thought. Some evidence suggests that we regain some of that same creative freedom as we age due to changes in our brain.
What Can We Do with Our Creative Powers?
We can continue as creative individuals through practice and discipline. We can also enjoy many of the benefits of creativity such as personal satisfaction, mental engagement, and even relaxation (e.g. when making art). We also can make important contributions in our communities and workplaces. We simply need to know that we have this power and then we can start exercising it!