24 Dec Creativity Exercises The Mind
If you were in attendance at With A Little Help’s Holiday Open House party we hope you had a good time! You probably met owner, Marcia Ives, and perhaps received one of her handmade cups. Ives, 57, reconnected with her love of pottery after thirty years during which she raised a family and grew a business. “I took a pottery class or two almost 30 years ago simply because it piqued my interest,” she said. “I was so confident that I would do it again someday, that I held onto the little collection of tools that I had purchased way back then. It came right back to me, and I got sucked in…I have tapped into a whole artisitic/creative side of myself that I had not really explored much in my life, and it’s so much fun!” As Ives’ experience reflects, reconnecting with creativity as we navigate later years leads us to new discovery and welcome benefits. It’s also being used successfully to deliver health benefits to people living with dementia and Alzheimers disease.
A healthy aging mind, science is finding, never stops learning and the ability to continue learning appears to be dependent on never losing an interest in learning. “Being interested” triggers brain stimulation and healthy brain functioning. Creative pursuits can help us stay engaged and enthusiastic about new knowledge and discovery. “When I first started [pottery] I was devoted to getting everything shaped and glazed just perfectly,” Ives said, “but I’ve really moved away from the need for things to be just so and more into the freedom of whatever happens. Learning to let go of outcomes is integral to a potter’s sanity, and that has been very liberating.” Creativity, as Ives’ comment illustrates, also increases our sense of satisfaction and helps us to become flexible, adaptable and less attached to outcomes all of which reduce the effects that stress may have on our lives and health.
Forms of creative expression that involve us both mentally and physically generate a range of benefits as Dr. Francine Toder, author of Vintage Years: Finding Your Inner Artist (Writer, Musician, Visual Artist) After Sixty, describes in a Huff Post blog about tap dancing. Toder’s dance teacher cites at least 5 brain exercises involved in a single dance sequence: movement, memory, analysis, adaptation, and the experience of using the body to make sound. “I think it’s so great for an older group of people to feel heard, because they’re making sounds with their feet… It’s so positive because it reinforces what we love about living, being active, being part of a community,” her teacher said. At the age of 70, Toder tackled yet another creative pursuit: the cello. “I hypothesized that taking up a fine art form at this life stage could maximally stimulate the brain and the psyche. Then I set out to see if this was true,” she explains. As it turns out, creativity provides all the ingredients for what Toder calls “brain tonic” a stimulating mental fitness mix of novelty, complexity, and problem solving. Take up a creative interest and you’ll enjoy a refreshing brain tonic too!
Most forms of creativity require some level of social cooperation whether it be interacting with people for materials or joining a class. That’s why creativity not only exercises our minds but, at times, may help us feel more comfortable in our world. With A Little Help owner Marcia Ives got started in her fulfilling pottery journey by taking a class and she still values that experience, “I take a class every quarter, and often go a day or two a week to ‘open studio… I thoroughly love the vibrant studio environment, being surrounded by creative people who are all willing to share and discuss creative ideas.’” The class model is very effective for connecting people with the benefits of creativity. Some urban libraries are offering creative classes for the 50+ population in reaction to the growing evidence that brain fitness and social well being can be improved by classes providing a sense of creative mastery and achievement for older students. “I’m just starting to feel that my work is good enough to sell,” Ives said, “so I’ve experimented a few times with setting up a few shelves at a small show….I hope to at least make enough money to support my habit!”
The class model is also effectively promoting health benefits and social well being for people living with dementia. Locally, ElderWise is a leader in nurturing creativity and providing health benefits through a class combining art, exercise, and social interaction. The art connection is strong for people with dementia. “…Creativity is an area of strength spared by the disease,” a Mayo Clinic staff blog reports, “and…for some persons with dementia their creative ability is even enhanced.” At ElderWise, participants produce their own artworks but simply viewing art in a structured setting seems to produce similar healthful benefits. Frye Art Museum offers a collaborative program for people living with Alzheimer’s called here:now. here:now offers guided discussion based gallery tours and periodic six session classes that combine gallery tours with art making and social interaction.
“This is your brain on art” used to be an art school poster joke but these days, with functional magnetic resonance (FMRI) science knows what the brain is experiencing in real time imagery. Creativity and art promote good brain health by stimulating neurons. And, in a surprising twist, we know that the slowing in our brains with aging appears to combine with other age related brain changes to enhance our creative abilities allowing us to make exciting new connections and integrations. Science now knows what our brain looks like on art and it looks great!