The average life expectancy in Australia is 82 years. The first quarter of our lives is spent developing our brain through exposure and experience (accidentally and deliberately); the last quarter is vulnerable to mental and cognitive decline. And yet, the brain is capable of life long learning and development.
Neuroplasticity: The brain changes in response to experience. It is our experiences and activities, or lack of them, that contribute most to preservation or decline of mental skills, even in the face of illness.
Skills most vulnerable are those of “executive control” – working memory and recall, concentration, mental flexibility, problem solving, organizing, planning Cognition or mental skills are closely aligned and related to sensory and motor skills. Practicing activities that use fine motor skills (manipulating brushes, clay, scissors, playing an instrument…) and larger cross-hemisphere motor skills (yoga, dance, tai chi…) will stimulate the brain. New activities stimulate and develop new brain connections and circuits.
Nearly all of the executive control and motor skills can be practiced in creative activities (putting familiar elements together in novel ways). Creative activities integrate thinking, movement and senses – to plan, visualize, organize, act upon, reflect, assess, problem solve.
In the last quarter of life it’s common to experience social isolation, lack of confidence and depression, all of which impact on mental and physical health.
Factors that build resilience and happiness include social skills and interaction, pleasurable activities, being engaged in life (Flow and Mindfulness), purpose and meaning, optimism, faith, perseverance, utilization of innate strengths. There are more factors – Positive Psychology is a science in itself. http://www.positivepsychologyinstitute.com.au/key_terms.html
Creative activities are engaging and can bring about “flow”, a heightened experience or active Mindfulness. The process of being creative in a calm environment can reduce stress and anxiety. Creative groups offer the company of other people which is also a factor to develop positive feelings and resilience.
Creative Ageing is not rocket science and for the most part, drug free. So, whatever your activity of choice – painting, singing, dancing – find a friend to share and enjoy!