Mental activity is important to slowing or avoiding dementia. Time Magazine tells us: “The key to staying sharp in old age is to exercise your brain throughout life. Now the latest research shows that such activity may actually slow cognitive decline and, if you do develop dementia, shorten the time you spend living with it ... brain autopsies ... found that 14% of the variability in mental decline could be attributed to the amount of intellectual activity in which people participated, both early and late in life.”
Working crossword puzzles, reading, taking classes, study, developing creative and artistic abilities make a big difference — especially over a lifetime.
While intellectual stimulation is important, creativity seems to be king of the hill, according to Psychology Today. A study led by Spiro Turiano concluded, “creativity predicted mortality risk above and beyond age, education, smoking, and health status ...” Who would have thought creativity would be such an important factor in longevity?
The study suggested, “promoting creativity throughout the life course, and especially at older ages, may delay the cognitive and physical health declines associated with normative aging.”
The study of creativity is anything but uniform. One point does seem obvious, however: Creativity is tied to imagination and the generation of new ideas — or variations upon old ones.
When my wife adapted a hamburger flipper to make a fly swatter, she was not inventing anything new but using her imagination to transform one familiar object creatively into another. This type of creativity is not the same type of creativity displayed by whomever developed the first fly swatter, nor is it the same creativity displayed by the person who first rolled up a newspaper to do the job. And whoever conceived of the electric bug zapper perhaps displayed an even more radical form of creativity, thinking further outside the box. But the one thing they all had in common is imagination. To succeed in making their idea reality, they embraced a willingness to get the job done, even if others mocked or snickered. Let’s make it a point to nurture — not laugh at — creative ideas. Even our own.
Ed Vasciek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune.