It’s paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone.
― Andy Rooney
In an essay by Rollo May, he once wrote “creativity is the answer to aging” (Berman and Goldman, 1992, p.188). May’s statement is the fundamental assumption for what I like to call Possibility Aging.
As we enter a world experiencing a demographic transition unique to human history, creativity becomes increasingly important for older adults. Increasing longevity, declining fertility, and the aging baby boom generation, have the potential to creative vibrant new stages of life. This population shift also has an equally compelling potential for social, financial, political, and personal catastrophe; as has been stated by Dr. Ken Dychtwald on many occasions. And the impact of creativity on aging will influence which side of the scenario is realized for many.
In recent years the study of aging has increasingly turned to creativity and aging as an area of research and practice. Nonetheless, much of the literature on old age begins with facts on how fast, how soon, and how large the elderly population will grow. These statistical predictions often take on an alarmist tone when discussed in the context of healthcare, pensions, social security, retirement, taxes, and inter-generational relations.
The Search for Senescence
This alarmist tone has its roots in historical gerontology which represents one school of thought in aging studies. The origins of gerontology as a science emerged during the twentieth century. Prior to that time pre-modern knowledge of aging was restricted to an existential mystery. The medieval mystery was replaced in the eighteenth and ninetieth centuries with scientific management of old age. From that point on, the search for senescence was on…
This re-classification of old age as a biomedical problem marked a turning point and the increasing power of modern medicine as aging’s defining force. Historical gerontology’s focus on pathology and decline meant that most discussions of human development (of which creativity is but one aspect) emphasized the first half of life–especially the earliest stages.
Cultural Assumptions of Nature and a New Voice Emerges
There is little refuting the magnitude of disease and disability associated with aging, but, what has been underappreciated is the potential for creative growth in advanced ages. Recognizing this and the hegemony of the medical model into aging, a new voice in gerontology has entered the discourse. We will be talking about this “new voice” in the following blogs. For now, enjoy the Olympic Games and marvel at the older athletes pushing the boundaries of what it means to age creatively.
Berman and Goldman, 1992, The Ageless Spirit; Reflections on Living Life to the Fullest in Our Later Years. New York: Ballantine Books
Dr Ken Founder & CEO, Age Wave