The Beautiful Minds Campaign Connects Creativity and Brain Health

By Gallagher, Adam; Sherman, Andrea | Aging Today, September/October 2011 | Go to article overview
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The Beautiful Minds Campaign Connects Creativity and Brain Health


Gallagher, Adam, Sherman, Andrea, Aging Today


There has been a recent and increased focus on how engaging in creative activities can benefit the aging process. Building on the foundational research of Drs. Robert Butler and Gene Cohen, research from Drs. Tony and Helga Noice, Research Center for Arts and Culture director Joan Jeffri and others has suggested such activities can enhance brain health as well as overall wellness.

In 2001, the late Dr. Gene Cohen conducted the first national longitudinal study on the impact of creativity, aging and well-being. Sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the study demonstrated the positive link between creativity health promotion and disease prevention effects.

"Arts programs encourage older adults to engage in creative learning activities, which provide participants with a sense of mastery as well as social engagement opportunities in their daily lives," said Dr. Gay Hanna, executive director of the Washington, D.C. -based National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA).

Founded in 2001, the NCCA is dedicated to fostering an understanding of the vital relationship between creative expression and healthy aging and to developing programs that build on this understanding. To this end, the NCCA initiated The Beautiful Minds Campaign, coordinated in partnership with life'sDHA Index of Brain Health (a comprehensive assessment of the nation's brain health, www.lifesdha.com/).

This national campaign celebrates individuals, ages 55 and older, who are keeping their minds beautiful and engaged, and raises awareness of how people can maintain vitality and brain plasticity as they age.

What Is a Beautiful Mind?

Online voters for the 2011 Beautiful Minds Campaign have selected Sue Kelley as the People's Choice Beautiful Mind, in light of life'sDHA criteria for a healthy brain: diet (rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, fruits and vegetables), social engagement, mental engagement and physical activity. While Kelley works hard to keep herself in shape physically (she takes weekly 25-mile bicycle trips), she won primarily because of her commitment to caring for her brain through her love of music, which also keeps her socially engaged.

Already part of a women's choir, Kelley recently started a hand-bell choir with members from her church. The logic required by hand-bell choir teamwork draws from one side of her brain, while playing music uses the other. "This keeps me more musically challenged," says Kelley. "And there is nothing better than being part of the group and making music." Kelley's example demonstrates the vital relationship between creative expression and healthy aging.

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