The Creativity Fitness Movement

By Cohen, Gene D. | Aging Today, November/December 2008 | Go to article overview

The Creativity Fitness Movement


Cohen, Gene D., Aging Today


The focus on physical fitness goes way back-certainly to ancient Greece with the start of the Olympics. Newer on the scene, brain-fitness programs have become popular in the United States since the federal government launched its Decade of the Brain initiative in 1990. Now, in the 21st century, a new fitness movement is emerging: creativity fitness, a movement especially prominent in the area of aging.

All of these movements are very important for stimulating public awareness and ac- tion, but what dis- tinguishes the cre- ativity fitness movement is its comprehensive focus on individ- uals' physical and mental health. Creativity fitness embraces body, brain, psyche and soul.

The rapidly emerging focus on creativity and aging is becoming linked to the quickly growing interest in wellness-and this confluence is effecting synergy between the two. This synergy is evident, for example, in senior centers' exploration of a new primary focus on wellness and careful consideration of what creativity programs can offer their clients. Meanwhile, U.S. culture is embracing the word creativity, which is being applied in countless domains of endeavor.

A MAJOR SEA CHANGE

There is a historical context for this focus on creativity. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, U.S. society's view of aging was nihilistic and almost completely negative: Detrimental changes were seen as inevitable, unalterable, a matter of destiny. At that time, with the ubiquity of such invectives as "never trust anybody over 30," images of aging were probably at a low point in American culture. Then, in about the mid1970s, came the first of two major sea changes in thinking about aging: the emergence of a new hypotheses that attempted to explain age-related decrements as age-associated problems-modifiable disorders-rather than representations of normal aging.

This sea change in thinking launched the modern federal infrastructure on aging in the United States, with the National Institute on Aging appointing its first director and the National Institutes of Mental Health establishing the Center on Mental Health and Aging, followed closely by the Veterans Administration's development of its Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Centers program. All of these changes occurred in 1975, as the United States was entering the fourth quarter of the 20th century.

The new focus on aging-related problems, in turn, led in the 1980s to the development of the field of geriatrics, which has continued to grow since men.

The transition from seeing progressive, unalterable, negative changes with aging as destiny to perceiving such changes as modifiable, age-associated problems was a huge leap in knowledge and understanding. This leap, however, was too big to allow U.S. culture and science to take the next step very quickly: looking beyond problems to consider potential. By the end of the 20th century, though, the view that aging could be accompanied by periods of great potential was unfolding.

This emphasis on the potential of growing older (also discussed in the field of aging in terms of assets rather than deficits) reflected the appearance of the second major conceptual sea change about aging. …

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