Creativity, adaptation and aging: A study of visual artists aged 75 to 96 and the influence of the creative process on functioning more successfully in advanced age

Arlene Conboy, Fordham University

Abstract

The research questions asked were: Does the association with the creative process have a positive influence on adaptation to aging? And more specifically: Does the active practice of visual art have a positive influence on the health, attitudes toward health, and life satisfaction of a sample of artists in advanced age (75 and over)? Forty artists aged 75 to 96 (mean age 81.8) were in the sample. These men and women were all from within a 200-mile radius of three major cities. The age they first worked at art ranged from eight to 77. The average number of years practicing art was 48.2. These visual artists were still active in their fields, examples: painting, sculpting, illustrating, potting, etc. At least one of each artist's current works was verified as creative by receiving some public recognition, for example, inclusion of a drawing in a jury show, or receipt of an award.^ Face to face intensive interviews were conducted. On a multidimensional health test, the number of chronic or serious illnesses of the artists sampled was not significantly different from their age cohorts, but their attitude toward their health was significantly more positive. The artists' life satisfaction, measured using the Philadelphia Geriatric Center's Morale Scale, was significantly more positive than that of other older people.^ The artists had the same illnesses and losses as other people in advanced age. However, they had a much higher level of functioning in areas of their lives they could control. One way they adapted was by conserving their efforts for the most essential parts of their artistic practices. As the artists aged and losses increased, they worked alone fewer hours, used simpler artistic techniques, and had more flexible work schedules. However, the quality of their current art was verified as high. The practice of creativity seemed to contribute to their successful aging in that they had substantial inner resources and an environment rich in stimulation and social contacts. ^

Subject Area

Gerontology|Social Work|Health Sciences, Human Development

Recommended Citation

Arlene Conboy, "Creativity, adaptation and aging: A study of visual artists aged 75 to 96 and the influence of the creative process on functioning more successfully in advanced age" (January 1, 1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI9111339.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI9111339

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