Creativity & the Art of Living Longer


On a recent flight home from Atlanta, I read a fascinating article in Time magazine entitled, The Art of Living: It May Be No Coincidence that So Many Creative Types Have Long Lives. The article focused on creativity, longevity and how doing what you love can add years to your life. Whether you’re young or middle-aged, if you want to cultivate a beautiful life long into your later years, now is the time to pursue your creative God-given gifts. It is no hidden fact that the active, busy and creative brain stays lucid far longer than the “sedentary, bored and depressed” brain. Consider the lives of these artists and creative types who pursued creativity long into their later years. Read on and be inspired…

Though many artists like Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Heath Ledger and Amy Winehouse had their lives cut short by pain and addiction, there are a far greater number of artists who have lived long, productive lives well into their seventies, eighties and nineties.

Next year, I will hit the BIG 5-0! Though there are many days I still feel like I’m sixteen, I also feel like I’m just getting started with the creative gifts God has given me. Jeffrey Kluger, author of this great article, offers these inspiring examples of people who have and who keep pushing their creativity.

  • Frank Lloyd Wright began designing the Guggenheim Museum when he was 76 and stayed with it until 1959, just shy of his 92 birthday and the museum’s opening. (He also created 531 other works!)
  • Pablo Picasso had paint under his nails when he died at 91. Picasso created over 50,000 works of art.
  • George Burns lived to be 100 years old, but signed a two-year contract to perform in Las Vegas at 95.
  • Warren Buffet, the 83-year-old ‘Oracle of Omaha’ financial genius is still making people lots of money.
  • Paul Bocuse, a great chef who still oversees his restaurants, has held three Michelin stars since 1965, the longest streak ever.
  • Igor Stravinsky took up the complex language of 12-tone music in his 70s and produced the masterpiece, Agon.

Kluger also notes a study from the British Medical Journal, which reported a survey of 68,000 subjects in England. 29% of people with even relatively mild drepression have an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and a 29% increased risk of dying from other noncancerous disorders. The study found that “how well your brain does affects how well your body does.”

People who actively engage in creative, artistic and social connections (i.e. community) live happier, more fulfilling, and satisfying lives. At the same time, they lower their risk for depression, loneliness, hypertension, stroke, dementia and more.

You are never too old to start being creative. You may not even consider yourself artistic, but creativity comes in many forms. Though you and I don’t know how long we have to live here on earth, pursuing creativity and doing what we love is certainly within our power to cultivate a more beautiful life.

Questions: Who do you know who has lived a long and creative life? What creative activity haven’t you done in awhile? What can you do to get started today or this coming weekend?

I’d love your comments and questions.

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  • Chris Lovie-Tyler

    A friend of mine’s grandfather played violin right up until he died, in his 90s.

    As for me, I used to be a musician (still tinker occasionally), and now I’m a writer. I made the switch for two reasons:

    1. I think I can be a better writer than a singer.
    2. I can’t see myself jumping around the stage until I’m 90, but I can see myself writing!

    Thanks for this encouraging article, Joey. Keep up the good work.

    • Joey O’Connor

      Thanks Chris…you bring up a great point about making artistic moves. Most people associate Picasso as a painter, but he was an incredible sculptor as well. Keep writing…hopefully we’ll be exchanging notes here in our 90s!

      • Chris Lovie-Tyler

        Yes, I only just recently learnt that about Picasso. And, if the Wikipedia page is correct, he was also a “printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer”!

        I love that quote by him, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

        Thanks for the encouragement, Joey.

        • etechne

          reminds me of the (apocryphal?) story of Picasso…
          Picasso is siting in a small restaurant enjoying a meal with friends. A wealthy woman at another table spots him and decides to get him to do a quick portrait.
          “Mr. Picasso,” she says, “I am a great admirer of yours. I absolutely insist that you do a drawing of me and I won’t take no for an answer.”
          Seeing that she won’t be put off, Picasso gets some paper and a pencil and does a quick sketch of her in 2 or 3 minutes. He hands her the drawing.
          “Beautiful,” she says. “How much do I owe you?
          “It’s no charge, Madam,” Picasso replies.
          “Mr. Picasso, I absolutely insist on paying you for your work!” she says.
          “In that case, Madam, the price is $5,000,” says Picasso.
          “$5,000!” she exclaims. “But it only took you 2 minutes to draw it!”
          Picasso smiles and says, “No, Madam, it took me all my life to draw it.”

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