A recent study investigated how finding meaning and benefit in creative hobbies helps to enhance older adults’ sense of generativity. Generativity refers to the desire to nurture younger generations and leave a sort of legacy behind. While this begins in middle age by raising children, another aspect that becomes stronger in older age is through engagement in productive activities that leave some sort of lasting impression of the individual (i.e., creative hobbies such as artwork, quilt-making, or singing).

Most previous research has focused on how merely participating in creative activities relates to well-being outcomes, but for this study the researchers were more interested in how a greater sense of benefit from one’s long-term creative hobby relates to aspects of well-being. One can benefit from a creative hobby in multiple ways, such as finding a sense of meaning or a connection to a higher power, relaxation, and recognition from others.

For the study, more than 500 middle-age and older adults who actively practice creative activities such as music, painting, woodworking, and other crafts were recruited to take an online survey that measured creative benefits, generativity behavior, and life satisfaction.

The researchers found that having a greater sense of generativity was related to higher satisfaction with life. And when participants reported greater benefit from a creative hobby, the connection between generativity and life satisfaction became even stronger. Altogether, this means that engaging in a creative hobby that is personally meaningful is important for one’s sense of generativity, which can have a significant impact on overall life satisfaction.

Interestingly, there were only minor differences in these outcomes between middle-age and older adults. Adults in both age groups tended to report similar creative benefits scores, but life satisfaction tended to be higher for older adults, which is similar to past research findings. Otherwise, the results suggested that benefitting from creative activities is just as important for older and middle-age adults.

The above InvestigAge newsletter article was written by Dugan O’Connor for the Mather Lifeways Institute on Aging.

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