Creativity and Spirituality in Later Life

As we age, creativity gives us opportunities to reflect, participate, and connect with our communities. For instance, creativity creates opportunities for intergenerational connection and generativity which are associated with increased life satisfaction.1

Dr. Ellen Ryan discusses the topics of aging with spirit, creativity in later life, and resilience in her recent lecture for a class in the Health, Aging, and Society Department at McMaster University. She explains that whether you are continuing life-long creative pursuits or trying out some new ones, engaging your creative side can have many benefits. Ellen also shares her own photography, poetry and experiences.

The picture above, also seen at the beginning of the article is taken by Ellen. Her shadow is the subject.


Working on creative projects can promote self-exploration and spiritual growth. As Ellen discusses, many people find that creative pursuits lead to the connection of inner and outer experiences. For example, exploring connections between yourself and nature, or yourself and something higher.

Some people use the time spent on creative projects to reflect and reminisce. Others see creative projects as an opportunity to be productive or find purpose in their day-to-day lives.2


Resilience is “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity … or significant sources of stress, or bouncing back from difficult experiences.3,4” In later life, higher resilience has been linked to more positive mental, social, and physical characteristics. On the whole, increased resilience seems to result in more happiness and wellbeing.4

A glimpse into Ellen’s walk on the beach with her shadow.

Mindfulness, reflection, spirituality, connection with others, and even the act of being creative itself are thought to contribute to resiliency.5,6,7

Learn more about aging with resilience through Ellen Ryan’s website and this recording of her talk given for Hamilton Third Age Learning.


  1. Adams-Price, C. E., Nadorff, D. K., Morse, L. W., Davis, K. T., & Stearns, M. A. (2018). The creative benefits scale: Connecting generativity to life satisfaction. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development86(3), 242-265.
  2. Lepherd, L., Rogers, C., Egan, R., Towler, H., Graham, C., Nagle, A., & Hampton, I. (2019). Exploring spirituality with older people:(1) rich experiences. Journal of Religion, Spirituality & Aging, 1-35
  3. Building your resilience. (2012). Retrieved from
  4. MacLeod, S., Musich, S., Hawkins, K., Alsgaard, K., & Wicker, E. R. (2016). The impact of resilience among older adults. Geriatric Nursing, 37(4), 266-272.
  5. Windle, G., Markland, D. A., & Woods, R. T. (2008). Examination of a theoretical model of psychological resilience in older age. Aging and Mental Health, 12(3), 285-292.
  6. Wister, A. V., Coatta, K. L., Schuurman, N., Lear, S. A., Rosin, M., & MacKey, D. (2016). A lifecourse model of multimorbidity resilience: theoretical and research developments. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 82(4), 290-313.
  7. McFadden, S. H., & Basting, A. D. (2010). Healthy aging persons and their brains: promoting resilience through creative engagement. Clinics in geriatric medicine, 26(1), 149-161.