Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 630–650 | Cite as

Child’s Play: The Creativity of Older Adults

  • Donald Capps
Original Paper


In this article, I discuss Paul W. Pruyser’s view presented in his article “An Essay on Creativity” (Pruyser in Bull Menninger Clin 43:294–353, 1979) that creative persons manifest early childhood qualities of playfulness, curiosity, and pleasure seeking and that adaptation is itself a form of creativity. I then discuss his article “Creativity in Aging Persons” (Pruyser in Bull Menninger Clin 51:425-435, 1987) in which he presents his view that aging itself is a potentially creative process, that creativity among older adults is not limited to the talented few, and that older adulthood has several specific features that are conducive to creativity. Significant among these features are object loss (especially involving human relationships) and functional loss (due to the vicissitudes of aging). Noting his particular emphasis on object loss and its role in late-life creativity, I focus on functional loss, and I emphasize the importance of adaptation in sustaining the creativity of older adults who experience such loss. I illustrate this adaptation by considering well-known painters who in late life suffered visual problems common to older adults. I suggest that in adapting to their visual problems these artists drew on the early childhood qualities (playfulness, curiosity and pleasure seeking) that all creative persons possess and that they are therefore illustrative for other older adults who are experiencing functional losses. I conclude with Erik H. Erikson’s (Toys and reasons: stages in the ritualization of experience, W. W. Norton, New York, 1977) and Paul W. Pruyser’s (Pastor Psychol 35:120–131, 1986) reflections on the relationship between seeing and hoping.


Paul W. Pruyser Creativity Adaptation Object loss Functional loss Visual defects Erik H. Erikson Seeing Hoping 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Princeton Theological SeminaryPrincetonUSA

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