The Secrets of Creative Longevity: Follow Your Heart and Feed Your Cells

- Skip Press

Mark Twain photo taken by Alvin Coburn in 1908, using Autochrome Lumiere, an early form of color photography

Is there something about the environment of Connecticut that fosters creativity? I’ve wondered when I’ve considered all the talents that have lived there over the years. The most creative years of Samuel Langhorne Clemens aka Mark Twain came when he lived at his home in Hartford, which remains a major public attraction in the city today. And his neighbor a few steps away was Harriet Beecher Stowe, who changed America with Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Clemens, born in 1835, was still writing when he passed away in 1910. Where did such long-term creativity originate?

Connecticut College in New London offers several Integrative Pathways, which are sets of “courses and experiences organized around a central theme.” One of their themes is Creativity, defined this way: “Creativity is the ability to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, realizing something fresh and inventive.” That was certainly true of the literary life of Mark Twain, and it’s been true of many other famous residents of The Constitution State, past and present.

For example, Maurice Sendak, who worked out of his studio in Ridgefield. At the Maurice Sendak Collection at the University of Connecticut, visitors can view his original sketches, artwork, and final drafts of his books, nearly 10,000 items. Did you know how Sendak’s most famous title came about?  “Where the Wild Things Are” became “Where the Wild Horses Are” when he gave up on horses because he felt he couldn’t draw them well enough. Who would have suspected?

Movie still from Where the Wild Things Are movie (Warner Bros. 2009)

Sam Clemens lived three-quarters of a century. Sendak died in 2012 at the age of 83. One wonders – do prolific creatives have some special makeup that allows them to keep turning out memorable creations well into later age? For anyone who’s read about the “Blue Zones” on Earth where people reach advanced age, it’s obvious that people who lead happy lives quite often live longer. Clemens had numerous tragedies in his life, but maintained humor and brought it to others. He lived 75 years, which in his day was an excellent accomplishment.

On October 30, 1906, Mark Twain dictated this for his Autobiography: “I am aware that I am very old now; but I am also aware that I have never been so young as I am now, in spirit.” That’s seems very appropriate, given that his beloved and by then departed wife Livy’s nickname for him was “Youth.”

Maybe creativity springs from a youthful attitude?

Vanderbilt University did a 45-year study of nearly 700 intellectually gifted kids and concluded that 12 percent of them highly excelled in their chosen professions. These included Fortune 500 CEOs, distinguished jurists, award-winning journalists, and a Pulitzer Prize winner. The results, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, concluded that the most successful subjects of the study followed their creative impulses, not just logic. Since the study began when the subjects were early to mid-teens, it might seem to follow that attitude was important. Plus, knowing they will be studied for decades, people might be driven even more to excel.

However it may be that creativity and youthful feelings arise, these things are of great concern to the “baby boomer” population in the U.S. There were 76 million of them born between 1946 and 1964, and they’re very interested in preserving their health and enjoyment of life – just ask them. That may be pricey. Because of the Boomers, Medicare costs that amounted to 14% of total federal spending in 2018 are projected to increase to 18.1% by 2028. So, Boomers need to get creative about healthy aging.

What if people just live longer due to good genes? Nir Barzilai, M.D., Director of the Institute for Aging at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York has with his team conducted genetic research on more than 500 healthy elderly people between the ages of 95 and 112 and on their children, too. You can read about it here and possibly participate, as the study is not yet concluded. If you’re a Baby Boomer or even over the age of 40, though, there’s something you can do to combat aging, and it’s based on proven science.

Physically, youth in humans inevitably declines, usually beginning around age 40. If you’re inactive, you can lose as much as 5% of muscle mass. Your hair might begin thinning. Estrogen decreases and some women enter perimenopause in their 40s. Multivitamins, vitamins A and D, and herbal remedies might be in order, but there’s a relatively new supplement called NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide) that could help even more. This one goes straight to your cells and boosts the production of the enzyme cofactor NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinclueotide) which is essential for life. NAD was originally discovered in 1906, the same year that picture of Mark Twain was taken.

High quality supplements like Herbalmax Reinvigorator Advanced Formula provide the NMN anyone over 40 needs to help boost NAD levels toward what they were in earlier years. This short article explains that NMN “extends lifespan and improves motor coordination, eye function, bone density, insulin sensitivity, liver and kidney function, physical endurance, muscle strength, and the function of stem cells and mitochondria.” Mitochondria, if you’re not familiar with the term, are the energy production engines within our cells – they keep us going!

That’s important, because by age 60, the production of NAD in most people is cut in half. By age 80, it’s almost nothing. At this link, you’ll find a graphic illustrating the decline.

These days, Connecticut residents like Lauren Tarshis, editor-in-chief of Scholastic’s classroom magazine division and author of the “I Survived” series of historical fictions keep Connecticut creativity going. Litchfield resident and author Martha Hall Kelly’s debut novel Lilac Girls sold 1.5 million copies and became an answer on the game show “Jeopardy!” Those talented ladies may not be taking Reinvigorator or any other NAD booster, but these supplements are available for anyone.

You can read a lot more about the possibilities of longer life at The Healthy Science Blog. Whether you’re 40, a Baby Boomer, or even older, there’s something there for you. Just think what it might have been like if this type of health science was well-known and in use at the beginning of the 20th Century the way it is now, in our 21st Century. What other creative wonders might Mark Twain and Maurice Sendak and so many other creative wonders been able to give the world, wherever they lived?