Communication is an integral part of being human. We communicate with our family, friends, co-workers, neighbors – basically every person we meet. It is an important part of self-expression. But as we age, communication becomes more difficult. Perhaps, as friends and relatives age and pass away, we feel there is no one to communicate with that understands our life experiences. Perhaps a cognitive or physical disability has made verbal communication difficult or impossible. In situations like these, creative arts for seniors can be a solution to enable communication for the elderly.
The idea of art therapy and aging working together to make a senior’s life easier may sound ridiculous and impractical, but the fact is the benefits of arts and crafts for seniors are many and backed by scientific study. Everyone is creative, and harnessing that creativity can help with a number of struggles the elderly may face. Consider how popular “adult coloring” has become in recent years. And it works! This author can confirm that coloring does reduce stress and calm the mind after a long day. Dr. Barbara Bagan reminds us, “We know that, in general, exercising our creative selves enhances quality of life and nurtures overall well-being. Additionally, art can affect individuals in positive ways by inducing both psychological and physiological healing.” Thus we know that there are physical benefits of arts and crafts for elderly adults.
Art therapy has proven positive effects outside of “just” improving mood and decreasing anxiety and depression. Art classes for seniors can improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions. It can also foster self-esteem and enhance social skills. Art projects for the elderly can provide the meaning or purpose they may be missing in their lives, now that they are not working or caring for a family. Finishing a painting will give an elderly person a sense of accomplishment and success.
Art programs for seniors have shown positive effects on those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. The ability to be creative does not necessarily deteriorate along with other parts of the brain as it ages, so a senior who struggles with other cognitive functions can likely still be very successful with visual arts. Additionally, art gives the elderly an ability to express themselves. This can help solve the communication struggles felt by those suffering from dementia.
The elderly can still live full, fulfilling lives no matter their age or physical condition and art therapy can help. Disregard the stigma that creating art is a frivolous hobby or just for children, and give it a try to see how it can enhance your life and the lives of your elderly friends and family members. For art therapy ideas for seniors, or to find an art therapist near you, visit the American Art Therapy Association’s Art Therapy locator here.