As children, we are encouraged to be creative: to make music, dance, paint, and imagine. Then, as the pressures of school, work, bills, and family begin to pile up, many find themselves gradually letting go of their creative side.
Once in retirement, seniors have an opportunity to rediscover their artistic nature.
Recent research has found that using music, literature, theatre, or visual arts to share information and emotions can help promote healthy aging. We all know to eat right, exercise, and get a good night’s sleep to stay healthy. But can flexing our creative muscles help us thrive as we age?
Studies have found that seniors who indulge their artistic side have fewer doctor’s visits, better physical health, and require less medication. They also fall less frequently. One study connected art to decreased rates of loneliness and depression, along with better hand dexterity and higher morale.
Furthermore, health experts believe creative arts can enhance cognitive function and induce psychological and physiological healing.
You can read the Creativity and Aging Study conducted by George Washington University for details on the benefits of art therapy for seniors, including:
- helping individuals relax;
- providing a sense of control;
- reducing depression and anxiety;
- assisting in socialization;
- encouraging playfulness and a sense of humor;
- improving cognition;
- offering sensory stimulation;
- fostering a stronger sense of identity;
- increasing self-esteem;
- nurturing spirituality; and
- reducing boredom.
Creative Arts and Mental Health
It is no surprise that during self-isolation due to the coronavirus, many turned to the arts.
Perhaps they sought a creative outlet or opportunity for expression; or perhaps they were drawn by an innate desire to use their brains in ways that made them feel good. The simple truth is that the arts have a positive effect on mental health.
According to a Drexel University study, just 45 minutes of creative activity significantly lowered cortisol levels and stress, regardless of the person’s artistic ability. Older adults who get involved in music, dance, painting, and storytelling programs also experience less depression.
While practising the arts is not the panacea for all mental health challenges, there’s enough evidence to support prioritizing arts in retirement living. By stimulating use of the imagination and creativity, seniors may experience a new lease on life!
Healthy Aging through the Arts
Art is so important to healthy ageing that, from 2006-2009, an initiative was developed in Vancouver to provide vulnerable and marginalized seniors with arts programming. The aim was to demonstrate that professionally led arts programs can play a significant role in the health and well-being of seniors. The study concluded that seniors experienced improved physical well-being, higher degrees of social inclusion, increased confidence, and an enhanced sense of accomplishment.
Art is a powerful tool that allows us to express creativity, thoughts, and feelings. Some even say that “art is food for the soul,” but can it also be “food for the mind”?
Globally, it is estimated that 152 million people will be living with dementia by the year 2050, prompting research focusing on the betterment of cognitive health.
According to scientists, visual arts help seniors with cognitive decline because it can involve: planning, making decisions related to the piece, thinking outside the box, talking about the artwork, relationship building, reflection on past experiences, and coming to resolutions. Together, these contribute to cognitive stimulation.
Similarly, if you have a loved one in care who is battling dementia, painting can be a way to maintain a dialogue or connection with them even when they aren’t able to express themselves in words.
Crafts Create Community
As we age, we might face isolation through a loss of social connections, such as friends, family, and the workplace. Participating in group arts and crafts helps in alleviating loneliness and isolation and leads to a greater sense of community.
If you live in a retirement home, joining groups like art and painting are a great way to meet other residents! Particularly those who share your interest in developing their creative sides.
1000 Cranes to Celebrate Living Well with Dementia
Japanese folklore shares the beautiful idea that the folding of a paper crane is a small gesture of hope for peace and wishes for better times ahead. The crane in Japanese legend is said to be a magical creature that lives for a thousand years and inspires us to look beyond our current troubles and have hope for the future.
We have all experienced challenges during the global pandemic, but persons living with dementia have been disproportionately impacted. As such, as the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020 approach, seniors in ASC residences across Canada have taken up the challenge to make 1000 paper cranes per residence.
If you would like to join us in showing the older adults in retirement homes in Ontario that they are supported by the larger community, please fold one paper crane and send it to one of the following homes before July 30th, 2021.
Check out our Facebook page for more information! Send your crane to:
630 Eagleson Rd.
Ottawa, Ontarion, Canada
260 Church Street
At All Seniors Care, we know that keeping seniors active and connected with life is vital. Therefore, music, art, and social events are always happening alongside of physical activity and life enrichment. Contact us today to see how we can help you or a loved one find the perfect balance between care and community.
Writer – Julianna McLeod
Julianna is a health and wellness expert at All Seniors Care. Her mission is to create content that empowers seniors to form sustainable solutions for lasting health and happiness. She is an experienced writer, editor, and Recreational Therapist living in Toronto.