Art Therapy for Seniors
5 Benefits of Art Therapy for Seniors
Guest post by Brenda Kimble
This is a post in our Guest Bloggers series. All opinions are those of the author. Please consult a professional for medical advice.
If you have ever enjoyed spending an afternoon or evening painting, working on pottery, knitting, or engaging in any other type of creative activity, you already know just how therapeutic art can be. Art therapy has become an increasingly popular form of creative therapy for older adults who struggle with memory loss and anxiety. Unlike traditional art classes, professional art therapists lead art therapy sessions. In addition to understanding technical skills like drawing and painting, they are trained to know how to help seniors gain therapeutic benefits through art.Art therapy for seniors helps improve their mood, enables them to express themselves, and can help alleviate certain symptoms. Click To Tweet
Art therapy does more than just teach someone a new skill. It helps improve their mood, enables them to express themselves and can help alleviate certain symptoms. Here are just a few of the many benefits of art therapy for seniors.
What Is Art Therapy?
According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is a “mental health profession that combines knowledge and understanding of human development and psychological theories and techniques with visual arts and the creative process to provide a unique approach for helping clients improve psychological health, cognitive abilities, and sensory-motor functions.” The process of creating artwork can help people express their feelings while reducing anxiety and stress.
For seniors, art therapy can create a sense of well-being and help restore functioning. From managing chronic pain to helping those suffering from memory loss due to dementia, art therapy is a powerful tool that can be used to enrich the lives of senior citizens in many ways.
Art therapy is a powerful tool for improving one’s mood. For seniors who are experiencing changes in their health or symptoms relating to memory loss, hearing loss, etc., engaging in art can provide a much-needed escape and brighten their moods.
Activities that engage the senses–such as creating art–trigger the brain to release pleasure-related neurotransmitters like dopamine. This results in a boost in overall mood. Art therapy can also improve someone’s mood by giving them a sense of self-esteem and self-worth. Because art can serve as an opportunity for people to engage with each other in a non-threatening manner, it can also improve moods by helping people form relationships.
When seniors begin to suffer from memory loss, the experience can be extremely stressful and emotional. During the early stages, it is difficult to process and accept that they are losing their memories. Art therapy presents an opportunity for seniors to work through their stress, anxiety and negative emotions. Writing, painting, drawing and other creative pursuits have a calming effect, and they can help people forget their larger stresses–even for just a few moments–and focus on positive, healthy feelings and emotions.
Art therapy is also a powerful tool for combating dementia and Alzheimer’s. It provides an opportunity for patients to express themselves and communicate even when they struggle to do so verbally. For many, creating art also gives them a sense of purpose despite their diagnosis.
Many seniors struggle with feelings of isolation and loneliness. Art therapy allows for an alternative method of connecting with other people, which helps alleviate some of those feelings. Even people who find it difficult to communicate with others or express themselves are often able to effectively do so through art.
For seniors living with memory loss, regular, focused activities can help. Sculpting, painting and similar activities promote cognitive abilities and challenge the mind. For many people, the simple act of being creative can help uncover memories and connections that may have otherwise remained clouded by memory loss. While someone suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s may no longer be able to directly remember things, they may be able to paint something from a memory of a favorite place or loved one.
When you think about the benefits of art, relieving pain probably is not something that comes to mind. Believe it or not, though, art therapy can help alleviate pain. Arthritis, hypertension and other health problems can cause chronic pain that is worsened by other ailments or emotional pain. Because art therapy promotes feelings of relaxation, it can reduce the emotional pain that can make physical pain worse. The relaxing effect of art therapy can even decrease painful inflammation and stiffness.
Regularly participating in art therapy requires one to use his or her hands, arms and fingers frequently. While not strenuous, this consistent physical activity can improve dexterity and blood flow. In time, seniors who participate in art therapy may feel less pain in their hands, wrists, fingers, and arms, and they may feel a bit more nimble in these areas.
While art therapy can’t eliminate chronic pain altogether, it can reduce the symptoms and make them a bit more manageable. This is especially true when it is done in conjunction with other exercises, physical therapy, etc.
Types of Art Therapy
There are many different types of art therapy. In fact, every type of art offers therapeutic benefits. Painting and drawing are common creative outlets, but many seniors also enjoy using large beads for jewelry-making, writing, knitting, etc. Even music can be a part of art therapy. The creative process in itself is extremely beneficial, but for many people, the finished product is what instills a sense of self-worth and accomplishment.
Art therapy is a powerful tool that is used to enrich the lives of seniors. It can help alleviate the stress and anxiety associated with things like memory loss and chronic pain, and it enables people who feel isolated to form meaningful connections with other people. In addition to teaching people new skills, it helps them improve functioning and dexterity while instilling feelings of self-worth and improving self-esteem. All in all, art therapy is a rather amazing way to bring joy and comfort into the lives of seniors.
Brenda Kimble is a writer and wellness blogger. She is also a mother of 2 daughters and a son. When she is not writing, she is typically doing yoga, crafting with her kids, or strolling the streets of her quaint neighborhood in Austin, Texas.