Age Gracefully Through Creative Art

Art has been displayed throughout history, dating as far back as the ancient Egyptians using hieroglyphics to tell their stories. Older adults have been living longer, taking on new activities, and adventures. Living through art is one way seniors can remain young, positive, and help keep their brain as vibrant as ever. Art therapy, which includes both music and art, is introduced to many seniors with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, aphasia, cancer, and other degenerative diseases. Studies have shown that this therapy can help them both psychologically and physiologically.

older caucasian man painting on a desk with paintings hung up behind him.
Art therapy has many benefits for seniors, including reducing the risks of cancer, depression, and memory loss.

According to Bruce Miller, MD, a behavioral neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, “while brains inevitably age, creative abilities do not necessarily deteriorate. Actually, the aging brain responds well to art by allowing the brain’s two hemispheres to work more in tandem. This ability to use one’s creativity throughout a lifetime and the impact of crystallized intelligence gained from the years of accumulated knowledge and life experiences, help to cultivate the aging, creative brain.”

As seniors age, their bodies and health are not the only things that change. Their lifestyle changes as well. Serious health conditions take a toll on some older adults, making them feel depressed, immobile, or helpless. Some seniors are stuck in a retirement home bored with nothing to do. Taking on art as a hobby or therapy will make a huge impact on their lives. It keeps their minds busy, and improves mood, and helps them express themselves, all while allowing them to think in new creative ways. Expressive arts, including music, dance, and writing are great tools that can assist in the aging process. No matter how new it is to you, art is all about creation; there is no such thing as bad art when expressing yourself.

The Positive Effects of Art

  • Studies have shown that writing can help people overcome trauma and help manage negative emotions.

    Older white caucasian woman holding a camera up while sticking out her tongue.
    You can take up the hobby of playing an instrument, or taking pictures. There are different forms of art, and all provide the same positive benefits for seniors.
  • Engaging in music and art therapies can help with feelings of stress or anxiety. It will improve your mood, especially if you are dealing with new symptoms of memory loss.
  • For people who have trouble communicating, art is a way to express themselves. The process of creating and interpreting helps improve communication for seniors with communicative disorders.
  • Helps older adults dealing with grief. Art therapy helps them process their feelings.
  • Research shows that making art can improve cognitive functions by producing both new neural pathways and thicker, stronger dendrites. Dendrites are the receiving end of a neuron that conducts electrical messages to the neuron cell body for the cell to function
  • Improves cognition and brain health.
  • Assists in socializing, helps seniors meet new people, and gets them out of their shells.
  • Provides a sense of control to those dealing with some medical issues, or older adults who are being taken care of.
  • Provides relaxation, while encouraging a sense of humor.
  • Dancing can improve blood pressure and better weight management.
  • A review published in 2014 suggests that people who learned how to play an instrument, and practice often have improved connectivity between the two hemispheres of their brains.
  • A 2004 study found that older adults who participated in theater performances had improved psychological well-being after 4 weeks, and showed signs of better cognitive functioning.

People take up art for many reasons, whether because they enjoy it, as a form of therapy to release tension, to communicate, or to express themselves. Art produces creativity and gets your juices flowing. It has so many underlying health benefits most people are unaware of. Knowing how to play an instrument works your brain, drawing, writing, and painting help you communicate with others, and dance gets your body moving, improving circulation. The list goes on for all the cognitive, physical, and emotional benefits of being creative. This is especially true and important for older adults. Art will help seniors age well while promoting a better quality of life. So pick up that paintbrush, and start stroking away.

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