The Impact of Creative Expression on Aging Adults

By: Deb Rogers

Creative expression through arts and crafts for the adult can have a positive impact on the overall health and well-being for the aging adult. For adults affected with dementia, arthritis and even some with visual impairment, arts and crafts can often impact their quality of life.

Activities such as music, dance, and various forms of art such as painting, writing, and making things by hand can play an important role in maintaining and improving physical, mental and psycho-social well-being. In a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, creative activities can boost cognitive function by stimulating the brain. It may even stir memories or provoke language in someone who struggles to speak. Music for example, can reduce agitation, behavioral issues and encourage movement with clapping and or dance. The older adult with visual impairment or dementia may enjoy activities more tactile in nature such as finger paints, beads, or clay. Activities which involve fine motor skills help to keep joints in the fingers from stiffening. Even rolling a ball of yarn can be therapeutic.

In long term care facilities Activity Directors and Occupational Therapists have long used art to restore and maintain function, promote cognitive skill, concentration and stimulate eye hand coordination. In addition to mental stimulation and general well-being, art also promotes opportunities for socialization preventing feelings of isolation and boredom, depression and increased anxiety. One-to-one programs are often provided in the long term care facility to those who are unable or unwilling to participate with the general population.

Art Therapy is a mental health profession which uses the creative process to help restore a “sense of personal well-being” and is practiced in various types of settings from wellness centers to hospitals and even private practice. Art therapy can provide the opportunity to communicate what may be difficult to express in words, provide and outlet for emotions and increase self-esteem just to name a few benefits. Art Therapy can even help the older adult transition into long term care or assisted living due to life changes.

Remember, art in all forms stimulates creative thinking and the senses; relieves stress and promotes relaxation; prevents isolation, loneliness and boredom; improves muscle tone and stimulates eye hand coordination; prevents depression and anxiety and improves cognition.


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