Everyone has a creative side. Maybe you enjoy painting or sculpting. Or, you’ve always loved music and the poetry of the lyrics and rhythm. Perhaps you have a way with words and are trying your hand at writing a novel or biography of your life. You might spend hours tinkering away in a woodshop, knitting a blanket for your newest granddaughter, or take dance lessons at a local studio.
Whether you’re a full-time artist or simply enjoy expanding your creative horizons in your free time, studies show the arts offer certain therapeutic benefits in regards to healthy aging. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) conducted research called The Creativity and Aging Study several years ago to discover the impact the arts – painting, pottery, dancing, poetry, music, theater, etc. – had on the physical and mental health of adults age 65 or older. Their findings revealed that the participants, who were an average age of 80 at the time of the study, who took part in creative and cultural activities throughout a two-year period reported an increase in their overall health. The study also found that partipicants had fewer doctor visits, a decrease in the need for prescription and over-the-counter medications and a decline in falls.
The Benefits of Art Activities for Seniors
It’s obvious that the arts have a positive effect on healthy aging. For instance, the use of music therapy for individuals with dementia has shown extraordinary results. For seniors in the mid-to-late stages of dementia, listening to music can help them recall memories and feelings from the past, reduce behavioral expressions like agitation and sundowning, as well as evoke emotions and strengthen ties with loved ones.
The positive effects of art activities for seniors include:
- Reducing stress and helping individuals relax
- Alleviating feelings of anxiety or depression
- Offering a form of sensory stimulation and reducing boredom
- Improving cognition and memory recall
- Providing opportunities for social interaction
- Promoting self-esteem and a sense of identity
- Improving physical and fine motor skills
Across the country, grants from agencies like the National Institute on Aging are allowing older adults access to art-related programming. Likewise, the NEA is dedicated to providing the opportunity for seniors to become involved in creative programs. The National Center for Creative Aging also makes it their mission to foster an understanding of the vital relationship between creative expression and healthy aging, by developing programs that build upon this understanding.
The best thing about the arts is that it is never too late to get started in any type of creative program! Did you know that actor Morgan Freeman didn’t appear in a film until he was 52 years old? Famous artist Grandma Moses began painting at age 78 – one of her most famous paintings sold for $1.2 million in 2006! Always follow your dreams, because you never know where they may take you.