The Healing Power of Art for Seniors

As people age, they lose their ability to do many activities and engage in their interests. With limited mobility, they feel there isn’t much they can do. However, programs like art therapy revive the sense of individuality and accomplishment often missing in the lives of these seniors.

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a program which has seen growth in many assisted living centers, including Detroit senior living facilities. It can be an informal program, allowing the elderly to get together and work on crafts or other artistic media. Other programs are more formal and provide classes and training for the residents. They can learn or participate in drawing, painting, scrapbooking and other artistic processes.

Some facilities include jewelry making or other beadwork, woodworking and coloring or finger painting. In some cases, the people work alone to create pieces of art while others may work as a group and enjoy social interaction.

Because of the variety of mediums available, people of all skill levels and in various health states can benefit from art therapy. People with arthritic hands may not be able to use fine motor skills for needlework, but they can work with felt and glue to create projects. Others may choose to color pictures or draw simple items even with no previous background in art.

What Art Therapy Does

Many facilities include craft days as part of the regular schedule for seniors. The residents are allowed and even encouraged to join in any time they feel like it. They may work on specific types of projects or choose their own medium. For these classes, the goal is two-fold: first, to spark interest in an activity, which helps them stay alert and improve their memory. The second goal is to encourage social interaction by visiting with other residents as they work.

For these residents, art time often becomes one of the highlights of their week, something to look forward to. They have lost so much by moving away from their homes and the ability to create gives them something back. Many experts notice reduced depression and more self-confidence in seniors who participate in art and other creative expressions.

When art is used as part of a therapy program, the results are monitored and recorded. Alzheimer patients and others suffering from dementia often benefit from art therapy. Therapists use art to help calm the senior and enable them to communicate with others even when they no longer speak or respond to people’s presence. It helps the caregivers to know the person they’ve known and loved is still present inside even when they can’t demonstrate it in other ways.

While art therapy and creative outlets won’t necessarily cure the elderly of physical or mental health conditions, they can improve the quality of life and even enhance their ability to communicate with those they love.