Creating Art Helps Seniors Thrive
Creating art, or visual self-expression as scientists call it, improves health and well-being. In fact, according to Christianne Strang, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Alabama Birmingham and the former president of the American Art Therapy Association, creativity is important for remaining healthy and connected to yourself and the world. Painting, drawing, and coloring are relaxing activities that can help you unwind and recharge. For seniors, artistic pursuits can mean a new perspective on life. With extra time, there is opportunity to explore creative pursuits. In fact, famous folk artist Grandma Moses didn’t begin painting until she was 78 years old, after arthritis made it impossible for her to needlepoint.
While becoming a famous artist may not be in your future, painting can have wonderful benefits. Painting forces you to use both sides of the brain simultaneously. This helps creativity and increases cognitive function. Learning a new skill increases brain activity without struggle.
Art therapy, as it’s called in some communities, helps and has been shown to improve mood in seniors. Studies show that seniors who participate in creative arts experience lower levels of depression and loneliness and are more positive in general. Most significantly, for seniors who are living with dementia or Alzheimer’s, art is a way to express themselves when verbal language is impaired. Opening Minds Through Art (OMA) is an award-winning, evidence-based art-making program for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other neurocognitive disorders. OMA is grounded in person-centered care principles such as being compassionate and seeing things from that person’s perspective. OMA is built on relationships rather than outcomes – it is an experience of community and connection.
At Rose Villa, OMA has been a regular programmatic component for residents with cognitive challenges since 2016. OMA activities aren’t pre-scripted with all residents creating the same final product. Through a series of suggestions, the artist is given a choice at every step and ends up creating a piece of art that is uniquely their own. The artist titles and describes their creation based on what they see, not copying or completing something pre-determined. OMA volunteers are specially trained on how to assist the artists in the art creation without influencing them and puts the elder squarely in the center of the creation process.
Oftentimes, people who never considered themselves as creative get in touch with a side of themselves that would not have been revealed, were it not for art! For seniors, there are benefits both physically and mentally, and creating art helps them thrive. To learn more about the arts at Rose Villa, please click here. And for more information on OMA at Rose Villa, please click here.