July 19, 2018

Whether you’re a professional artist or just enjoy making art as a hobby, we can all appreciate the therapeutic process of creating. Art therapy was born out of the idea that art and creative expression can help people improve their mental, physical, and emotional health and overall well-being.

In art therapy, people are guided by a professional art therapist who helps them engage with different art forms while addressing their mental, physical, or emotional health concerns at the same time. For older adults, creating art and participating in art therapy can be particularly beneficial. Let’s take a look at some of the top benefits of art therapy for seniors.

Increased motor skills and coordination

In art therapy, participants focus on a single task such as painting, drawing, sculpting, or another creative project. Engaging in these light physical activities helps to improve coordination and increases blood flow, which may improve dexterity in the hands, wrists, and fingers. As a result, art therapy can help adults with arthritis or other joint conditions manage inflammation and chronic pain. 

Cognitive function and stimulation

Engaging in art therapy challenges people to think creatively and boosts cognitive function. The process of learning something new, such as a new art skill, helps to stimulate healthy brain activity and keep our minds sharp. Some studies even suggest that art may reduce the rate of development of memory conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. For seniors living with memory loss, the process of creating art can be an avenue for communication and self-expression.

Improved mood and mental health

Art therapy is known to lessen feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress in people of all ages. In one study, older adults who participated in arts activities experienced lower levels of loneliness, depression, and better morale. Participants found that the calming action of putting a paintbrush or pencil to paper helped them relax and focus on positive feelings. Ultimately, art therapy can be a powerful tool to help older adults cope with common issues such as isolation, loneliness, and stress, which may be caused by age or health-related changes.

Opportunities for social connection

In many cases, art therapy occurs in a social environment, which encourages participants to socialize and facilitate communication with those around them. For older adults who may struggle with feelings of loneliness or isolation, art therapy gives them the opportunity to exercise their social skills and make new friends in a relaxing, casual setting.

With so many positive benefits, it’s easy to see why many retirement communities offer art classes and art therapy programs to help seniors experience an improved quality of life and enjoy the fun and freedom of creating.