Art has long been considered a therapeutic process. Creating something from nothing, using pencils, paint, clay or other materials can be a satisfying experience, regardless of whether it’s a hobby or a full-time job.
What is Art Therapy?
The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) defines art therapy as an “integrative mental health profession that combines knowledge and understanding of human development and psychological theories and techniques with visual arts and the creative process to provide a unique approach for helping clients improve psychological health, cognitive abilities, and sensory-motor functions.” This creative process and the resulting artwork can help individuals explore their feelings, reduce stress and anxiety, increase self-esteem, and even manage behaviors and addictions.
For seniors, art therapy can also help restore functioning and a general sense of well-being. According to the AATA, 78% of art therapists report working with older adults on a regular basis. For seniors who are managing daily pain from chronic conditions or even those suffering from memory loss due to dementia, art therapy helps sharpen the mind while also promoting dexterity. Plus, many art therapy programs are conducted in a social atmosphere, which allows seniors a chance to continue to build connections and relationships with others.
The Benefits of Art Therapy Programs for Seniors
Recent studies suggest that seniors who participate in art therapy programs tend to not only experience less depression, but also may visit the doctor less often and require fewer medications in their daily lives. Using art as therapy in a skilled nursing facility provides other benefits such as:
Increases cognitive skills and intellectual stimulation. Challenging aging individuals to create art gives them an opportunity to expand their minds and look at things in a way they might not normally consider. For those dealing with memory loss, the simple act of creating may stimulate the senses and trigger long-forgotten memories.
Improves physical/motor skills and alleviates pain. Creating artwork helps benefit coordination through small, purposeful movements, leading to less pain and even an enhanced immune system. Art allows seniors to focus less on their chronic aches and pains and instead concentrate on the creative process at hand.
Encourages socialization and communication. Art allows for an alternate means of connecting with others, helping to lessen feelings of loneliness and isolation many seniors may face. Those who have difficulty expressing themselves or communicating with others often may find using visual means to be extremely helpful.
Relieves stress and depression. Creating art allows for an open expression of feelings, which can help relieve stress, anxiety and confusion.
Promotes self-awareness and self-expression. Expressing oneself through art can be a powerful, meaningful way to share our lives with others. Plus, finding a new creative outlet can unlock hidden passions many seniors may not realize they possess.
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