The benefits of art therapy for seniors

Sunrise Senior Living  |  October 5, 2016
Art therapy can be very useful for older adults living with memory loss. Likewise, this can also be useful for managing stress or pain.
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Art therapy can be very beneficial for older adults living with memory loss, as well as those who need to manage stress or pain.

Seniors living with a number of ailments may benefit from art therapy. This is a targeted use of painting and other activities to help keep the mind sharp and promote dexterity in a setting that is fun, casual and social. Artistic interests can become become a cherished hobby, and each session is an opportunity to reap the rewards of this interesting form of therapy. 

Improved memory
Regular, focused activities can greatly benefit those living with memory loss, according to the Chicago Tribune. Painting, sculpting and similar pursuits are a way to challenge the mind and promote cognitive abilities. The Tribune reports that some participants may even find that the act of being creative can serve to uncover connections and passions about the world that can otherwise be clouded by memory loss. 

For individuals living with more advanced memory loss, the Art Therapy Institute says that these sorts of activities can be a way to communicate and offer seniors an opportunity to be expressive. In some instances, the perceived barriers created by Alzheimer's or dementia can be overcome, and an older adult may paint something from memory about a loved one or favorite place. Many folks who have participated or facilitated with art therapy have stories of incredible, touching moments of clarity from individuals living with memory loss.

Reduced stress
The pressure of the early stages of memory loss can be very stressful and emotional. Not only is art therapy a great way to combat dementia, but it also represents an opportunity to work through anxiety and negative feelings. The calming nature of painting, writing or other creative pursuits is a way to forget about larger stresses and promote healthy, happy feelings.

Today's Geriatric Medicine found that artistic activities can help reduce stress, but also boost self-esteem and confidence. Likewise, it can be an opportunity to socialize and also may elevate and person's level of playfulness and stimulate their sense of humor.

Overall, art therapy can be a rewarding experience, even for individuals who aren't living with memory loss. The same calming effects can have a positive impact on other older adults living with stress, and a new, creative outlet can unlock hidden passions.

Alleviating pain
Hypertension, arthritis and other disorders can cause chronic pain, and these may be exacerbated by emotional pain or other ailments. Not only can the naturally relaxing nature of art therapy reduce these issues, but also it can reduce physical inflammation and stiffness.

Regular art therapy engages the fingers, hands and arms. This light but consistent physical activity can promote better blood flow and dexterity. With time, seniors who begin writing, painting or sketching may feel more nimble and experience less pain.

For anyone living with more serious arthritis or other issues, art therapy won't stop chronic pain. However, relaxation therapy of any kind - including art therapy - can be a way of controlling and managing discomfort, according to the Mayo Clinic. This is especially true when done in conjuncture with other exercises or prescribed medications.

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