As we get older, we have to start taking better care of our bodies and minds because they have become more fragile with age. It’s common for seniors to have a daily regimen filled with medication, but that isn’t the only way to keep the body and mind fresh.
There are many different types of therapies that can be beneficial to seniors, but sometimes the hard part is making the treatment process appealing. To get around this obstacle, there are many hobbies that can have some of the same effects as certain therapies. One of those beneficial hobbies is art.
DementiaThe arts have been a staple in every culture since the beginning of time, and there is a good reason for it. It has been proven time and time again that learning and practicing an art is good for the mind and body, regardless of age. Seniors may not need the arts to mold them into outstanding members of society because they probably have already got that covered in their life. But the arts have incredible effects on the mind that people of all ages should take advantage of.
Art and Dementia
Dementia is most commonly thought of as a memory loss problem, but patients experience more symptoms than just that. They can become easily agitated, aggressive, riddled with anxiety, depression, and to top it all off insomnia will keep them exhausted. Many of the symptoms of dementia work against each other, making the illness even more overwhelming.
They have yet to find a cure for dementia, and often drug treatments are unsuccessful. This is why many seniors who suffer from this illness are encouraged to try different types of therapy; one of the most efficient ones being art therapy.
When dementia patients are encouraged to create visual art, they show a noticeable enjoyment that carries over into other aspects of their life. Often patients didn’t realize the talent they had or didn’t know how cathartic the experience of creating was. If anything, art just improves the general happiness of the patient. But it is such an effective therapy because it does so much more than that.
Art can also improve social behavior and self-esteem in older adults with dementia. This can reduce the psychiatric symptoms that deplete the patients quality of life such as depression and aggression. Studies also show that art helps enhance cognitive abilities and memory, even for seniors with severe brain disorders.
Dr. Arnold Bresky is a physician who has created a program called the “Brain Tune Up” that utilizes art therapy for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. With this program, he has seen a 70% success rate in the improvement of his patients’ memories. One patient recorded that it even helped her pass her driver's license test.
By drawing and painting, patients are increasing connectivity between the right and left hemispheres of the brain and growing new brain cells. This incredible feat can help improve motor functions, memory, and mental stability.
Art and Empathy Tolerance and Feelings of Love
With age often comes physical problems and loss of loved ones that can result in the patient feeling very negative. This can close them up from the world, and they can stop exhibiting empathy and love. This isn’t something that has to stay permanent, and just enjoying art can help bring the love back out of older adults.
A study of over 10,000 students found that just an hour trip to an art museum changed the way they thought and felt. While the students showed an increase in critical thinking skills, they also showed more empathy towards how people lived in the past. They also expressed a higher tolerance towards people different from themselves, which is a feat in of itself.
Art can help seniors reconnect with society, and remind them of the beauty that once was and still is. And they don’t even have to participate in the art itself to get this connection to the world. Professor Semir Zeki discovered that just by viewing art can give the pleasurable sensation similar to falling in love.
Not everyone can view a fantastic work of art or visit the museum every day, luckily it is the future, and there is an app for that. The Daily Art app shares one masterpiece a day with its background to educate as well as improve your quality of life.
Brain Connectivity and Plasticity
For a long time, we thought that with age your brain slowly stops changing and loses plasticity. But we now know that the brain can grow and change at any time in our lives. To keep your brain in tip-top shape, or to bring it back to a reasonable base level, art can help you achieve a healthy growing brain.
Studies show that art increases psychological resilience. This means that by picking up an artistic hobby, seniors can improve their ability to handle things in everyday life. And let’s face it, as we grow with age so do our problems. Whether it be financial, social, or internal, practicing art can get their brain in the right condition to handle anything that comes their way.
Art Boosts Self-Esteem and Sense of Accomplishment
Many seniors are depressed from physical ailments, events in their lives, or just everyday brain chemistry. This can cause them to have low self-esteem, which makes the depression even worse. While they are battling this beast and trying to find ways to suppress it, art is an excellent weapon of choice.
Art gives you a chance to express yourself, which can be lots of fun. It offers seniors something to focus on and even gives meaning to parts of their day where they might have found none. For older adults who have problems concentrating, don’t be surprised if this new ability transfers over to other parts of your life. And the enjoyment from accomplishing multiple tasks can send depression to the back seat
Art also gives the opportunity to learn new things, which is a massive boost to self-esteem. By adding unique traits and skills, it can feel like adding worth to some who feel down and worthless. Art can give depressed seniors a reason to get out of bed and spend time with other people. It is a great tool to open up social circles, bringing in an even higher quality of life with friends.
Art Encourages Creative Thinking
Why would a senior want to learn creative thinking skills? Because it is more than knowing what colors pair well on the canvas or what chords beautifully go together. Creative thinking is the ability to generate alternative ideas to a problem. It gives you the ability to see parts of the puzzle that aren’t so obvious. With this kind of thinking, seniors can live more productive and fulfilling lives.
Art Relieves Stress
Whether you are painting, writing, sculpting, or playing music, all types of art are therapeutic. Studies suggest that just 45 minutes a day of art can significantly reduce stress levels, and this is extremely important for seniors.
The chemical in the body that can make people feel large amounts of unwanted stress is called Cortisol. Researchers measured the cortisol of all the patients who experience high stress before they began their art projects. After completion, when they measured the stress chemical in the participants, 75% of them showed lower levels of cortisol.
You may think, but I can’t do any of that. I am not an artist. Well, neither were most of the participants in the study. When asked about their artistic background, most replied that it was limited. So even though they weren’t Van Gogh, they still benefitted from the act of being creative.
One of the main reasons that art lowers cortisol levels is because you can find yourself in an almost meditative state. It’s called the flow. When you are so focused on your project the rest of the world disappears, you go into a mindset that is similar to meditation. So similar, afterward you feel the mental benefits as if you were meditating.
Though medication like CBD oil is exceptionally effective when treating stress, depression, and dementia, the battle still persists. By pairing lifestyle changes and medicine, seniors can truly start feeling like themselves again.