When you consider retirement and your "golden years," the picture that comes to mind may be one of sitting on the porch and watching the neighborhood kids ride their bicycles around. However, retirement and aging can be--and should be--much more vibrant than merely sitting at a window watching the world go by. Elderly adults benefit from exercising their creativity; in fact, some therapists use creative arts as an integral part of their sessions with elderly patients. Here are some benefits of keeping your elderly loved one engaged in the creative arts.
Increased contact and strengthened relationships with others
For many of the elderly, one of the largest problems they face is that of isolation and loneliness. When an elderly person remains at home all day and does not have many opportunities for interaction, his or her overall sense of health and well-being suffers. Depression may set in, and some studies have shown that isolated and depressed people are actually more susceptible to physical maladies such as chronic disease and even death.
...the creative arts help to build strong relationships.
By providing a way for an elderly person to establish and maintain strong contacts with others, the creative arts help to build strong relationships. This, in turn, leads to an enhanced quality of life and even the possibility of a longer life for your elderly loved one.
As people age, they sometimes lose the ability to communicate effectively or engage in activities that they once enjoyed. This can be frustrating and overwhelming, and can contribute to a poor quality of life or other issues.
By providing the elderly with another way to express themselves, the creative arts can serve a cathartic purpose and allow elderly persons a way of communicating to others. By painting, crafting, molding, or otherwise creating art, elderly people are able to continue to leave their mark on the world. This can be therapeutic for them, especially if they are experiencing a loss of ability in other areas.
Increased physical health
Surprisingly, regular participation in the creative arts yields a significant increase in an elderly person's overall physical health. In addition to fighting depression, as noted above, those elderly people who regularly engage in participatory art programs (programs wherein they assisted in creating the art as opposed to merely observing it) actually have better physical health than those who do not.
In one study, after a twelve month period of engaging in participatory art activities, the elderly people who were engaged reported a higher rate of physical health, fewer accidental falls, a decrease in the amount and types of medications they needed, and a decrease in the number of times they needed to visit the doctor or other healthcare professional. A control group--comprised of similarly situated elderly people who did not participate in the art activities--did not report the same benefits.
This study, and others like it, show a definite correlation between participation in a regular creative art activity and increased physical health. As such, caregivers may wish to consider enrolling their elderly loved ones in some sort of creative art activity on a regular basis, both to improve the quality of life and act as a way of preserving their physical health and well-being.
Your elderly loved one may be experiencing some frustrations with the age-related decline in his or her physical abilities. Participation in a creative arts program can provide him or her with a great way of letting out his or her feelings in a positive way. Participatory creative arts programs lead to an increased sense of well-being as well as decreased rates of psychological issues such as depression. In addition, regular engagement in a participatory creative arts regime can have positive impacts on the physical health of the elderly. If you are acting as a caregiver to an elderly loved one, it would be well worth your time to enroll him or her in some sort of arts program.
Lesley University. (n.d.). Art and Aging - How Creative Expression Can Benefit Older Adults. Available online at http://www.lesley.edu/art-and-aging-how-creative-expression-benefits-the-elderly/. Last visited December 4, 2015.
Cohen, Gene, et al. (2006). The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on the Physical Health, Mental Health, and Social Functioning of Older Adults. The Gerontologist 46 (6): 726-734). Available online at https://cahh.gwu.edu/sites/cahh.gwu.edu/files/downloads/TG-Creativity%26Aging_0.pdf. Last visited December 4, 2015.