Making Art and The Art of Aging Well

A group of middle-aged and senior adults celebrating, their arms in the air, laughing and smiling.What is art, but an expression of the person who creates it? This self-expression can come in so many different forms and formats, from painting to collage and singing to writing poetry – and everything in between and beyond.

It has been shown that, as we age, engaging in artistic activities positively impacts cognitive function, emotional well-being, and our overall quality of life. Expressing yourself through artistic channels isn’t just enjoyable, it’s good for you, too!

Benefits of artistic expression as we age

Cognitive Function and Memory

Participating in arts activities may be linked to improving cognitive function and memory in older adults, according to some research.
Engaging in creative expression through art can help keep the brain active and agile.

Self-Esteem and Well-BeingA smiling older woman wearing blue glasses and a blue denim shirt is being taught to use a clay wheel.

Artistic pursuits, such as painting, writing, or playing an instrument, can boost self-esteem and overall well-being. In fact, the process of making art, rather than the quality of the final product, contributes to healing and positive outcomes. Creativity reduces stress and promotes social interaction. Music, theater, dance, and visual arts can help reduce stress, aggression, agitation, and apathy in individuals with dementia. Participating in community choirs or other arts programs encourages social interaction, which has multiple psychosocial benefits.

Physical Health and Independence

Engaging in artistic activities often means fewer doctor’s visits, better physical health, and less medication, according to some studies of aging and making art. Artistic endeavors can also improve hand dexterity and morale, contributing to overall well-being.

Healing Power of Art

Art therapy has been used for conditions like depression, anxiety, and cancer. It turns out that expression through art is associated with improved memory, reasoning, and resilience in healthy older adults. Being creative, whatever the art form, provides pathways to healthy aging by enhancing cognitive abilities, fostering creativity, and promoting emotional well-being.

Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art. — Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

A middle-aged or senior couple at home smiling and making music - the man playing guitar, the woman singing.Art forms that can positively impact well-being

Participating in the arts creates paths to healthy aging, according to the National Institute on Aging. These intuitive art forms promote self-expression, creativity, and relaxation. Seniors can explore various techniques and create beautiful visual pieces.
Collages: An easy and non-intimidating art form, collages allow seniors to combine different materials (such as magazine cutouts, fabric, or photographs) to create visually appealing compositions.
Knitting, sewing, and crocheting: These textile arts not only enhance hand dexterity but also provide a sense of accomplishment. Seniors can create scarves, blankets, or other useful items.
Playing with clay: Sculpting with clay is therapeutic and allows seniors to shape their ideas into tangible forms. It fosters creativity and relaxation.

Music and singing: Participating in a community choir or playing a musical instrument can boost mood, promote social connection, and enhance cognitive function.
Writing and poetry: Seniors can explore their thoughts and memories through writing or poetry. It’s a way to express emotions and reflect on life experiences.An older man is knitting. Making Art and The Art of Aging Well

Decorating wooden structures: Woodworking or decorating wooden objects can be both creative and satisfying. Seniors can personalize items like birdhouses or picture frames.
Kid-friendly crafts: Seniors can enjoy simple crafts with their grandchildren, creating bonds and sharing creative moments.

Remember, the process of making art matters more than the final product. In other words, it’s the journey, not so much the destination, that matters. Seniors can choose activities that resonate with them and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of creative expression.

Diver deeper into this topic at the NIH’s National Institute on Aging.

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