Why Art Therapy is Great for Senior Citizens

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If you have a senior citizen in your life, there are all kinds of therapeutic options out there to increase their quality of life.

But, have you ever considered art therapy?

Art therapy is something that is being used more and more frequently to treat people with all types of physical and intellectual issues, and it is becoming very popular among senior citizens, as well.

Essentially, art therapy is the therapeutic use of art in order to help people in a number of different ways. The art is often visual, but it doesn’t have to be; it can also involve dance or music.

Art therapy can take place in a number of different settings – hospitals, rehabilitation centers, seniors’ homes, and new and unique environments (such as outdoors on a nice day) can be very valuable as well.

THE BENEFITS OF ART THERAPY

Art therapy has a wide array of benefits for seniors. It is especially great for treating patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, but can also add value to pretty much any elderly citizen.

Social interaction is hard when communication is severely limited, and not being able to express oneself is intensely isolating, but art therapy excels at improving the communication abilities of the elderly. In some documented cases, when a senior citizen could no longer communicate verbally, art therapy opened up doors for them to communicate visually.

Communication can help the elderly increase their self-value, and it can also help a great deal with socialization. Of course, the added benefits of increased communication abilities are higher self-worth and self-esteem.

Visual art, dance and performance art, music, and other forms of art all draw from different parts of the brain than language does. So, art can help enhance cognitive abilities in areas of the brain that are still more functional than the language center might be.

For anyone, it is extremely frustrating to have cognitive abilities damaged by diseases or other afflictions and to find new abilities is invigorating.

But the benefits don’t stop there.

Art therapy has also been proven to reduce feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety. These are very common symptoms for seniors, regardless of their health conditions. In fact, they’re very common feelings for almost anyone, but particularly senior citizens. Art helps people of all backgrounds feel better about themselves and ultimately leads to tremendous feelings of empowerment.

So, no matter which way you cut it, art leads to an improved quality of life. This is something that is important for anyone, and especially for those who have been experiencing troubles in terms of physical or mental health.

THINGS TO CONSIDER

There are a number of things you should think about when you’re considering starting an art therapy program. Whether it’s just with your loved ones or you’re a health care professional seeking new methods of therapy for your patients, you should ensure that you do the proper research and consult the right people. That said, here are a few general things to think about:

  • You’re going to want to be careful. When you are working with seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, for example, you need to be aware that they won’t always have a full understanding of the materials that are being used, and you’re going to want to use items that won’t be harmful should they be accidentally ingested.
  • Make sure that if you’re working with visual art you use sensory-heavy colors and themes. You want this to be extremely visual, as it will make the art therapy more effective.
  • Be there to help seniors draw out ideas and get started. You may need to do some prompting in order to get the ball rolling, but, once things are in motion, you’ll see some amazing results.
  • Be positive, all the time. This is supposed to be a therapeutic and helpful activity, so make sure that you are helping the process and not slowing it down with negativity or criticism.
  • Once the work is complete, display the work where the seniors can see it. This will help to reaffirm the value of what they’ve accomplished and serve as a visual reminder of better feelings and positivity.

These, of course, are just guidelines, and every person and every case is unique, but if you follow these general rules you’ll be on the right track to a successful session of art therapy and a relaxed and happy group of participants..

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