Caregivers hoping to improve both the health and quality of life of their aging loved ones may find help in an unexpected place: The arts. In fact, an abundance of research highlights the invaluable role the arts can play to promote healthy aging. Let's take a closer look at the facts, along with tips for caregivers on how to help seniors benefit from the arts.
The Profound Impact of the Arts
The ability of the arts to make us think, feel and connect with others has been long known. However, a growing body of research points to the specific impact of the arts for one demographic, in particular: Seniors.
Recent research from Germany indicates that seniors who make art enjoy "more effective interaction" between specific regions of the brain. Specifically, after 10 weeks of attending hands-on art workshops, a group of 62 to 70-year-old seniors were found not only to have strengthened the area of the brain responsible for cognitive processes related to memory, introspection and self-monitoring, but also demonstrated a "significant improvement in psychological resilience."
Even more noteworthy? These benefits were observed only in those seniors who actively participated in making art, not just for those who simply took an art appreciation course.
The researchers' conclusion, as published in the the online journal PLoS One included, "Our results have important implications for preventative and therapeutic interventions."
Their findings are hardly alone. The U.S. government's "Creative and Aging Study" determined that participation in weekly arts programming had disease prevention benefits, as well as in yielding a "a positive impact on maintaining independence and on reducing dependency" among older adults. Specific outcomes among study participants included fewer doctor visits, less usage of both prescription and OTC medication, fewer falls, decreased risk of depression and loneliness, and increased morale.
Overall, the study definitively concluded that offering community-based, cultural programming for seniors not only reduces risk factors, but also reduces the need for long-term care.
Finding Arts Programming Near You
Thanks to increased knowledge about the benefits that arts participation offers to seniors, a growing number of programs -- including everything from painting classes to dance lessons to group singing and music playing -- serve this demographic well. Check in with local senior centers, community colleges, and your local area agency on aging to learn more about programs aimed at the 60 and over set.
If your aging loved one isn't mobile or has other limitations, something as simple as a coloring book can go a long way toward triggering body and brain-boosting effects.
The advantages of exposure to the arts and arts participation aren't limited to seniors. While people of all ages benefit from arts immersion, caregivers who utilize art therapy enjoy everything from stress relief to healing to critical opportunities for personal expression. So, what are you waiting for? Whether you pick up a paintbrush, violin, or your own two feet, both you and your aging loved one have much to gain from engaging in the arts.
mmLearn.org offers a large library of free videos for caregivers of older adults, covering topics pertaining to senior care. Whether you are a healthcare professional or a family caregiver, if you are caring for an older adult we know that you will find mmLearn.org an essential learning and guidance tool for all of your caregiver training needs. For more useful resources for caregivers, access our free database of online caregiver videos.