Benefits of art therapy for seniors

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy uses the creative arts to help people cope with mental and physical stress through understanding, management, and expression. Research shows that while art therapy is often conducted by professional art therapists, many people see similar results by participating in regular art classes.

Many people think that art practices like painting and drawing are just hobbies but research shows that art therapy can be a valuable approach for improving senior’s physical and mental health. Art therapists guide seniors using different art forms to address health imbalance by using expression and motion to help restore normal life functions.

Art therapy became a distinct form of psychotherapy back in the 1940s. It was considered an effective way for people of different age groups to express their emotions and achieve personal growth. 

Art therapy helps people gain self-understanding and effectively process their emotional changes. Many therapists prescribe art therapy to patients to help them cope with loss, grief, or other emotions that they may have experienced. 

Different activities can act as a source of comfort and also be beneficial for your health. It is a well-documented fact that seniors who practice various forms of art therapy can improve their quality of life and experience less stress. 

Senior man reaching for paint

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy entails using creative art forms to help people cope with physical and mental stress through managing, understanding, and expressing their grief. Many research pieces point to the fact that while professional art therapy requires an art therapist, people can also benefit from going to regular art classes. 

While art practices such as painting and drawing are thought to be a hobby or a profession for some people, research shows that it can act as a valuable resource to improve seniors’ mental and physical health. An experienced art therapist can help guide seniors to express their health imbalance using different forms of art. 

The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as an “integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.”


What are the benefits of Art Therapy?

Improved Cognitive Function

Art therapy helps to challenge seniors to make art in any form they like. This activity helps stimulate their senses to become sharper and more active. When someone who is not familiar with art tries it, it enhances their thinking skills. Art therapy makes it easier to form quick neural connections in the brain that may have slowed down due to aging. 


Improved Mood

Art therapy has been proven to help reduce feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety in all age groups. It is especially helpful for seniors because it helps them divert their focus and free time to something productive. Studies have shown that seniors who perform any kind of creative arts experience lower levels of loneliness and depression. This activity helps improve their quality of life by providing them with an outlet for all their suppressed emotions. 

Aging comes with vision and hearing loss, which can often be frustrating and cause negative emotions and stress in seniors. Focusing on painting and drawing using tools such as pencils or paints can help them to relax and focus on positive feelings instead. Art therapy provides seniors with an outlet for their frustration and helps them cope with several issues. 


Improved Motor Skills

Art therapy helps people to function in their limbs and joints. When painting or drawing, people exercise their hands and arms through a movement that enhances their motor skills. With the help of art therapy, people can enhance blood flow, improve muscle coordination, and build better dexterity with time. 


Group of happy seniors painting

More Social Interaction

Art therapy can be a great way to socialize with people. Seniors can meet like-minded people there whom they can easily relate to. These connections can help them combat loneliness, and they can expand their social circle. Talking to people who can understand and relate to you can be very therapeutic. Art therapy can help people create meaningful bonds that they can entertain outside the class too. 


Better Self-Expression

Most seniors find it tough to communicate verbally with people due to physical or mental deterioration. Art therapy can provide them with an alternative way of expressing their emotions and thoughts. An experienced art therapist can guide these people to create art exercises to express themselves openly. 

This art of self-expression can help seniors to express themselves better to even their family or caretakers. Art has very therapeutic abilities and can often help bring suppressed feelings out in the open. This can help people deal with loss or grief in their own time and way and heal themselves along the way. 


Pain Relief

Art therapy has also shown to reduce pain in seniors. It has proven to be helpful with disorders and symptoms such as chronic pain. People who suffer from joint problems such as arthritis can relieve their pain and inflammation using art therapy. Firstly, art therapy helps them exercise their joints, and secondly, it can redirect their focus from pain to creating art. Art has soothing effects on the brain, which can help in reducing emotional distress as well. 


Different Thought Processes

Art therapy is also beneficial in changing the perspective of a person. When you pursue art, you come across different ideas which you might not have experienced before. This kind of therapy can bring change and excitement in your life as you can try out different things rather than the old ways of life. Exploring new perspectives and ideas can help change a person’s attitude towards life and bring them joy. 


Improved Memory

Practicing art therapy can help seniors retain new thoughts. Seniors suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia can benefit immensely from art therapy. Music and painting can even help one remember forgotten memories about old times and loved ones. This is because new experiences can make them reminisce about old ones. Art therapy can also help present people with memory loss the ability to think clearly and function optimally.


Final Verdict

Art therapy can be extremely rewarding for people of all age groups. But it is exceptionally beneficial for seniors as it can give them a new life. They can go out, experience new things, form new social bonds, think creatively, and exercise simultaneously. Art can provide them with a way to express themselves freely and help with mental and physical health. It promotes positive and healthy feelings, better physical abilities, and also has a soothing calming effect. 


Benefits of Art Therapy for Seniors

Even for those who do not consider themselves the most creative, there is something from building something from nothing that is therapeutic and fulfilling. Art therapy can help restore basic functions for seniors losing some motor skills, as well as provide a social environment that allows them to develop new, healthy relationships to help increase overall well-being.

What is Art Therapy?

According to,

“Art therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.”

Those who teach art therapy, called ‘art therapists,’ are educated and experienced in the art (no pun intended) of helping others find purpose and peace of mind through artistic endeavors. Because art therapy can refer to a range of different activities such as painting, drawing, and sculpting, it is hard to pin-point one solid definition of the practice.

Art therapy focuses on physical and visual stimuli, as opposed to the verbal stimuli of regular therapy. Due to this, patients find themselves expressing themselves and communicating in new ways, which stimulate areas of the brain left unused by many. Through art therapy, many seniors have found peace of body, mind, and spirit in this unique practice.

Benefits for Seniors of Art Therapy

As previously stated, there are many benefits of participating in art therapy. Some of them include:

Improvement of Motor Skills and Less Pain

Through art therapy, seniors are taught to use slow and deliberate movements that can help with restoring some motor function to seniors struggling with physical disabilities or ailments. These therapeutic movements can also help alleviate some pain in seniors as they focus on their art and not their pain.

Can Help Increase Mood and Alleviate Depression

Through the freedom of expression, art therapy allows for a creative way to communicate thoughts and feelings, which can help alleviate depression and make the patient feel more connected to their life and those around them.

Allows for a Friendly Environment to Build Healthy Relationships

Most art therapy is done in group sessions, though some professionals may offer one-to-one practices. Whether a senior decides to participate in a class or simply with an art therapist, the increased socialization can lead to an increase in mood and well-being as they build satisfying relationships.

Ultimately, art therapy can allow seniors the chance to explore new perspectives and express themselves in ways they may not have had the chance to previously. It is always best to do your research and ensure that your art therapist is a clinical professional. Exploring the world of art therapy can be a new and exciting experience, and one any senior can benefit from.

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