Creative expression has a powerful impact on health and well-being. Art therapy has long been used as a tool in a wide range of settings including rehabilitation, educational, medical and mental health. It’s also recently been shown to be effective with the elderly, especially those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. According to the American Art Therapy Association, art, music, dance and other creative pursuits have exciting benefits for all aging adults, including improved memory, motor skills, self-esteem and relaxation, as well as strengthening neural pathways that may help prevent dementia.
The good news is you don’t have to be an artist, a musician, or in any other creative profession to enhance your health through creative expression. Creativity has nothing to do with any activity in particular. It’s all about turning imaginative ideas into reality. Everyone can be creative and expressing one’s creativity through artistic and other activities can have a positive impact on health by increasing and renewing brain function. So go make something and be well!
Depending on your preferences and abilities there are a variety of ways to encourage creativity. If you’re looking for creative outlet ideas for a loved one and are having trouble getting them to try something new, consider doing it together. You’ll both derive benefits from sharing a new creative pursuit. Here are some areas to consider:
Take a class
If there’s something you or your loved one has longed to learn, whether it’s painting, sculpting, knitting or anything else, opportunities abound aimed at teaching aging adults to explore their inner artist. Check in with your local senior center, parks and recreation department, continuing education program or community college to learn more about classes for seniors.
Join a performing arts group
While exploring any form of art is a great activity for aging adults, the performing arts are particularly beneficial for boosting self-esteem, confidence and independence. Many choral groups are open to the public, welcoming people of all ages and abilities. A helpful list of local choral groups, as well as other creative outlets for seniors, can be found here.
Community theater is also a wonderful outlet. The elderly can play a variety of important roles both on and off-stage. Opportunities include everything from lead characters and ensemble parts to backstage and front-of-house duties such as selling tickets or helping out with costumes. An added bonus for joining a performing arts group is that membership broadens one’s social network.
Write about it
Seniors often write their life stories to share their experiences with future generations. But keeping a journal offers many benefits for older adults beyond merely preserving their legacies. Writing is linked with numerous health benefits including improved cognitive function and stress relief.
Professional writers and amateurs alike can find getting started to be one of the hardest parts of the writing process. The best advice is to put pen to paper and see what happens. Formal writing prompts may also offer inspiration. These are words or short phrases that can set your mind off on a journey that inspires your creative energy, and are widely available on the internet. If writing itself is the main challenge, enlist the help of a family member, volunteer, neighbor or friend who would be willing to record conversations and help tell your or your loved one’s story.
From playing an instrument to simply listening to songs, there are many ways to incorporate music into the lives of seniors. Music is itself a creative outlet, and it can also foster creativity – from opening up memories to promoting a particular mood. It’s also one of the most effective ways to enter the “mind-wandering mode,” in which the majority of human innovation occurs.
Show your green thumb
Gardening is much more than planting and watering. Because gardening emphasizes planning, color and pattern recognition, and dexterity, it’s a wonderful creative outlet that offers a number of healing qualities for the older adult. Research shows that even just spending time in a garden can lower stress and blood pressure levels — and help reduce problems related to dementia.
So regardless of whether you listen to music in a garden, take pictures in a garden, paint flowers, or dance amid the blooms, creativity will blossom.
While the benefits of meditation are well-known for alleviating anxiety, physical benefits also abound, including reducing inflammation, relieving insomnia and even clearing up respiratory infections. But did you know that meditation also promotes creative thinking? Research indicates that meditation triggers conception of new ideas. And who knows where these ideas will lead when meditation is integrated into your daily routine?
The Mayo Clinic provides a handy resource for learning more about the benefits of meditation as well as meditation techniques.
Dance can be an outstanding activity for the body and mind. Movement improves efficiency of brain connections, maintains and sometimes improves neural pathways, and can even improve plasticity (the brain’s ability to change). It enhances mood, self-esteem and emotional regulation, all of which originate in the brain.
The best part of creativity? Opportunities for embracing it are endless. At Meadow Ridge, we offer many classes and activities for our residents to express themselves creatively. Our annual Resident Art Show even displays the talents of several artists who call Meadow Ridge home. Learn more about opportunities at our community to express individual, and group, creativity by calling 1-866-370-7388 or filling out the Contact Us form.