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Meaningful Moments of Joy with Art Therapy

June 21, 2021

Discovering the Right Tool for Self-Expression

Art can be more than just a creative outlet or a hobby. As a therapy tool, artistic activities like painting, sketching, coloring, sculpting, and collage-making can improve the well-being, health and happiness of seniors. Art therapy activities can aid in dexterity and motor skills, and can guide individuals to create and express feelings and share stories, communicating in a new and rewarding way.  These benefits can be particularly noteworthy for those with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. For seniors and others, the benefits of art therapy go far beyond creative expression.

Creating art engages a different part of the brain than the part used for verbal skills. As a result, art can be an effective way for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s to express themselves. Even those who have displayed no artistic ability in the past can use art therapy to help recall memories.  When a senior with one of these conditions creates an artwork, ask  what it represents to them. Strokes of blue and green may symbolize a special memory from a seaside vacation. 

People with Parkinson’s disease can use art therapy to improve motor skills. Artistic media should be selected based on level of ability and the client’s needs. For example, clay modeling or sculpting can help with hand dexterity and may be easier than holding a paintbrush. For someone with arthritis, it may be more appropriate to have larger tools made of soft materials that are easy to maneuver. 

In all cases, artistic tools should match with the individual based on their personal preferences and physical and mental abilities. 

Advantages of Being Creative

When you invite seniors to create a piece of art, you are asking them to look at things from a different perspective. This, in turn, helps to stimulate their minds to increase cognitive skills. The movements and coordination required in the art can improve motor skills. 

Art enriches emotional balance, allowing seniors to relieve stress and anxiety. Encourage seniors to focus on expressing their feelings to release any internal emotional turmoil and stress levels.  

Art therapy programs are often best conducted in a group to create social connections. Even though art is an individual pursuit, it can be practiced in a social setting. It is a unique method for seniors to connect with friends, caregivers and loved ones to improve communication.

Finding an Art Therapy Program

Do you believe a senior in your care could benefit from the social, cognitive, emotional or physical aspects of art therapy?

Credentialed art therapists hold master’s degrees in art therapy or a related health field, and work in multiple settings to help people address health and well-being. To find a credentialed art therapist near you, the American Art Therapy Association offers an art therapist locator map.

Oasis Senior Advisors provides this information to help you better serve the seniors in your community. Oasis refers older adults to professionals like you every day. To learn more about partnerships with your local Oasis advisor, call (888) 455-5838. One call can offer many solutions for a senior in need.