Art Therapy for seniors

Art is a powerful and effective form of communication that stimulates thoughts and emotions in the artist and also those viewing art works. It has proven to have tremendous benefits and has increasingly become a therapeutic method for enhancing health and well-being. When used for therapeutic purposes it is referred to as Art Therapy. It has become an accepted therapy to help people with alleviating emotional stress or physical pain, neurological disorders and releasing traumatic experiences. In particular, art therapy is now commonly being used to address neurological ailments in the rapidly expanding seniors’ population.

There are several definitions of art therapy, but most of them fall into one of two general categories. (Refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_therapy) The first involves a belief in the inherent healing power of the creative process of art making. This view embraces the idea that the process of making art is therapeutic and this process is sometimes referred to as Art as Therapy.  Doing art is seen as an opportunity to express one’s self imaginatively, authentically, and spontaneously, an experience that can lead eventually to personal fulfillment, emotional reparation, and recovery. Some retirees may have problems dealing with difficult social realities due to neurological disorders. Art Therapy can be included in the treatment for these disorders. It can have the added dimension of boosting confidence during the transition from a hectic work life to a more subdued time at retirement.

The second definition of art therapy is based on the idea that art is a means of symbolic communication. This approach, often referred to as art psychotherapy, emphasizes the products—drawings, paintings, sculpture, handwork and other art expressions—as helpful in communicating issues, emotions, and conflicts. This approach can also be applied to various age groups suffering from neurological disorders.

The expanding seniors population and increased longevity will bring into focus the number of seniors and retirees suffering from ailments associated with aging, namely physical and emotional distress.  Art Therapy has become an invaluable tool in helping those retirees afflicted by these health issues. Not many of those who are approaching retirement  envision a life suffering from ailments such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias, low self-esteem, depression, addictions, stress, anxiety or social isolation. Most, if not all of us, have to be prepared to deal with some of these health challenges in our golden years.

Art Therapy healing is normally done by Art Therapists. Most Art Therapists are licensed professionals and are required to undergo several years of higher education that focuses on psychotherapy. They also have a solid background in various art forms and expression. They work with children, adolescents, and adults and provide services to individuals, couples, families, groups, and communities. In the case of retirees the Art Therapist can harness artistic skills and talents that they have been unaware of and have no clue how to use those talents and skills. It is here that the art therapist can contribute to the well-being of retirees or seniors if they are able to identify that these skills and talents exist. Art Therapists can play a significant role in improving the lives of clients they serve.

According to an article titled “Creative Rehabilitation: Art Therapy for the Elderly” published at Elder Caring  Inc. (http://www.eldercaring.ca/?p=460)

“The therapy, which began as treatment for severely emotionally disturbed children and adults, provides a safe and structured setting to help participants express their thoughts or feelings in a verbal or non-verbal way. Drawing, painting, or discussing art are a few examples of the therapeutic interventions. In a long-term-care setting, an art therapy program strives to improve the quality of life.”

The above article at Elder Caring Inc. accurately sums up the purpose and benefits of Art Therapy. Art Therapy can be a remedy or treatment to help in the rehabilitation of those suffering from some kind of trauma, illness or personal crisis in their golden years. These golden years are given more significance as retirees have to find ways to keep active both mentally and physically to enjoy this major milestone in life. More attention is being paid to the emotional health of retirees due to the rapidly growing seniors’ population and also increased longevity.

While art therapy may involve learning skills or art techniques, the emphasis is generally first on developing and expressing images that come from inside the person, rather than those he or she sees in the outside world. It is an experience that allows troubled seniors to connect with their inner feelings through any form of art. In particular, residents of long-term care facilities who suffer from neurological disorders can benefit from this therapy. Even healthy retirees without mental health issues can also benefit from Art Therapy especially if they have no activities planned for their transition to retirement. They have a lot of time on their hands and can find this period of life isolating, depressing and detached from the world around them.

For seniors with neurological disorders, emotional and mental illness this is a challenging time both for them and their families. Art Therapy is being given greater consideration as an option to improve the quality of life for seniors suffering from ailments associated with ageing. This therapy is being embraced as it can be a useful tool in maintaining overall good health of seniors. Another positive aspect of Art Therapy for seniors is that it will minimize the strains on the health care system and other social services.

The intent of our post is to raise awareness about the emotional and neurological disorders that some retirees face and reassure them that there are options available to help them through what can be a difficult time.  It has to be acknowledged that each of us is unique and we age differently. One solution does not fit all. However, one of the accredited options for improving  the life of seniors is Art Therapy. Art Therapy could open up a new world for them outside of their ailments. And who knows? Some of the retirees in this category might turn out to be the next Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, or modern day impressionist artist.

We will leave you with this memorable quote from Hillary Rodham Clinton (former US First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State):

“Some of our most powerful works of art have been produced by older Americans—by hands that have engaged in years of hard work, eyes that have witnessed decades of change, and hearts that have felt a lifetime of emotions. Our whole society benefits when older Americans use their talents and experiences to become involved in the arts as creators, teachers, mentors, volunteers, and audiences.”
http://www.artbeyondsight.org/handbook/az-seniors-veterans.shtml#programbasics

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Some links to check:
i)  Refer to  ART RORAIMA  to view the art works of a retiree
ii) Check out an earlier blog  How to Find Passion in Retirement submitted by Françoise Duranleau, a guest contributor who found great passion in her retirement.

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About Golden Wave Movement Canada

The Golden Wave Movement is a made up of engaged individuals who have serious concerns about the increasing challenges retirees surviving on modest pension incomes face nowadays. While our main purpose is to raise awareness of the financial difficulties faced by this vulnerable group of citizens, we also intend to raise awareness regarding challenges related to their physical, emotional and psychological well-being.
This entry was posted in Alzheimer, Art Therapy, Dementia, Elder Care, Elders art therapy, Golden Years, Health Care, Long Term Care, Occupational therapy, Pensioners, Quality of life, Retirement hobbies, Seniors art therapy, Seniors demographic, Seniors' health, Social isolation and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Art Therapy for seniors

  1. Norma says:

    On occasion I suffered from a bit of depression when young but fortunately it was mild. Being aware that many seniors suffer from some form of mental illness and even worse dementia and my experieince iwth depression I am paying more attention to my emotional health. I don’t have art skills but love music, especially classical music such as Mozart and Beethoven and all the other greats. I had classical music training when I was young, left if behind and have reconnected with it through classes at the conservatory. I was amazed how everthing came back. It is hard work at times but I get a wonderful sense of calm and feeling of fulfilment when my fingers touch those piano keys and when I listen to the old classics. Really loved your article and I have learned a lot not only about the ailments we seniors have to deal with as we age but also how to cope. Thanks.

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  2. JD says:

    I have worked closely with older people I would say that ‘art therapy’ is of great benefit to nearly all of them. Whether they are healthy or are suffering from some form of dementia or depression or other issues most respond with enthusiasm when introduced to various art forms. Art has lifted the morale of so many of the elderly I work with and they tend to socialize with others more easily. Some are surprised at their innate creativity.

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  3. Sandie says:

    This is a wonderful post – so glad to have stumbled upon it. Brings to mind a documentary film we got on amazon called “I Remember Better When I Paint”. The film is about how art therapy helps restore quality of life and communications for people who have Alzheimer’s. Much of what you write about comes to life in this film, and the doctors interviewed provide insight as to why the emotional center is still intact all the way to the end of this disease. We had read about it in this article & sharing with you as it really inspired us:http://www.miller-mccune.com/health/art-and-alzheimers-another-way-of-remembering-25996/

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  4. Rosie says:

    Great article. I like the sound of that movie “I Remember Better When I Paint” one of the viewers commented on. Whether retirees have neurological disorders, psychology or emotional issues or are of sound mind it is a good idea to get involved in satisfying activities. I’ve met some seniors who are living in a bubble. Even if you are of sound mind but don’t make plans about your retirement you might find that when that time comes you will feel that you are sitting in a boat in the middle of ocean without a paddle. This article has inspired me to get my act together.

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  5. JDean says:

    A benefit of art therapy for retirees with pschological or emotional problems ro neurological disorders is that they might not make freqent visits to their doctors and probably won’t need as much medication. We are still in troubling economic times so hopefully this will have a positive effect on costs to social services and health care. AS an aside, with the rapidly expanding seniors’ population a good career path for young people in search for a profession with possibilities might be that of an Occupational Therapist.

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