Art Therapy and Aging: Understanding the Benefits

Posted at Jan 17, 2014 | 157 Comments

The Benefits of Art Therapy for Older Adults

If you have spent any time in a senior living setting, like one of the Brook Retirement Communities, you may have noticed that the arts are popular hobbies for residents. Art provides a good forum for self-expression, especially for older adults who may be living with physical or cognitive impairments. It has become an officially recognized form of therapy in health care settings ranging from hospice care centers to senior living.

What is art therapy?

Art therapy is considered a mental health profession. It involves helping participants use the creative process and the artwork they make to explore their feelings and to develop self-awareness. It can be an especially good tool to use with seniors who are struggling to cope with the emotional rollercoaster caused by a chronic or life-limiting illness.

What are the benefits of art therapy?

One of the primary goals of art therapy is to help the participant improve or restore their sense of well-being. Beyond helping to improve a participant’s mental health, art therapy also:

  • Promotes relaxation
  • Helps to redirect a participant’s thoughts from their physical pain
  • Improves self-esteem
  • Encourages socialization and feelings of belonging
  • Allows participants to express emotions that can’t be verbalized
  • Improves or restores fine motor skills
  • Promotes problem solving

Forms of art therapy to use with older adults

Any form of media can be used be used in art therapy. Keep in mind that the textiles or materials used can also offer healing benefits. For example, using clay to mold and build vases or bowls can improve finger and hand strength thereby helping decrease the pain of osteoarthritis.

Some of the art forms more popular with older adults that you can easily do with your senior loved one include:

  • Knitting, crochet and other yarn arts
  • Needlework
  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Clay arts
  • Pastel drawings
  • Stamp art
  • Pen and ink

Have you and an aging loved one tried creating art projects together?

Do you have any advice to offer other family caregivers?


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