By Maureen Rulison
Life is full of color, if you just take the time to appreciate it. What does a colorful life – a life worth living – look like to you?
Is it living longer? Living healthier? Having fun? Well, we all strive for that, but experience tells us that achieving it can sometimes be more easily said than done.
Aging: it’s inevitable. Some of us get there in the greatest of health. Others aren’t so fortunate. But that’s OK! We can always add some color and enjoyment to the aging process.
Improve the Aging Process With Some Art & Creativity
As a Board-certified Patient Advocate here in Florida, I’ve been involved with thousands of wonderful, beautiful individuals and families at varying stages of the aging process. Some are in great or pretty decent health. Many others are having a bit more trouble – sometimes more than a bit – with terminal illnesses like Alzheimer’s and dementia, heart issues, and more.
No matter where we stand, we’re all entitled to a life worth living.
You know what I’ve found? Among so many families, the love of art and music isn’t nurtured late in life. What?! Why?! (Brian and I discussed this in our latest podcast on the Joy of Dementia.)
We know why. Care partners aren’t sure where to start.
“How do we create a playlist of Grandma’s favorite songs?”
“Do we bring his guitar to the memory care facility?”
“But they probably won’t let Dad paint anymore.”
And some families, quite frankly, are being short-sighted and perhaps a bit lazy. Engaging in art and creativity adds too much color to the aging process to ignore. Let’s explore the benefits!
The Awesome Benefits of Art & Music … For the Young at Heart
We may be aging, but we can always be young at heart. Creative outlets nurture that spirit so profoundly.
Participation in the arts doesn’t have to be intense and time consuming. No one’s asking your grandmother to become the next Bob Ross. A crafting class, trip to the theater or even just singing in a dementia-friendly worship service carry so many emotional and physical benefits.
Let’s look at the research. You can expect overall improvement for yourself or your loved one in the following ways:
- Increased independence
- Better cognitive and memory functioning
- Higher self-esteem
- Reduced stress
- Increased social interaction
- Lower blood pressure
Socialization and its Connection
Artistic endeavors help people keep their vitality as they grow older thanks to social interaction and engagement with others.
Social connection. We literally cannot survive and thrive without it.
That’s a key part of artistic and cultural gatherings and programs for seniors. Simply participating with others in a quilting group, paint-by-numbers class, singing group or crafting club can help our elders feel connected and involved. The benefits have been shown – repeatedly – to prolong life and promote healthy aging.
Crafting and its Power
Have you ever thought of crafting as “powerful”? Seems like the wrong way to describe it at the surface level, right? But beneath that surface lie truly powerful impacts.
Crafting brings so many cognitive benefits for aging individuals. When they’re working on artistic and creative projects, they’re engaged both mentally and physically. Sewing, quilting, knitting and other focal activities require great attention to detail. This stimulates and utilizes different parts of the brain and can minimize the chance of developing cognitive impairment by as much as 30-50%.
For our friends living with dementia (like my Brian), it can slow or even temporarily reverse cognitive regression.
Arts and crafts also increase happiness and decrease depression. Gotta love that dopamine – the “feel-good chemical.”
Music and its Healing
Did you know that people who play (or simply listen to) music have better connectivity between their left and right brains? Seniors who love to sing, whether it is in the shower or in front of an audience, experience a range of mental health benefits including:
- Decreased stress hormones
- Improved lung function
- Even enhanced immune response
We mentioned those playlists earlier. A personalized playlist with favorite music can bring your loved one back to happy memories and feelings. Music has the power to reignite senses long forgotten. They may even smell or taste a memory! Taking that little bit of time to build a playlist is one of the most compassionate things you can do to honor your loved one.
Let’s Add Some Color to the Aging Process
Arts of all kinds can only benefit the aging process. Singing, dancing, drawing and everything in between! The arts can be included as part of a routine or a spur-of-the-moment activity.
There’s an inner soul in every person that needs to be loved and nurtured. Let’s work toward that today!