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Creativity and aging: Benefits of art on senior health

It’s no secret that individuals today are living longer and embracing new and different activities well into their older years. Longer lives beg the question, what can be done to age well? Keeping one’s health in check with proper nutrition, physical activity, and regular checkups is typically the go-to answer. But it is also important to consider other, seemingly insignificant activities that can benefit seniors’ health. Participating in and enjoying artistic endeavors – even when seniors are not necessarily creatively inclined – can have a positive impact on health by creating a sense of purpose and keeping the mind busy.

Senior woman painting

Creativity and a sense of purpose

As seniors age, their lifestyles and priorities change, and aging well is frequently top of mind. According to a study published in the Journal of Aging Studies,study participants, aged 60 to 93, identified six features of successful aging: a sense of purpose, interactions with others, personal growth, self-acceptance, autonomy, and health. Creative activities, such as writing, painting, or knitting, encourage a sense of competence, purpose, and growth—all of which contribute to aging well.

A sense of purpose is significant for seniors, especially if they spent the majority of their younger years defined by a career or by raising children and running a household. Once those responsibilities are lifted, seniors can sometimes develop an uncertainty about their purpose later in life. This can affect health and overall wellbeing. Participating in artistic activities, however, bolsters problem-solving skills and satisfaction that seniors can take into everyday life. Also, when seniors are able to share their handmade gifts with friends and family, they develop a sense of pride in what they have created.

Creativity and health benefits

Arts and crafts and other creative projects can help alleviate boredom and keep seniors’ minds busy, and may even help prevent feelings of depression. Furthermore, arts and crafts help with hand-eye coordination, cognitive abilities, and concentration.

Many seniors shy away from creative activities because they feel as though they are not creative enough or are not artistic; however, even artistic novices can be creative with the right kinds of projects. For example, seniors who have a lifetime of photographs tucked away can make them into a collage to hang on the wall or a scrapbook to put on the coffee table. Seniors can get in the holiday spirit and make a festive wreath by gluing candies to a Styrofoam wreath, available at craft stores. Another simple and creative project that can give a room an aromatic touch is creating a lavender flax seed pillow sealed with fabric glue instead of sewing.

Creativity and Holiday Retirement

Many of Holiday Retirement’s residents were once teachers, artists, poets, authors, etc., who bring many talents and benefits to the more than 300 independent senior living communities across the United States. Engaging in artistic endeavors allows these creatively minded seniors the opportunity to showcase their talents and connect with others. For example, in July, several residents from Rock Creek, a Holiday Retirement community, put their knitting needles to work at a knit-in” to benefit CLICK for Babies at the Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel.

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