Art Therapy With Older Adults & The Elderly

The following video isn’t the best quality or best produced. But it does showcase how art can help senior citizens, the elderly, and older adults in general. It provides some personal accounts of how older people “stay alive” by utilizing the creative aspects of making art. It shows how art therapy can help improve the quality of life for people as they get older. The video also touches on how art therapy can help the elderly cope with the psychological effects of aging, illness and disability.

Beyond Words: Art Therapy With Older Adults

Transcript – Art Therapy With Older Adults, Elderly

Art can help people to review their lives and their therapy by creating and then reflecting on what they have made.

Woman from Senior Center in Georgia: “This is a box about the homes I’ve had. This is our first home when we were married in 19…I got to think…1936.”

And when old age brings losses of people, of home, of health, of mobility…making art can enrich lives and can even lift the weight of depression.

Elizabeth Layton: “You hurt and you hurt and you hurt…and then you go round and round and around…so I can’t stand this so I’ll do something. After a point… My sister wrote and urged me to do something…and she was into drawing at the time and she thought if I were to draw it might help. And everyone said, ‘you don’t look like that.’ But I knew I looked like that ’cause I had drawn it out of a mirror.”

Robert Ault: “What I find most interesting about this story is that 10 months after she took up contour drawing, Elizabeth Layton’s depression had vanished.

Elizabeth Layton: “And then I was feeling okay.”

Like Mary, some of the residents will live out their days in this institution. Painting and modeling can help them come to terms with problems assoicated with aging and loss.

Elderly Woman from Rehab Hospital in New York: “Well, I’m 94 years old. What are you gonna do to make me feel young? ‘Cause I didn’t think I could move these old shoulders like that.”

Older Man from VA Hospital in Vermont: “You can lose your identity in a hospital. Outside you’re and individual in a hospital and you’re something that they’re working on. But when you start doing something like this, it gives you that feeling back again…that you’re actually doing something as a human being.”

Sarah Banker (Art Therapist): “When you first come into a nursing home, you have given up your home and you’ve given up a great many choices that you had in your life and your daily routines. And also the sense of control that you have over your life. And you are very confused and it also leads to a lot of depression. But art, if they begin to explore and work in art, I think they can get that feeling of control back of having choices…there are infinite choices in art. And the dependency becomes less as they explore and create themselves.”

Older Woman from Institution for the Elderly in California: “Well it’s been a lifesaver for my brother. He had a stroke which completely incapacitated him because his left hand was untrained…he could do nothing with it. And then when this program started it occupied his time and his mind. It’s not a luxury. It’s really a necessity “

Comments

  1. Lawrence says

    Sad that it takes us so long, to get to appreciating the grounding and recharging effects, of a creative outlet on a human beings expression. As human beings we can not function properly, unless we are “grounded within” our physical body, within a “Now” time frame. Here are some possibilities for, grounding and recharging, that I would like to share with everyone.
    Breathing ( deep and rhythmic)
    Intake of Sufficient Water
    Eating
    Sleeping
    Sexual Outlet
    Grooming
    Being in a Natural Setting
    Gardening
    Listening to Music and Dancing
    Reading
    Sharing With Someone
    Creative Outlet
    Meditation
    Sunbathing
    Exercise
    Learning by Doing
    Appreciating and Enjoying
    Walking
    Empathic Listening
    Creative Exchange
    Helping Another
    Watching the Sun Rise or Set
    Feel free to utilize any and all of these methods freely on your self and encourage any that you deal with to thoroughly indulge. Perhaps this means that we are getting closer to the time, that we will finally use common sense, in dealing with people and social issues? “Does It Work or Not”, for all that are effected by every action or non-action? All My Best!

  2. says

    George Washington University’s Center on Aging, Health, and Humanities has conducted research on this topic, affirming the positive effects of art therapy on healthy brain functioning, with active imagination persisting even while memory fails. Results showed that the group with artistic participation had measurably more positive effects in overall physical health, mental and emotional health (morale), and social interaction. Great validation for promoting art therapy in groups for seniors! Research summary is noted at http://www.sunrisedistrib.com/Research.html

  3. says

    Assisted Living residents respond to simple watercolor painting sessions with eagerness and activated minds, even while at different stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Activity directors say their residents become calmer and happier as they paint and enjoy the colors and shapes of non-structured painting sessions. Caregivers notice improved attitudes and behaviors even among those who are severely affected by dementia. Truly these right-brain activities should be included in activities, to give Alzheimer and dementia patients ACTIVE participation with art, not just passive viewing! And they have fun! What a gift to these special people. Photos and examples at http://www.sunrisedistrib.com/ArtforAlzheimers.html

  4. Aldo says

    Great post. This reminds me of a DVD documentary we watched recently “Remember Better When I Paint”. It is a remarkable film, and shows successful creative arts initiatives for those with Alzheimer’s from around the world. We had first heard about the film in an article on Alz. Weekly:
    http://www.alzheimersweekly.com/Art_and_Music/i-remember-better-when-i-paint-a654.html

    Would highly recommend this film – also on the DVD are bonus clips and tips on how to organize creative workshops or museum visits for the elderly dealing with dementia.

  5. Alex says

    Hi
    So I am currently majoring in Art History at Cal State Fullerton and I’ve been thinking that I want to be an art therapist and work with seniors. I was wondering if anyone had any advice on how to get started. I mean should I be switching school, if so where would be the best place? Things like that, if anyone could help it would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you.

  6. says

    Hi,art therapy is a unique offering for persons aged sixty-five years and older, giving the potential for enrichment and healing in those lives. Describing the various ways in which art therapy can be used in the treatment of mental and emotional problems of older adults,i appreciate this blog.

  7. Admin says

    @jamescutler, thank you for the kind words…glad you like the site!

  8. says

    Thank you for bringing attention to the ways in which creative activity can benefit older adults! I am an art therapist who works with older adults in Portland, OR. Since art therapy is such an adaptable modality, it is an especially wonderful way to work with people with physical disabilities and cognitive issues such as Dementia or stroke symptoms. Creative activity is engaging on so many levels and clients often report that making art improves their mood, provides a sense of freedom/autonomy, & gives them a sense of being listened to, encouraged, and valued. For more information about some of the goals/benefits of art therapy with older adults and examples of client art, please have a look at our website: http://www.fitmc.org.

    And to the previous poster Alex, this is a bit belated, but please feel welcome to contact us if you’d still like to talk with someone about pursuing this career path!

    Amy Swallow, MA, ATR
    Face in the Mirror Counseling, Inc.

  9. says

    Thank you for letting me speak my mind as I have something I would like to share with you.I have a website that needs a couple of more days to be completed.Our site will be an artist showcasefor artist and craftsmenwho are retired, who are veterans, who are disabled. This website is for artwork sales,where arts and crafts can be sold and thereby these artist can continue togo on creatingin the medium that they love. LLife has changed all of us. We have no doubt that you retires, veterans,and disabled along with their friends and familieswill take advantage of our offer to showcase their creativity. We are offering a very low price to the sellers Please let us know.The website is http://www.windowsofcreativity.com We are based out of Loveland, Colorado There will not be a charge for unexplainable fees norwill we charge a high commission.It will all be affordable. Thank you kindly. Donna LaPlant Email 3dpaintings@comcast.net

  10. Silvana Minter says

    Thank you for the attention to art therapy for all to comment on. I believe it is a great program in all aspects of art. I am an activities assistant at a senior livinig community and being a part of working with the elderly and their dementia not only benefits their physical and emotional needs, it fills my heart with so much love. Giving them the sence of accomplishment where it had been taken away, do to their physical disabilities along with stages of dementia is something everyone in all feilds should put a little bit of their time into. I am very fortunate to teach a watercolor to those 80 and older. Thank you ~ Silvana

  11. says

    Our non profit project http://www.forloveandart.org is all about art therapy. We bring the museum art to the seniors and elderly that can not make the trip to the museum. Please come find out more about how we donate digital artbooks to hospices and nursing homes all over the world.

  12. tyff says

    Trying to find articles about Don Jones, the father of art therapy that I can download for a report. Suggestions, other than wikipedia?

  13. tyff says

    Trying to find articles about Don Jones, the father of art therapy that I can download for a report. Suggestions, other than wikipedia?

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