How Creative Expression Can Improve Your Loved One’s Well-Being

Participating in the arts offers a host of physical, mental and social benefits for older adults.

Posted in , Jun 15, 2021

A senior woman holding her artwork; Getty Images

Ashlee Cordell is a Research Assistant and Project Coordinator with the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging

Coming up with activities to keep your older loved one mentally and physically engaged can be a tall order. Exploring the creative arts is one of the best ways to begin! Your loved one can enjoy creative expression either from the comfort of home or by venturing into the community. Older adults benefit in numerous ways—physically, mentally and socially—from participating in the arts.

As people get older, their body of knowledge and expertise continues to expand, and can become major building blocks of creative expression. Pandemic restrictions have caused social isolation and loneliness to rise, so creative expression is more important than ever, as it can help to alleviate these issues, as well as others.

Among the benefits of artistic expression are:

  • Better overall mood: Creative arts can reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness among older adults, and boost your loved one’s overall mood.
  • Mental stimulation: Creative arts spark connections in the brain that ultimately lead to sharper senses. A Mayo Clinic study has shown that participating in the arts may also lower the risk of dementia.
  • Improved mobility: Creative arts get the body moving in ways that can improve things like hand-eye coordination and overall blood flow.
  • Expanded social connections: Creative arts offer situations for meeting other people and building new relationships, two important factors to boosting mental health.
  • Non-verbal expression: Creative arts enable older adults to express themselves non-verbally. This alternative form of communication is a new way for your loved one to express his or her thoughts and emotions.

The result can be better overall health and well-being for your loved one. This is the case whether he or she takes part in arts programming that’s led by a professional or simply enjoys the creative arts as a hobby. Another plus is that your loved one can experience the physical, mental and social benefits of creative expression without having any art training or experience.

Either in the community or a long-term care environment, you and your loved one can participate in the creative arts in a number of ways, including:

  • Movies, plays and dance: It’s fun to watch movies and plays, and it can be even more fun to follow your inspiration and create your own. Dancing is also a great way to express yourself and to reap the additional benefits of exercise.
  • Music: The love of music is universal! Play your favorite recordings together, and if the spirit moves you, pick up an instrument or sing.
  • The written word: Poetry, fiction and non-fiction have the magical ability to take us away from reality for a bit and give us insight and comfort. Expressing yourself through writing can also lift you up and help you process feelings.
  • Making visual art: There’s a wide array of visual arts to explore, including ceramics, collaging, drawing, filmmaking, painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture. You can try your hand on your own, or join with others in groups or virtually via video chat.
  • Viewing visual art: There’s nothing like an art museum to inspire creativity. Many currently offer virtual tours, so put your feet up and take in artwork from anywhere in the world!

For more information on the social impact of art, visit the Arts + Social Impacts Explorer Tool on the Americans for the Arts website. The interactive tool includes downloadable fact sheets to make the great impact of the arts more visible to all. For additional behavioral health and social support services, use the Eldercare Locator to find what is available in your area.

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