There has been a very large trend of adult themed coloring books and paint-by-number canvases circulating the last couple of years, ranging from flowers and wildlife to movies and mandalas. What is the craze all about? Did you know that being creative is a good thing?
In an article written by Barbara Bagan, PhD., called Aging, What's Art Got To Do With It?, she looks into why art and creativity can help adults at any stage in life, including enhancing cognitive function, quality of life and nurturing an overall feeling of wellbeing, among others such as:
- helping individuals relax;
- providing a sense of control;
- reducing depression and anxiety;
- assisting in socialization;
- encouraging playfulness and a sense of humor;
- improving cognition;
- offering sensory stimulation;
- fostering a stronger sense of identity;
- increasing self-esteem;
- nurturing spirituality; and
- reducing boredom.
Art therapy is not just about painting or coloring, art therapy extends to music and even gardening, dancing, and writing, and can be therapeutic not just for the viewer, but the artist themselves. Bagan says that art therapy can promote healing physiologically and psychologically, as well as neurologically by making new neural pathways. "Thus, art enhances cognitive reserve, helping the brain actively compensate for pathology by using more efficient brain networks or alternative brain strategies. Making art or even viewing art causes the brain to continue to reshape, adapt, and restructure, thus expanding the potential to increase brain reserve capacity," (Bagan, 2017).
Dr. Bruce Miller, behavioral neurologist from San Francisco, stated that brains will age but the creative processes and abilities do not always deteriorate.
Art programs have shown positive benefits for those with illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and other degenerative diseases, and those recovering from a stroke in reducing depression and anxiety related to these illnesses, decreasing behaviors, and helping them to flourish in their later years and while recovering from an illness, as well as realizing they have unused potential. Creating art can increase feelings of worth, and purpose for older individuals. It can help them to break out of the shell that they feel these illnesses have put them in.
Many facilities have an arts and crafts hour, or provide art therapy of some sort. Even some day and recreation centers have these types of programs that anyone from the community can join to participate. If that is not an option, some trained therapists will go out to client's homes to provide art or music therapy. Art and craft stores also have affordable craft options that caregivers can do with their clients, or even families can assist. The internet has many resources for project ideas, free printable color pages, free music and videos, etc.
Three aspects of aging, discussed by Dr. John Rowe and Robert Kahn, PhD, are low risk of disease, high mental and physical functioning, and being actively engaged in life. Staying engaged in activities that promote positivity, health, and wellbeing can lead to a more fulfilling life and is one of the most important things we can all do.
Start to think about what ways expressive arts--painting, music, dance and movement, photography, and writing--can become apart of your every day routine, and make it a priority to stay creative.