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Assisted Living and Art Therapy: Finding the Right Program for You 1

Author: Holly Chavez As artists get older, they often wonder what life will have in store for them once they reach a certain age - and aging can be particularly scary to them because much of their life is built around their visual senses and being able to use their hands for their craft. They often worry about things such as their vision diminishing because so much of their work depends on being able to see vibrant colors and shapes of objects. They also wonder if they will still be able to continue to do arts and crafts, or will ailments that are a natural part of aging interfere.

However, not only are hobbies such as arts and crafts a possibility for seniors to continue, but they are considered to be very therapeutic to them. Creative hobbies are considered a type of sensory-based therapy, and according to caretakers at Chateau Vestavia, an assisted living facility, "A positive correlation exists between sensory-based therapies and improved memory, mood, and quality of life." One of their pitches there for seniors is to "pick up a new hobby, or enjoy your old ones." That's good news because it means that the elderly artist can continue the life they are currently living and continue to pursue their hobbies — while also enjoying an extra boost to their quality of life. Here are a few encouraging stories to consider for those that want to retire and continue to pursue their passion whether at home or later in an assisted living facility:

Creativity Never Stops A recent study by the Research Center for Arts and Culture found that as artists age they are role models for society because of the way they live their later years — particularly when you consider how the workforce is constantly changing to incorporate multiple career paths and making way for the huge wave of baby boomers entering retirement.1 Indeed, aging artists buck the retirement stereotype because of how passionate they are about their work and how high their internal barometer ranks for self-esteem and general satisfaction. They lead an active social life, which is always good for a senior's health, and over half communicate weekly or daily with their peers. Many won't be officially retiring until they're 90, and others, like Dan Brown, have reached that age while still creating masterpieces. Brown, who will see his 91st birthday this year is a successful sculptor and painter who has won global competitions and earned several commissions. The colorful World War II veteran started his art career later in life as a relaxing pastime and a way to keep himself creative and busy after he retired. He was recently interviewed by Susan Risoli of the Times of Huntington who asked if his creativity would ever slow down, His reply was, "Never."2 Brown commented further in the interview that he has never liked the 'Golden Age' moniker that people put on retirement and feels that getting older does bring some boredom and depression with it — he also went on to say that artists can always locate new projects and try to find like-minded people to stay satisfied in life. And what about seniors that haven't even able to draw a stick figure or straight line in the past? Assisted living facilities often offer classes taught by professional artists that help these hesitant residents not only improve their art talent, but also improve their cognitive abilities.

Niche Facilities Help the Transition Moving into an assisted living facility is a huge change for anyone. Most of the residents have spent many years in the same home where they raised their families and enjoyed their careers. Moving into a facility that is more like a community will be very different. It will take time to adjust.Some of the residents who move into an assisted living facility also find that they miss their old neighbors and friends. Again, after spending so much time in one home, it can be a disruption to their routine and make them lonesome. Now that they have the time to actually pursue a hobby or develop a talent, many retirees find that being exposed to many different art forms gives them a sense of purpose in their life. This is why it is very important when you are looking for an assisted living facility to find one that offers a large variety of arts and crafts classes, and you can find several that offer niche programs such as arts and crafts to their residents. Arts and crafts classes provide these new residents with a chance to encounter new people and make friends, learn or define a skill, or even the opportunity to teach a class. It is the perfect way to become accustomed to new surroundings.Another benefit of having residents attend arts and crafts classes is the therapeutic one. Many residents, as they age, find that they suffer from some ailments that make other areas of their life more difficult. They can take an enjoyable class such as these listed below that can also double as therapy:

Pottery Classes
  • Making pottery or other items from shaping clay can help residents retain hand strength or rebuild strength after a stroke. For those suffering with arthritis, the clay and water often brings much needed relief because the act of shaping the clay is soothing. There are often art gallery showings for elderly artists that can sell their pottery and many are involved in volunteer projects that sell the artwork for a cause such as local children's hospitals.        

     

     

      • Painting or Sketching

     

    Learning or enhancing artistic skills like painting or sketching is relaxing and helps keep cognitive skills sharp. Some programs in assisted living homes that teach the skill have the residents do lino printing, silk paintings, water colorings, sketching and glass paintings - to name a few. Tools such as wide brushes are used by instructors to help residents that may have arthritic hands grip it and aid those whose vision isn't as sharp anymore. This type of creative outlet can help seniors' cognitive memory and can often help them remember something from their childhood that they couldn't recall before.      
    • Crocheting or Knitting

     This hobby deserves mention because not only does the craft produce beautiful pieces of knitted or crocheted clothing and knick knacks, it is also an instrumental therapy method for the elderly. Knitting and crocheting creates camaraderie and relaxation that can facilitate healing from chronic illness and surgery. Residents that participate in this hobby have seen a decrease in such symptoms as depression, chronic and short-term pain, and dexterity.        

    Special Exhibits Help Seniors with Dementia Many assisted living residents like to look at art pieces in exhibits - when the exhibits are shown at nursing homes, they have been found to activate the mind of Alzheimer's patients and increase their participation in activities. Art therapy of this kind is beneficial to patients with dementia and helps the sufferers tap into the subconscious part of their minds. Dementia patients often don't respond well to structured therapies which is one of the reasons the exhibits have such good results.

    Of course, there are countless other art and crafts courses that are offered that have the same or additional benefits. Woodworking, origami and paper arts, sewing, and sculpture are just a few additional classes that are offered in assisted living facilities.The main objective, however, is to make sure that any facility you select for yourself or your loved one offers a wide arrangement of arts and craft classes to ensure the happiness of its residents.

    Sources

  • Image1: http://www.flickr.com/photos/togawanderings/6949505642/
  • Image 2: http://www.flickr.com/photos/asianu/8363957127
  • Image 3: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thechanel/2744890693/
  • http://www.northshoreoflongisland.com/Articles-News-i-2013-08-29-97032.112114-sub-Ninetyyearold-Dix-Hills-man-launches-art-exhibit-in-Huntington.html
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