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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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    Meditation Techniques 4

    meditation techniquesby Judy Braley Our hectic schedules are crammed with crises, to-do lists, issues marked urgent and overflowing in trays... Far away from everyday events, at your core, lies a place of quiet, calm, serenity, and stillness... Feeling connected to life and your core can be an everyday and effortless activity. Should you meditate? The short answer is "Yes!" So if that's all you wanted to find out, you can stop reading right now. But I hope you don't because next I'm going to give you my take on the what?, why?, when?, where?, and how? of meditation. First I'll warn you that I'm not a purist when it comes to meditation, so if you're looking for a lecture on Buddhist spiritual principles regarding meditation, you've come to the wrong place. I'm a busy, working parent who uses meditation to calm myself, to bring peace and happiness into my heart, and to bring awareness and clarity into my life. If you're looking for an approach less wrapped in spirituality and more tailored to a modern, hectic life, then I hope this article helps you. What There are lots of formal definitions out there for what meditation is, but what it comes down to is a basic focusing of attention and quieting of the superficial thoughts of the mind. It's becoming conscious of what's going on in your head rather than being on auto-pilot as usual. Meditation is a chance to: * get in contact with the inner stillness that exists beneath the level of your thoughts * bring your calm attention to an issue or feeling you want to resolve * stay calm at anytime under any situation * relax your mind and body * connect, on the spiritual side, with the creative energy of life. And guess what - you already do a form of meditation all the time. You focus attention on replaying the argument you had with your spouse, or on how fat you are, or on how little money you have. These are the types of negative things that your mind turns to when you're asleep at the switch, when you're not consciously paying attention to what you're thinking. When you decide to meditate, you choose to be consciously aware of where your attention goes and you can choose to let go of thoughts that don't support you in a positive way. When you decide to meditate, you can also choose to become quiet inside - something your thinking mind rarely lets you do. Why Here's a short list of the benefits of meditation, although there are many more: 1. Reduces stress 2. Can help with depression, fears and conflicted emotions 3. Improves self-confidence 4. Helps cultivate peace and happiness 5. Slows aging, improves memory, helps with healing the body, strengthens the immune system, and relieves headaches 6. Allows you to bring calmness to any situation 7. On the spiritual side, many who promote meditation state that it is a way to consciously connect to the creative force of the Universe or God 8. Allows you to focus your creative energy to attract the things you desire into your life. When and Where Anytime! Anywhere! Yes, you can set aside a specific time for meditation and sit in quiet contemplation for an hour or more in a room that you designed using feng shui, but you don't have to. I know that method certainly isn't an option in my life right now, but I still benefit greatly from meditation. You can meditate in the shower in the morning, when you're in line at the grocery store, for 20 minutes during lunch, for a few minutes before bed, whenever - the options are endless. Many meditation proponents suggest setting aside 10-20 minutes right when you wake up in the morning and right before bed. Those are good choices if they fit your schedule. Those times do not fit my schedule so I take 15 minutes during my day at work to meditate and I slip in "mini-meditations" throughout my day when I'm standing in a line or waiting at a traffic light or anytime I feel tension building in my body. How There are as many ways to meditate as there are gurus and experts to tell you about them. If you're new to meditation, one of the most important things I want to tell you is that there are no rules except relax! Meditation is not a job or a competition. It's a path to calmness, gentleness, kindness, and relaxation. Years ago when I first considered meditation, one of the biggest obstacles I thought I had was the relentless voice chattering away in my head, the endless thoughts. I could rarely stop them so I thought I was a failure at meditation most of the time. I remember going to a two-day silent meditation retreat where a teacher guided us in meditations. By the end of the second day, I finally experienced a quieting of my mind. I went home feeling incredibly joyous and peaceful. But by the next day my doubts returned. If it took me two days in silent meditation to get to a point where my mind was quiet, how was I ever going to fit meditation into my life? I've since learned that you don't have to silence your thoughts to meditate. You can simply become aware of the fact that you are thinking and then let the thoughts float away. You don't have to beat yourself up over the fact that you can't stop the thoughts. In fact, it's better if you accept the fact that your mind can be a busy place and just turn your attention to what you want to focus on over and over again when your mind starts to stray. With practice, you'll find it easier to let go of the inner distractions and bring your mind to where you want it to be whether that's to inner silence or to focus on a specific issue. There is no specific way you have to sit or stand to meditate. Sit, stand, walk, lay on your stomach at the beach and watch the waves - whatever works for you is fine. Don't limit yourself because you think you have to be sitting a certain way - that's just an excuse for not meditating. How to meditate will probably depend on your purpose. I vary how I meditate depending on what I want to gain from the meditation. If I'm stressed, I choose to focus on my breathing or on consciously relaxing different parts of my body. If I have a goal I'm trying to achieve, I focus on sending energy to that goal. If I want to connect with the inner peace that I know is somewhere inside of me, I focus on the silence in my mind and try to let all thought float away. Here are a few different meditation techniques that I use depending on the situation and what I hope will be the result: * Breathing meditation: I like to put my attention on my breath as it comes in and out of my nose. I gently follow my breath and notice how it moves naturally into and out of my body. I find this technique instantly calming. Others suggest noticing your breath as it passes from your chest down into your diaphragm or belly and then back up. When my attention drifts, I gently bring it back. If I have some thoughts, I simply note that I'm "thinking" and shift attention back to the breath while allowing the thoughts to drift away. I use breathing meditation to calm myself, relieve stress, feel happier and more at peace, to clear my mind, and to connect with the stillness of the Universe. This can be done in a longer meditation session or in mini-meditations anytime during your day. If you find yourself getting upset at something, focus for a second on your breath and you'll find it gives you some space in your emotional turmoil. * Visualization meditation: If you have an issue that you feel needs your mental and emotional attention, visualization meditation might help. Breathe slowly and use your imagination. If you have a goal, focus on the goal as if it were already complete - imagine how you will feel when it's complete and feel this positive feeling inside of you. If you have a person who you're angry with, imagine a positive energy inside yourself as a bright white light of kindness, and then surround an image of that person with the light while consciously saying "I forgive you for any pain you've caused me." (When you forgive people and release your anger, it helps you release negative energy stored inside of you, it allows you to react more calmly to that person, and it allows you to find better solutions to any additional problems with them.) I use visualization meditations for goals, improving relationships, and energizing myself. If I feel I have low energy, I imagine that white light of positive energy flowing through my body. * Awareness meditation: This is simply the process of becoming consciously aware of your actions, your body, or your surroundings. This is an easy way to reduce stress, bring stillness to your mind, and bring calm understanding to almost any situation. It can also be done anywhere, anytime for a few seconds or for much longer periods. The technique is to simply notice what is happening. I like to use this when I need to relax or slow down, or when I start feeling worried or uptight about something. The point is to calm the mind and allow you to consciously decide where to put your attention rather than allowing your untamed thoughts to keep running the show. 1. If you choose action awareness, focus attention on exactly what you're doing and how you experience it. If you're walking, become aware of how the sidewalk looks and how it feels when you put your foot down to take a step. Become aware of the temperature of the air and the sounds in your environment. If you are washing dishes, become aware of how you hold the sponge and what the water feels like running across your hands. 2. If you choose body awareness, try to feel the energy flowing in your body. Can you feel the energy in your hands? There is life pulsing through your hands so there is definitely energy there! How about feeling energy in your legs or your shoulders? Can you locate any tension in your body and bring awareness to it? Notice how it feels. 3. If you choose awareness of your surroundings, notice where you are, what you see, what it sounds like, what the temperature is, and whether there is silence that you can find between the sounds.

    Common Meditation Pitfalls

    "I can't stop thinking!" This is really common. You don't have to stop thinking. Allow the thoughts to be there, return your attention to where you want it, and let the thoughts float away. "My to-do list is running through my head and I'm coming up with things I don't want to forget." Keep a note pad next to you. Write down the item and then let it go from your mind. It will be on the pad when you're done. "I don't have time for this." Surely you have 2 minutes while waiting at the traffic light or in line at the store. In fact, if you do a mini breathing meditation while waiting in line at the store, you're much less likely to get annoyed when the person in front of you is paying in pennies. "I keep falling asleep." meditation cushionTry changing the time that you meditate, your position (sitting or standing rather than reclining), or accept that maybe you need more sleep and go ahead and take a nap. Adding meditation to your life can be truly rewarding and there is always space for it. It can help you become more peaceful, healthy, self-confident, kind, relaxed and creative. It can help you come to know yourself better and become more powerfully connected to your life. Take a few minutes, breathe slowly, and give it a chance! About the Author: Judy Braley is a personal development author, an attorney, and a parent. Her blog with free articles, resources, and information on inspiration for your life can be found at http://www.GrowFromWithin.com. Copyright © 2007 Wherett Inc.This article may be freely distributed if this resource box is attached. Buy the Laughing Buddha Zabuton Meditation Cushion [affiliate link] Image Source: http://flickr.com/photos/hape_gera/2123257808/