A Creative Start to the New Year: Art Therapy for Seniors

Category News & Blog | Time | Published January 26, 2024

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What better moment to dive into the world of creativity than the beginning of a new year? January is International Creativity Month—the perfect time for seniors to embark on an art therapy journey that can paint their lives with joy, imagination and wellness.

In this blog, we’ll look at the benefits of art therapy and how it can infuse purpose and fulfillment into the lives of older adults, and we’ll share some ideas to get your creative sparks flying. You’ll also learn how Cottage Grove Place helps residents tap into their inner artists and lets their imaginations soar.

Art Therapy for Older Adults

Art therapy for seniors is a form of expressive therapy that uses creative activities like painting, drawing, sculpting and crafting to enhance mental and emotional health and quality of life. While it may sound simple, the benefits of art therapy run deep and include:

  • Self-expression: Art boosts self-esteem and offers a sense of accomplishment through nonverbal expression.
  • Stress reduction: Creative activities induce relaxation with a calming influence, fostering tranquility and reducing stress.
  • Cognitive stimulation: Art therapy for older adults stimulates the brain, enhancing memory, problem-solving and creativity, maintaining mental activity for improved cognitive abilities.
  • Emotional release: Art allows the release and processing of complex emotions, promoting emotional well-being and improving mood.
  • Social connection: Group art sessions alleviate loneliness, nurture social interaction and create a sense of belonging.
  • Physical benefits: Creative activities enhance fine motor skills and coordination, providing effective distraction from physical discomfort and aiding pain management.

Art Therapy Ideas for Seniors

Art therapy is an open door to self-expression; the best part is that you don’t need to be an experienced artist to enjoy it. Don’t worry about making things perfect—delight in the process and savor the creative journey. Here are some art therapy activities for seniors to get you started:

  1. Experiment with watercolors for landscapes, abstract art or free-flowing creations.
  2. Create collages using old magazines, newspapers and photos to tell personal stories.
  3. Sculpt imaginative figures or abstract forms with clay, playdough or recycled materials.
  4. Enjoy adult coloring books with intricate designs for relaxation.
  5. Craft nature-inspired artwork using leaves, twigs and flowers.
  6. Create a series of drawings or paintings to tell a story or capture personal experiences.
  7. Start an art journal that combines sketches, paintings and written memories.
  8. Join group art sessions to work on a large canvas and make social connections.
  9. Explore pottery with clay, shaping functional or decorative pieces.

A Creative Place Is a Happy Place

Cottage Grove Place supports the benefits of art therapy by offering diverse opportunities to unleash your inner artist and let your imagination flourish. Aside from our woodworking shop, we have monthly creative arts discussions in residents’ apartment-homes where they share experiences and accomplishments and explore different aspects of art and techniques.

lynda black-smith

Lynda Black-Smith, an art teacher with 30 years of experience in Cedar Rapids elementary schools, and fellow resident painter Hugh Lison, an art professor at Cornell College, lead our community’s vibrant art program. Workshops include hands-on crafts, drawing and painting with upcoming classes on mandalas, watercolor painting and quilting.

“About 20 residents here either have quilts or are quilters themselves. It would be so beautiful if we could display their work in the hallways or work together on a quilt for Cottage Grove Place,” Lynda says. “The two experts have arthritis and can no longer quilt, but I hope they’ll lead the class and tell us what to do.”

With their diverse artistic styles and backgrounds, Lynda and Hugh encourage residents to broaden their minds and tap into different types of creativity in the classes. One challenge is helping residents feel more relaxed and less afraid, especially when they have memory and physical limitations that can make simple tasks more difficult.

“Some may feel hesitant because it’s been a while since they did art and think they need talent, but that’s not the case,” Lynda says. “It’s about expressing ideas visually, through singing, writing or any form they like. We need to break down the boundaries of what ‘art’ is and envision things differently, which also helps the brain.”

Lynda says she loves silly art projects that anyone can enjoy. During a recent “pass the drawing” activity, three residents took turns drawing the head, body and legs on paper folded into thirds so they could only see the part they were working on. When the fourth resident unfolded the paper, the drawings didn’t match up—tall head, long neck, misaligned shoulders and legs off to the side—but it was all part of the fun.

“It was a riot. Everybody was laughing while they frivolously and wildly as possible added whatever colors and details were needed to make the crazy character come together,” she says. “I never heard people laugh so loud that day; it’s because they totally escaped the boundaries they thought art was, and that’s a huge thing.”

Ready to nurture your inner artist and build meaningful connections with like-minded seniors? Contact us to learn more about making Cottage Grove your creative and happy place.

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