Art therapy in aged care: how art can benefit the elderly

Arts, crafts creative pastimes can be a source of enjoyment for all ages, but for those in later life, it can also be incredibly therapeutic and lead to a range of physical, cognitive and mental benefits.

Older people can sometimes avoid taking part in artistic pastimes they once enjoyed, either through fear that they lack the talent they once had, or they simply forget the pleasure it once brought them. However, the right support and encouragement can soon ignite a new-found confidence for an old hobby or pastime which can have a positive influence on other aspects of their wellbeing too.
Seeing an art project through to completion can be extremely satisfying and a real sense of accomplishment for individuals, for many of whom even the simplest of tasks can seem overwhelming at times. This is incredibly valuable in terms of a person’s self-confidence and can influence their determination to progress in other areas of their personal development plans.

Introducing art therapy in nursing homes and other aged care environments can have extensive benefits for holistic wellbeing. Here are some of the reasons we how art therapy helps the elderly residents living in our care.

Improved motor skills and physical benefits

Artistic pastimes such as collaging, scrapbooking and painting can increase the blood flow to the hands and fingers alleviating physical pain caused by arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. In this way, art activities can prove an excellent complimentary therapy to medical treatment plans, helping residents to feel more comfortable and mental wellbeing.
How art therapy helps the elderly - motor skills
Arts and crafts can improve muscle coordination and dexterity which may also be useful when performing other everyday tasks such as using cutlery or getting dressed.

Memory skills

Many of our residents at Japara have creative talents and hobbies which they may not have enjoyed in many years. Engaging in creative activities can be evocative and may help to reignite old passions or bring forgotten memories to light. This can be particularly beneficial for those living with dementia, for whom memory support is key to their personal development.
How art therapy helps the elderly - teaching others a new skill
Sonja, pictured above, is a resident at Elanora in Brighton and a talented watercolour artist. She often hosts painting afternoons in the sunroom at the home. Not only is this a wonderful opportunity for residents to take part in a relaxing and therapeutic afternoon activity, Sonja enjoys the sense of purpose it gives her to help others learn a new skill.

Individuality and identity

When transitioning to residential care, many people may fear that they will lose their sense of individuality and autonomy. Art can provide the freedom for people to express themselves through creativity as well as celebrate their talents, which is essential for building confidence and improving mental wellbeing.

The team at Robina Rise organised an art exhibition at the home, displaying pieces created by the residents. This event was a great opportunity to celebrate the talent of individuals and it also provided a catalyst for discussion, encouraging residents to share stories about their own experiences and achievements.
For older people who may have suffered strokes or other conditions leaving them with impaired speech or mobility, art can be a welcome medium through which to express themselves.

Socialisation and a sense of community

Arranging an arts and crafts session is a great opportunity to encourage socialisation between older residents.
“Art therapy is a wonderfully inclusive programme in our home; there is no wrong or right way, with each resident encouraged to express individual ideas about how a picture, drawing or colouring-in should look,” says Nat Jones, Lifestyle Coordinator at Strzelecki House.
Art sessions are an opportunity for residents to come together over a shared activity and socialise with others, tackling loneliness and improving their self-esteem.
Residents at Strzelecki House in Mirboo North were recently the proud recipients of over $200 worth of art materials gifted by local hardware store, Mitre 10.

The residents used this generous donation to give some creativity back to their local community by creating a window display for their local Op Shop.

Understanding our residents

Arts and crafts can be an excellent communication channel through which we can learn more about our residents’ individual personalities, likes, dislikes and culture. Creative outlets allowing expression of feelings or thought give valuable insights into how we as carers can support individuals and ensure their emotional needs are met by tailoring our lifestyle programs accordingly to get the best possible engagement from our residents.


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