Seniors Benefit from Exploring Their Creative Side

Seniors Benefit from Exploring Their Creative Side


In recent years, the “graying of America” has inspired a re-evaluation of the way people age, emphasizing the potential of seniors rather than their limitations. This new perspective goes hand-in-hand with research studies that seek to find which factors contribute to senior citizens remaining healthy and independent longer. A growing body of evidence shows that visual and performing arts can improve brain function in older adults.

The art of aging
A study conducted by the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at George Washington University found that older adults who create artwork have improved brain function. The 300 study participants were divided into two groups. One group participated in a weekly art class while the other did not. The researchers said the results “…point to true health promotion and disease prevention effects” and to “a positive impact on maintaining independence and on reducing dependency.” Their summary also states, “The community-based cultural program for older adults appears to be reducing risk factors that drive the need for long-term care.”

Another study on aging was conducted in Germany with 28 retirees between the ages of 62 and 70. A brain scan was taken of each participant at the beginning of the study. Over a 10-week period, half of the group took part in an art course where they created artwork after first learning painting and drawing techniques. The other participants attended an art appreciation class where they learned to interpret sculptures and paintings.

Brain scans were repeated at the end of the coursework. While there was no change in the brain activity of those who attended the art appreciation class, there was a notable change for the participants who created artwork. Their brains had increased levels of cognitive processing, which including introspection, self-monitoring and memory. The researchers concluded that creating art offers the possibility for reducing or even eliminating the reduced brain function that normally comes with aging.

…and dancing, too!
Expressing themselves through arts such as painting is not the only way for seniors to improve their brain health. Dancing can also provide benefits. The New England Journal of Medicine reported the results of a study that explored the types of activities that could improve brain function and reduce the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease. A group of seniors over the age of 75 took part in reading, bicycling or swimming, crossword puzzles, golf and dancing. Researchers found that individuals who danced were 76 percent less likely to develop dementia. This was the only activity where researchers found a direct link.

“Studies in recent years have provided great insight into how people age and what is needed to support active and healthy aging,” says Eryn Cronbaugh, Meth-Wick’s Director of Wellness and Recreation. “Meth-Wick offers residents a broad range of programs to exercise the body and mind, with the goal of supporting our residents in remaining active and independent longer.” She also points out that the types of programs evolve with the ever-changing interests and needs of its residents.

From painting and woodworking to yoga and chair volleyball, Meth-Wick empowers residents to age actively and gracefully…to enjoy their best life.