Using Art Therapy To Help Seniors Express Themselves

The therapeutic nature of art has been explored for many centuries and countless generations have found it to be the perfect way to express feelings, ideas and thoughts that they may not be able to express verbally. In light of this, it is not surprising that art therapy has become one of the major ways in which seniors can express themselves, whether they are at an assisted living facility or are receiving in home care.

When can art therapy be used for seniors?

Senior who have suffered loss of mobility, illnesses, loss of a loved one and depression are perfect candidates for art therapy. A senior does not need to have any previous knowledge of art in order to engage in art therapy. The purpose of art therapy is not to create masterpieces, although you will find that some seniors have an innate ability to produce salable works. The real purpose of this kind of therapy for seniors is to get rid of emotional turmoil, anger and frustration.

How does art therapy affect a seniors mind?

Art therapy is a great way to keep a senior's mind active, because it helps them to develop cognitive skills. Continued cognitive development is extremely beneficial for seniors who are suffering from illnesses such as dementia that affect the brain. Art therapy can also bring back the self-esteem of a senior who may be feeling and thinking that they are useless due to their inability to be as active as they were before. 

Here are a few ideas on how to get started with art therapy:

  1. Find out what type of art appeals to the senior most. Some seniors will prefer drawing rather than painting. For drawing, pencils and charcoal should be provided. Painting has many mediums and some seniors may prefer to use watercolors, while others will prefer oil or acrylic. The best thing to do is to invest in a few of each type of supply and let the senior try them all, especially if they are not sure which one most appeals to them.
  2. If they are physically capable, take the senior with you when go shopping for art supplies, and let them pick out their own supplies. This gives them a sense of independence and will increase their interest in beginning their art project.
  3. Praise everything that the senior creates even if you do not understand it. Art is personal expression, what looks uninspired to you may not be so for the senior.

Using art therapy as a creative outlet for a senior's thoughts, feeling and ideas is a great way to help them cope with any traumatic experience or events that they may be going through.