a senior man expresses his creativity making wood sculptures

The Benefits of Art and Creative Expression for Seniors

“Creativity is a natural, life-sustaining, human function that is essential to our health and well-being,” writes photographer Chase Jarvis in his book “Creative Calling.” As it turns out, there are studies to support Jarvis’ claim, including numerous studies that point to the benefits of art for seniors. Here are some of the ways art enhances the lives — and health — of older adults:

Lifts Mood

Creativity makes you feel good. Researchers have found that engaging daily in creative tasks cultivates positive emotions. Plus, creative activities often lead to results — you’ve sewn a quilt, made a collage or drawn a picture. When we get results, the feel-good hormone dopamine is released in the brain, creating feelings of bliss.

Supports Cognitive Health

The creative process involves decision-making, invention, imagination and, often, social interaction, all of which can support cognitive vitality. Making music is particularly beneficial because it stimulates both sides of the brain, tapping the left hemisphere for motor function and the right hemisphere for melody.

Sustains Physical Health

Can a regular creative practice really help you feel better physically? According to research, yes! Older adults who paint, write, make jewelry, or play music in an arts program enjoy better physical health, have fewer trips to the doctor, experience fewer falls, and use less medication.  Another study found that among the benefits of art for seniors is a reduction of risk factors that can lead to a need for long-term care.

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Whether you think you’ve got artistic talent or not, spending just 45 minutes engaged in a creative activity can reduce stress. Studies show that making art reduces the level of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. In addition, making art can put you in the state of mind that scientist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow,” which arises when you’re so enjoyably absorbed in a task that worry is forgotten.

Improves Self-esteem

“Creativity is the process of learning to trust oneself,” writes Chase Jarvis. According to one study, the process of gaining self-confidence through creativity doesn’t take very long. Just 45 minutes of art-making has been shown to boost participants’ confidence in themselves and their ability to complete tasks.

Encourages Play

In an interview, doctor, psychiatrist and clinical researcher Stuart Brown said, “From my standpoint as a clinician, when one really doesn’t play at all or very little in adulthood, there are consequences: rigidities, depression, lack of adaptability, no irony.” Creativity is a form of play and, as such, offers a host of benefits from improved problem solving to empathy. Here are some playful ideas for revving up your creativity from Keri Smith’s “Living out Loud”:   

  • Turn on some music and doodle along to a song.
  • Make a paper doll of yourself.
  • Make origami lanterns to hang in your living space.
  • Dress up just for fun.
  • Make cookies in outrageous shapes.
  • Self-publish a zine or tiny book.

A Creative Approach to Senior Living

At Canterbury Court, you can enjoy a profusion of opportunities to engage your creativity and enjoy the benefits of art for seniors. Maybe you’d like to sing in our resident choir or make a birdhouse in our woodworking shop. Whatever your creative passion, inspiration and opportunity are everywhere — from on-site art classes and cultural events to the vibrant atmosphere surrounding us in Buckhead. Contact us to find out more about our creative approach to independent living and the continuum of care available to residents.