The Benefits and Joy of Art for Seniors

First of all let me say, Art is FUN! Not only is it fun, but I find in my classes that people enjoy getting together and doing art, sometimes creating lifelong friends. Most of my students are seniors, from 50 to 98. It’s funny, ages begin to blur when you have things like art in common. For example I have a 93 year old and a 65 year old that have become very close friends and do a number of things together. I have 2 sets of these friends I currently know, both the same ages! Lots of my students meet for lunch before coming to class or go to art group meetings or shows together. Several students of mine are getting a bus trip together to go on an overnight trip to the state watercolor convention!

There are many other benefits of taking art classes and creating art aside from the social aspects:

  • Stress reduction – Research has found that high stress levels impair learning and memory in both animals and humans.  Strategies to reduce stress such as hobbies may be beneficial. Art and artwork has always been considered one of the effective ways for emotional release. In art work one can easily express his/her feelings, can reflect his/her emotions, or can tell any long story in just one picture/sculpture. When students and artists are working intensely on a project, it often becomes very quiet, and seems like a ‘meditation’. Time passes without notice;
  • Increased hand-eye coordination – Hand function decreases with aging. There are changes in coordination, visual, touch and auditory processes, along with changes in the muscular, skeletal and nervous systems, according to a 1992 study published in the “Journal of American Physical Therapy Association.” The decline in speed and coordination of movement are related to a decline in neuromuscular function, which happens as you age. Sensory processes that are impaired are a component of decreased motor coordination, resulting in decreased hand-eye coordination as age increases. Working with art materials uses and improves fine motor skills. These fine motor skills carry over to other situations that require hand-eye coordination and other precise movements.
  • Overall boost in creativity, a new way of seeing the world – Keeping mentally stimulated had been found to protect against age-related declines in thinking and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.  It is important to keep oneself stimulated through activities such as reading and attending a variety of adult education courses such as art;
  • Increased ability to concentrate – Simple or focused attention tends to be preserved in older age.  However difficulties may be encountered, when divided attention is required such as trying to pay attention to the television and simultaneously talk on the telephone.; and,
  • a new or renewed self-confidence – I see so many seniors come through my classes, having little faith that they have a creative side. Often they have left jobs that has a great impact on how they defined themselves. Now those positions are left behind. I too went through this ‘event’. Then they begin to create artwork and family and/or friends start asking for it. What a surprise this is for them! They find a new interest that creates so many new opportunities! As a teacher and a senior, this gives me immense joy!

There are so many different ways you can create art, drawing, painting with a variety of types of paint, sculpting, collage, and mixed media (some of that crazy, fun new way to add many things to your artwork). The list goes on. The cost of supplies can be very inexpensive. You can begin drawing on plain white paper with a #2 pencil!

We all have two sides of our brain! One side, usually the left, hemisphere of the brain is responsible for logic. The left hemisphere also contains the language center, interprets patterns and is detail-oriented. The right hemisphere is responsible for emotions. It is also is the center controlling music, art and kinesthetic (learning by doing) abilities. In some people left and right functions are reversed.

How does this apply to Art? Well, if you have a normal brain you have two sides and at least one of the two is creative. So when my potential students tell me they are not creative, I know they simply haven’t found their ‘creative self’ yet! What do you have to lose? Give it a try! I promise your life will be richer for it. Oh, by the way, you don’t need to be able to draw a straight line – that’s boring anyway!

1 Comment

  1. Martha Skinner

    July 25, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    Linda Hammons is an excellent art instructor and especially wonderful with the senior population. We are very happy to have her teaching many different aspects of art at Council on Aging River House, St. Augustine, FL.

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