Music and Art as Therapy for Seniors
An overview of how music and art therapy can improve the emotional, physical and cognitive well-being of seniors.
Creativity as Therapy
When caring for an elderly loved one, we put a lot of thought into ensuring that their physical needs are met and attended to. We arrange medical visits, monitor medications, and help with physical and mental exercises prescribed by health-care professionals, all in pursuit of the ultimate goal of maximizing and maintaining the health of the seniors we care about. While these medically focused activities are undoubtedly of pivotal importance, there are also many other forms of non-medical engagement and creative therapies that can have incredibly meaningful impacts upon seniors’ well-being.
Alternative and Creative Therapies
Alternative and creative therapies are often overlooked because of the fact that they exist largely outside of the bio-medical realm. However, looking into creatively driven therapies involving art, music, games, animals, and other hobby related activities can yield huge benefits for many of the seniors who take part in these forms of therapy.
The extensive array of alternative and creative therapies that have been made available to seniors over recent decades is as diverse and varied as the people for whom these therapies were designed.
Among some of the more popular creative therapies are those that are art based, such as those that involve music and visual art.
Music and Memory
Music Therapy is founded on the notion that music can be used as a powerful tool to improve the well-being of seniors by engaging all facets of their being. Listening to, or being part of the creation of music has the ability to awaken and engage emotional, mental, spiritual, social, and physical aspects of identity, and creates an opportunity for seniors to interact with themselves and with others in new ways. The Alzheimer Society of Waterloo-Wellington has an "iPod Project" for seniors in the area that is meant to do all these things.
Both physical and mental health can be promoted through music therapy in various ways:
• Renewing Special Memories: Music has the ability to transport us back to another time or place, and one seemingly simple sequence of notes can evoke a powerful memory. This can be an incredible tool for seniors with memory problems, as well as anyone else who could simply benefit from remembering a happy day.
• Promoting Happiness: The tone of a particular song can fill a room with emotion, and in this way people’s moods can be effected by the type of music to which they are exposed. Playing a happy, upbeat, positive tune can turn a frown upside-down or clear the clouds from a challenging day.
• Managing Nerves or Anxieties: Just as a happy song can create a happy mood, a calming or relaxing song, or listening to any song that can be distracting in a helpful way, can help seniors to get through moments of nervousness or anxiety. Introducing music into a tense or stressful environment can help to take the edge off and provide something else to focus on.
• Encouraging Movement: Regardless of the level of physical activity that your loved one can manage, there is some way they can move to the music. Whether it be a full-on dance break, or some tame foot-tapping, getting seniors to move in any capacity is beneficial for relieving tension, lowering blood-pressure, and stimulating the body.
Man in Nursing Home Hears Music
Art Therapy for Seniors
Art Therapy involves the purposeful use of art as a means for expression and development, particularly for those facing challenges or changes within the context of their lives. Therapy and artistic expression are woven together to help to manage things such as:
• Diseases and Health Conditions
The benefits and positive outcomes of art therapy are numerous, and making use of the creative outlet of visual art as a means of expression can contribute to the following:
• Strengthening Cognitive and Physical Abilities: Art therapy also creates a vibrant and colourful opportunity for seniors to grow or strengthen cognitive and physical abilities through the act of making art, and can reap the positive emotional benefit of feeling pride in having created something.
• Create Enriching Experiences: Art Therapy for seniors is often designed to involve materials and crafts that are suited to the abilities of the individual, so that it remains an enriching experience and not a frustrating one when seniors are able to feel pride and agency in their accomplishments.
• Promoting Calm: Artistic expression is not only fulfilling in the long run, it can also be calming in the moment, as seniors have a context in which there is something to focus on and distract from any other stressful or painful realities that may be a normal part of day-to-day life.
Explore What’s Out There
Music and art are just two of the many forms of creative alternative therapies that are available to seniors in most areas. Through researching and exploring the various options that exist, you will surely be able to find something that can contribute positively to the health and well-being of your loved one that is not solely based on medicine. Having the opportunity to engage with creative or unique outlets of expression and exploration can be incredibly meaningful for seniors, and the impact that is made upon how they feel can extend to many areas of their lives, including how they see themselves, and how they interact with others in a broader context.