Healthy Arts – Arts & Healthcare
This November marks
the first annual Arts
+ Healthcare month, a month of celebrating how arts can
be beneficial to one’s health - regardless of age, from
seniors to kids and everything in between.
I’ll admit it
– I’m biased in this regards. As a former musician,
I’ve grown up within the fine arts community
and I’ve always been a proponent of keeping the arts in
schools for this very reason. Studies have come out, suggested,
and proven that the arts have been a huge success with the promotion
of health. Look at the facts –
• In 2005, a decrease
in sedatives during medical procedures was due to music therapy
• In 2006, PTSD
veterans had improved care after returning home from Iraq. It
also saw an increase of flexibility and tolerance changes for
children who were diagnosed with autism.
• In 2007, reports of improvements in regards to depression
and lower fatigue levels occurred in cancer patients who were
being treated for chemotherapy.
• In 2012, numerous reports have stated a tie between
music and that of helping patients suffering from dementia and
Many assisted living
facilities have incorporated robust arts and music programs
into their activities schedules. A good activities director
understands the whole-body benefits that can be realized through
opportunities for artistic expression!
It seems ironic, doesn’t
it, that fine arts are one of the first things to go in schools
when it’s clear that for those in the aging population,
these skills are beneficial to showing some hope in their conditions.
Recently, reports have come out that have shown a connection
between music and that of patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s
and Dementia. How this affects the
brain is still a mystery and doctors and researchers are still
trying to discover all the hidden secrets of the mind, but one
thing is clear –
Music can do a body
From an Artist
I’ve been a creative
individual probably since I was a kid. Being an only child I
think helps, as at times, I would just have my stuffed animals
for company. Like any other child, I had imaginary friends and
went to far off places that only existed between me and the
world of Gina. But once I hit elementary school, I seemed to
take this idea and concept to its logical conclusion.
I was introduced to creative writing in second grade when our
class made homemade books. I still remember my very first story
– it was a poignant tale about my puppy, Fluffy. Yes,
it was nothing original and if I remember correctly, second
grade was around the time I started learning how to write in
cursive, but it was my big break as they say.
Creative writing and
poetry have shown to help asthma sufferers and other illness
relations because it allowed patients to write out feelings
and given out emotional expression through writing. As you can
see, creative writing has still been a big part of my life (my
website will attest to that), but I’m probably a lucky
one in few that has experienced a wide range of artistry.
My choices for a college major were between English, as I had
always wanted to be a writer, and music. I’ve been involved
in music since about third grade, so about the age of eight.
I started in choir, which lead to music theater and then orchestra,
which led to band and I have been a proud band geek ever since.
My main axe is trumpet, which I’ve been playing since
I was about nine and stopped playing about eighteen years later.
As a musician, I can
see how music can affect people; I know how it affects me. Certain
songs will hit an emotional chord inside, which can either make
me laugh or cry; there’s an emotional response that can
be triggered with music. Jazz hits the soul, pop hits your feet
and your toes, classic oldies bring back memories, and R&B
slows it down to a romantic mood.
As a musician, I’m
not surprised that patients who suffer dementia or Alzheimer’s
can be suddenly brought back to their childhood or the moment
their met their spouse just by listening to a snippet of a song;
I can’t explain it, but I know it’s true.
I once hung out in one
of the rec rooms when my mom worked at one of the hospitals
in my hometown. It was summer and I probably had nothing better
to do then to go along with her while she checked on patients
or colleagues or something, I don’t remember. What I do
remember is that there was a piano in the room and, like any
budding musician, was drawn to it. I am in no ways a pianist
– though I’m sure my mom wishes I had been –
but I seem to have an uncanny ability to pick up instruments
At first, I think I
was the only person in the room and then more and more patients
came in, maybe four or five. These were some of the senior patients,
those that were in recovery for ailments, and the rec room was
a good place to sit and relax. I will tell you right now, I
love attention and I probably do my best to garner said attention;
probably explains why I was in fine arts in the first place.
Needless to say, I was
their afternoon entertainment. I sang, attempted to play piano,
probably made friends with anyone and everyone that came in,
and so on. I don’t remember how old I was, but I know
I wasn’t an adult; junior high or high school seems to
make sense to me, but I don’t recall. I do remember smiling
faces and questions of “who the entertaining kid was?”
and thankfully, I remember getting compliments for being entertaining
and not a pesky kid with nothing to do.
There is still a ton
of things to learn about the brain and why the arts are so helpful
to us, but do we really need to find an answer? The faces of
a spouse or child when their love one remembers a piece of their
past that has been taken because of Alzheimer’s is probably
enough; the happiness that one feels when they’ve created
something artistically. Look at the face of a child when they
create or color in a picture or when a dementia patient hears
the song they danced to at their wedding.
your soul, man. Hits your soul.
2012 by Regina
- Article by Regina
Woodard exclusively for Assisted Living Directory