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How Healthy Arts Can Benefit One's Health

 
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Home » Healthy Arts – Article by Regina Woodard   
Healthy Arts - Arts & Healthcare

Regina WoodardSummary: This November (2012) marks the first annual Arts + Healthcare month. Regina discusses how arts can be extremely beneficial to anyone, regardless of age.
Author:
exclusively for Assisted Living Directory

Regina is a contributor for Assisted Living Directory


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 and interventions.
• 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 Alzheimer’s.

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 good.

From an Artist POV

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.

Creative Writing
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.

Music
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 fairly quickly.

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.

It hits your soul, man. Hits your soul.

Copyright © 2012 by

- Article by Regina Woodard exclusively for Assisted Living Directory

Responses to this article:

Bernard Wrote:
Combining arts and healthcare is probably the most effective way to help seniors physically and emotionally. Even if they are in facilities and far from their love ones, they will not feel unloved, worthless and unwanted. These activities can keep their brain active and thus will make them feel very productive. These are good exercises for the brain and without a doubt beneficial to seniors especially those with Alzheimer's and Dementia. So I think other assisted living facilities should incorporate this to their programs in order to help more seniors cope and overcome their conditions. bernardhamilton80@hotmail.com
12 December 2012 at 2.53 pm


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