5 Creative Art Therapies to Help keep a Young Healthy Mind at Any Age


Dr. Maria De Leon

If you have creative work, you don’t have age or time.”

~ Louise Nevelson
It has been said that art is ageless.

I believe this to be true. Not only can art be enjoyed by anyone but more importantly it can be created by any person of any age.

Living with a chronic illness or facing one’s one mortality as we age can be a daunting process. However, art can serve to convey a powerful message to others and more importantly to the artist that he or she is still a vibrant part of this world.

Art keeps people going.
When there are no words but only colors,
When only tears and frustration are present, colors shape our life and bring joy
When we feel a little broken the broken crayons remind us that they can still color ..

Art Therapy for Seniors

And so can we, the infirm, the elderly, the shut -in, and the chronically disabled.

So why do art at all in assisted living or nursing homes?

Besides the above reasons, research has shown that making time for creative expression and art therapy are extremely helpful and beneficial in the aging process.

Dr. Cohen, expert on the field, found that doing art as we get older helps overall health.

Allowing an individual to express him or herself through art

  • Diminishes falls and hip fractures.
  • Decreases depression and doctor visits.
  • Decreases use of medicines and visual problems.

Therefore here are 5 simple exercises to engage patients in to encourage creativity and self-expression.

But first we must remember that when doing art activity sessions we need to minimize distraction and focus on the individual, encourage freedom of expression and above all imagination.

The key to making sure that the “afternoon of life also has a significance of its own and not just a mere appendage to life’s morning,” as Carl Jung so eloquently quipped is to
concentrate not on quality of the work being done but rather in the enjoyment and creativity process.

Keeping this in mind here are my favorite things:
1). Color with crayons, paint water colors, or finger paint.

Can do on small canvases which can be purchased cheaply at Hobby Lobby or purchase paint by number paintings from amazon or select from a number of coloring books which are very popular nowadays.
You may start with painting a mandala- which loosely translated from Sanskrit means circle or magic circle.  Mandala books can be purchased at various bookstore or on line and may even get permission to print large ones. They are great for meditation and relaxation
Free printable- http://www.free-mandala.com/en/stsrt.html

2). Construction paper collages:

With a variety of colorful construction papers or magazine articles or a combination ask them to tear out pieces of different sizes, shapes, and colors. Ask them to paste with glue unto another piece of paper which can be colored or plain white. Can also substitute colored tissue paper and applied with glue sticks to cardboard.
This is done quickly and spontaneously to allow for what’s inside to come out such as expression of joy, anger, etc.

3). Hand dancing to music

Especially to, lively melodic music and sound. Allow them to sit or stand and wave and move hands to the sound allowing them to enjoy the movements.

4). Melted bead sun catchers:

Buy cheap translucent beads various colors and shapes – can get a big box from Hobby Lobby. Place beads in single layer in whatever design you like in baking pan or in cupcake pans. Then placed in oven to melt for 25 minutes at 400F- on e or two staff members should be the ones responsible for this to avoid injuries. Patients can then hang these in their rooms or windows by drilling a small hole at top creating great pieces of conversations. They can attach multiple or add kite string to bottom through another hole or instead they can make hole a little bit bigger to hang through suction cup hook.

5). Marble Paint with saving Cream & water colors:

Get cans of shaving cream, shallow containers such as pie pans, food trays, droppers, liquid water color paint, spatula, watercolor paper or cardstock cut into halves, and a ruler or stick to use to scrape excess shaving cream. First apply small amount of shaving cream to the pan (can also use wax paper) placed on top of food tray to avoid bigger messes. Use a ruler to spread nicely. Then drop each food color or paint in dots throughout pan unto cream by using toothpick/ stick or spatula spread colors across into a pattern. Then lay the paper unto the shaving cream very gently and lay unto table and remove excess shaving cream with ruler. Set the painted cardstock aside to dry. Once dry you can frame and hang for display. They can even put their name on it to make it extra special.

Go ahead and express yourself- Don’t forget to have fun!

By Dr. Maria De Leon exclusively for Assisted Living Directory

Photo by Ann https://www.flickr.com/photos/picturesbyann/


Bagan, Barbara: Expressive Arts- Aging, Alzheimer’s, & Parkinson’s: A manual for artists. Art educators, health professionals, and others who work with older adults. 2009



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