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Get Creative: Why Arts and Crafts are Good for You as You Age

It’s common knowledge that creating healthy habits like eating a well-balanced diet and exercising consistently can help you live longer and age more successfully. However, researchers are suggesting that strengthening our creative muscles can also help improve the health, well-being, and independence of older adults. Some experts believe that crafts for seniors and other leisure activities can reduce the chance of developing cognitive impairment by up to 50%. According to the National Institute on Aging, researchers are studying how participating in arts activities may be linked to improving self-esteem and well-being. In addition, experts are also interested in studying how music can be used to reduce the behavioral symptoms of dementia, such as stress, aggression, agitation, and apathy.

Benefits of Crafting for Older Adults
Activities such as drawing and journaling can feel rewarding and challenging, and they lower stress levels. Many forms of art therapy and crafts for seniors, such as painting, model-building, pottery, scrapbooking, and other creative activities are used in therapeutic settings to encourage communication and empathy. Group creative settings help us and others understand our emotions. Crafting is more than a hobby used to fill time. Engaging in arts and crafts has several benefits for older adults.

Helps boost self-esteem
Crafting requires concentration and consistency, especially when working on a long-term project. At the completion of any project, the effort put into creating something from nothing produces a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Enhances fine motor skills
Manipulating tools and materials promote blood flow through the body, especially in the fingers, hands, and arms. So arts and crafts for seniors can help reduce joint pain, especially rheumatoid arthritis, which is common in older adults. These activities can also ease emotional stress, which can take the form of pain in the body.

Encourages communication
To use a simple definition, art is the expression of ideas and thoughts in visual form. Capturing our emotions through art can help us work through our feelings and allow us to communicate better with others. Arts and crafts for seniors can be especially helpful, even therapeutic, for those struggling with depression or the loss of a loved one.

Increases empathy
Just looking at art can help improve our critical thinking skills and create joy. Observing other people’s art can help us understand other’s ideas and feelings, respect differing opinions, and view the world in ways we may not have considered. When we embrace art, we increase our ability to empathize with others.

Improves mood
When we do something pleasurable or satisfying, our brain releases dopamine which acts as a natural anti-depressant. Whether we’re creating something from nothing or learning how to work with our hands, dopamine is released and protects us from feelings of depression.

Promotes socialization
Untreated isolation and loneliness can cause serious health problems in older adults, including cognitive decline and depression. However, arts and crafts for seniors provide an opportunity to engage with others, especially if you join a crafting group or club that meets consistently. Socialization, along with exercising your creativity, can help enrich your quality of life.

Acts as a form of therapy
As we age, communicating our thoughts and feelings can become difficult, especially if diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Thus, finding new ways of communication becomes increasingly important with age. Participating in easy crafts is a wonderful way to practice self-expression when traditional communication becomes more difficult.

Protects against neurological decline often associated with age.
Crafting activates several different areas of the brain, which ultimately strengthens memory, processing, and problem-solving abilities. When we put ourselves into a stimulating environment, it increases our brain’s ability to become flexible and adaptable.

Arts and Crafts for Older Adults
Experimenting with arts and crafts for seniors is a great way to socialize, strengthen creative muscles, and reap the many health benefits of creativity. We’ve compiled a list of crafting ideas for every skill level and ability:

  • For those with limited dexterity
    Older adults with dexterity issues or arthritis might find it difficult to grab objects and control them. In this case, you might consider starting with the following easy craft ideas:
  • Polymer clay. Working with clay is relaxing and engaging, and it’s ideal for those with limited dexterity. Polymer clay can be used to make jewelry, patterns, and beads.
  • Photography. Taking pictures is a great hobby for any person, but can be especially fun and engaging for older adults. Consider using a digital camera, iPad, or another smart device to take pictures, and then print out photos to make a collage or decorate cards for loved ones.
  • Decoupage. This activity allows you to take a normal household item, like a shoebox or food container, and turn it into a work of art. You can use whatever you have at home, such as wrapping paper, scraps of fabric, or other items, to make it unique and playful. By using your hands to cut and place small items, you can improve your fine motor skills.

For those with low vision
Creativity is still possible with limited vision. Pottery is a great way to get creative and can promote stimulation by working with your thumbs and fingers. Painting is also a great way to express your mood without relying on vision. You might consider starting with a large canvas and a few colors to get started.

For those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia
Staying physically and mentally engaged is important for those with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Easy activities with simple and concise instructions are ideal. Here are a few activities to get you started:

  • Arranging flowers is a perfect craft for adults who may have enjoyed gardening or who love the outdoors.
  • Decorating cards for loved ones is a creative way to stay in touch with family and friends while expressing one’s inner artist.
  • Creating homemade shakers is an easy way to join in on musical fun. Simply fill empty water bottles with dry beans, so you can shake along to the beat while listening to music.

Getting Creative at Maplewood Senior Living
Residents at Maplewood Senior Living have many opportunities to engage their creative side. From art and weaving classes to rock painting and holiday craft-making, those who live in our communities can reap the many health benefits of crafting. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

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