In the past decade, there has been an explosion of research in the field of neuroscience. Hundreds of studies testify to the fact that our minds and bodies are deeply connected and “talk” to each other in very meaningful ways (1,2). In these fascinating studies, it was shown that art-based activities strengthen the neural connections between our left and right hemispheres, they help regulate and calm the nervous system, and they promote spontaneity, feelings of self-worth and autonomy (3,4).
Given the benefits of engaging in the creative process, art-based activities are even more important for people who are aging. Some older adults might feel isolated, others might be dealing with physical ailments or cognitive decline, and yet others might be experiencing boredom.
Expressive arts includes a variety of different modalities such as jewelry-making, scrap-booking, painting and other types of visual arts. Whether it be in a group setting or in the comfort of your home, it encourages and promotes a sense of well-being, decreases isolation and loneliness, increases feelings of independence and mastery, and improves the person’s attention/concentration.
Most importantly, you don’t need to be an artist or creative at all. It’s not about the outcome; it’s about the process and the experiential nature of the activity. Expressive arts opens up a window to your lives, your past, present and future. It provides the space to express yourself verbally and non-verbally, through drawings, paintings, colours and more.
Let's Share a Story: Barbara, an 87-year-old lady with a rich artistic past had recently been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and early Alzheimer's disease. She recently moved into a small retirement home. When the situation deteriorated, the daughter contacted me in the hopes to be able to engage her mother in weekly art-based activities. At first, Barbara was hesitant to participate, as she was feeling a lack of confidence in her abilities. However, after a slow start and attempting different modalities and therapeutic approaches, Barbara and I eventually settled into a collaborative creative process. In the weeks to follow, it was noticeable that she was holding her brush more confidently and she was becoming more comfortable sharing her private thoughts through her art and in conversation. Barbara gained a sense of mastery through the activities, enjoyment from the interactive and collaborative process, and an overall excitement that generalized into other areas of her daily life.
While our bodies age, our imagination does not. The use of expressive arts can stimulate and reawaken the creativity within us. Even within a group setting classes can be individualized to meet the specific needs of program participants. For example, during an adapted painting class instead of using the conventional paint brush, use of a sponge or hands can be used instead. Participants can be gently encouraged to take risks, be provided with support (for those who might need physical assistance), and made to feel comfortable expressing their creativity, as well as connecting to who they are and have always been. Such approaches can provide seniors with a sense of control and foster dignity, helping them feel a sense of mastery; And most of all it encourages a sense of playfulness and joy !
So...what are you waiting for ? Get out there today and "EXPRESS YOURSELF" through the use of expressive arts!
Contributor: Contributor: Merav Stein RSSW Your Expressive Self: Creative Therapist
Merav has been surrounded by arts all her life. As a child, she would often visit her grandmother, an art therapist who specialized in developmental disabilities, at work where she would be exposed to a variety of arts such as pottery, knitting, and painting. After high school, Merav travelled to Israel where she took courses at Betzalel Academy of Arts and Design. Later, she went on to pursue a degree in Social Service Work becoming a Registered Social Service Worker and a Life Coach. Influenced by her grandmother's challenges with aging, Merav decided to combine her passion and creative talent with her background in social work by creating her own business called "Your Expressive Self’. Merav would love to hear from you to discuss your needs. Please contact Merav to discuss pricing for individual or group sessions. Her phone number is 647-678-9159 or you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information visit her website yourexpressiveself.com