When I hear someone sing beautifully or see beautiful art, I am mesmerized as these are not gifts that I feel I possess. Though, I still sing in my car and my home. No matter how I sound, it brings me much joy. However, painting wasn’t something that I engaged in for fear of disaster. Anyone else have that same fear? During this past year, I stopped playing sports due to the pandemic and decided to try my hand at <gasp> painting as a new stress outlet. There have been the good, the bad, and the ugly – yet, I have thoroughly enjoyed them all. There are so many benefits to engaging in the arts, and we are never too old to start.
People need to pursue activities that bring purpose and meaning throughout their life. Sometimes we can continue those same activities throughout life, and other times, due to health or disability, it is time to transition to new activities. Expressive Arts, including music, writing, dance, painting, can be therapeutic, especially as one ages.
Dr. Bagan, in Today’s Geriatric Medicine, highlights a laundry list of health benefits from regularly engaging in the arts that includes:
- Increasing relaxation and reducing stress
- Decreasing depression and anxiety
- Offering a sense of control
- Providing an opportunity for socialization and playfulness
- Increasing sense of humor
- Offering sensory stimulation
- Offering a sense of identity and self-expression
- Increasing self-esteem
- Cultivating spirituality
- Diminishing boredom
Research has also shown that the neural pathways are strengthened by engaging in modes of art, thus improving cognition and enhancing cognitive reserve.
A well-known gerontologist, Dr. Gene Cohen, conducted a national longitudinal study on quality of life. This Creativity and Aging Study found that the arts positively affect health as individuals age. Individuals who regularly participated in art had better overall health, fewer doctor visits, and used less medications over time. Participants also reported higher responses on mental health assessments and engaged in more community-based activities. All of these results look to promote health and lend themselves towards disease prevention.