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Art Therapy for Seniors

Written by OurParents Staff
 about the author
4 minute readLast updated April 21, 2023

Artistic exploration and creation can be fun at any age. For seniors, art therapy can offer cognitive benefits, improved relaxation, feelings of accomplishment, and more. Whether your loved one could benefit from pursuing art as a new hobby or as a therapy for dementia, it’s worth looking into how creativity can help seniors thrive. Explore different mediums, like paint, clay, or coloring, to find the best fit for your loved one’s interests and skill level.


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Benefits of art therapy

The positives in creating art are countless. From improving cognition to helping your loved one feel a sense of accomplishment, art can nourish the body and mind. Here are some top reasons to get started now:
  • Enhances cognitive function and improves motor skills
  • Offers a creative outlet
  • Helps individuals relax
  • Assists in socialization
  • Facilitates communication increasing self-esteem
  • Offers sensory stimulation
  • Reduces boredom which can lead to depression
  • Provides a sense of control

Getting Started

Choose an art medium that will highlight the inner talent of your loved one. It may be a type of art that they have experience with, or they may want experiment with something new. Beginning with inspiration helps spark one’s imagination whether they are beginners or experienced in the art making process.
For a project that has produced highly positive results among seniors in various cognitive stages, you can do the following:
Lay out interesting images cut out of magazines or books. Images can then be collaged on a page using a glue stick. For the final step, use acrylic paint to color in desired areas. National Geographic, fashion magazines, and old picture books have nice images to work from. Depending on your loved one’s ability level, they may just want to move images around, or they may choose to add many details with paint.
Another go-to favorite activity are adult coloring books. They are flying off the shelves this year with their popular geometric and floral designs not widely available in the past. Check your local hobby or book store for availability.

Let our care assessment guide you

Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

Suggested therapeutic tools

Different seniors may respond to materials differently. Someone tactile may prefer clay or collage-making, while someone detail-oriented may prefer pencils, fine-tipped pens, or complex coloring pages.
  • Acrylic paints
  • Adult coloring books
  • Chalk pastels
  • Finger paint
  • Charcoal
  • Clay
  • Collage
  • Crayons/colored pencils
  • Floral arrangement (natural or silk)
  • Jewelry making accessories (larger beads work best)
  • Photography
  • Stamping
  • Water color
  • Weaving

Tips for seniors with limited dexterity

Try a medium that is easier to hold on to and requires little pressure to see results, such as thick pieces of chalk in darker colors, stamps dipped in paint, or large paint brushes to paint on a large surface area. If your loved one longer has range of motion or the ability to grip tools on their own, you can hold their hand in yours and gently guide them along. Using this technique with seniors in the late stages of dementia can be highly therapeutic, offering connection and meaning. Even in the late stages, it can be surprising how much a senior is capable of doing with some guidance and inspiration.

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Tips for seniors with severe cognitive decline

Paint can be a great tool to use; however, be careful with colors that visually appear to be food. Red or yellow paint may be confused with ketchup or mustard. Always use non toxic paint and stick to non appetizing colors such as blues and greens. This helps to reduce confusion keeping the focus on the activity. In addition, blues and greens promote calmness and relaxation.
Art therapy is not only beneficial to someone with dementia but for caregivers as well. Art can act as an outlet to relieve stress and promote positivity. Getting creative is a win-win for everyone.
Consider trying art therapy or other alternative dementia therapies with your loved one to find which activities mean the most to them.


Meet the Author
OurParents Staff

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