Art can inspire an aging body and mind. music, dance, painting, quilting, singing, poetry writing and storytelling add meaning, joy and a vibrant sense of well-being to the lives of older people.
Evidence of the benefit of art for aging comes from the , a controlled study sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. The study sorted active seniors aged 65 and older into an intervention group and a control group. The control group maintained its usual activities -- the only difference was regular check ups with the study researcher. The intervention group was assigned to an intensive community-based art program, conducted by professional artists. The lucky participants took up painting, creative writing and poetry, jewelry making, pottery and singing in a chorale. They met weekly for art instruction and also attended concerts and art exhibits.
Over the course of the study, some striking trends emerged. While everyone in the group obviously continued to age, the people in the arts programs seemed to be aging more slowly. Overall, the health of participants in the arts program stabilized, compared with declines in the control group. Compared with the control group, they used less medication, were less likely to fall and had fewer doctor visits.
Why would creating art make a difference to health? One reason may be the sense of control one feels during the creative process. Art projects are also sustaining -- you come back to them again and again. The artists teaching the programs described how the participants were exhilarated by the process and they were motivated to continue after each creative endeavor.
So what does this mean for you? If you want to improve your chances of aging well, consider exploring your inner artist. Sign up for that pottery class you’ve always wanted to take. Join a creative writing seminar. Take up photography, knitting or painting, and join a group of fellow artists to improve your social network and to share with others the exhilarating feelings of creating art.