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Art With Seniors Enriches Lives

Did you know that you have the power to enhance the lives of
older family members by doing art or making music with them?

My mother's first ever drawing of a hand (with early-onset Alzheimers).An example of senior art.

My mother’s first-ever drawing of a hand (with early-onset Alzheimer’s)

My then 60 year old mother was showing the first traces of Alzheimer’s when she created her first-ever drawing of a hand in a beginning drawing class we took together in the 90’s.

The class was great for her–took her out of herself and her worries. It was great for me–I got to share with her my passion for creativity.

She didn’t have to talk or remember–just do. She was nervous starting out, but soon it was just her, the pencil and our whispers and giggles in class!

My loving father-in-law passed away last week. He was a passionate musician. 

Grandpa and Ry together.

Grandpa John and Ry–there’s nothing better!

He possessed diverse musical talents that enabled him to play with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention in the 60’s, as well as the St. Louis Symphony, and tons of other shows, recordings and tours. Yep, 85 years old and John Balkin still played his bass and keyboard right up until.

His creative outlets and love for his granddaughter and my husband kept him going. 

Our 11 year old daughter shared her violin playing with him, and he shared both his music expertise with her as well as his love for photography (and so much more). They found a creative way to enrich their already close grandfather-granddaughter relationship even further. Thank goodness for Skype!

Art, sharing, and healing are interwoven.
You do have the power to heal by sharing creativity.

Studies have shown that creating art could delay or negate age-related decline in some brain functions.

For seniors, creating visual art and music can distract them from their physical pain and stimulate their cognitive faculties.

String Bass Instrument (photo credit-Andrew Imanaka,Flikr, cc.lic.)

String Bass Instrument (photo credit-Andrew Imanaka,Flikr, cc.lic.)

So, next time you visit Grandma and Grandpa, don’t forget your kid’s crayon box and some copy paper. That’s all you need to get started.

It creates an great opportunity for them to tell their personal stories. You might be surprised—maybe your grandma made rag rugs with her mom. Maybe your Poppy used to draw and build dovecotes (houses) for the pigeons with his dad.

Creating with older family members gives them the confidence to get started and keep at it. Have the grandkids join in and it’s a sure bet for an evening of laughs and love!

Especially in difficult relationships, creating together
makes it easier to express a genuine caring and show
an interest in each other.

Maybe instead of gifting a senior friend or relative a scarf or photo frame next holiday, surprise them with a set of paint brushes, a series of beginning art classes, or even make plans to create an Artkin canvas with them (hint-hint).

To learn more about the benefits of creativity for seniors, check out
‘Art and Seniors: Drawing Outside the Lines’  by Angel Hill of the Oakland Tribune (article)
‘I Remember Better When I Paint’: Treating Alzheimer’s Through the Creative Arts’ is written and directed by Eric Ellena and Berna Huebner (YouTube trailer–the movie first broadcast on Public Television Nov.2014)

Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. — Jack Benny

Tell Us

Do you ever draw with your  folks? Are you willing to try even if you aren’t artistic yourself? Just draw doodles — the benefits are amazing! Try it next time you’re together. Please don’t forget to comment below and tell me about your experience.

Barbara Balkin, founder and ARTkinIST

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2 Comments
  1. Love your tribute to family. Beautiful memories.

    • Thank you Cyndee. I had a harder time writing it than I thought I would (very emotional, as you can imagine). I want to make sure that everyone be mindful of building that special relationship they have with their older family members, and how much each can gain from creating together. Thanks for posting!

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