The Benefits of Creative And Therapeutic Activities For The Elderly

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We tend to think about activities for young children, but did you know that creative and therapeutic activities are useful for all ages, especially the elderly?

Anything which requires the use of your hands, your brain, your creativity and your imagination is a great way to keep your mind active and away from unhelpful thoughts. This is useful for everyone, whether you’re a child, a teenager, an entrepreneur or anyone in their 20s, 30s, 40s upwards. For elderly people however, creative and therapeutic activities could be extremely useful on a wide variety of different levels. 

Let’s delve into exactly why the elderly can benefit from different creative and therapeutic activities, such as gardening, pottery, walking, painting, writing, singing, etc. 

Creative And Therapeutic Activities Boost Their Self Esteem

Any type of creative activity which is done on a regular basis boosts confidence and self esteem. If you’re making something with your hands, you’ll also notice that you feel uplifted and you gain satisfaction from the project. This is especially important for elderly people because it’s easy to become down or despondent when you’re unable to perhaps do the things you used to do or move around as well as before.

It’s no secret that some elderly people lose their confidence in their later years because of deteriorating health or mobility and especially if they don’t get to see their families as much as they would like to, due to their responsibilities, etc. Creative and therapeutic activities may therefore give elderly people a welcome distraction, something to focus on and allow them to gain a sense of satisfaction and boosted self esteem as a result. These activities help elderly people to realise that there is still plenty they can do and active, regardless of their situation or health status. 

An Increased Chance to Socialise With Others

There are many creative and therapeutic activities which can be done in a group and this is particularly important if an elderly person is at home on their own. By getting out and enjoying activities such as this around other likeminded people who are in the same situation, they can feel uplifted due to the activity but also due to the social boost they’ll receive. 

Spending time around people you enjoy being around is vital for all age groups but the camaraderie and company that this will bring to an elderly person is key. It’s very easy for people to become quite isolated, again especially if they’re living at home alone. By going to groups or joining classes, they can become involved in something bigger, meet new people and form a new support group which will allow them to feel supported, surrounded by joy, and helps them to remain connected. This all helps with mental health too, as being around friends and other social connections is linked to a boost in mental and emotional wellbeing. 

May Help to Reduce Emotional Stress And Anxiety 

There is a lot of stress and anxiety that can arise when someone is reaching their twilight years. Whether they’re in a care home or in their own home, it’s important to find a distraction from these stresses and worries and help to put them all into perspective. In addition, stress and anxiety are very dangerous for health and wellbeing, so it’s important to ensure that an elderly relative or friend is taking part in groups and activities to keep these levels as low as possible. 

Creative and therapeutic activities allow you to work through your worries in a manual way, and in some cases it’s a welcome distraction too. Creativity activities are linked with feel-good hormones and endorphins being released into the body, which aids relaxation and general wellbeing. If you can do an activity such as this outdoors, you’ll benefit even more, because you’re gaining the extra benefits of fresh air and natural light. This is why gardening is such a great activity to try, if your elderly loved one is able to do bend down and move in the ways they need to. 

Creative and Therapeutic Activities Help to Keep The Brain Strong And Healthy 

The risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s are a constant worry during old age, but engaging in regular creative and therapeutic activities can keep the brain strong and healthy for longer. This works by boosting cognitive function; where the brain is concerned, it really is a case of ‘use it or you lose it’ and these sorts of activities help to keep the brain active – no sudoku required!

Different activities use different parts of the brain, so the more creative activities you help your elderly loved one to enjoy, the more active their brain will be. Whilst there are other risk factors associated with dementia and Alzheimers, keeping the brain active and alert can certainly help to reduce the overall risk. This will also help your elderly loved one to maintain their memory and their general speed of thinking, which is known to decline during old age in general. 

If an elderly person is already showing signs of a cognitive decline, creative and therapeutic activities can be useful in addition to reduce the effects and build stronger brain connections. The use of art, in particular, is ideal in this case, and everyone has heard of art therapy as a way to build confidence and skills in situations where there may be something lost. These activities also help people in these situations to express themselves in a freer way, building their self esteem and allowing them to battle back against any decline they may be experiencing due to old age.

Encouraging Your Elderly Loved One to Try Creative And Therapeutic Activities 

Of course, sometimes you may come up against a certain amount of resistance when it comes to your elderly loved one trying something new. This is normal in many ways; it’s not unusual for someone to become “stuck in their ways” and trying something new can lead them towards feeling out of control or lacking in confidence. 

The key is to introduce the activity in a slow and gentle way. Do not force your loved one to try something, it has to be their choice. Suggest different activities they might like to try and ask which one they want to choose. You could even try it with them, so they have someone they’re close to by their side; this will boost their confidence and help them ease into the idea. 

Of course, it could be that your loved one is very encouraged and really wants to try something new. In that case, your job is a little easier! Perhaps ask if they would like to join a group or a class and try a new activity with other people their age. Some elderly people will jump at the chance of having a little company their own, whilst others might not want to try because they don’t like to meet new people. Again, don’t force them to do so if they’re against it; if they suggest it in their own time, encourage them and perhaps even go with them on the first day to help them feel more comfortable. 

There is a range of activities you can try together, or simply encourage your loved one to give a go. Gardening is a great idea, as we mentioned earlier, but you could also encourage them to try an activity which includes exercise, such as gentle yoga, pilates, swimming, or bowling. More hands-on creative ideas include drawing, painting, singing, playing a musical instrument, pottery, any type of craft, such as knitting, sewing, making cards, or even dancing. The range of potential activities is huge, so there is bound to be one or two in there that your elderly loved one will enjoy. 

As before, it’s a good idea to try and encourage them to take up more than one new hobby. This will use the various different parts of their brain and keep them alert and active. By doing this, you’re helping them to reduce their risk factors of dementia and Alzheimers. Of course, you can’t completely eradicate this risk, but you can reduce it by helping them to stay alert and sharp. 

Creative and therapeutic activities are important for all age groups. Children use them to learn, but adults use them to overcome difficult situations, reduce stress and boost confidence. Of course, they’re also simply pleasant things to do, which pass the time and allow you to feel like you’re actually doing something of substance. The same goes for when an elderly person takes up an activity such as this and turns it into a hobby they really enjoy. 

All you need to do is ensure that whatever hobby they choose, it is suitable for their ability level. For instance, if your loved one is very keen to try gardening but they have mobility problems and can’t really bend down very well, you’ll need to find some equipment which allows them to enjoy their hobby of choice, without putting extra strain on their body.