Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Value of Art in Senior Care

At South West Art Workshops we listen to a lot of Classical music in the office. One piece that never fails to inspire us is Ravel’s Boléro (1875-1937). Having played the oboe for eight long years as a young girl, the oboe d’amore stands out for me, but essentially Ravel instructs the same melody to be passed on across various instruments again and again. Luckily for me the oboe comes twice. In recent years it has been suggested the repetitive, almost hypnotic rhythm of this masterpiece could be explained as a manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease. Ravel was known to have suffered various health problems in the last years of his life whilst writing his Boléro and lost the ability to put his compositions down on paper. It is ironic then, that music is now posited as one of the most progressive and effective preventative measures against Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

It is not only music that is proving a valuable instrument against these degenerative disorders however. A number of artistic and expressive activities such as dance, painting, yoga and weaving have been shown to have positive results in helping patients with Alzheimer’s and Dementia; with some physicians claiming a 70% success rate in improving memory function through utilizing art therapy ( Art Therapy Helps Alzheimers Patients Improve Memory).
Furthermore, the benefit of art therapy programs extend beyond those suffering from degenerative disorders, they also greatly improve the quality of standard senior residential care. Organisations such as the National Association of Activity providers for Older people (NAPA) and the National Care Forum (NCF) both herald art therapy as ‘ integral to the definition of excellence in social care’ (Creative Homes. How the Arts can contribute to the quality of life in residential care – The Baring Foundation). They site a number of key benefits that art therapy can bring to elderly people living in residential care homes.
Firstly, the physical engagement that arts activities such as drawing or dance can provide to senior citizens improves motor function and coordination. The collective and inclusive nature of many arts activities can have immense benefits in terms of increasing social interaction amongst the elderly and provide an outlet for depression and feelings of isolation. Furthermore, the mental endeavour required for activities such as painting or weaving keeps people engaged and promotes not only memory loss, but encourages imagination and creative thinking. Engaging in creative activities can also give people a sense of personal achievement and expression and the notion that they have done something of significance/value.
‘The arts in their widest sense can touch on so many attributes of excellent care and quality of life: the value of active ageing, choice and control, independence and interdependence, creativity, lifelong learning, identity, confidence, friendship, emotional stimulation, intellectual fulfillment, sensory pleasures’ (Harper, S & Hamblin, K (2010) ‘This is living’ Good Times: Art for Older People at Dulwich Picture Gallery, Oxford Institute of Ageing)
Whilst we can’t promise that our workshops will result in a masterpiece as awe-inspiring as Ravel’s Boléro, South West Art Workshops offer an extremely diverse range of art workshops and events that are tailored specifically to inspire and embolden the elderly. Our workshop providers have extensive experience in working with senior citizens and find it immensely rewarding to engage with those often overlooked in the creative industries. We already have over 200 workshop providers lined up, offering tuition on everything from painting, life drawing, and film making to graffiti, creative dance and drawing with yoga.
If you are interested in booking a workshop through South West Art Workshops, you can do so through our workshop page. If we don’t already offer what you are looking for, let us know by contacting us here, and we can make it happen.
(Image of painting Ravel from

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