Older woman painting at easel

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From encouraging creativity to fostering connections to preventing cognitive decline, making art provides an array of advantages for older adults. 

Cailey Massey can vouch for this. She is the founder of Artfull Enrichment, an Ontario, Canada-based company that uses art programming to foster creative expression in long-term care. 

“There’s really a multitude of benefits,” said Massey, who has worked with adults in both facilities and at home. “When we’re talking about older adults, some may be dealing with age-related issues such as hearing loss or cognitive impairment, so art can offer a lot of support for people going through those adversities.”

For instance, for those experiencing cognitive decline or struggling with dementia, they may be withdrawing from social interactions or losing communicative skills. Art provides a platform for them to express themselves and keep their brains sharp. 

“In an at-home setting, art can be a great way for people to connect with a caregiver or a family member,” said Massey, “and it’s great with connecting generations as well. I found that sometimes if a grandchild is coming in to hangout with their grandparent, if they have an art activity to do while they’re visiting, it’s a nice way for them to connect and have a shared experience.”

When it comes to types of art older adults can do, acrylic painting is one of the most popular due to the forgiving nature of the paint, allowing one to paint over it again and again, Massey said. 

For older adults looking to dip their toes into making art or simply explore and experiment, doodling is an enjoyable outlet. Massey also encourages older adults to buy sketchbooks and pencils and simply draw from their consciousness. Flipping through magazines and pulling out images to create a collage is also a fun way to get the creative juices flowing.

“There is no right or wrong reaction to a piece, so people feel like they can really express themselves freely,” Massey said.