Having a healthy diet, exercising, and getting the right amount of sleep is crucial for one’s health.
However, does being creative helpful to us when we age?
According to an ongoing research, visual arts, theater training, and singing group programs for older people may help improve one’s well-being, health, and independence.
According to NIA’s Division of Behavioral and Social Research’s Lisa Onken, Ph.D., “researchers are highly interested in examining if and how participating in arts activities may be linked to improving cognitive function and memory and improving self-esteem and well-being. Scientists are also interested in studying how music can be used to reduce behavioral symptoms of dementia, such as stress, aggression, agitation, and apathy, as well as promoting social interaction, which has multiple psychosocial benefits.”
Singing promotes healthy aging
Developing efficient and sustainable approaches for the improvement of the lives is needed as stated by Julene K. Johnson, Ph.D. of the University of California, San Francisco School of Nursing. She added that, “Singing in a community choir may be a unique approach to promote the health of diverse older adults by helping them remain active and engaged. It may even reduce health disparities.”
The Community of Voices spearheaded by Dr. Johnson used this approach.
This was the largest randomized clinical trial in order to assess if the participation in a community choir on the health and well-being of almost 400 culturally diverse adults who are from 60 above from 12 senior centers in San Francisco has an impact at all.
Selected randomly, the centers were to conduct the choir program immediately which were the six intervention groups and 6 months later which were the six control groups. The collection of outcome measures were scheduled from the baseline which is before the start of the invention, 6 months which is the end of the randomization phase, and 12 months which is a year after enrollment.
By meeting only once a week, each choir engaged in 90-minute sessions and had several performances in informal concerts for 44 weeks.
During rehearsals, experts from the San Francisco Community Music Center promoted activities that improve health and well-being. The cognitive, physical, and psychosocial functions of the participants and their cost and use of healthcare services were assessed before the program started and after 6 and 12 months.
One key feature of the study was the presence of community partners who can enroll, engage, and retain a large group of low income and ethnically and racially diverse older adults. In order to make sure that the participants will continue joining the study, they were recruited and asked to complete all the choir activities at the senior centers to be assessed.
Within 6 months, positive results were gathered from one’s participation in the community choir.
It had increased one’s interest in life and feelings of loneliness were reduced. Healthcare costs and cognitive and physical results, however, did not have a significant change.
Being able to provide a meaningful opportunity to interact with people, socialize, and establish a sense of belongingness, according to Dr. Johnson, resulted to these improvements.
“By examining the mechanisms through which arts participation may provide benefits to health and well-being, and by studying arts participation with scientific rigor, we hope to establish a firm basis on which to develop programs to improve the health and well-being of older people. As these studies continue, we expect the results to show us how we can implement cost-effective, community-based programs that benefit older people,” says Dr. Onken.
Coping with dementia through theater improvisation
Theater improvisation is one of the art forms that Northwestern University is looking into to help elderly people in dealing with early-stage dementia by improving their quality of life.
Called the Memory Ensemble, it is a program for people who have been newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia who are looking for ways to find programs that suit their needs.
In order to experience and create improvisational theater, 69 participants of The Memory Ensemble have used their spontaneity, creativity, and instincts.
With the goal of improving the quality of life for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s and to spread it such benefits to other communities, the program was developed in 2010 in Chicago by the Northwestern and Lookingglass Theatre Company.
Groups with 10-15 participants who are from 50 to 90 years old have to attend sessions for 90 minutes as part of the 8-week program which had a specific pattern to be followed and are repetitive. A clinical social worker and an expert in theater improvisational techniques facilitated and guided the participants in all the activities.
Dr. Morthardt said that rather than reducing decline or improving cognition, the whole program aims to aid people in enjoying their lives.
According to her, “There are limits to medical treatments for people with dementia… Patients and families are looking for ways to continue to engage. For participants in the program, it’s about being in the moment and using their imagination. We enhance their remaining skills and mood. As the condition progresses, it can become challenging to communicate with words, so we really focus on nonverbal means of expression.”
Through participating in the Memory Ensemble, initial results state that participants had increased their sense of belonging, destigmatization, and normalcy, reduced their feelings of anxiety, and improved their mood, according to Dr. Dunford. Feelings of empowerment, achievement, and self-discovery were also reported.
These programs have proven that participating in the arts promotes healthy aging.
You should consider participating in visual arts, theater training, and singing group programs to maintain or improve your well-being, health, and independence.