Music and art can improve seniors’ quality of life in many key ways.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are incredibly emotionally challenging for both seniors and their caregivers. Fortunately, music and art can help enhance mental health and overall wellbeing. Here are some important benefits that art and music can bring for seniors with these conditions.
Songs from a person’s youth or young adulthood can draw forth meaningful memories, strengthening their sense of identity. Try to choose music that elicits positive memories. Pay close attention to facial expressions to gauge the senior’s reaction, especially if they can’t tell you verbally how they’re feeling. Familiar songs may inspire foot-tapping or even singing along. Learn a song in advance so you can start singing and see if your senior will join in!
Painting a picture can also draw forth memories. Here are a few tips from the Alzheimer’s Association on how to guide a painting session:
- Show your senior how the brush movement works to remind them if need be.
- Talk about what the senior is creating. Don’t overwhelm them with questions, but do try to spark conversation if the person is able to communicate verbally.
- Keep the activity adult-level; be careful not to make it feel like a preschool activity. Of course, make sure materials are safe and provide adequate supervision.
- Keep the project free-form, without too many instructions, to avoid frustration.
Provide lots of encouragement, commenting on why you admire their picture!
Music can create a soothing mood that calms a person’s anxiety or agitation. (Doing an enjoyable art project with calming music playing in the background can also have a positive effect!) If you’re trying to create a tranquil mood, either choose familiar songs that you know are relaxing to your senior or select unfamiliar music with a calming style. By promoting a positive state of mind, music can have a strong influence on emotional wellbeing for seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s. This can even improve sleeping habits by helping them feel calm and relaxed at bedtime, benefiting their overall health.
People with dementia and Alzheimer’s can sometimes communicate through art when verbal communication isn’t possible. Art engages creative areas of the brain that aren’t directly connected with language, meaning a person can express thoughts and feelings through art even if they can’t name them verbally. In other words, creativity does not depend on memory. Thus, it allows for self-expression, which also helps reinforce a sense of identity.
If you work in senior care or are caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s, we hope art and music will be valuable tools for you. While it’s a challenging time, art and music can allow for meaningful interaction and self-expression while also improving overall wellbeing.
Alzheimer’s Association, “Art and Music”
Journal of Environmental Research in Public Health, “The Arts as a Medium for Care and Self-Care in Dementia: Arguments and Evidence”
WebMD, “Art and Music Therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease”