Senior citizen health and quality of life can be improved with exposure to the arts, recent studies show. Exposure to music, theater and painting can improve memory, cognition and mood, as well as improve self-esteem. Strengthening the creative muscles in the aged is just as important as for them to eat right, exercise and get enough sleep.
Senior Citizen: Singing Is Fun
Improving the lives of the senior citizen through the arts is now a major focus of The National Institute of Aging (NIA). Group singing such as i a community choir is a unique approach to promote senior health. It can help them stay active and engaged.
This was recently tested in San Francisco in a clinical trial involving four hundred senior citizens, age 60 plus. Participants were divided into separate choir groups and the program was run over the course of forty-four weeks.
At weekly rehearsals, professional choral directors from the San Francisco Community Music Center led the choir participation.
Cognition, physical function, and mood were tested before the start of the choir program and again after 6 and 12 months.
Positive results occurred within the first six months. Happy moods, increased self-esteem and positive outlook increased.
Senior Citizen: Become An Actor
Theater improvisation is another art form that can help seniors improve their outlook on life.
Northwestern University tested whether acting work shops could imove the quality of life for people recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
The Memory Ensemble is an acting group specifically set up to work with this population. Participants learn how to use their instincts, creativity, and spontaneity to explore and create improvisational theater.
As part of the 8-week program, groups of 10 to 15 participants, age 50 to 90, attend 90-minute sessions that are purposely repetitive and follow a specific pattern. Two facilitators—a clinical social worker and a master teaching artist in theater and improvisational techniques—guide participants through various activities.
Preliminary results show participation in the Memory Ensemble improves mood, decreases anxiety, and increases a sense of belonging and normalcy. Participants also reported feelings of achievement, empowerment, and self-discovery.
Research on music, theater, dance, creative writing, and other participatory arts shows promise for improving older adults’ quality of life and well-being. Many areas can be improved such as memory, cognition, and self esteem. Reduced stress and improved social interaction was also observed.
The NIA is increasing the number of studies so as to define and develop the best programs for this senior citizen population.