Promoting Healthy Aging Through the Arts

The power of the arts is paramount. It does not discriminate against age, as we see the positive effect of music, painting and artistic expression on infants and the elderly alike.

As we’ve seen through the remarkable documentary, “Alive Inside,” music can have a huge impact on vulnerable older Americans, especially those with memories and personalities dimmed by dementia.

Through the Music and Memory program, elders are being fitted with iPods holding customized playlists to trigger past memories. The film shows a man named George with advanced dementia who refused to speak or even raise his head when addressed by name. After being outfitted with his customized iPod, he was suddenly brought back to life, talking freely, wiggling in his wheelchair and singing along to songs that he always loved.

Across the country, through grants from agencies like the National Institute on Aging, we are seeing more arts related programs enhancing the lives and health of the elderly population.

The National Endowment for the Arts is dedicated to giving access to the arts to the aging population. Lifelong learning in the arts educates and engages older adults as teachers, learners and as creators, thereby contributing to individual, community and public life. The National Endowment for the Arts seeks to involve older Americans in on-going, excellent, participatory arts experiences. This includes increasing the sensitivity of professionals and practitioners, both in the fields of aging and the arts, to the need and value of quality arts experiences for, by and with older persons.

They conducted a creativity and aging study called “The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults,” that reveals how on-going, community-based arts programs improve the quality of life for older Americans. It is the first study of its kind to examine the impact of professionally conducted arts programs on the physical health, mental health, and social functioning of older adults.

Through these programs and studies, we see how important it is to keep the minds of our elders active.

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