Men, women, and children know they need to eat a healthy diet, engage in regular exercise, and get plenty of sleep to remain healthy. However, stimulating the brain continues to be of great importance, especially as a person ages. Researchers continue to examine how the fine arts can help improve a person’s health, well-being, and independence when they reach their senior years. The scientists believe taking part in art activities might improve memory and cognitive function while boosting the person’s self-esteem and overall well-being. In addition, they wish to learn whether music can reduce the behavioral symptoms seen with dementia while encouraging social interaction.
Medical professionals believe they must find ways to improve the lives of seniors, and some men and women in the field feel singing might be the answer. Not only does it help these individuals remain active, they believe it reduces health disparities. Dr. Julene K. Johnson, Ph.D., of the School of Nursing at the University of California, conducted a randomized clinical trial that looked at whether participation in a community choir at senior rehabilitation facilities would help achieve this goal.
The directors of the program engaged the participants in choral activities that would promote health and well-being without requiring them to leave their facility. The researchers observed positive outcomes within six months. Seniors didn’t feel as lonely and expressed more interest in life. Nevertheless, the healthcare costs of the participants didn’t change significantly, nor did their physical and cognitive outcomes. The benefits of this study were seen in the participants’ social support, sense of belonging, and new connections.
Theater improvisation also appears to benefit seniors, especially those with early-stage dementia. Participation in The Memory Ensemble, a Northwestern University theater improvisation group, allows the seniors to engage with other individuals while improving their quality of life. While taking part in this program, the seniors learn to use spontaneity, creativity, and instincts as part of the improvisational theater to improve their quality of life. The seniors take part in sessions designed to be repetitive and follow a certain pattern.
While the goal of this program isn’t to slow the decline seen with dementia or improve the participant’s cognition, it allows the patient to enjoy their life. Family members love the theater program, as it gives them a way to continue to engage with their loved ones. The focus turns to nonverbal forms of communication with this program. Researchers found the seniors who took part in the program experienced a boost in their mood. Their anxiety decreased, and they felt a sense of belonging. They didn’t feel stigmatized and stated it gave them a feeling of normalcy. In addition, participants stated they felt a sense of empowerment and achievement with the program.
Research needs to continue in fine arts as a treatment protocol for seniors because every person deserves the highest quality of life. This remains true regardless of the person’s age, and participation in the fine arts appears to improve a senior’s memory, self-esteem, and cognitive function. In addition, those taking part in these programs experienced less stress and engaged with others more. The National Institute on Aging continues to advocate for more research in this area to learn how to make the most of these programs and others like them to benefit seniors at any age.