Art activities may ease depression for seniors
Depression in seniors is often thought of as a normal
part of the aging process. However, it’s not. A challenge is that in many cases
the depression’s symptoms are discounted as ‘just an effect’ of an illness or
condition the person is struggling with. If a senior is suffering from insomnia
because of a drug they’re on, then their symptoms of depression might be
attributed to the insomnia rather than to the depression itself.
So where depression might be spotted and handled in
younger people, with older people it can be missed, ignored, and linger on for
years. Even when it is identified, challenges with medication interactions can
make it harder to treat.
Art can help.
Art Class Lifts Your Thought Patterns
A key way of addressing depression is to help the person
lift and change their existing thought patterns. With depression, a person can
get ‘stuck in a rut’ with negative feelings. They can develop a mantra of
unhappy thoughts which loops around and around. To lift out of the depression,
the person needs to find a way to shake loose that pattern.
Shaking loose is what art is all about. Learning new
styles of art is by its very definition a change in thought patterns. Whether
you’re learning about new color combinations which work well together or how to
get paint to flow from the brush just the way you want, the actions help you
focus in on a tangible end result. That draw you up and out of those ruminating
Art Class Expresses Inner Emotions
One aspect of depression – especially in seniors – is
that it can go unvoiced. It is not expressed. Bottling up one’s emotions can
bring a wealth of problems with it, even on top of the depression. Art is about
expression. It’s about exploring feelings and ideas. From color choices to
thickness of lines, from combinations of shapes to the subjects we choose, we
help inner thoughts come out.
The unbottling process is often celebrated in art. We
talk about tracking an artist’s moods by their styles of painting. When
Picasso’s good friend Casagemas committed suicide, Picasso began painting in
only dark blue and green colors, often showing subjects who were in pain. It
seemed to be a way for Picasso to work through those dark feelings. Many
artists find this type of painting to be cathartic. It helps to express and explore
feelings to get a handle on them.
Art Class Brings Communities Together
In an art class, supportive communication tends to
flow. People encourage each other to continue down their unique path. The
simple situation of being amongst creative people, all exploring their visions,
can be very soothing. It’s a non-judgmental, compassionate atmosphere which
simply allows you to be yourself, however you choose to be. Over time, that
environment helps you to make new connections and attempt new paths in life.
Art can expose you to ideas, concepts, and visions
which are new and intriguing. It helps you to think outside the box. To try
something unusual. Just to find out what happens. All of these new brain
connections and pathways are good for your overall health. It shakes loose your
old way of thinking and has you contemplate something new.
Art is one of those universal concepts which has been
with humanity since the very beginning. Even cave dwellers huddling around a
fire invested time and energy into decorating their walls with artwork. Modern
times, in their own way, are just as chaotic and stressful. Seniors,
especially, often struggle with depression. Art provides a pathway through the
darker feelings and into a space where light can be seen again.