How the Arts Can Assist Healthy Aging - Landmark Senior Living


Mar 13 2019

How the Arts Can Assist Healthy Aging

Post by: Joe Gilmore

Nearly everyone knows that eating a nutrient-rich diet, getting proper exercise, and getting enough sleep can help you stay healthy and reduce the physical and mental deterioration associated with aging. However, many don’t understand how impactful art therapy can have on our health.

There has been research that has shown that participating in arts activities can help to improve self-esteem and well-being and can even help to manage stress, aggression, and other symptoms. There is even some evidence that some activities can have an impact on dementia symptoms.

“Researchers are highly interested in examining if and how participating in arts activities may be linked to improving cognitive function and memory and improving self-esteem and well-being. Scientists are also interested in studying how music can be used to reduce behavioral symptoms of dementia, such as stress, aggression, agitation, and apathy, as well as promoting social interaction, which has multiple psychosocial benefits,” said Lisa Onken, Ph.D., of NIA’s Division of Behavioral and Social Research.

How The Arts Can Help

A report done by the National Endowment for the Arts found that older adults who participated in both creating art and attending art events had higher levels of cognitive functioning and lower rates of limitations to physical functioning.


A microphone used for singing. Singing is one of the arts that can help assist healthy aging.

One form of expression that may help older adults is singing. Julene K. Johnson, of the University of California, San Francisco School of Nursing, leads the Community of Voices. Community of Voices is a research study that examined if singing in a community choir was a cost-effective way to help promote health and well-being among older adults.

“Singing in a community choir may be a unique approach to promote the health of diverse older adults by helping them remain active and engaged. It may even reduce health disparities,” said Dr. Johnson.

The study found that participating in the community choir showed positive results within six months. The choir was shown to reduce feelings of loneliness and increased interest in life. It should be noted that it did not have a significant effect on cognitive and physical attributes.


Couples dancing on the dance floor. Dancing is a great way to stay healthy while aging.

There have been many studies that have looked at the effectiveness of dance as a tool to improve healthy aging. Overall, there is much evidence that shows that dance can have positive effects on health and well-being of participants.

Some investigations found that dancers demonstrated a higher performance on standard cognitive measures and scored higher on evaluations that looked at general health and tasks of daily living.

“These dance studies, using both correlational and experimental approaches, present a fairly compelling picture for dancing as a vehicle for healthy aging,” one research article said.


An open theater. Theater is a great way to help assist with healthy aging.

Another art form that some use to help with aging, specifically early-stage dementia, is theater and acting. A group known as “The Memory Ensemble” uses improvisational theater to help improve sociability and quality of life. To be clear, the program did not aim to slow decline or improve cognition, but rather to help people with dementia enjoy their lives.

Preliminary results show that participation in the Memory Ensemble improved mood, decreased anxiety and increased sense of belonging. Participants also reported feelings of achievement, empowerment, and self-discovery.


Radios and Tvs on a wall with different records and vhs tapes. Music is a great way to assist with healthy aging.

While singing can help to improve certain aspects of life like socialness, music in general has been shown to have many positive effects as well. A study published in the Journal of Neuropsychology found that significant differences between high activity musicians and nonmusicians in regards to nonverbal memory recall, visuomotor speed, cognitive flexibility, and more.

“The finding that cognitive functioning in advanced age is linearly related to the number of years of musical participation argues for the possibility of a robust and sustained effect of musical training on cognition,” the study said.

Keeping The Brain Busy

One study published in Psychological Science found that productive engagement such as quilting or learning photography caused a significant increase in episodic memory.

An aggregate research study published in The Gerontologist Oxford Journal examined 31 reviewed studies and found that they revealed an overwhelmingly positive cognitive and quality of life outcomes for carious participatory art forms.


There is some evidence that shows that music programs also may help with managing symptoms related to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. In a study published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry,examined nearly a 100 nursing homes that were implementing a music and memory program. They found that, over a six-month period, a number of residents discontinued their antipsychotic medication while also remaining stable. The study also found that participants in the music and memory program were found to have reduced rates of behavioral problems compared with other facilities.

While there is more research that needs to be done when it comes to how participation in art-based programs can help dementia patients, and overall aging for that matter, there is some evidence that expressing yourself creatively can be go a long way toward improving cognitive abilities and quality of life.

In Conclusion

While most people are aware that exercising and maintaining a healthy diet can help improve your overall health, many are ignorant to the fact that creative expression can have a positive impact on mental and physical health as well. Participating in activities like singing, dancing, and acting, have been shown to improve quality of life and help with healthy aging. There is also some evidence that some activities, like music, can help manage symptoms associated with dementia and can help to reduce behavioral problems associated with the disorder.

At Landmark Senior Living, we can help you or your loved one as they move on to the next chapter in their lives. Landmark has a dedicated care staff that can help and provide the around-the-clock medical attention that your loved one needs. Similarly, our managerial staff helps to keep our residents happy later in life by preparing a number of social activities to participate in. If you would like more information about Landmark, please visit our website at reach out to our admissions staff to schedule a complimentary walkthrough of one of our many facilities.

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