Bring art into your life, and so much more
February 1, 2023 | View PDF
Q: As my health declines it is harder to have good days. How can I adapt to my changing life?
A: The American Psychological Association (APA) defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress”. Successful aging is a process. Studies have shown that art can help people with depression, anxiety, and stress, and art has also been linked to improved memory, reasoning and resilience.
There’s something quite beautiful about enjoying the performing and fine arts. For older adults, it is rediscovering a side of themselves that they may have forgotten. Maybe it is because art is one of the few things that transcends time and age. Let’s explore why this interrelation is so important.
Why do arts and older persons make such a great pairing? It’s a love story, really. Arts and aging adults have always had a special relationship. From operas to ballets, seniors are some of the most avid fans. There are many reasons for this: art can be beautiful, complex and emotionally moving. Older adults love the arts, and many benefits come from enjoying these activities.
What are the benefits?
One positive benefit is that it keeps the brain healthy. Researchers found that engaging in the arts improves cognitive function, memory and creativity. In fact, one study even found that aging adults who engaged in the arts scored higher on cognitive function than those who didn’t.
So what is responsible for these benefits? Participating in the arts keeps us neurologically challenged and when learning new concepts our brains are actively working to process all that information. This keeps our mature minds sharp.
In addition to aiding cognitively, arts immersion has emotional benefits. Art can be a way to express emotions and deal with difficult life situations. It also provides connections and forms social circles. Participating in the arts keeps us more centered and supported—important for mental health.
Host a watch party
While performances experienced, artworks viewed, or seeing sculptures are best done in person, if you cannot travel to feel the excitement live, find works online or through arts and documentary channels. Gather a group together to watch classic operas La Bohème, Don Giovanni, and The Marriage of Figaro. For something more contemporary, check out The Death of Klinghoffer or Doctor Atomic.
Take a tour
Galleries to visit include the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., and the Art Institute of Chicago. These galleries are home to some of the world’s most famous artworks, and will leave a lasting impression on visitors of all ages. For 20th and 21st century collections, check out Tate Modern in London or Centre Pompidou in Paris. These exhibits offer a modern take on classical art.
Paintings worth a look include Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World” (his best known work), “The Luncheon on the Grass,” by French painter Édouard Manet, (who bridged realism and impressionism), and Spanish painter Salvador Dalí’s “The Persistence of Memory”. For more edge, check out Jenny Saville, whose depictions of the human form transcend boundaries of both classical figuration and modern abstraction.
Captivating sculptural pieces include “The Thinker,” by Auguste Rodin; Harry Bertoia’s jewelry and furniture; Michelangelo’s “David”; or contemporary “The Bean” by internationally acclaimed Anish Kapoor. Ither distinctive works include “The Pietà,” by Michelangelo; “The Dying Gaul,” a world masterpiece revered by art historians and scholars; “The Prioress’s Tale,” by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, a craftsman and painter; and M.C. Escher, a contemporary graphic artist who made mathematically inspired woodcuts, lithographs and mezzotints.
Overall, art paired with aging adults is a sweet relationship to better handle mental and emotional situations with agility. So, check out both the performing and fine arts and create your own love story with heart.
Karen Casanovas, PCC, CPCC, CLIPP is a health, wellness and simplified living coach practicing in Anchorage. If you have questions write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.