Research Institute for Aging
Research Institute for Aging


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Boosting well-being through arts and creativity

Aug 29, 2023 | Arts

The power of arts and creativity to enhance the lives of older adults is invaluable. From gardening to listening to music, everyone can enjoy the benefits of creativity. We sat down with Kate Dupuis, Schlegel Innovation Leader in Arts & Aging, to discuss how arts-based activities can enrich your life.

Could you tell us about how arts and creativity can enhance your life?

Participating in arts-based activities has been shown to help older adults in many different domains of well-being – physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual. You don’t have to be actively participating to see these benefits. You can simply observe — like attending a ballet performance or listening to your favorite album. During the past few years of the pandemic, the arts have served as a valuable tool to combat social isolation. This has been particularly beneficial for older adults.

What are some examples of activities you’ve seen that have had a positive impact?

There is no one size fits all when it comes to engaging in the arts! While some activities we’ve seen are more stereotypically what we might think of when we hear the word “arts” (e.g., painting, drawing, dancing, singing), you can also be creative by baking, sewing, quilting, gardening, or fixing up an antique car. Some of our work also includes an intergenerational component, bringing young children and their parents from the community into long-term care to connect with older adults through music and movement.

I’ve never been particularly creative, is it too late to start now?

Some of the individuals we have spoken to hold assumptions about how artistic or creative they are – they may have been told from an early age that they couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket or that they shouldn’t dance because they have two left feet. Alternately, they may also have long dreamed of being an artist but were steered down a different career path by family or teachers. It’s always wonderful to see what happens when we encourage older adults to let go of these thoughts and try something new and different. They often surprise themselves by how fun, enriching, and fulfilling it can be to engage in expressive activities. 

“Arts and Aging Day Canada” is a day dedicated to promoting the intersection of art, health, and aging. Can you share some stories from the previous years’ events that have benefitted older adults?

We have been very lucky to get support for Arts and Aging Day Canada from across the country and even from some international friends! A few years ago, instructors from Canada’s National Ballet School provided a free online dance program, we’ve also heard live poetry readings and watched a music video created by residents of retirement homes across Ontario. On a smaller scale, but no less important, are the individuals who have posted their own artwork on social media  — painting, fibre arts, making music —  and share their gifts with others.

How can older adults and their families participate in this event? 

The best way to get involved is to go to the Arts and Aging Day Canada webpage. There you will find a toolkit that will provide you with tips and tricks for sharing and connecting on September 24, as well as links to online events you are welcome to participate in for free in the week leading up to the Day! Remember to use the hashtag #ArtsAndAgingCA when you post your artwork so we can help spread the word!

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