Why and How to Encourage Your Elder to Join Art Classes

Encourage your senior loved one to join an art class. Why? Because painting, drawing, and sculpting have many mental and physical health benefits. Doing art is good for the mind and heart.

Unfortunately, it may not be easy. Unless they already have an art habit, you’ll probably encounter a lot of resistance.

You’ll hear statements like these:

That’s for kids. It’s busy work for babies.

I’m not very artistic, never have been. I’m not good at it.

There’s no point in learning something new at my age.

The Why

Here’s why it’s important to keep (gently) coaxing:

1. Painting, drawing, and sculpting protect against dementia

Along with diet and exercise, art is like a magic silver bullet fighting against memory loss.

One Mayo Clinic study found that older adults who participated in painting, drawing, and sculpting showed 73% decrease in developing Mild Cognitive Impairment.

Other creative hobbies have protective benefits too. You might also suggest crafts, woodworking, pottery, ceramics, quilting, quilling, and sewing.

2. Making art reduces cortisol, a stress-related hormone

Cortisol is a stress-related hormone that’s measured through saliva samples. The higher a person’s cortisol level, the more stressed they’re likely to be.

Experiments have shown that cortisol levels decrease after 45-minute art sessions. That’s why Art Therapy is successfully used to treat depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Read the study Journal of American Art Therapy Association

3. Drawing enhances memory

Older adults who take up drawing boost their memory. Drawing, even if you’re not good at it, helps remember new information. If you’re trying to learn something new, draw it.

Students get better test scores when they study and draw. Drawing is better than re-writing notes, visualization techniques, or passively looking at images.

Read more: Drawing is Better Than Writing for Memory Retention

Also, check out Graham Shaw’s TedTalk, How To Draw To Remember More. Viewed over 1.5 million times, he demonstrates the power of drawing.

4. The act of creating fosters feelings of competence, purpose, and growth

Seniors who take part in creative activity report feeling more confident and competent. Learning new skills helps them feel engaged, motivated, and purposeful.

Especially if they’re creating useful things that help others.

For example, in some senior communities, you’ll find groups who:

  • knit baby hats and clothes for preemies, women’s shelters, and pregnancy crises centers
  • sew lap quilts for shut-ins
  • make cat scratching posts for animal shelters

Making things boosts self-esteem. Contributing to others makes for successful aging and living.

How to encourage art

Convinced? Ok, but how do you convince them to give it a try?

Here’re a few tips:

  • Share the information above about the benefits of art.
  • Watch some TedTalks on YouTube about art, health, and aging.
  • Find the right project or class – not every medium is right for every person. Try different classes. Have an exploration mindset.
  • Some men may prefer “manly” projects like woodworking. Explore wood carving or wood burning classes.
  • Trigger the right benefit motivator. Draw on their self-interest [pun intended].
  • A lot of seniors are afraid of getting dementia. They’ll do anything to prevent it. Even take an art class.
  • Others want to create with the purpose of serving others.
  • Don’t let gentle coaxing turn into coercion or arguing. They’ll dig their heels in. Then nobody wins.
  • Offer to go with them. Just to “try it out”. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to keep going.
  • Reassure them that the process is the goal, not the finished project. It isn’t about being “good” at something. It’s about learning something new.

Finally, here’s the best part

Yes, painting, drawing, and sculpting have health benefits. But the best part of making art is the joy of self-expression. Finding new ways to share your unique viewpoint.

And, it’s a chance to thumb your nose at “old age” and set an example. Let posterity know that you were never an “old dog” who couldn’t learn new tricks. Now that’s a legacy worth leaving.