At Brightview Senior Living Communities, innovative self-expression is a key component of each of the five SPICE elements to improve life. Engaging in the arts nourishes residents physically, intellectually, culturally, emotionally and spiritually.
Some of our residents' favorite programs include those that encourage culinary creativity, such as cooking classes and Chopped competitions, our mentally stimulating lecture series and the wildly popular Sip and Paint class.
The Many Physical and Emotional Benefits of Creative Self-Expression
Flexing creative muscles is as essential to healthy aging as flexing physical muscles. The National Institute on Aging cites research that shows some benefits for older adults who participate in the arts, such as singing, theater groups and visual arts, including:
- Improved quality of life and well-being
- Increased independence
- Better cognitive and memory functioning
- Higher self-esteem
- Reduced stress
- Increased social interaction
The National Endowment for the Arts sponsored a study at 26 different senior facilities in the Washington, D.C., area that used music, dance, painting and storytelling to engage older adults. The results showed that when seniors participate in culturally enriching programs they:
- Experience a decline in depression
- Are less likely to fall
- Pay fewer visits to the doctor
Another way artistic and creative endeavors help people stay vital as they age has to do with the social engagement that's often part of the programs for seniors. This connecting-with-others aspect has been repeatedly shown to prolong life and enhance healthy aging by:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reducing levels of stress hormones
- Increasing levels of the "happiness hormones" that create the so-called runner's high
Let's look at some of the other life-enriching programs we offer at Brightview to keep our residents as vital and vibrant as possible.
The Power of Crafting
Crafting has cognitive benefits for seniors because when they're working on creative projects, they're mentally focused and engaged. Focal activities, such as knitting, needlepoint and quilting, require great attention to detail while following a pattern. This stimulates different parts of the brain and can reduce an individual's chance of developing mild cognitive impairment by as much as 30-50%.
Crafting can also increase happiness and help prevent depression. When you're totally absorbed by a project and in a state of "flow," your brain is flooded with dopamine, the feel-good chemical that acts as a natural antidepressant. This heightened focus on a task also has a calming effect similar to meditation.
Dancing up a Storm
You'll often find our residents ballroom dancing, which as it turns out is as physically beneficial as it is fun. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a review of studies from around the world related to the benefits of dancing among seniors. Styles of dance used were ballroom, contemporary, cultural, jazz and pop. Based on the findings, NIH concluded that every style of dance provides seniors with significant improvements in balance, muscular strength and endurance as well as other aspects of functional fitness.
Writing From the Heart and Soul
Expressive writing offers a wide range of benefits for older adults, from overcoming trauma and managing negative emotions to even strengthening the immune system. Some popular ways to get it down on paper while reaping the benefits include:
- Writing about daily experiences in a journal
- Preserving your life story for younger generations
- Unpacking difficult emotions and processing grief by writing essays, poetry, haiku or songs
- Making a "top 10" gratitude list each day before retiring
The Healing Benefits of Music
Did you know that people who play instruments have better connectivity between their left and right brains? The left brain controls the motor functions required to hit the piano keys or strum the guitar strings, while the right brain focuses on the melody. When the two hemispheres of your brain communicate with each other, your cognitive function improves.
Seniors who love to sing, whether soloing in the shower or joining others in a choir or barbershop quartet, reap a variety of physical and mental health benefits. These include:
- Enhanced immune response
- Improved lung function
- Decrease in stress hormones
- Strong feelings of connectedness to others (group cohesion) that surpass those reported in sports teams
The healing benefits of music are especially important for people in all stages of dementia, even the most advanced. At Brightview, all of our Wellspring Village™ associates learn how each memory care resident identifies with music. By choosing music associated with positive life events and memories, we help our residents calm down when agitated, communicate when language is lost and move when they've been previously immobile.
Our signature Mind & Music program uses Sonos Sound Systems to deliver music to our memory care neighborhood's common spaces, such as the dining room and activities areas. We also create portable, personalized playlists and collaborate with music professionals to design expressive programs for each resident.
At Brightview, we're passionate about finding new ways for our residents to express themselves through arts, crafts, music and dance. We offer many different classes and activities throughout the month, and we always vary the activities to keep the calendar exciting. Schedule a visit, and see for yourself!