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Becoming an Artist Later in Life: Reasons to Get Started

Two multi-ethnic senior women sitting outdoors at easels painting pictures on canvases. The focus is on the African American woman who is holding a paintbrush and looking up at her artwork as she laughs.

Renowned painter Grandma Moses was in her seventies when she began painting, while folk artist Bill Traylor had his first exhibition in New York City at 89 years old. American sculptor Louise Bourgeois, who is best known for her monumental spider sculptures, reached her greatest success in her late seventies.

Of course, not every senior who takes up art will make it big; nonetheless, seniors can benefit in many ways from taking up a new artistic hobby. Here’s what studies show.

Community: Strengthening connections with art

Arts classes, ranging from painting to music and theater, are a great way to connect with a new community. Research has shown, for example, that participating in a community choir every week improved seniors’ emotional well-being by reducing feelings of loneliness.

Art classes can help shy seniors overcome social anxiety too. Focusing on a project allows quieter adults to talk to others without becoming the center of attention. Group activities like choirs or improv classes also provide interactive direction for seniors who haven’t made new friends in a long time. 

In short, senior-focused classes provide a judgment-free space where the goal is simply to have fun and learn something new. They can also help older adults reconnect with an earlier interest they haven’t been able to explore in recent years.

Staying positive: Increased self-esteem

According to the National Institute on Aging, “music, theater, dance, creative writing, and other participatory arts shows promise for improving older adults’ quality of life and well-being, from better cognitive function, memory, and self-esteem to reduced stress and increased social interaction.”

Registered and a board certified art therapist Barbara Bagan, Ph. D is a firm believer in artistic expression as a way of alleviating the symptoms of depression and anxiety that are brought on by chronic diseases. Bagan has witnessed how imagination and creativity can flourish in older adults, “helping them to realize unique, unlived potentials, even when suffering from Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.”

Another great thing about art is the low barrier to entry. While there are techniques and styles to learn, there are no real rules. Seniors who struggle with mobility or fine motor problems can still make art; the only thing that is required in an art class is a desire to create. Materials and techniques can even be adapted to the needs of those with physical or cognitive difficulties.

It may not be possible to take up a physically demanding sport like gymnastics, but it’s never too late for seniors to learn a new artform.

Feeling young: Intergenerational opportunities

Research shows that young people and seniors working together on art benefit from increased social connection with other generations. Intergenerational art classes help both age groups discover their commonalities, appreciate their differences, and learn to value what others bring to the experience.

Both groups get to learn new techniques and get new perspectives on life, a win-win that makes intergenerational art projects a great tool for improving community and understanding. Making art with younger people can also help seniors feel more youthful themselves, whereas the young people gain positive attitudes and hopeful outlooks towards the future.

In The Art of Grandparenting, gerontology specialists at North Dakota State University explain how grandparents can connect with their grandchildren through stories, pictures, and arts projects. “Grandparents play a key role in making memories for grandchildren,” specialists state. “Grandparents can connect a child with the past, pass on family memories, and make memories together in the present.” Arts projects are a great way to initiate that connection.

Whether you’re an accomplished artist or just looking to explore your creative side, come create your next masterpiece at Winchester Gardens’ own fine art studio. That’s only one of the many services and amenities our senior living community in Maplewood , NJ has to offer – contact us to schedule a visit today.

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Winchester gardens outdoor path in daytime

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