Art and aging, a healing combination

“Age is an issue of mind over matter.
If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
~ Mark Twain

Last month I attended a discussion on Arts and Aging with the Chicago Painters and Artists Meetup Group. Fabiana Glazer is the owner of GoldMind: Arts and Aging, focused on bringing more arts to more older adults, including arts on dementia treatment.

“One of the things about art is that you can’t be wrong.
It is also very personal.”
~ Fabiana Glazer

She spent 15 years in arts education, including Assistant Director of ArtReach and Director of Community and Business Programs at Lillstreet. She was inspired to form GoldMind at her NEA sponsored training for “Creative Aging” with The Creative Center: Arts in Healthcare in NYC in 2011.

“There is a stigma to working with older adults.
No one wants to age.”
~ Fabiana Glazer

Noting that by 2030 there will be more older adults than school-age children, Fabiana said there is a new initiative to hold off on institutionalized long-term care as long as possible, which can cost up to $10,000 a day. Aging in place, allowing older people to stay where they are, is far more beneficial, as studies show that those who are placed in long-term care decline rapidly.

“The minute a man ceases to grow,
no matter what his years, that minute he begins to be old.”

~ William James  

However, studies by Dr. Gene Cohen, the first chief of the Center on Aging at the National Institute of Mental Health study, show that older adults engaged in arts activities:

  • are happier!
  • gain a new sense of identity
  • can live at home longer
  • use less medication
  • fall down less often
  • visit the doctor less
  • suffer fewer adverse side effects from medications
  • score lower on loneliness scale

Fabiana and her associates teach weekly 90-minute classes to promote this positive effect, which also results in more engagement and a sense of mastery in the participants. She pointed out that she is not an art therapist, but an art teacher, her focus is on making art, not on the art as a tool to get to something else. Learning something new makes participants happy, she said.

“Art is great because it is engaging.
It is an opportunity for lifelong learning.”
~ Fabiana Glazer

Noting that Alzheimers Disease affects 5 million Americans and is predicted to rise to 8.5 million in 2016, Fabiana also works with dementia patients. A cause is still elusive, and dementia is detected earlier and earlier, even when people are in their 50s, Fabiana said.

Creating art helps bring memories back. It ‘reactivates’ brian cells to where patients remember who they are, which can last for up to 24 hours.

“There is no reason you can’t be making new parts of your brain
as you lose part of your brain.”
~ Fabiana Glazer

The 10-week classes help participants overcome grief and loss, and gives them a sense of community. Fabiana said that participants will keep in touch after the course has been completed.

“Art is a magic cure all for depression and aging.
You can drive your own learning, it is infinite.
Artists have the highest quality of life in older age.”
~ Fabiana Glazer

So here’s another great reason to make art: to prevent or slow the effects of aging!

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