By Colleen Van Horn RN, B.S.N., PHN, CCM
The human brain is a muscle just like any other in our body. When this muscle begins to atrophy through a loss of mental stimulation, memories are fuzzier, sharpness is reduced and our abilities are somewhat dulled. Many experts say this precise decline leads many seniors into the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
When it comes to keeping our mind razor sharp, it’s critical that we continue to stimulate our minds through activity and change. In a
, evidence points to the therapeutic power of creative pastimes like art, music and movement.
"Patients may become more attuned emotionally as their verbal and visual memory begins to deteriorate," said Dr. Brandy Matthews, an investigator for the Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center in the article.
But in addition to keeping minds strong and alert, the arts can also play a role in stimulating memories. According to the latest research, nursing home residents were shown to have increased behavioral responses when listening to music, dancing or creating art including memory rejuvenation. Residents were also less agitated and had fewer hallucinations.
Movement is particularly important. The simple act of dancing has been shown to have therapeutic benefits on the elderly. Dance can help increase vitality and social interaction, leading to a positive impact in areas like depression, loneliness or lack of power.
"Because we operate on a cognitive level, a person with dementia is not likely to use the telephone, but working with people with dementia through dance, we get to connect on a social level and on a body level," said Donna Newman-Bluestein, a spokeswoman for the American Dance Therapy Association and a dance therapist.
"Dance therapy is about the full range of human expression. ... It can be as small as breathing and it can be as vibrant as the Argentine tango,” she added.
ELDERLY & THE ARTS: STIMULATING THE LIVES OF THOSE WE LOVE
We can do a lot to improve the lives of our senior loved ones starting with the arts. When it comes to implementing an art or dance program, it’s easy. Here are 3 simple ways to get started.
Morning is the perfect time to introduce movement since energy levels are likely to be higher than late in the day. Play classic tunes for one hour after breakfast and encourage residents to get up and dance. Most seniors are likely to move to music they know, so be sure to play the popular hits from the 40s, 50s and 60s.
There’s something inherently relaxing about drawing a picture. Invite residents to sit outdoors with a sketch pad and a pencil. Ask them draw out a scene or an object. You can even offer a prize to the winner of the best sketch based on popular vote. This activity is not only fun but it’s also inexpensive and easy to implement into an activity program.
Make the weekend interesting for seniors by implementing a Saturday craft activity every week. Crafts offer the elderly mental as well as physical stimulation since it involves careful use of the mind and the hands. Activities can range from basket-weaving to making dream-catchers – crafts don’t have to be complicated to be fun. Keep it simple and inexpensive and seniors are still sure to enjoy crafting.
Seniors who have stimulated lives are able to enjoy their sunset years to the fullest. We are experts in providing options for care to meet your needs after assessment by professional certified Geriatric Care Manager.
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