‘Art for Wellbeing’ is a series of online visual arts experiences that are calming, enjoyable, exploratory, sensory, actively engaging and expressive. Art Friends has designed these experiences based on the evidence that creativity is beneficial for your health and wellbeing. The focus is on the creative process and the ‘self’ rather than an end product. The program is for all people of all ages in various physical and psychological states.
Our Wellbeing Lessons have been used in aged care facilities with very positive outcomes. The aim is to use art to create a sense of calm and to help reduce anxiety in all ages. The lessons use different media and each experience is very achievable .
The use of art as a way of connecting to others. It is deeply satisfying and provides stimulation and a sense of purpose.
Failing memory worries us all as we grow older, however, it has been found that art participation keeps your brain healthy by keeping neuro-chemical reactions working efficiently. Artist Guy Warren, who is still painting and exhibiting at the age of 100, declared recently that he only feels like a forty-year-old. According to studies by internationally renowned pioneer of neuron regeneration research Dr Lawrence Katz, mental decline is primarily attributed to the reduced or breakdown communication between brain cells, not from the death of brain cells themselves. Working on art is part of ‘neurobics’, a term created by Dr. Katz to refer to brain exercises that utilize your senses – sight, sound, touch, taste and smell – in non-routine ways. Sensory exploration is very much part of the aesthetic experience and Art Friends will endeavour to use the human senses as much as possible in the delivery of its programs. The loss of communication between brain cells occurs when the branches of our nerve cells become lazy and remain idle for too long. Katz’s findings reaffirms the adage ‘use it or loss it’ (Castillo 2013).
Retirement has been found to impact adversely on well-being. Dr. Barbara Bagan, professor of expressive arts therapy at Ottawa University, encourages aging individuals to pursue arts activity to enhance cognitive function, to help them relax, improve a sense of control, and a sense of identity and self-esteem (Bagan). Neurological research shows that making art can improve cognitive function by producing new neural pathways and strengthening the connections between brain cells (Mahenfran 2018).
With an increasing aging population, it makes sense to investigate activities that would maintain and improve wellbeing of residents in aged care (Roswiyani, Kwakkenbos, Spijker & Witteman 2017). Loneliness and social isolation adversely affect older people’s wellbeing. Despite living in close proximity with their peers, people in aged care homes often suffer loneliness. The authors of this study also referred to a literature review that found the most prevalent health outcome of loneliness in old age was depression, while for social isolation it was cardiovascular problems (Courtain & Knapp 2017).
‘Creative Journeys’, a participatory arts initiative in Essex in the U.K., provided people living in aged care homes opportunities to participate in arts activities i.e., visual arts, dance and music. The qualitative data taken from the studies shows that the arts activities enabled older people to express themselves creatively and brought meaningful contribution to their social relationships (Dadswell, Bungay, Wilson and Munn-Giddings 2020).
‘Arts on Prescription’ for community-dwelling older people (65+) with a range of health and wellness needs, found some positive results. The study is the first evaluation of arts on prescription for older people in Australia and found that it had a positive impact on mental wellbeing and creativity due to the program’s ability to foster a sense of purpose, enable personal growth, achievement, empower participants and foster the development of meaningful relation (Poulos 2019)
This article is an extract of a research paper written and prepared for Art Friends. The full article and references is on the Art Friends website. https://www.artfriends.com.au/#
Art for Wellbeing: The Evidence Base
By Dani Chak Educator and Sandra Raponi-Saunders Clinical Psychologist