Art Therapy for Seniors

Art Therapy is fun and chalk full of benefits for aging seniors in all stages of life. The positives in creating art are countless, here are some top reasons to get started now:

  • Enhances cognitive function and improves motor skills
  • Offers a creative outlet
  • Helps individuals relax
  • Assists in socialization
  • Facilitates communication increasing self-esteem
  • Offers sensory stimulation
  • Reduces boredom which can lead to depression
  • Provides a sense of control

Continue reading for tips on how you, as a family caregiver or as an Activities Director for a senior community, can use art as therapy for your senior loved ones or residents.

Getting Started

Choose an art medium that will highlight the inner talent of your loved one or resident. It may be a type of art that he or she has experience with or they may want experiment with something new. Beginning with inspiration helps spark one’s imagination whether they are beginners or experienced in the art making process.

For a project that has produced highly positive results among residents in various cognitive stages, you can do the following:

Lay out interesting image(s) cut out of magazines or books. Images can then be collaged on a page using a glue stick. For the final step, use acrylic paint to color in desired areas. I have found that National Geographic and old picture books have nice images to work from. Two of my residents with dementia painted on top of pages I tore out of an old black and white story book. They were very proud of their pieces which sold for high bids at the auction I organized. Titles are “Man’s Best Friend” and “Window Gazing”

Art Therapy for SeniorsArt Therapy for Seniors


Another go-to favorite activity are adult coloring books. They are flying off the shelves this year with their popular geometric and floral designs not widely available in the past. Check your local hobby or book store for availability.

Suggested Therapeutic Tools

  • Acrylic paints
  • Adult coloring books
  • Chalk pastels
  • Finger paint
  • Charcoal
  • Clay
  • Collage
  • Crayons/colored pencils
  • Floral arrangement (natural or silk)
  • Jewelry making accessories (larger beads work best)
  • Photography
  • Stamping
  • Water color
  • Weaving

Tips for Seniors with Limited Dexterity

Try a medium that is easier to hold on to and requires little pressure to see results, such as thick pieces of chalk in darker colors, stamps dipped in paint, or large paint brushes to paint on a large surface area. If your loved one longer has range of motion or the ability to grip tools on their own, you can hold their hand in yours and gently guide them along. Some of my most memorable and precious moments are those using this technique with residents who where in late stages of dementia. Even in the late stages, it can be surprising how much a senior is capable of doing with some guidance and inspiration.

Tips for Seniors with Severe Cognitive Decline

Paint can be a great tool to use; however, be careful with colors that visually appear to be food. Red or yellow paint may be confused with ketchup or mustard. Always use non toxic paint and stick to non appetizing colors such as blues and greens. This helps to reduce confusion keeping the focus on the activity. In addition, blues and greens promote calmness and relaxation.

Art Therapy is not only beneficial to someone with dementia but for caregivers as well. Art can act as an outlet to relieve stress and promote positivity. Getting creative is a win-win for everyone. I encourage you to try something new today and see just what it can do for you!

Kristin is a native Texan who is experienced in the senior care industry having worked for several facilities as a Wellness and Life Enrichment Director and Alzheimers and Dementia Care Coordinator. Her passions are teaching art to senior citizens, writing and going on adventures with her husband and baby girl. Her favorite motto is: LIVE FOR TODAY


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