ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Art Therapy for Senior Citizens: Do’s and Don’ts

Updated on August 3, 2019
PAINTDRIPS profile image

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40+ years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

Source

Dos and Don'ts

For a decade and a half, I was privileged to bring watercolor classes to the elderly in my community through a city program. It would still be going on today if not for the budget cuts that brought the free program to an end. These are some of the do’s and don’ts I learned from the experience.

Source

Don't Rush

The elderly don’t like to be rushed.

Unfortunately, my boss wanted me to complete a class in one hour and clean up, jump in the car, drive to the next site, unload all the supplies, set up and paint for one hour again. I found it stressful because they were waiting for me, and the elderly didn’t like me to be late. Yet those at the first site hated to stop and clean up if they were still in the middle of their painting. The ideal thing would be to have no more than one class a day and spent two to three hours there. Unfortunately, I had to answer to a higher power: my boss, the director of the program. She wanted me at as many sites around town as she could get me to in a week, and all before lunch each day. Sometimes the seniors would get cranky with me because I had to take the paint and brushes and leave, but eventually, they understood I had to. While I was there I tried to be pleasant and as relaxed as possible, but I can’t lie; I was stressed with the time management. After a week like that, I felt I needed the Art Therapy.

Show them but don't paint for them.
Show them but don't paint for them. | Source

Don't Paint For Them

The elderly will let you do it for them: so don’t.

I had more than one who wanted an excellent painting to take home… SO they wanted me to do it or at least “touch it up” after they painted. I did a few… BIG MISTAKE. I suppose it is like your kids. If you ever want them to tie their own shoes you have to make them do it themselves. Some kids want to and others want you to perpetually do it FOR them. The seniors were like that. Some didn’t want me to touch their paintings and others would rather I did for them so they could show family when they got home, how talented THEY were. I had to stop helping in that way or I’d be painting everyone’s picture from then on. I didn’t mind helping with a real problem but doing it for them was just not an option.

It is never too late to be what you might have been.

— George Eliot
My demonstration
My demonstration | Source

Kleptos

Beware. Some senior citizens are kleptomaniacs.

I hate to be the one to report this but it’s true. Not all of course, but many would steal paint brushes, paint pallets, and unguarded purses. One sweet elderly gentleman had a bag attached to his walker. He would sweetly shuffle up to the table, look over my set up, and stealthily sweep the brushes into his bag before shuffling off to the next table to sit down. His daughter returned them to me the following week, apologizing. His explanation was basically that he was old; that he had paid his dues, and everything, including my brushes, should be free to him now. I understand and I’m not mad. I just didn’t want to have to pay for new brushes out of my own pocket to replace the city’s equipment.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t really an isolated incident. There were several situations like that that happened over the years and I got to where I kept an extra close watch on my purse and my equipment. Dementia is a horrible thing, and but for the Grace of God, it could happen to me someday. I want to be as kind and patient with these sweet folks as I hope others will be with me someday.

A change of scenery is always nice.
A change of scenery is always nice. | Source

You will never win if you never begin.

— Helen Rowland
Source

Dos And Don'ts

Do remind the elderly that this is Art, not math. It doesn't have to be perfect - only creative.

Don't repaint anyone's work. It leads them to believe they aren't good enough. Even if they ask you to touch it up, you shouldn't. First, you would end up "touching up" everyone's painting from then on. Second, "touching up" would tear down the confidence you were trying to build in them. Encourage them to try to you (and they) will be amazed by what they can accomplish.

Do remind them, "There are no mistakes in art - only happy accidents." Bob Ross

Don't leave them to figure out what to do by themselves. Paint the picture with them to demonstrate step-by-step how you achieved the end result.

Source

More Dos and Don'ts

Do bring a finished painting "sample" for them to see.

Don't create a picture with too many complicated details. Most seniors cannot see as well as they used to and need large areas of color to paint. Big blue skies and big oceans; purple mountains and big green trees; close-up pink and red flowers. On these, you can add a few details to make the picture exciting to look at. It will be a challenge of balance for you each week.

Do bring the drawing already done for each student. If the drawings are already prepared the "fun" can begin immediately.

Don't create anything you could not paint in 15 minutes or your elderly will not be able to finish it in an hour.

Do make sure you have space enough for everyone to paint comfortable and still see the original "sample" picture you brought. A long 8-foot table works best.

Don't point out a "problem" in a senior's painting without drawing attention to something they painted well first. Also, be prepared with a solution to the "problem" you point out, such as adding a shadow, lightening up a dark spot with more water, or blending a "hard-line".

Do enjoy the company of the senior's of your community. They are such wonderful people to be around and full of sage advice and amazing anecdotes.

One of my classes
One of my classes | Source

“Fine Art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together”

— John Ruskin
One of my classes
One of my classes | Source

Exercise

Encourage seniors to exercise.

My painting program was not the only program for the seniors waiting for lunch. They had some very gentle chair exercises a couple of times a week. There was an elderly generated band once a week that encouraged dancing and singing some oldies. During the summer, there were even some water aerobics classes available. Many would play cards or board games as well as sitting and chatting. It was a great program for people who need to get out and do something. If you want to know if there is something similar available in your town, check out your local parks department and see.

Source

Final Thoughts

I hope you have gotten something out of all these observations. Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts in the comments below.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia Zirkwitz 

      11 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      A wonderful article that really seems to highlight the sweet gifts of art therapy when the therapist is also an empath and someone who has done her own work!

      I had a little chuckle about some seniors being "kleptos" although I know that that could probably have been quite challenging at times with a group of seniors looking to you to help them along with their paintings.

      Lovely! I look forward to reading more of your articles.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Eric Dierker,

      Art therapy is good for any age to be sure. I can't tell you how many seniors told me that they had not painted anything since Kindergarten. That makes me so sad. It isn't something just for the very young or very old. It's for everyone and beneficial to all. I'm glad you are indulging in art! Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      12 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Look over there. Don't look at this youngster. I am starting my art therapy on my own. How can we deny what good this does us. I will let my children correct my work. But I am young still. I promise not to steal my son's stuff and put it back. Maybe ;-) Loud old time rock and roll on the "stereo". Let all of us old looking folk create art. Great stuff here my good friend.

      Perhaps I can put off stuff until much later, at least in my head.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Louise Powles,

      There is something very special about being able to create something out of nothing. It gives people great joy. I'm happy for your Gran. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      12 months ago from Norfolk, England

      This is such a worthwhile thing you did. My Gran was in a care home, and they used to have people come in there and do arts and crafts. She really enjoyed it.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)