Simple Art Projects to Engage Seniors


Art is powerful. The visual and creative arts, in particular, are accessible to everyone. So, how does art affect people with dementia or others who are in elder care? In the very same way it touches us all, which is a magnificent thing.

Scrapbooking for Seniors

This project is a lot of work. However, it is a labor of love. Gather your loved one’s pictures from the old shoeboxes or albums that have seen better days and transform them into treasures that will last a lifetime. The memories made and stories shared during the process will be priceless.

Tip #1 – Use acid-free archival quality mounting paper. It costs just a few pennies more and will keep your pictures safe forever.

Tip #2 – Use your smartphone to capture the stories that are sure to surface while you are working on the scrapbooking project.

Good Old Fashioned Coloring

It was an activity that many of us loved as children. Even the smell of a new box of Crayola’s brings back memories. Coloring is not only creative, but it’s also relaxing and calming. Studies have shown that it is alsohelpful in reducing stress.

“Amazing things occurred — we saw changes in heart rate, and brain waves during the activity,” one researcher told theAustralian Broadcasting Corporation. It is possible that part of this neurological response comes from repetition and attention focused on patterns and in details associated with colors.

Tip #3 – Don’t choose coloring books that are too detailed for your senior loved one. These may prove too difficult for shaking hands. Instead, choose coloring books with larger areas to fill.

Tip #4 – This is a great activity for when you bring the kids to see your senior loved one, either at home or in a residential care environment. Coloring is a familiar activity they can do together to improve bonding and social interaction.

Make Greeting Cards

Get creative with a nice set of gel pens and colorful card stock paper. Have your loved one decorate the cards by gluing buttons or other embellishments to the cards and then write a personal message for them to send to family and friends who live far away and are unable to visit. This is not only an artistic craft but it also helps them feel connected to their far-away family.

Another Type of Art Therapy

Art therapy is a term that frequently conjures up the idea of students creating art themselves. However, simply being exposed to art is extremely effective. Viewing art can evoke memories and emotions, stimulate discussion and furthers curiosity. As people, the elderly often find it hard to express themselves, so the benefits of appreciating art are obvious: they feel engaged and learn to appreciate the value of their conversation and opinions.

In response to these benefits, and as part of their mission to make art accessible to all, the Museum of Modern Art in New York began theMoMA Alzheimer’s Projectin 2006. The MoMA has a variety of programs for those with dementia and the undeniable drive to connect families through art. The MoMA’s program has inspired many other museums to create similar programming, making this wonderful way to connect with those with dementia increasingly easier and exciting.

Of course, creating art is also amazingly beneficial to people with dementia. Making art is relaxing and helps relieve feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. It also engages and stimulates many aspects of the body, requiring motor skills, planning abilities and visual recognition, all of which can deteriorate with dementia. Art students reconnect with these abilities, building confidence and promoting further interaction with others.