Painting activities have many benefits for seniors, and I was fortunate to see the benefits of art therapy firsthand when I became my dad’s caregiver.
Are you interested in learning more about the benefits of arts and crafts for seniors?
Continue reading for more information.
Table of Contents
Why is Art Important for Seniors?
You could be there wondering why your elderly father should try art. I couldn’t make the connection between art and healthy living.
One of the benefits is that it reduces feelings of depression in seniors and boosts their hand dexterity(1).
For me, being healthy was all about staying active and eating well. Art was for the art-inclined people, or so I thought.
That’s until I stumbled upon research saying art has myriad benefits for seniors (2).
Seniors can’t lift weights or take a ten-mile run every other day. Their lives are more sedentary than those of young adults. Enter art therapy.
Art gives seniors a feeling of independence besides the below benefits.
1. Art Activities Provide a Sense of Purpose
A senior’s daily routine barely includes many things that can add meaning to their lives. Dr. Barbara Pagan says art will infuse a sense of purpose into the lives of seniors (3).
That’s because immersing their minds in creative activities keeps away the lonely and despairing thoughts.
2. Art Activities Need Little Exertion
One reason art supplies some of the best hobbies for seniors with limited mobility is the little exertion it needs.
Older people lack the fine motor skills they need to perform highly exerting hobbies (4). That makes art projects essential to keeping them active and boosting their quality of life.
3. Promote Psychological and Physiological Healing
Art crafts for seniors promote psychological and physiological healing. Seniors with dementia can improve their hand movement by involving them in arts and crafts. (3)
Think of it as each paintbrush stroke making a senior better physically and psychologically.
4. Reducing the Effects of Cognitive Decline
Cognitive impairment is always at the door for any senior, as degenerative diseases wreak havoc in their lives. Getting them to try a wide range of arts & crafts will help restore some cognitive functions.
5. Promotes Healthy Aging
Engaging in art is a sure path to healthier aging. According to research, art activities can help prevent mild cognitive impairment (5).
It is a good idea for memory care and pleasurable activity to ensure they age more gracefully.
6. Art Is Engaging
For most seniors in a rest home, communication and relating with other seniors can be a tricky affair. Art is one such way to ensure they live an engaged life.
It will help the seniors get out of their shells and communicate better with other seniors in the rest home.
What Are the Benefits of Painting for Seniors?
Most painters say it is relaxing to clutch their paint brushes and paint away. Painting is an escape from real life, which is not always ideal.
But will that be the same for senior people with dementia? What of the many that can no longer see it as a fun activity?
Painting is one of the expressive art activities that can do a lot for any senior. Here are some benefits you’ll see when introducing a senior to painting.
1. Painting Boosts the Health of Seniors
Painting on art boards keeps an older person’s brain sharp. Painting needs someone to tap into their creative brain to create an art form. That’s why it’s an integral part of memory care.
2. Painting Is a Relaxing, Fun Activity
Seniors might have left most relaxing activities such as running or hiking because of limited mobility (6). However, painting is a lovely relaxing activity since it doesn’t need much movement.
3. Improve Communications Skills
For seniors in rest homes, painting can be an avenue for them to interact with other people in the rest home.
As they meet other seniors at their painting tutorials, they get to communicate and build connections. That boosts their communication skills.
4. Improved Motor Skills and Hand Coordination
Younger people usually have fine motor skills. Brain and hand coordination is also top-notch. However, in seniors, motor skills receive a beating from aging and can even disappear.
Besides being a form of expressive arts therapy, painting needs someone to use their hands. Simple drawings on art boards help increase hand-brain coordination and agility.
5. Provides for Creative Expression
You must have heard of or seen the paintings early man drew in caves, right? Creativity has always been part of the human psyche.
Therefore, art enables seniors to express their creativity by conjuring images on artboards.
6. Improves the Sense of Independence
Older adults lose their independence daily, especially with a degenerative disease. That could make them depressed since they aren’t used to someone doing everything for them.
Therefore, art therapy such as painting will help them gain a sense of independence. They’ll use their hands to create images, giving them the satisfaction of using their hands.
7. Keeps Anxiety and Depression at Bay
My dad found the idea of a rest home depressing and lonely. And I think it is. Most seniors don’t know other residents of the rest home, which plays into the hands of depression and anxiety.
Anxious thoughts and depression are difficult to push away when you’re older and lonely. The only way to prevent that is to have an engaged life.
And one excellent way to do that is to learn how to paint.
10 Painting Activities for Seniors
If you need some painting activities, these art ideas for seniors will work fine.
1. Rock Painting
Rock painting is one of the most leisurely activities for a senior to engage in. Besides the sense of accomplishment, the seniors could make some gifts for their grandchildren.
Here is how to do different rock paints.
2. Geometric Tape Painting
Painting using painting tape is another easy-to-do painting activity for seniors. It is one of the best hobbies for shaky hands since the tape ensures the painting has smoother edges.
Here is a step-by-step tutorial on how to do it.
3. Adult Coloring Books
It isn’t only kids who can conjure images in coloring books. Adult coloring books with colorful paper are an ideal painting activity for seniors.
You could get the books and have a senior draw anything that comes to mind or have a simple example for them to follow.
4. Painting Pine Cones
Painting pine cones is a simple yet beautiful process with equally stunning results.
Collect pine cones and have seniors paint the tips of the cones with a wide array of colors to create a beautiful cone.
Learn how to do it here.
5. Fabric Paint Projects
Fabric painting is another simple painting activity for seniors. Get a senior a fabric and let them draw any design that comes to mind.
This beginner tutorial will help.
6. Blank Canvas Painting
Painting from scratch can be difficult for a senior suffering from a degenerative disease. But it’s an entertaining activity as seniors get to show their imagination.
The painting ideas in the below video should help.
7. Coloring Season Trees
One of the most accessible painting activities is coloring already drawn images on a canvas. It works for all seniors regardless of their skill levels since doing it is nearly effortless.
The below YouTube video shows how to do it and is a resource for your benefit.
8. Mirror Leaf Drawing
This painting activity combines the power of natural observation with creativity. Seniors can take an autumn nature walk and show their skills on drawstring leaves.
Here is how to do it.
9. Leaf Painting
Seniors can create memorable art crafts from leaves with leaf drawings. This activity is perfect for when the fall leaves have started to fill yards.
Because it is simple, seniors will enjoy the activity. Here is a beginner tutorial on the process.
10. Paint a Snowman Face
Get a senior a paintbrush and give them a snowman face to paint. It’s relaxing and easy enough for seniors with health issues.
Here is a tutorial on how to do it.
Does art therapy work for seniors?
You bet it does! Research studies have proven that seniors who engage in arts and crafts reduce the risk of cognitive impairment. So, art therapy is an excellent idea for seniors. 
Why is creativity necessary for the elderly?
Creativity from painting or arts & crafts boosts a senior’s spirits and keeps away dark thoughts. It also reduces loneliness and depression by giving seniors a sense of independence and accomplishment.
Are there other arts and crafts seniors can engage in painting?
Yes! Painting doesn’t need to be the only craft activity for seniors. Seniors can try sewing, crocheting, knitting, or even digital photography.
If you were looking for some senior painting activities, I trust my list has given you some fantastic ideas.
There’s no limit to what art therapy can do for a senior. Therefore, give all the ideas listed here a try to spice up a senior’s life.
If you have any new painting ideas you think are perfect for seniors, share them with us in the comments!
- 1. Avenue N. The Arts And Aging: 5 Surprising Insights On Creativity [Internet]. Forbes. [cited 2022 Aug 9]. Available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2016/10/03/the-arts-and-aging-5-surprising-insights-on-creativity/?sh=3674c4687be0
- 2. https://www.facebook.com/NIHAging. Participating in the arts creates paths to healthy aging [Internet]. National Institute on Aging. 2019. Available from: https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/participating-arts-creates-paths-healthy-aging
- 3. Aging: What’s Art Got To Do With It? [Internet]. Todaysgeriatricmedicine.com. 2019. Available from: https://www.todaysgeriatricmedicine.com/news/ex_082809_03.shtml
- 4. Buchalter S. Art Therapy and Creative Coping Techniques for Older Adults [Internet]. Google Books. Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 2011 [cited 2022 Aug 9]. Available from: https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=OJLy_3RRqE4C&oi=fnd&pg=PA3&dq=art+therapy+for+seniors&ots=UMFjp1kIyD&sig=Czz6ofdYfMvWSQ2HBV07feawO0Y&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=art%20therapy%20for%20seniors&f=false
- 5. Geda YE, Topazian HM, Lewis RA, Roberts RO, Knopman DS, Pankratz VS, et al. Engaging in Cognitive Activities, Aging, and Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Population-Based Study. Journal of Neuropsychiatry [Internet]. 2011;23:149–54. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3204924/
- 6. Art Education & Seniors [Internet]. Sinthia Cousineau. [cited 2022 Aug 9]. Available from: https://www.sinthiacousineau.com/art-education–seniors.html