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Art therapy reminds the elderly that they can

DATE: 10/1/2017 | Articles

Sophia Koukourli, Art Psychotherapist

Art therapy group with old people having no mental dysfunctions

During normal aging the brain goes through structural and functional changes, even though there is no record of a complete cognitive failure of people. The changes that go together with normal aging include biological changes, changes in the cognitive functions, the executive functions, the memory and to a lesser extent on the speech and the visual-spatial functionality.

For elderly with no mental dysfunctions, maintaining high mental skills and physical functions, along with participating in life, constitute important factors of their normal aging. As the most important skill, that of maintaining social contact is mentioned last so as to give emphasis. The existence of a human network acts in a activating and supporting way while simultaneously it reinforces the feeling of satisfaction, belonging to a social group, self-esteem, the willingness to set new goals and their realization.

Art therapy offers the old a unique opportunity to get involved in a creative activity so as to make it easier for them to communicate, manage emotions and participate in a re-evaluation of life. Art therapy can be an exciting experience when people are made capable to re-structure their inner stories. Thus, older people are given the chance to smoothly continue aging, maintaining their former interests and activities, rich in experiences, knowledge, prudence and wisdom.

A small art therapy group (5-7 people) can help in reducing social isolation and offer a sense of bond and support. The sharing of the materials and the help that the one gives to the other may help the participants conceive their powers and remind them that they can still offer.

Painting constitutes a particularly expressive language though which the way the creator perceives the elements and the world is revealed, in their real and schematic dimension, aesthetic expression, in their colored-based particularity, in their symbolism, their special importance as well as their emotional expansion that they have for their creator. The multi-sensory experience of art, activated the members of the art group therapy, strengthened their memory and released emotions. The members experimented with both the materials and their relationships, they expressed satisfaction about the teamwork and independence at times, while the work of art was produced and shared with a group.

In the teamwork products emphasis was given to the interaction of the members of the group through the common work of art. Through this creative process they learned how to co-exist, communicate, contact with sharing, co-operate, and respect one another’s difference. The work of art was above all else a visual reminder that they are still in possession of executing and learning new things. It focused on the actions and the re-actions of the participants among them and encouraged the members of the group to respond positively to participation and communication.

Art therapy gives the opportunity to elderly people without mental dysfunctions re-structure their life in search of a “new meaning” and therefore be able to fully enjoy the late years of their life.

The important activities of life are thus maintained in older people and they can learn to contribute to society, irrespective of the natural burden that comes with aging or the increasing health problems. Being able to continue the mental, social and normal activities throughout their circle of life is the best thing to maintain their mental health during aging.


Bibliographical references:

1.    Balogiannis S. I..,(44-3-01), The confrontation of old age through the ages,, 23.4.14
2.    Likouraw L., Politis A., Gournellis R., Maillis A., ( 2011), Elements of Old Age Psychiatry, Vita Medical Publishers, Athens
3.    Kalat W.J., (2003), Biological Psychology II, The Impact of Age on Memory, Hellin, Athens 
4.    Balogiannis S.I., (44-1-01), Neurology as expressed in Painting,, 23.4.1

The images are subject to intellectual property laws and therefore cannot be reproduced.

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“Knowing thyself” (gnothi sauton) is the actual getting to knowing ourselves. Its true essence lies in caring for the soul, self-awareness, awareness of our skills, abilities and potential. It helps us understand the way we could act in order to gain the real self-awareness.

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