Can Engaging in Creative Activities Help You Avoid Alzheimer's Disease?
Art therapy has become a proven form of self-expression for people of all ages. It is used in hospitals, schools, assisted living communities, hospice programs, and many other settings. The profession of art therapy has been steadily gaining recognition and support over the past few decades, and it’s easy to understand why.
The benefits of working with a trained art therapist have been described as “transformative.” Among its many benefits, art has been shown to build self-esteem among adults with Alzheimer’s, enhance social skills in children, and help resolve difficult feelings and emotions during times of crisis or loss.
But can engaging in the creative arts actually protect cognitive health and prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s from developing? Does art promote a healthier brain?
Because Alzheimer’s researchers haven’t yet found a cause for the disease, it’s difficult to say with certainty that artistic endeavors can prevent Alzheimer’s. There are, however, a number of experts who say there is enough anecdotal evidence to make it worth considering. One study in particular is interesting.
Research Exploring Arts and Crafts and Alzheimer’s Prevention
In a 2015 study published in Neurology magazine, researchers looked at ways to prevent cognitive impairment among the fastest-growing demographic of people in the United States. That is, adults aged 85 and older.
Here’s a quick look at the project, which was supported by the National Institute on Aging, the Mayo Foundation for Medical, and the Rochester Epidemiology 53 Project.
- There were 256 participants with an average age of 87.
- Participants were considered to have good cognitive health at the start of the study.
- Over four years, participants documented their engagement in creative arts such as painting, drawing, sculpting, pottery, woodworking, quilting, and other similar arts and crafts activities.
- Participants also logged time spent engaged in socializing (e.g., trips to the movies with friends, book clubs), researching online, and traveling.
By the study’s conclusion, there were several noticeable patterns:
- 121 participants developed mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
- Those who engaged in art projects in both middle and old age were 73 percent less likely to develop MCI than peers who did not.
- Participants who engaged in craft-style projects in middle and old age were 45 percent less likely to develop MCI.
- Participants who spent time socializing in middle and old age were 55 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who spent more time alone or were isolated.
- Computer users had a 53 percent reduced risk of MCI.
While it’s only one study, it’s one in a growing number that seem to indicate that protecting your brain means continuing to learn new things, tackle original projects, and stay engaged in the world around you.
We’ve witnessed the power of creativity firsthand in Sunrise communities across the country, and you can, too. Watch this video to see how art enables our residents to Live With Purpose!