Art Therapy with seniors can take many interesting paths. One that I love doing is capitalizing on the experience and knowledge that seniors possess, including seniors facing Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia, in it’s various forms. Because art is so sensory, sensory memories can be recalled through using art media, and inter-playing the session with verbal cues and counseling. Being strengths based, this approach has a positive outcome for all, despite whatever cognitive ability they do or do not possess.
Because cooking with seniors, especially women, was such a central part of their lives for this generation of seniors, I try to employ as many senses as possible. From using spices, recipe recall (as best as possible) seniors can recall and revel in an area they were “expert” in, the keeping of a home and preparing a meal. Food is also one of the most unrestricted areas seniors can enjoy in environments such as nursing homes, senior centers, and other institutional environments.
In one art session I can use various pungent spices, and employ them as art materials. This allows seniors to have all sorts of sensory stimulation, visually from the art they make, stimulating the sense of smell from the spices, or even engaging them with a simple instant chicken broth, and with the sense of touch coming from other food materials used in artmaking, such as various colored beans The left side of their brains becomes engaged by verbally recalling recipies, having me the art therapist be there “secretary” and take down what they remember to the best of their ability Capitalizing on strengths, sessions such as these leave the senior feeling accomplished, positive and competent.