January 23, 2016

How Creative Expression Promotes Healthy Aging

I receive regular “news briefs” from the National Center for Creative Aging (NCAA), a non-profit organization based here in Washington, DC.

Here are the mission and vision statements from their website, along with the group’s three objectives:
The National Center for Creative Aging is dedicated to fostering an understanding of the vital relationship between creative expression and healthy aging, and to developing programs that build upon this understanding. 
A world where all individuals flourish across their lifespan through creative expression.  
  • To act as a catalyst, convener and connector promoting research and public policy that enables the development of evidence-based best practices and model programs in the field of creative aging.
  • To support professional development across disciplines and occupations in creative aging that produces an innovative and robust workforce of artists, educators and advocates.
  • To build capacity in community service organizations including aging, the arts, education and health care to provide accessible, high quality arts programs that meet the needs of an aging population. 
Their newletters and news briefs are free, and signing up takes just a minute on their website. 

Here’s the new brief I received in my email inbox on January 20. It demonstrates the many ways that creative expression can promote healthy aging.

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Music Is a Powerful Tool for Healthy Aging
Modern brain imaging has been used to observe how our brains process and are affected by music. And this research continues to confirm that music is a powerful tool for brain health and healthy aging. The affect of music begins early in life. Neuroscientists warn that when school districts cut music programs, kids miss out on an important tool to enhance learning across the board—from language to mathematics to emotional intelligence. Playing and listening to music also protects our memories. Other benefits of music include improving emotional state, decreasing the perception of pain, improving sleep quality, and the capacity to reach hidden brain areas.
Aginginstride.com, January, 2016

Daily Checkup: Music therapy shows dramatic results; patients with range of different diseases taking note
The director of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Dr. Joanne Loewy is a certified music therapist. She uses music to help treat a range of diseases, from asthma to stroke to autism in many different treatment settings. The benefits of music therapy include, decrease in falls, enhancement of language and mood, reduction in respiratory symptoms, and improved psychological well-being.
Daily News, December 27, 2015

A Dose of Singing Does Stroke Patients Good
In Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital, the choir, Singing Together Measure by Measure, is made up of those who have had strokes and those who care for them, both family members and health-care professionals. The group is part of a clinical trial, led by Joanne Loewy, director of the hospital's Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine. The trial is centered around a phenomenon in which some people who can't speak can still sing. Having a stroke often destroys the part of the brain used for speech. Music, which uses a more complex area, can help restore lost brain function.
The Wall Street Journal, December 23, 2015

Looking at the Social and Emotional Benefits of the Arts
NEA program analyst Melissa Menzer reflected on a recently released NEA report, The Arts in Early Childhood: Social and Emotional Benefits of the Arts. This report reviews empirical research published since 2000 on arts participation and early childhood social-emotional development, which includes behaviors such as helping, sharing, and caring. In one study featured in the report, researchers used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort to examine how family routines, like singing songs and playing with blocks, was associated with school readiness and social-emotional skills. They found that in general at least two out of three parents reported regular engagement with their young children in these activities, and that regular family engagement in the arts were positively related to social-emotional development. Other studies are included in the NEA report, along with a gap analysis and priority research questions that stemmed from the literature review.
Arts.gov, December 21, 2015

How art therapy may help children raised in poverty, violence, and other trauma
An art therapy program run out of Drexel University's Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services Center, through a collaboration with Spring Garden School was created in response to the growing number of children in North Philadelphia living with trauma including parental divorce and unsafe neighborhoods. The program has had a positive impact on the neighborhood children. They are less angry and depressed and more capable of controlling their tempers. Even an hour a week of art therapy has led to a reduction in bullying and class disruptions.
Philly.com, December 20, 2015

Peace With Dementia
TimeSlips is a story telling project that provides caregivers and caregiving organizations with visual tools for engaging those with dementia through improvisational storytelling. Founded by Professor of Theatre, Anne Basting, at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, TimeSlips allows family, volunteers, and professional to be storytellers. This project has a positive effect on participants because it presents a fun challenge, returns a role back to people who have had so many roles taken away by dementia, and strengthens the relationships of the storytellers.
Carepartnermentoring.com, December 19, 2015

A Training Ground for Untrained Artists
Creative Growth, an art center serving adult artists with developmental, mental and physical disabilities, was created by Florence Ludins-Katz, an artist and educator, and her husband, Elias Katz, a psychologist. Alarmed by the mass closure of psychiatric hospitals in California during the 1950's and 1960's they founded the center to provide therapeutic support, vocational training, and a space where those with disabilities could be creative. Throughout the existence of Creative Growth, it's artists have held successful gallery openings, sold their work to companies including Facebook, and have been commissioned to create many more. This organization has led artists with disabilities to feel accepted by their community while experiencing pride in their work, affirmation, and encouragement.
The New York Times, December 16, 2015

The Art of Alzheimer's: The Artist Within
On January 8, 2016 The Art of Alzheimer's presented The Artist Within in Seattle, Washington, featuring 50 artworks by individuals age 60-101 living with Alzheimer's and dementia. The works will remain on display through February 26, 2016 in Seattle City Hall's Lobby and Anne Focke Galleries. The exhibit allows viewers to see that though the mind of the artist has changed, they are still living with dignity, creativity, and joy.
Stanwood Camano News, December 15, 2015

Music Engagement
In 2014 and 2015, more than 750 residents throughout Sydney, Australia were given iPods with personalized playlists to listen to the songs they love, through the Music Engagement Project. When language cognition and verbal communication decline, people who no longer speak or comprehend conversation can often still sing and even recall lyrics. Music appreciation seems to outlast deterioration of any specific region of the brain. Listening to music facilitates shared experiences so that grandchildren, community visitors, and volunteers can listen to music and sit with an older person without being intimidated or wondering how to relate.

Theater and Storytelling: Tools of Empowerment for Young Men in Rural Ghana
Humanity in Action Senior Fellow, Amy Jenson, created a six-week cultural theater workshop for Ghanaian orphans. In addition to being alienated from their own family members as well as traditional family networks, these children were also isolated from most Ghanaian cultural traditions. In some cases they worked long hours as farm laborers in order to sustain the orphanages. The theater workshop provided children with a creative space that would grant them access to the traditions of their culture through theater, drumming and storytelling. Similar workshops lead to empowerment and inspiration among those who participate.

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