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Creative Activities Older Adults Can Do from the Comfort of Home

By Julie Hayes | 06/15/2020

An older adult working on a landscape painting

The ability to be creative and express oneself is something that is not limited by age. Celebrated painter Grandma Moses began her career in the arts at the age of 78. Betty White has been in the entertainment industry for 80 years, and is still acting at the age of 98. Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first Little House book at the age of 65.

Gene D. Cohen, a psychiatrist specializing in geriatric mental health, documented the different phases of creativity in late life in his book The Creative Age. Cohen suggested that older adults aged 70 and over experience a “creative burst” fueled by the desire to resolve unfinished business, fulfill long held dreams and make a lasting and final statement through creative works (Cohen, G.D. (2000). The Creative Age). As we age, we may similarly benefit from a chance to express ourselves creatively through meaningful activities that promote personal growth and well-being.

There are many benefits of creative activities such as dancing, writing, music and art for older adults. Research shows that participation in the arts can help us:

  • Reflect on our lives and experiences
  • Improve our physical and mental health
  • Make connections and share our knowledge and thoughts with others
  • Increase morale and improve mood
  • Foster personal growth and lifelong learning (Rogers, N. (2001). Person-Centered Expressive Arts Therapy. In J.A. Rubin (Ed.), Approaches to Art Therapy: Theory and Technique, second edition (pp. 230-237) London: Routledge.)

Even if we’ve never participated in the arts previously, it’s never too late to learn! The benefits of creative aging do not always depend on our ability and skill level, but instead on how we use the opportunity to express our feelings. Here are just a few creative activities we can try from the comfort of our own home:

1. Dance

Dancing can be a fun way to exercise both our bodies and creative muscles. Engaging in dance is shown to help older adults improve their:

  • Gait
  • Balance
  • Range of motion
  • Body image
  • Muscle endurance
  • Flexibility

We may want to try dancing at home by using instructional DVDs or YouTube tutorials, many of which are designed specifically for older adults. We can also dance to our favorite music, or try out dances from our favorite era. 

Before participating in any physical activity, we should remember to consult with our doctor first.

2. Writing

Whether fiction, nonfiction or poetry, writing can offer us a way to put our thoughts, feelings and experiences into words. Research shows that writing can also decrease depression, reduce stress and improve self-esteem.

There are many different forms writing can take, so we can explore which options interest us most. Many older adults enjoy life story writing to reflect on their past experiences, and others enjoy journaling or creative fiction. Whichever we prefer, we can gather our writing tools, find a comfortable environment and get to work putting our thoughts down. 

There are also national programs that can help us with writing, such as LifeBio. For writers over the age of 50 interested in publishing their work, Passager Books is dedicated to showcasing the works of older adults.

3. Music

Music can offer us a wide variety of opportunities for creative expression. It’s also fun and easy to enjoy music at home, though if we live close to neighbors, we should be sure to be respectful of our volume so we don’t disturb anyone else.

Ways we can engage with music at home include:

  • Learning to play an instrument, or continuing to practice one we enjoy playing
  • Singing along with our favorite albums
  • Whistling and humming
  • Playing “name that tune” games with other loved ones in the home

4. Art

Like music, many older adults find making art to be therapeutic, and studies show that it can enhance brain power, reduce depression and soothe anxiety (Castora-Binkley, M., Noelker, L., Prohaska, T., & Satariano, W. (2010). Impact of arts participation on health outcomes for older adults. Journal of Aging, Humanities, and the Arts, 4(4), 352-367). There are also many ways to take up art, ranging from simple, such as finger painting, to more complex, such as sculpting, depending on our interest and abilities. Here are some activities we might consider:

  • Clay sculpting
  • Coloring books
  • Knitting
  • Bracelet making
  • Origami
  • Paint by number
  • Photo collages
  • Watercolor painting 
  • Pressed flower art
  • Scrapbooking

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