Research shows participation in the arts promotes better health for seniors


MARBLE FALLS — When it comes to aging and health, a large part of society’s focus falls on physical activity and diet, but those are only part of the big picture.

The arts, whether enjoying or practicing them, can make a big difference in a person’s life, no matter his or her age. Research supports the need for older residents to have access to the arts.

“Studies have shown that challenging, participatory programs promote better health and disease prevention, resulting in higher levels of independence and less need for long-term care,” said Barbara Bend, executive director at Harmony School of Creative Arts in Marble Falls.

Harmony School will be one of the more than 50 exhibitors at the 2013 Elder Care Fair on April 6 at the Boys & Girls Club of the Highland Lakes, 1701 Broadway St.

The fair is 9 a.m.-noon.

Learning a musical instrument or studying watercolor painting falls with those “challenging, participatory programs.” Often the arts are overlooked for their benefits, both for young and old.

The arts help keep people connected with each other, Bend pointed out, which helps with their social well-being.

But learning something new, especially for adults, can be challenging because it means taking on a beginner’s role, which often makes people uncomfortable. Bend said it really comes down to a supportive setting.

As a director of a performing-and-visual-arts school, Bend has seen the positive benefits the arts have on older residents.

“We’ve had a number of adults begin taking music lessons, some as beginners and some returning after years of inactivity,” Bend said. “These folks approach learning with vigor, as they are choosing to do so for themselves. They enjoy being a part of a larger group, whether chamber music or simply an adult music social. It’s a way to enjoy and appreciate music in a social setting, which I think is one of (key benefits).”

Arts, like physical activity, benefit beyond the activity itself.

“There are two things that are possibly most consequential and measurable: being the increased social engagement — combating the feeling of isolation — and also the increased cognitive function, both resulting in improved health — physical and mental — as well as moral,” Bend added.

For more information on the importance and value of the arts, stop by the Harmony School and ArtFrog Academy booths at the Elder Care Fair.