Born in 1860, Grandma Moses grew up on a farm in upstate New York, married, and moved to a Virginia farm where she raised five children. She did not start painting until she was 77 years old. Arthritis prevented her from doing needlework any longer and she was looking for something to keep her “busy and out of mischief,” so friends suggested she paint.

Senior Actively Creating and Learning

In 1939, an art critic from New York was driving through rural Virginia and spotted her first paintings in a drug store window. He entered the store, purchased all four, and the rest is history. Although Grandma Moses died in 1961 at the age of 101, one of her paintings sold recently at auction for $50 million.

Not only did Grandma Moses stay out of mischief, painting likely had cognitive benefits that improved her quality of life in her later decades. Participating in creative experiences has significant benefits for older adults—especially those living with dementia—and EngAGE EnCOURAGE™  builds on those benefits by providing rewarding programming for older adults.

In past generations, many stayed active working, tending to a farm or ranch, taking care of grandchildren, and otherwise feeling valued throughout life. Today, many adult centers and care facilities relegate their clients to rote activities such as puzzles and bingo, whereas studies suggest meaningful engagement—people doing satisfying, creative activities they enjoy—has powerful benefits: participants’ self-esteem, confidence, and sense of identity increases, and their quality of life is enhanced.

As defined by the researchers, creative sessions are not coloring in a coloring book or making a turkey out of a pinecone. It is the opportunity to create a one-of-a-kind piece of art. This strategy aligns perfectly with our recommendation to treat those living with dementia as the adults they are. Our creative “Legacy Projects” sessions are a way for participants to create a gift or a legacy for one of their family members. It could be a painting or collage or other one-of-a-kind project that tells a priceless story and becomes a treasured family keepsake.

You may or may not have a Grandma Moses in your program, but providing meaningful creative sessions instead of busywork is invaluable in giving older adults a sense of belonging, achievement, and hope, among other positive effects.

EngAGE EnCOURAGE™ provides quality online classes for use in programming at assisted living communities, adult day clubs, and for memory care providers. Reach us via email or toll free by phone at (800) 990-9806.