Capture+53Over the years, research has shown that people are not only living longer, but embracing new and varied activities as they age. It’s a no-brainer that proper nutrition, physical activity, and regular check ups go hand-in-hand with healthy aging. Now, however, there is a new outlet that is important to consider: art.

Participating in artistic endeavors can have a positive effect on health by keeping the mind busy and creating a sense of purpose. While many of us don’t consider ourselves to be “creative,” it has been shown that these benefits are obtained even when individuals are not necessarily creatively inclined.

Gene Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., the Director of the Center for Aging, Health & Humanities at George Washington University, was the first researcher to conduct a national longitudinal study on quality of life, which found that the arts do in fact have a positive effect on health and illness as we age. Such benefits include:

Helping individuals relax                                                                                                                 Offering sensory stimulation

Providing a sense of control                                                                                                          Fostering a stronger sense of identity

Reducing depression and anxiety                                                                                              Increasing self-esteem

Assisting in socialization                                                                                                                 Nurturing spirituality

Encouraging playfulness and sense of humor                                                                    Reducing boredom and isolation

Improving cognition

With a vibrant community like Sarasota as its backdrop, the arts have been incorporated into Plymouth Harbor’s culture since its inception. This tradition has continued over the years, from featured resident artists to local art exhibits and resident outings. In recent years, an increased emphasis has been placed on arts and creativity, in part due to our whole-person wellness approach.

Permanent work stations are available in the Wellness Center Art Studio for resident artists, and open stations are available for art classes that are offered throughout the year. Artists like Beverley Vernon, Sallie Luebbe, Fran Nikolich, Weta Cannon, and Harriet Eisner spend time in their creative workspace each week, designing, sketching, painting, and more.

Picture1Also found in the Wellness Center is a display space where resident artists are featured. This month, you can find handmade quilts (pictured right) by
Cynda Grenfell.

Outside of the Wellness Center, Resident Services works closely with the Art Committee to schedule regular classes, programs, and exhibit outings. Recent outings include the Chihuly Art Exhibit, several exhibits at the Ringling Museum, and the M.C. Escher Exhibit at the Dali Museum.

Arts and creativity are also integrated into the daily lives of our residents in the Smith Care Center (SCC). According to Judy Sarnowski, SCC Activity Director, this is done in a number of ways. Once each month, an art therapist, Amy Kaiser, works with residents using a technique known as MnemeTherapy™ — one-on-one, whole-brain therapy that uses everyday pleasurable experiences, such as painting, in a unique combination to stimulate sustained attentive focus.

Additionally, regular arts and crafts classes are incorporated in SCC by both the SCC Activity Team and resident artist Beverly Vernon, who volunteers her time monthly, and is often accompanied by fellow resident Ann Williams. These classes not only provide a calming outlet, but also an opportunity for small group socialization.

There are no doubt countless other art advocates roaming the halls of Plymouth Harbor, but one group in particular that keeps art at the forefront of our minds is the Plymouth Harbor Art Council. This resident-led council plans and manages the Mezzanine Art Gallery — recruiting local and resident artists and helping to set up exhibits.

Whether realized or not, art is ingrained in the everyday lives of residents here at Plymouth Harbor, from structured classes in the Wellness Center to simply passing through the Mezzanine Art Gallery, and the benefits can be seen firsthand.