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Famed 20th century artist Pablo Picasso once said that “art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life” - and whether one is appreciating, creating or both, art has indeed been proven to do that and much more.
Creating art in any form - whether sculpting with clay, creating collages with pictures from magazines or pieces of material, painting a mural, needle felting, making jewelry, throwing a pot, drawing, taking photographs, coloring, woodworking, knitting or quilting - offers an opportunity for an individual’s imagination and creativity to flourish. Even viewing art, whether at a museum, art fair or exhibition or simply appreciating a friend or family member’s work, causes the brain to adapt as it processes and responds to what it is seeing and experiencing.
While artistic endeavors have an unmistakably positive influence on people of all ages beginning with adorable toddlers spreading bright colors - and joy - as they learn to fingerpaint, these creative pursuits come with myriad benefits for seniors in particular, including enhanced cognitive function, increased confidence and self-esteem, a reduction in depression and anxiety, and a sense of accomplishment and achievement. Some famed artists continued to produce work well into their later years; French impressionist Claude Monet painted his beloved water lilies at 73, Frank Lloyd Wright continued designing in his distinctive style up until his death at 91, and Picasso created prolifically - having shifted his focus in later life to etching and engraving - until passing away at 93.
Creating art can also facilitate communication and socialization through self-expression, an experience recently enjoyed by residents from GreenFields Geneva’s Willows Assisted Living, Reflections Memory Care and Briarwood Healthcare as they painted beautiful, peaceful hot-air balloon scenes guided by a visiting artist. GreenFields residents can also enjoy working in the vibrant retirement community’s in-house creative arts studio, and a variety of art classes are among the hundreds of activities and events on GreenFields’ action-packed monthly calendar. Residents can also enjoy painting en plein air - otherwise known as outside - on GreenFields’ scenic, beautifully maintained 26-acre campus which includes a 3.5-acre native prairie, as well as at numerous forest preserves and parks in and around Geneva and the greater Tri-Cities area. GreenFields also boasts a gallery of local artists' work.
In addition to providing a social outlet for friends, art can also offer a wonderful way for grandparents and grandchildren to connect and get to know one another on a different level while helping to nurture the child’s sense of creativity and self-expression. Some fun ideas to try include painting or coloring bookmarks, putting together (and discussing!) collages or vision boards on a variety of themes such as a specific season or color, making handprint art, and creating nature art using twigs, leaves and other found items - which comes with the added bonus of spending time together enjoying the outdoors while on the hunt for materials!
Want to enjoy the many benefits of art but aren’t sure how to get started? Check out an arts program such as those offered at the Geneva Park District; visit one of Geneva’s many art galleries, public art displays or late-July Geneva Arts Fair for inspiration; check out some art books from the Geneva Public Library; follow an art blog; or simply pick up some materials that speak to you - whether fabric, paper, paints, a camera, clay, or whatever else strikes your fancy - and see what you’re inspired to do next.
There’s certainly nothing abstract about the numerous benefits of creating and appreciating art, and it’s always the perfect time to add a new form of self-expression to your palette. As Picasso also said: “Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.” Now that’s a colorful approach to life.