When you’re looking for creative and healing art therapy projects for seniors, you’ve come to the right place! I’ve listed 25 creative art therapy projects for seniors in this article that will help them find greater peace and meaning in their lives.
The exercises in this article help seniors deal with strong emotions such as trauma and unhappiness, decrease anxiety and stress and strengthen their self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-worth.
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Art Therapy Projects For Seniors To Deal With Emotions
Emotions can be overwhelming. Often it’s hard to differentiate all the emotions and feelings because there are many and they can be all mixed up.
It is important to know that people can experience primary and secondary emotions. Primary emotions are the initial reactions to external events or stimuli. And Secondary emotions are the reactions we then have to our reactions.
Also according to Psychology Today, there is a difference between feelings and emotions: “Feelings are a conscious experience… Emotions are not conscious but instead manifest in the unconscious mind. These emotions can be brought to the surface of the conscious state through extended psychotherapy.”
These art therapy projects can help seniors be aware of their emotions in a conscious state so they can deal with them better.
1) Create A Postcard (and not send it)
If a senior is still angry or upset with someone you can help him express these emotions by creating a postcard for that person, but not sending it. This way the emotions are expressed, but they don’t have to worry anymore about confronting that person.
2) Draw or Paint Emotions
This project helps seniors to express their emotions visually. They can focus on what their feel during painting or drawing.
Check out this Art Set With Easel including oil pastels, crayons, colored pencils, markers, paintbrush, watercolor cakes, and a sketch pad
3) Create A Sculpture Of A Strong Emotion
A senior that carries a lot of anger or sadness can benefit from creating a sculpture of that strong emotion. This sculpture will be the physical manifestation of the emotion in their life.
4) Send Away A Lantern
Write a note with a negative emotion or situation that a senior wants to let go of and attach it to a balloon or lantern to let it letterly go up in the air. Set it free. This can also be done with positive emotions, to spread positivity. Another powerful way is to create a campfire and have seniors write out the things they want to let go of on pieces of paper and throw them in the fire. You can use these Chinese Lanterns that are biodegradable for this art project.
5) Transform List Of Emotions Into Mozaic Art
Together with seniors, you can make a list of all the things they struggle with. They can write all the strong emotions they’re feeling and list all the terrible situations in their life and the rest of the world onto paper. And then let them tear the list up and use the pieces to create a piece of art. Creating something ugly into something beautiful.
For more exercises to help seniors, this book: Essential Art Therapy Exercises: Effective Techniques to Manage Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD can be very helpful.
Art Therapy Projects For Seniors To Feel More Happiness
Instead of focusing on all the negative emotions, you can use art therapy to focus on the positive things in life. Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Creating art nourishes the body, mind, and soul.
6) Draw A Heart
Let seniors draw or paint a big heart on a piece of paper or large canvas and let them paint people, objects, etc what is in their heart. And let them explain their painting to the group or you afterward. This will make them more aware of what is most important to them and get out of their head and into their heart.
7) Make A Moodboard Of A Perfect Day
Moodboards can work as a powerful tool to visualize one’s priorities. You can use old magazines where seniors can cut out images and important words and glue them on a board with the assignment to make a moldboard of a perfect day. And hang it up in their home. This art therapy project helps seniors consciously visualize, decide, and see what is most important in their lives. They will be reminded every time they see the mood board and work towards this vision every single day.
8) Create A Memory Jar
Another fun art project for more happiness (in the long term) is to create a memory jar. Seniors can decorate a simple jar and cut blank paper into smaller pieces. Then you give them the exercise to write something beautiful, memorable, or a happy moment on these note cards each day and put it into the jar. Every day they will be reminded that they’ve experienced a happy moment and when they feel sad they can read all the notes in the jar to feel happy.
9) Make Origami Cranes
A meaningful and cultural art project is to make Origami Cranes. According to Japanese tradition, folding 1,000 paper cranes gives a person the chance to make a wish come true. When you’re interested in the background story, you can read the book “Sadako & 1000 Paper Cranes” by Eleanor Coerr or start right away and get your origami supplies here.
10) Write A Self-Care Handbook
Another fun art project to create more happiness is to write a self-care handbook or keep a self-care journal. You can help seniors write down things they really need to make them feel better about themselves. This can be activities, people, and behavior that leads them to more happiness in their life.
This offers seniors the space to create a self-care routine and commit to it more with positive intentions and dedication, which helps with developing positive thinking and nourishes a general sense of well-being.
Art Therapy Projects For Seniors To Overcome Trauma And Unhappiness
The following art therapy exercises are great tools to help seniors overcome traumas and go from an unhappy state of mind to a more happy state of mind.
11) Write A Letter To Someone Lost
Seniors dealing with grief can benefit from writing a letter to that special someone. Once they are done writing, you ask them to read the letter aloud. Expressing words of grief can help them deal with it better. And when seniors are spiritually open-minded you can explain to them that their loved ones are with them in spirit. And are with them every day and hear their thoughts, and expressed words.
12) Paint A Safe Place
Seniors who are anxious and deal with trauma can benefit by painting or drawing a safe place. Painting it can make them feel safe, but having that painting in their home can also make them feel safe every time they see it.
13) Create A Postcard From Future Self
When seniors struggle it is hard to imagine a future where they feel happy and better. And an art project is to create a postcard from their future self. At the front, they can draw a picture about how they want their life to be in the future. And on the back, they can write encouraging words of advice from their future self. Which gives them hope.
14) Draw A Flower With Positive Self Talk Statements
Let seniors draw a flower with petals and write a self-talk statement on each petal. You can hand out a list of positive thoughts and affirmations which they can read and see which statements they resonate with most and use them for their flower.
15) Draw A Hand “In My Control”
Seniors can trace their hands onto the paper. And then write on the inside of the hand, “in my control” and on the outside “out of my control”. Then seniors can write the things inside the hand that are in their control such as their own words, behavior, thoughts, etc. And after that write down all the things that are outside their control, outside the hand, such as other people’s reactions, behavior, weather, world events, etc. This gives seniors a very clear sight of what they can’t and cannot control which helps them have less anxiety and more peace of mind. This video below demonstrates it perfectly.
Art Therapy Projects For Seniors To Express Gratitude
This article on Harvard Medical School says “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships”.
And these art therapy projects can help them express their gratitude in a powerful and creative way.
16) Keep A Gratitude Journal
A very effective and simple way of expressing gratitude is keeping a gratitude journal where seniors can write every day. It helps seniors to find the positive things in life and experience more joy. This 5-Minute Gratitude Journal is a helpful tool to give seniors.
17) “I Am Grateful For” Wheel
Seniors can create a gratitude wheel. First, draw a circle and write the words: “I am grateful for” and along the circle seniors can write all the things they’re grateful for. After they’re finished they add colors to make it more lively and colorful.
18) Create A Gratitude Tree
Collect branches or sticks from nature or cut out a tree from paper or wood. Then cut leaves or pieces of paper which you can hang up in the tree. And the exercise is to write down things they’re grateful for on the notes that represent the leaves of the tree. Below is a video tutorial:
19) Write A Letter Of Gratitude To Someone Special
Ask seniors to write a letter to someone they’re very grateful for. After finishing writing, ask them to call up this person or read the letter out loud. Watch this video below for beautiful examples:
20) Paint All Positive Things In Life
Ask seniors to make a list of all the positive things in their life. It’s a good exercise for people to figure out what makes them truly happy. Once they’re done with the list, ask them to paint it on a canvas.
Art Therapy Project For Seniors To Relax
Focusing on a project helps people to let go of their everyday worries and problems and be fully invested in their art activity. Art therapy helps people to be in the now and this releases stress hormones which leads to a peaceful relaxing feeling. These art projects below help with relaxation:
21) Make A Mandala
You can create a colorful mandala with sand, paint, or pencils. Seniors will get in a meditative state of mind where there is no room for worries.
A Tibetan Buddhist tradition is to create a mandala with colored sand. This activity involves both the creation and the destruction of mandalas. Once it is complete they destroy it to symbolize the impermanence of life and not to get attached, because attachment is suffering.
22) Create A Painting With Calming Colors
Another relaxing art therapy project is to have seniors paint (whatever they like) with calming colors.
23) Finger Paint
Finger painting is not just fun for kids. For seniors too. Who doesn’t like to get their hands dirty and start creating? This finger painting set includes finger paint that is washable and non-toxic.
24) Draw A Landscape Outside
Being in nature is relaxing. And painting is relaxing too. Why not combine these two and create a beautiful landscape painting while you watch the landscape live. The sound of the wind, birds, etc will help seniors relax, and trying to draw the landscape makes them appreciate the beautiful world we live in.
25) Paint To Relaxing Music
Music is vibration, which immediately impacts our state of mind. And relaxing or healing music seniors can relax more and let their intuition and creativity flow on a painting.