Art Extends Quality of Life
We are looking at close to a quarter of the US population being over sixty in the next few years, with many elders in various states of retirement and declining health. The business community is quick to jump ahead and find ways to capitalize on their needs, to siphon off whatever seniors have left of their savings and social security. A growing field is the industry of addressing fading mental capacities with programs, classes, books and apps to help keep people sharp.
It is interesting that a study from the Mayo Clinic shows that those who engage in art making are half as likely to loose mental capacities. Why is this? History has shown that artists usually do not retire and do much of their best work later in life. Is it the activity of art making that keeps them going or the love of the work itself that incites them to keep active enough to do it?
It does not seem to matter if one takes up art late in life: the positive effects are still in place. Certainly stimulation of the brain is part of it. Even though a painter might sit in a chair and move very little, the effort of determining shapes and colors and values, then translating them into visible forms can burn up calories, and if the brain happened to be hooked up to electronic measuring equipment, it would be burning up the screen with activity.
Unfortunately many people do not take up art simply because of the false belief that certain people are born with talent, and they are not one of them. Another fear is that they will have to start at the beginning. The older you are, the more you think you should already know things. The final barrier is the lack of challenging art classes for the elderly. Most senior centers support only arts and crafts activities and don’t expect the students to learn the basics of color theory, observational drawing or correct use of materials. The idea is to keep them busy playing with paint, like a preschool class.
YouTube is doing a good job of recording seniors doing advanced artistic activities, such as dancing the tango in an exhibition, or singing in a TV show competition. But Grandma Moses is just a joke in our society, not a real role model.
Based on the new studies about art extending the quality of life, venture capitalists would do well to fund entrepreneurs with apps, classes, programs or books that bring this idea to the public. Or, seniors can just enroll in the local fine arts school. Some even offer discounts to the elderly.