Kate Dupuis is the Schlegel Innovation Leader at the Centre for Elder Research at Sheridan College. In her research, she identifies the benefits of arts programming for an older population and examines potential barriers (e.g., cognitive loss, institutional policies) to active participation in the arts. She is a registered Clinical Neuropsychologist and a professor in the Faculty of Applied Health and Community Studies.
Availability of arts-based recreation and leisure activities in retirement and long-term care
The reality of increased longevity has resulted in an emphasis on a strengths-based approach to aging, with a renewed focus on creativity. Participation in arts-based programming shows exciting promise for older adults in both community-based and congregate-living (e.g., retirement homes, long-term care homes) environments. Arts activities including music, dance, and creative writing, have all shown benefits for older adults’ cognitive abilities (e.g., attention, memory), physical abilities (e.g., reduced stress, increased strength and mobility), and social interactions.
Although the evidence for the benefits of participating in the arts is compelling, there are no data to suggest how well these types of activities are being integrated into recreation and leisure programming for individuals living in communal settings such as retirement and long-term care homes. An environmental scan of recreation calendars from January 2017 was conducted for 10 homes with a population of approximately 3000 residents. We examined the number and type of arts-based activities offered to the residents. On average, 22% of the programming offered in the recreation calendars was arts-based and, of these programs, approximately 70% were related to musical enjoyment or performance.
These results suggest that, despite the convincing evidence for the benefits of the arts for older individuals, much remains to be done in terms of integrating arts-based programming into the daily lives of residents of retirement and long-term care homes.