Improving the Lives of Older Adults through Community Building with Art Therapy

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Reff, Tracy
Master of Arts in Art Therapy
This qualitative research study investigated whether art therapy was effective in providing social benefits for older adults living in a nursing home setting, including increased self-esteem, quality of life, interaction with and support from other residents, the discovery of shared interests, and, stimulation in the form of a group activity. Methods used to determine the effectiveness of art therapy consisted of surveys administered at the beginning and end of each session, the noted observations of the researcher, and the artworks and comments made by participating group members. The researcher analyzed all forms of data using descriptive content analysis, resulting in three main categorical findings: benefits of the art therapy sessions did not appear to extend outside of the sessions themselves; the success of the study was heavily affected by the physical capabilities of the participants; and the media interventions did not consistently meet the needs of the study because certain media caused stress that distracted from the research objectives. The study did show that overall participation in art interventions assisted participants in sharing information and socializing within the group sessions. Although the study was inconclusive in answering the research questions, the positive effects within the sessions indicated that with adjustments, the study could have been more successful. Future research might improve this study by limiting the media utilized to two dimensional materials, continuing for a longer duration of sessions, and meeting more than once a week.