Art Alleviates Anxiety in People With Dementia

Art Alleviates Anxiety in People With DementiaArt Alleviates Anxiety in People With Dementia

A dose of art is often prescribed to people living with dementia, and new research has shed light on exactly why it is so beneficial.

A study commissioned by the Art Gallery of New South Wales has found viewing art creates a heightened sense of joy for people with dementia, alleviating anxiety by allowing them to stay in the moment.

The study specifically examined the gallery’s art access program, which invites people living with dementia and their caregivers to view and discuss iconic works in the collection, reports ABC News.

The program has been running since 2010, and was created off the back of a similar project at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

While dementia impacts memory, emotions remain intact, and the head of learning and participation at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Heather Whitely-Robertson, said the study found art allowed people with dementia to tap into their imagination.

“What was really striking was the observed significance of what we would call ‘in the moment pleasure’ that participants were able to demonstrate in the program,” she said.

“What we really noticed were behaviors like laughter and smiling, leaning forward to listen, sharing of personal meaning, sometimes reminiscence, but not always, very much an experience about in the present or in the moment joy.”

The study found staying ‘in the moment’ spared people with dementia the stress and frustration of trying to recall memories.

  Expanding Program to More Nursing Homes

Australian Center for Arts and Health executive director Margret Meagher said there was no doubt art brought enhancement to the lives of people living with dementia.

“You can see the pleasure on people’s faces, you can see the joy of interacting with other people, because quite often when people live with dementia they become reclusive, and this is a great way to bring people out of themselves and give them a sense of value, a sense of appreciation,” she said.

The Art Gallery is now looking to expand its program to aged care facilities around the state, so it can cater for people too frail to see art pieces in person.