Date of Award

Spring 5-22-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Raquel Chapin Stephenson


The older adult population is growing exponentially, however, supportive resources and trained geriatric professionals are not. As part of the aging process many older adults face physical, emotional, and social challenges, plus there is a significant rise in diagnoses of dementia. As a part of a larger care plan, engaging in the creative process of art making has the power to address some of these common challenges. Art making has been observed to engage the senses and stimulate the mind, promote life review and self-expression, help to identify strengths, be a channel to express emotions, and in group settings reduce feelings of isolation. For these many benefits, giving older adults’ access to the creative arts could be a powerful tool to better their quality of life and overall well-being.

The next point of interest is how art materials are defined. A majority of art therapy literature references common materials that are often associated with fine art. These materials are not always accessible or may seem overwhelming. By introducing non-traditional – or materials that are not as commonly used – in different programs for older adults and adults with dementia, this exploration aims to question the definition of materials. This was done by observing the experiences of assisted living residents, to see if the same studied benefits of art making emerged. The resulting observations showed evidence that even with non-traditional materials, the participants seemed to positively engage with the creative process. This helps to expand the language of materials in art therapy and argues for the addition of the creative arts to the care plans for older adults.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.




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