September 2023 Newsletter


Let's Get Creative!

Creativity and Aging


In 2006 Dr. Gene Cohen conducted ‘The Creativity and Aging Study’, which demonstrated that creative art programs promoted better health and disease prevention for older adults. Since then, studies have continued to demonstrate the amazing benefits of being creative. Creativity has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms of trauma.

For older adults living with dementia, creative activities can reduce agitation, anxiety, depression and anger. Studies have even proven that creative activities can reduce symptoms of sundowning for individuals with dementia and reduce their need for medications. Creative arts can also be an important outlet of self-expression as an individual’s language skills decrease.

Creativity comes naturally to some of us. For others, the concept can seem intimidating. However, when researchers talk about creativity they aren’t only talking about the arts. Norman Rosenthal, author and Georgetown University psychiatrist, defines being creative as “having the ability to make unexpected connections, either to see commonplace things in new ways — or unusual things that escape the attention of others — and realize their importance.”

James Kaufman, a professor at the University of Connecticut, says “Creativity can be cultivated by following passions both old and new. Try not to compare yourself to genius creators or be so focused on the outcome that the process stops being fun.”

Below are some ways that older adults with dementia and their caregiver can tap into their creative side.

  • Music: Music and rhythm have a special part in our brains and these abilities are often retained even when other skills are lost from dementia. Caregivers and their loved ones with dementia can sing favorite songs together or even play instruments. Instruments like maracas, drums, and tambourines may be easier when fine motor skills have declined. Music can be a great way to reminisce. It also be used to help calm nerves or agitation, such as singing familiar, comforting songs while helping a loved one bathe.
  • Painting: Painting is a great activity for people of all skill levels. For individuals no longer able to hold a traditional paint brush, they can use sponges, adaptive brushes, or even try finger painting! For individuals with more progressed dementia, the use of non-toxic, washable paint is recommended. Caregivers can even make dementia safe watercolors by mixing water, spices and coffee. Remember the goal is not to create a masterpiece but to enjoy the process!
  • Journaling: Studies have found extensive benefits from regular journaling, such as lower blood pressure, improved lung and liver function, improved mood and well-being, and fewer symptoms of depression. If starting a journal feels daunting, start with simple daily prompts like “What is one good thing that happened to me today?” “Today I am feeling..” “Today, I am grateful for…
  • Knitting or Crocheting: The repetitive actions of knitting and crocheting can be very soothing and help relieve stress. For those looking to find new meaning in their lives or ways to give back to the community, they can make scarves or hats to donate to local homeless shelters or hospitals. For individuals new to crocheting / knitting, they can try using a round knitting loom which is often easier for beginners. Those with less dexterity can work on tie-fleece blankets. They are easy to do and make great gifts!
  • Puzzles: Puzzles are a great activity to do with your loved ones! You can buy smaller puzzles with larger pieces as needed. Families can make a personalized picture puzzles to help loved ones reminisce, using a picture that is meaningful to your loved, such as a family portrait, a loved pet, or a familiar place. Laminate the photo and cut it into puzzle shaped pieces. Just be sure not to make the pieces too small.
  • Jewelry Making: Jewelry making is a fun activity that can adapted for all skill levels, ranging from wire wrapping, braiding, to beading! Consider the risk of choking for your loved one before doing an activity with beads.

The RAFT Dementia Support Program is dedicated to supporting older adults with dementia and their caregivers. Our trained Dementia Specialists help families explore non-pharmacological interventions, such as creative activities, to reduce stress and dementia related symptoms.


Fuchs, Matt. ‘Creativity may be key to healthy aging. Here are ways to stay inspired.’ Washington Post. July 12, 2021.

LifeTime Arts:,among%20older%20adults%20who%20actively%20engaged%20in%20them.

Senior Services of America:,easy%20steps%3A%20...%203%20%233%3A%20Drawing%20and%20Crafts

Sutton, Jeremy. ‘5 Benefits of Journaling for Mental Health’. Positive Psychology. 14 May 2018 .


Older adults
RAFT logo

Dementia Support Program


The RAFT Dementia Support
Program aims to give individuals
living with dementia, their family,
and their caregivers the
information and tools to live with
dignity, respect, and meaning.


Anyone can make a referral to the program, using the online referral form.

Or contact Sydney Palinkas at or 703-814-2701. 


7611 Little River Turnpike
Suite 200
Annandale, VA 22003

Phone: 703-531-2144
TTY: 703-228-1788