As I write this blog I want you all to know that this comes from a long term care perspective. I have been a Therapeutic Recreation Director in the Long Term Care industry for over 20 years and have observed trends in hobbies and meaningful activities over the years. Coloring is a hobby tahat I enjoyed in my childhood and now as an adult I still enjoy it.
When I began my career in TR in 1993 coloring was a “taboo” activity. It was considered an activity for children, juvenile. After all, the pictures in the coloring books that were available were juvenile. There were pictures of childhood cartoon characters, books based on fairytales and famous stories such as Snow White and Cinderella, to name a few. The content of what was available WAS for children.
Though I used these coloring books on many occasions to elicit thoughts and responses related to the content, unless I was working with a patient with advanced dementia, they were juvenile. The good thing was: A) they were simplistic for those with dementia, and B) bold enough for those with visual impairments to be able to recognize the images and “color within the lines.”
As professionals we had to put the ever valuable crayon and coloring books away when we were visited by the Department of Health. We were afraid of receiving a deficiency because the DOH (Department of Health) looked at coloring as a DIGNITY issue. The DOH didn’t want seniors to be perceived as childlike.
Fast forward to 2000 something and the DOH finally realized that there are actual benefits for senior citizens when they participate in a coloring/art program. Since then we in the TR field have found coloring books that contain more adult content (i.e.: landscapes, animals, flowers etc) and is it a big help.
According to goldencares.com, there are a multitude of benefits of coloring for seniors:
Improves moodsRelieves stress Reduces agitationPromotes socialization and reminiscingProvides an outlet for self-expressionHelps to maintain motor functionImproves dexterity (grip control)Improves hand-eye coordinationEncourages cooperationPromotes mindfulness (full attention & concentration required)Provides a sense of accomplishment
All of these benefits improve the overall quality of life for not only seniors but all of those living in a long term care facility. Coloring is also a great way to introduce an intergenerational program. Let’s face it, most kids enjoy coloring and most seniors enjoy kids! Children bring joy to nursing homes.