Early in 2016, the Straits Times reported one senior group’s efforts to repel dementia and retain their mental faculties as long as possible. A group of 30 seniors, residents of Jurong, are following a schedule that involves visiting various cultural sites and taking art classes. Every senior in the group is at risk for dementia, a mentally crippling condition that worsens over time. According to other studies, art therapy is a promising strategy for combating the condition.

The Effects of Dementia

Dementia affects an elderly person’s mental process. It can change their personalities, alter their reasoning skills, limit their memories, and even cause derangement in severe cases. The condition is persistent and chronic, affecting 10 percent of Singaporeans over the age of 60. By 2020, experts estimate that the number of dementia patients in Singapore will reach 53,000. Although dementia cannot be reversed, medical professionals have discovered some therapies and treatments that slow down its progress.

The Scope of the Jurong Art Therapy Study

The Jurong art therapy study spans 10 years, so the results will not be conclusive for a long time. However, the study co-leader, Professor Kua Ee Heok of the National University of Singapore, is hopeful. “We want to find out if art can improve their overall well-being and cognition, through an evidence-based approach,” he says.

At the beginning of the study, researchers took MRI scans of the senior patients’ brains. More scans were done at the three-month mark, and again at nine months. Thanks to the scans, the leaders of the study have a way to gauge improvement or decline in brain activity. Blood tests, spatial awareness tests, memory checks, and concentration tests are conducted before and during the study.

The Art Therapy Schedule for Seniors

Once a week, the participants visit an art museum or gallery, where a specially trained guide uses paintings and art to evoke emotions and stimulate memories of the participants. The following week, the participants will take part in a hands-on art class. This alternating pattern of exposure and expression may be effective in stimulating the brain and staving off some of the effects of dementia.

So far, there isn’t much hard evidence to support the claim that art therapy has a marked effect. Other trials have been conducted in various countries, but they have not been carefully structured or rigorously documented like the Jurong study. The anecdotal evidence reveals that seniors who do art therapy are happier, more well-adjusted, more sociable, and more alert.

Other types of therapy, such as meditation, music, and light exercise are also helpful with reducing dementia and depression symptoms.

How to Preserve Your Loved One’s Mind

Is there a senior in your life who could benefit from therapy? Perhaps depression and dementia are slowly stealing away the person you know and love. Bring your loved one to Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic for an evaluation with one of the top psychologists in Singapore. We can identify your elderly relative’s current mental condition and provide information about art therapy, music therapy, and other programs that can help your loved one enjoy life and hold on to their precious memories.

News Feed from Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic

Source: Straits Times, 8 April, 2016