A year after being hospitalized, seniors who enjoyed the arts were only about half as likely to attend concerts, films or art exhibits as they had been 10 years earlier, a new study from Ireland finds.
The drop-off in seniors’ art interest during and after hospitalization could be partly explained by age, illness and, in some cases, depression. But researchers said the lack of access to engaging art and culture in the hospital could also be a factor.
“Offering arts interventions and opportunities in hospital is important in keeping people interested and engaged in the arts and indeed avoiding institutionalization,” said Hilary Moss, who led the study.
“It is also important for the person’s sense of being an individual with personal preferences that hospital aesthetics are attended to and that people have control over their aesthetic environment in the hospital whenever possible,” said Moss, director of arts and health at Tallaght Hospital in Dublin.
For the purposes of the study, which is published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, “aesthetics” referred to so-called receptive arts, such as reading, watching movies or listening to the radio, and participative arts, such as playing a musical instrument, painting or doing crafts.
The researchers surveyed 150 people aged 65 to 94 (most older than 75) who were in outpatient clinics between January and September 2013, having been hospitalized from January 2009 to July 2013.
The seniors were asked which arts events and activities they had participated in during the year after hospitalization and 10 years prior. Questions included how much difficulty they had attending arts events and activities after hospitalization and what made attendance a challenge.
Many cited health issues, lack of transportation and less motivation or self-esteem as obstacles to enjoying arts as much as they had in the past.
The participants were also asked their opinions about the noise, access to arts activities and visual arts in the hospital.
Less than half said they were able to watch favorite television programs or listen to music they liked, and a little over half listened to radio programs of their choice while in the hospital.
They also tended to recall being distracted by sounds from patients or staff. Most had no choice of private room or access to a quiet place to read or listen to the radio, they said.
Watching films was the most popular art event before hospitalization, though only 29 percent of the adults watched films of their choice while in the hospital.
Before hospitalization 47 percent attended films, 37 percent musicals and 42 percent plays. But those numbers dropped in the year afterwards, with 21 percent saying they watched films, 14 percent watching plays and musicals and 13 percent attending classical music events.
Music, dancing and photography were the most popular participative arts and seniors also tended to enjoy going to arts classes, but participation dropped off dramatically compared with 10 years earlier.
For example, 10 years prior to hospitalization, 23 percent of participants had done some kind of dancing that was not a fitness class, 19 percent played a musical instrument, 11 percent sang in front of an audience and 19 percent did painting, drawing or sculpture. One year after hospitalization, 5 percent were dancing, less than 5 percent were playing an instrument, 3 percent were singing and 12 percent were painting, drawing or sculpting.
Moss told Reuters Health by email that she was surprised many patients did not show more interest in the arts when they were ill. As a music therapist and musician, she said she had seen people who were acutely depressed or schizophrenic benefit from being in a singing group, which “provided positive, hopeful activity at a time of crisis.”
Jackie Hamilton, director of UK Arts in HealthCare (part of the University of Kentucky’s health care system) in Lexington, said “. . . art, music and narrative interventions definitely make any patient feel more human and more in control.”
Hamilton said that even patients with debilitating illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s benefit from music and interactive art activities. “A light-filled, quiet and aesthetic environment improve recovery, mood and stress levels for patients of all ages,” she added.
Moss said hospitals might help seniors by providing access to film screenings and dance activities, as well as quiet places where people could listen to music they liked.
“It is important that older people in the hospital are involved in the arts that they enjoy, whatever they are . . . where people can no longer dance, I find anecdotally that they enjoy discussing dance, watching dance and seeing performances, although of course sometimes this creates sadness in no longer being able to participate,” Moss said.
SOURCE: bit.ly/1vsBieO Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, online December 12, 2014.