3 Arts-Based Innovations Empowering Older Adults to Maintain their Mental Health

Man painting

In honour of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, CABHI is featuring a new piece of content each week over the month of January. Every week corresponds to one of CABHI’s five core Innovation Themes. This week’s blog focuses on cognitive and mental health.


Fostering good mental health is a critical part of aging well. While cognitive and physical decline and social isolation can make it difficult for older adults to maintain their mental well-being, it’s important to remember that poor mental health is not a normal part of aging. Everyone has the right to access resources that can help them experience fulfillment, joy, and a positive outlook on life regardless of their age and physical or cognitive ability.

One of the ways older adults can boost their mental health is through art. According to Baycrest psychologist and co-creator of CABHI-supported ArtontheBrain Dr. Kelly Murphy, “arts-based recreation has positive health outcomes, such as enhanced well-being and a reduced risk of dementia.” Art has also been shown to alleviate depression and anxiety in those who are socially isolated due to mobility challenges or geographic location.

Here’s how other CABHI-supported projects like ArtontheBrain are currently using the power of art to help older adults, including people living with dementia, maintain good mental health:


seniors seated in a room with arms outstretchedLiveWell@Home

With community centres closed and recreational activities indefinitely paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, older adults face limited opportunities for physical activity. They also face isolation, which increases the risk for falls and mental health challenges. GERAS DANCE (DANcing for Cognition & Exercise) is a CABHI-supported, clinically proven dance program for older adults with early cognitive and mobility issues, developed by rehabilitation and geriatric medicine specialists at Hamilton Health Sciences and McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. With additional funding from CABHI this year, the program is being developed into a new model of care called LiveWell@Home, which will be delivered virtually in a senior-friendly online community. The program aims to help older adults living at home keep healthy, active, and socially connected.


The New Dementians Choir

People singing and dancing in a room.With support from CABHI, a dementia-friendly choir based in Burnaby, British Columbia is providing people living with dementia and their caregivers with a creative outlet and place to engage with each other in a positive way. The choir is also changing how people in the community think about those living with dementia. Today, the New Dementians Choir meets weekly on Zoom due to COVID-19 restrictions. Despite this change, they continue to harness the power of music to support people living with dementia and their caregivers, especially as they grapple with the uncertainties of the pandemic. The online platform has even allowed the choir to welcome people from outside the Burnaby area.


SmART Aging

A woman painting a picture.

SmArt Aging is a community-based art program aimed at supporting brain health among socially and geographically isolated seniors living in Western Newfoundland with mild to moderate frailty or cognitive decline. With support from CABHI’s Spark Program, which supports the development of early-stage aging and brain health solutions brought forward by point-of-care staff, the program leverages technology to ensure seniors in rural communities, especially those with cognitive decline, can access the benefits of the arts. Local drama, visual, and storytelling artists are being recruited to lead program sessions, which participants can join remotely or in-person.


Visit our Projects Page to learn more about arts-based innovations supporting the mental health of older adults and people living with dementia.