Coloring for seniors is a therapeutic and satisfying activity. Research into the effects of coloring activities for people living with dementia show positive outcomes, most notably a decrease in agitation and anxiety.
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Coloring-in has long been considered a therapeutic activity suitable for the young and old. Colouring evokes feelings of peace, enjoyment and satisfaction. Revisiting this much loved childhood pastime is well worth the effort.

Coloring for Adults

Adult coloring as a hobby has gained so much momentum over the past few years that it has become a craze, with adult coloring books now available for sale everywhere. Activity professionals no longer need to worry that providing coloring activities for the elderly will be viewed as a childish activity.

The Benefits of Coloring for Seniors

Research into the effects of coloring activities for people living with dementia show positive outcomes, most notably a decrease in agitation and anxiety.

The therapeutic value of coloring comes in part from a participant’s need to concentrate and in doing so they may ‘forget’ their troubles whilst in the midst of a coloring activity. Relaxation and meditative moods often follow.

Coloring activities are known to:

  • Improves mood
  • Relieves stress
  • Reduces agitation
  • Promotes socialization and reminiscing
  • Provides an outlet for self-expression
  • Helps to maintain motor function
  • Improves dexterity (grip control)
  • Improves hand-eye coordination
  • Encourages cooperation
  • Promotes mindfulness (full attention & concentration required)
  • Provides a sense of accomplishment

Materials to Use - quality matters

  • Remember that quality matters when introducing adults to coloring; the better the tools the more spectacular the results. However you can start with a large box of bright colored pencils If your budget allows, watercolor pencils allow colors to be easily blended and a more life-like result can be achieved.
  • Buy quality drawing paper from an art store.
  • Find age-appropriate coloring books or printables. Golden Carers provides coloring-in templates for adults across a wide range of themes including line art reproductions of well-known paintings. Visit the colouring-in library.
  • Alternatively you may purchase our Golden Carers Colouring Book which includes 30 unique templates designed for seniors.

Promoting Creativity

Everybody has what it takes to be creative. Some people are shy and find it difficult to allow themselves to be creative because their expectations are too high. They presume that art has to fit a mould rather than surrendering to their mind and mood. Encourage participants to suspend judgment and enjoy experimenting with colors.

You will find that once participants engage in coloring, a contemplative mood sets in over the group and silence ensues. The concentration required for the repetitive motion (up-down and back-forth) promotes a calm and reflective atmosphere.

Consider inviting children along

Remember that coloring is an excellent ‘Inter-generational Activity’. Coloring with children can be inspiring. Residents who may not color a picture on their own may be willing to color with their grandchildren or visiting school children. Sharing of this activity will promote conversations and the exchange of thoughts will provide relaxation and enjoyment.

Planning a Coloring Session

If you plan to introduce some clients to coloring, there are a few things to remember:
  • The tools are important. Adults may find crayons demeaning and decline to participate. Markers (felt tip pens) are not suitable for seniors; they bleed and go through the paper to stain whatever is underneath and they are also hard to control for people with deficits in dexterity.
  • Do not give participants recycled paper or office A4 paper (it is thought to be demeaning). Print or photocopy the colouring pages on drawing paper from an art store. They will have paper of different thickness and textures available making the end product more exciting. Or you may transfer the print of choice onto an art canvas with carbon copy paper.
  • Encourage and praise participants. Coloring is a form of self-expression; there is no ‘right’ way to color. Each color chosen has a meaning (even if participants cannot put it in words) that subtly affects the body, mind and emotions of participants.

Run a regular Coloring session

Start a regular coloring-in session and make it a weekly or fortnightly event. Coloring-in sessions should be stimulating, exciting and worthwhile. Send individual invitations and if possible invite a local artist to come and talk to participants and encourage them along.

Coloring for Seniors living with Alzheimer’s Disease

Colouring sessions are especially suited for people living with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. Finding activities for them can be very challenging; the illness progresses at a different pace for each individual and it can be difficult to ascertain what memories they have retained from their past.

If running a coloring session for people living with Alzheimer’s Disease, avoid surrealistic and bizarre dream-like templates, they may only confuse and irritate them. Choose instead pictures they can recognize from daily life or from their past such as vintage cars, cats, laundry, stoves, trains, a cricket landscape, soccer athletes, flowers, birds, and other images. Also take clues from their past; trips aboard, sports played, and landscapes in which they grew up.

Bring a little color into the world of your clients!

Coloring activities are filled with fun and you may find that many ‘grown-ups’ are children at heart. Everybody likes to create and coloring is the perfect creative introduction to art.

Related: Mandala Printables for the Elderly

Have you found coloring-in to be a worthwhile activity with your clients?

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Comments   Post a Comment

Nancy Reil 28th Oct 2020
Hello. My mother is 92 years old. She loves to color Disney characters. She then began drawing them. Can you please suggest where I could enter her drawings in a contest? Thank you.
Susan 28th Oct 2020 Activity Director
This post is for Nancy Riel where do you live Nancy so I can send you to the appropriate location because different communities have different art contest so if I knew your community I could direct you to the right contest
Anne Cutri 8th Jul 2016
Here's and article I wrote on my experience with using coloring pages and pre-drawn images in the facility I work in.
karen 16th Feb 2016 Diversional Therapist
we have created a creative coloring activity, we have so many residents who now use those adult coloring books that we decided to get them together as a group.
we will be having theme days such blue day or red and orange day, animal day etc.
we cannot Wait to get started our residents have really shown an interest in this.
Marion 7th Jul 2015 Diversional Therapist
We do colouring in every month. We have lots of pencils, wax crayons, glitter sticks and paints. If they like their picture they put their signature and date the picture and it goes up on the wall. They are very proud of their work.
Chandani 29th Jun 2015
I really found this page help me to get fresh idea for my nursing home clients. Please let me if have more new idea of arts and crafts
Catherine 29th May 2015 Recreation Officer
I think that colouring in can be used in many ways. For example I laminate the colouring and use it to provide the decorations for our special days. It is great to see the reaction from the resident's when they notice their colouring on the table.
Catherine 29th May 2015 Recreation Officer
I think that colouring in can be used in many ways. For example I laminate the colouring and use it to provide the decorations for our special days. It is great to see the reaction from the resident's when they notice their colouring on the table.
Sadhna 21st Jul 2014 recreation therapist
At my facility colouring is a great hit, I use ppicutres from Golden Carers library and have some very good topics and they love it and get such good pictures at the end of the activity. Thanks for sharing.
Caroline 17th Jun 2014 Manager
The only problem I see is that the colouring sheets need to be adult pictures and not childlike images. It requires much more effort to find but they are available.
Once you have a great range of images from masters to mandela's you will find the engagement increases as does the artistic creativity
Karen 12th Jun 2014
Thanks for the article. I introduced a weekly art therapy group about 8 months ago featuring colouring some of your fabulous I set up an aroma therapy diffuser and some relaxing music on the CD player and watch the creative juices flow..definitely a favourite amongst our residents ..
Yvonne 12th Jun 2014
my residents at Coniston love to colour, some adult resident pictures might be nice if anyone has any to share, please email [email protected], thanks
Angelika 10th Jun 2014 Activity Officer
Thanks for your article on the benefits of colouring in. One of my newest activities will be colouring in with children. I am sure that our local school will be delighted to come and have a colouring in session with our elderly clients. We will even frame the pictures & put them on display at the school & at our day care centre, so that the children & clients can be proud of their achievements & remember the session with happy memories. I am looking forward to including this in my next monthly program.
Christina 10th Jun 2014 Diversional Therapist
I am so pleased to read about Colouring in and its benefits. I have for so long kept it out of my program on the basis that I felt it was childish. However, I now have a totally different outlook thanks to your article and I will incorporate this activity and place considerably more importance in its place in the monthly program.
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