F5 - Interactive Art Therapy: A Tool to Reduce Social Isolation Among seniors in a Primary Care Setting

5. Community and social accountability

  • Date: Friday, September 20, 2019
  • Concurrent Session F
  • Time: 12:00pm-12:45pm

  • Room: Pier 5
  • Style: Presentation (information provided to audience, with opportunity for audience to ask question)
  • Focus: Practical (e.g. Presentation on how to implement programs and/or practices in the team environment)
  • Target Audience: Administrative staff, Representatives of stakeholder/partner organizations

Learning Objectives

Participants will gain knowledge and insights related to the design and implementation of non-resource intensive programs aimed at reducing social isolation among seniors and other marginalized communities. Community partnership and collaboration will be addressed as a key success factor, as well as the mental health needs of both the patient and the caregiver.  This presentation will identify ways to increase access to care for marginalized communities including senior citizens, new immigrants and those with cognitive-related illnesses. Participants will learn ways to seek out marginalized voices and perspectives while educating their surrounding communities in preventative care.


The effect of social isolation on health is now of a similar magnitude to other risks to health, such as high blood pressure, smoking and obesity. With significantly higher rates among seniors, social isolation can have direct effects on cardiovascular disease risk factors and is associated with increased sympathetic nervous system activity, increased inflammation, and decreased sleep, all of which can accelerate brain and cardiovascular aging (Cacioppo, et al., 2011). This presentation focuses on the design and implementation of an interactive art therapy program for seniors and individuals with mild to moderate dementia. In collaboration with researchers and health promotion experts at the Alzheimer's Society of Toronto, and the Don Mills Family Health Team held weekly Art Therapy classes hosted by Art Therapy Professionals.   Social isolation in Canada has become an epidemic among seniors and is often overlooked as a factor leading to mental illness. The Don Mills Family Health Team patient population captures the Central and Toronto Central LHIN, which includes 58% immigrant and 52% visible minorities. These populations are further compounded by inequalities when they are classified as a senior with a cognitive impairment such as dementia.  The Art Therapy program has shown to be successful in enabling seniors to feel more content with their social network, while establishing a stronger connection with their social network, to themselves and to their caregivers.


  • Briar DeFinney, MHI, Quality Improvement Decision Support Specialist (QIDSS)  ,Don Mills Family Health Team
  • Adijatukubra Musa, Msc, RD
  • Kathleen Downie, Art Therapist
  • Larry Grosso, Patient Representative
  • Ursula Grosso, Patient Representative