Date of Paper/Work


Type of Paper/Work

Research Project

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy


Occupational Science/Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Catherine Sullivan, Ph.D., OTR/L


Occupational Therapy


The purpose of this thesis was to study the impact of a creative arts-based program on nursing home residents. This research study examined staff and caregiver descriptions of elder participant’s experience of a creative music and dance program called “Dancing Heart TM ” in two long term care facilities. The research questions of this study were (a) what is the meaning and experience of music and dance for the participants? (b) what is the perceived impact of the dance program on quality of life of the participants? and (c) what is the perceived impact of the dance program on the culture of the nursing home? Results indicate that participation in the sessions encouraged increased physicality, personal validation and reminiscence as well as a sense of “flow”. In response to the second research question, results suggest that music and dance positively impacted participants’ quality of life through the building of new memories, bonding, sharing of joint meaning and creative expression, experiences of fun and excitement, as well as feelings of sacredness and healing. The results for the perceived impact of a creative arts-program on the nursing home show a positive culture change through increased personal interactions between residents and staff and facility-wide interest in art-based programming.