June 25 was a memorable day for Chartwell Niagara Long Term Care Residence in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. A classical guitarist played soft, serene music while residents and their friends and family viewed beautiful artwork displayed throughout the home. What made the art particularly special, however, was that all the works were created by the residents themselves.
A creative outlet
Art is a great way to channel creativity into something productive. It’s especially rewarding to see the end product of a piece you’ve worked so hard on. That’s why staff members at Chartwell Niagara LTC decided to introduce two art programs to residents: one for residents with previous artistic experience, and another called “EZ Art” for residents living with dementia who require additional assistance.
“Many of our residents find the program enjoyable and are proud of what they create,” says Cyndi Gardner, Program and Support Services Manager at the residence.
Gardner adds that not only do residents find it rewarding to reveal their artwork, they also share in a great deal of laughter together while they are in the creation stages. She remembers one day when the art instructor came in with a bowl of cherries that she wanted residents to use as a model for their paintings: “When the artist turned away, they ate all the cherries!” she giggles. “They ended up painting the empty bowl and added a few cherries from imagination instead.”
Displaying their artwork
After reviewing all of the beautiful works of art that came from both programs, staff decided it would be a great idea to display them in the patio and sunroom at the home and turn it into an art show. Guests enjoyed great food and entertainment all day, but most importantly, they were surrounded by the people they loved most. Residents got to show their loved ones what they were able to create with dedication and a little assistance from visiting art instructors.
“It was the talk of the day,” says Gardner. “The residents were on cloud nine with all the compliments. They put the world on hold and they were in the moment.”
“The event will turn into an annual occurrence.”
As a result of the positive response the art show received, the event will turn into an annual occurrence. Both art programs will be offered throughout the year at the residence, and seniors are encouraged to attend whenever possible. Residents with dementia are recruited by staff members and assisted throughout the creative process. Gardner detailed an instance where a resident who experienced a stroke was having difficulty painting. A staff member sat beside her and helped guide her along, and her smile grew from ear to ear.
“There are many benefits of art,” says Gardner. “First, there’s range of motion when painting with large brushes. There’s also an opportunity to socialize with others and feel satisfied with the end product. Seniors get positive feedback from staff, family and friends who in turn boost their morale.”