I’m always on the lookout for nursing home stories that are happier and more optimistic. They are few and far between, but this one from the South County Independent (Maine) made me want to dig out my watercolors.
Shady Acres Nursing Home has an active and energetic activities director in Shirley Stebbings. She, along with her assistant, staff, and volunteers help to fill residents lives with artistic activities. Along with the typical sing-alongs and book readings, Shady Acres also brings in Coleen Desrosiers, an art teacher to instruct and inspire a small group of residents. Desrosiers, an artist herself, also teaches painting at other nursing homes, and she seems to really enjoy her work. According to the article:
“I tell them to paint what they’re inspired by,” she said. “I ask, ‘What do you feel like painting today? Birds? Flowers? Some fields? Something bright?’ I think everyone loves nature, from the time we’re children. We are nature. We’re all a part of it. Maybe it’s a sense of getting back to our most basic interests.” ….
Many of the residents use wheelchairs or walkers to get around. All suffer from a variety of medical ailments. Some have dementia. Some have Alzheimer’s disease. But for those who choose to participate in the class, Desrosiers said, there is “something freeing” that happens sometimes.
The artists work amidst the beeping of oxygen tanks and sounds of the television. Their subjects are familiar Maine sights: lighthouses, loons, cardinals, ducks, flowers. They may copy magazine pictures or personal photos, but they always add their own personal touches. According to the art teacher, Desrosiers:
“Copying is the best way to learn. But I love it when they do something different because they’re making it their own. Then it’s not just a copy. It’s their creation.”
The art classes are a positive experience for everyone, including the community. Paintings by Shady Acres residents were on display throughout February at the North Kingstown Free Library.
To read the full article, click here: Nursing Home Painters Prove Age Is No Deterrent to Artistic Expression