Why paints & brushes make for the best kind of therapy

When many of us think of art, we think of a fun relaxing way for us to express our creativity, however for some elderly residents with dementia or other deteriorating illnesses, art can be a life changing hobby.

resident and family member

While there is no cure for dementia, art can stimulate the brain, helping stir dormant memories, and even encourage speech for non-verbal residents. 

The power of art therapy activities can help boost cognitive function in various areas of the brain and enhance communication, brain function, communication and social interaction in people. 

We sat down with Ann Newman, Leisure and Lifestyle from St Vincent’s Carseldine to see the work our team and residents are doing in the creative sphere. “Our team plans and coordinates activities for the residents to assist with their quality of life in our homes,” says Ann. “We do all sorts of creative activities from painting and colouring, to making mandelas out of cardboard. “One of our many craft activities that both our residents and staff love, is making decorations and artwork for events and holidays. You will see poppies on ANZAC and Remembrance Day and crepe daffodils on Daffodil Day.”

“The residents can rest assure that no two craft programs will be the same.”

“When our residents participate in art and creative outlets, it allows for them to reconnect with creative points in their lives. However, with the new information we have at our disposal and the ever-growing art disciplines, we have an opportunity to reignite a passion and introduce new artforms to their skillset. With every new art form comes a new skill and a new conversation.”

 “When we do art, whatever medium it is, it can help stimulate a conversation,” says Ann. “Many residents will reminisce about when they were younger, and when they were with their children. Through revisiting those times in their lives and sharing those memories have allowed for them to bring their dormant memories to the forefront on their mind.”

Art in St Vincent’s homes

With many resident artists and creatives, St Vincent is never short of beautiful paintings, drawings, knitting, and sculptures to share with the world.

Wanting to embed the memories of our residents and the artwork they have created when visiting our sites, you will be blessed with the beautiful creativity of those who live in our homes.

“Our residents have the opportunity to participate in creating artwork for others,” says Ann. “Last Christmas, we had a team of residents cutting up our old Christmas cards and making collage placemats for other residents. This was not only a way of being creative but also the opportunity to recycle and gift give.”

“Recently we had a resident knit booties for one of our staff member’s granddaughters. This was a beautiful way to allow our resident to give back to member who has given her so much.”

“We also have artwork from a late resident still on the walls today to keep the memories and creative alive. ”We focus on the process. It’s not about the end result, it’s about doing it and being and sharing. 

Exploring the love for art 

An ongoing activity the St Vincent’s Carseldine members participate in is the Art and Dementia Program at Queensland Art Gallery. The wellbeing program incorporates artwork viewing with tactile and sensory aspects, designed specifically for people living with dementia. “Every six weeks, we take a day trip to the art gallery for their specific dementia program,” says Ann. “It's great to see the residents focus what is in the painting, and even watching nonverbal residents talk.”

“Participating in the program can allow our residents to regain old memories. They can look at a painting and see things and they don’t all need to see the same thing.”

“While the program has a purpose, there is also no pressure. They can just go along and have time to appreciate the art.”

“Art is so powerful.”

Art not only helps with dementia and brain deterioration but finding hands on activities can help our residents and the elderly to improve their motor skills. It's about changing their mindset of their capabilities and keep them doing what they love for as long as possible. What art activities would you like to see at our sites?

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