It was nothing but paint-covered fingers and smiles at the Aberdeen Hospital Tuesday morning.
In the hospital’s activity room, several National Geographic magazines are scattered across fruit-patterned table cloths for inspiration. Rollers and blue and orange paint bottles are methodically placed on a table in the corner.
It’s quiet until the art work begins, then there is an energetic buzz in the room.
Every week, roughly 10 to 12 residents gather to work on pieces of art as part of the Embrace Aging through the Arts of Community program.
The program, funded by the Eldercare and Victoria foundations, was started three years ago by Victoria’s Johanne Hémond, a recreation therapist with Island Health.
Therapeutic recreation utilizes functional interventions, leisure education and recreation participation to enable people with physical, cognitive, emotional or social limitations to maintain the skills, knowledge and behaviours that will allow them to enjoy leisurely activities.
Hémond’s program is adapted to each resident based on their abilities and needs.
For her work with the program, she was recently presented with the Ingrid Parsons Professional Recognition Award from the British Columbia Therapeutic Recreation Association, which recognizes an individual’s energy, drive and commitment to clients and the profession.
“I just really believe in the arts and the healing process of it and just feeling very at peace and the meditative aspect of art,” said Hémond, a part-time artist. “The emphasis is on building partnership, inclusion and saying to the community ‘hello, we exist.’ They’re still vibrant people creating here.”
Over the last three years, the program, which runs from September to March, has taught residents various art forms including pottery, acrylic painting and collages.
This year, residents are learning about printmaking.
Lena Bazuik was admitted to the care home a few month ago. Aberdeen is the third care home she’s been in since she had a stroke last year.
“I feel inspired and I feel happier. Other than that, there’s not much you can do in your bedroom,” she said, adding she had no experience with art prior to the program. “It’s a good program. I wish there were more programs like this at care homes.”
The program culminates in an annual art exhibit at the Cedar Hill Recreation Centre in the spring, where residents’ work is put on display.
“It satisfies a really deep need for connection,” said Marya Brown, who has been in the program since it began. “It was very exciting, it made me feel like a real artist to see my art up on the wall in an art gallery.”
Since then, the program has expanded to include a once-a-week sitting dance program, which teaches residents various types of dances including flamenco and a Halloween-inspired Thriller dance.
Hémond attributes the success of her programs to establishing strong relationships with patients.
“They’ve definitely built a trusting relationship with me for them to even think about doing art,” she said. “It gives them a sense of belonging. They’re my heroes really. Just to have the confidence to do what they do blows my mind. I’m humbled by them.”
The hospital is putting on a craft fair on Nov. 19 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., in which all proceeds from the sales will go towards the art program.
For more information visit the Facebook page Aberdeen Arts.