Sharing beauty, celebrating seniors

I prefer to celebrate holidays one at a time, unless the calendar dictates otherwise. My gift-shopping began last weekend, but for me, the post-Thanksgiving holiday season really began Monday, when I received my first holiday greeting card.

Cards arriving in mailboxes across the country are putting smiles on recipients’ faces. Americans love sending cards at this time of year, according to the Greeting Card Association (GCA), which says that Christmas cards are the most popular type in the United States. Americans purchase 1.6 billion Christmas cards every year—one-fourth of all cards bought in the country all year. Additionally, we buy 15 million Thanksgiving cards and an untold number of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s cards (the GCA doesn’t have statistics related to those observances).

Almost three-fourths of those sending cards do so because they themselves enjoy receiving them, according to Hallmark research cited by the GCA. This year no doubt will bring particular delight to those receiving cards designed by the winners of the Emeritus Senior Living Resident Art Contest (click on the photo in the upper left corner to see all of them).

The winter-themed contest was promoted by the life enrichment directors at the 500-plus Emeritus communities. Residents completed the artwork during scheduled art classes or on their own. A panel of artists and designers culled 10 finalists from more than 250 entries, and the public selected the five winners in October by voting on the Emeritus Facebook page.

“We were astounded by all of the creativity, work and effort each resident put into their artwork,” says Kelly Scott, vice president of program development and innovation. “Creating art is a part of our life enrichment program at Emeritus, which is designed to add joy, purpose and meaning to the lives of our residents. We do this by offering activities and programs that reflect the talents and interests of our residents, while also offering experiences that will challenge them and keep them mentally healthy.”

The residents’ stories are as interesting as their winning designs:

  • Ed Cauthers of Florida became hooked on art in junior high school. Some of the World War II and Korean War veteran’s paintings hang in his community, and he gives away the others to family or friends.
  • Alice Mach of Massachusetts professionally trained and had a career as an artist, is active in her community’s multimedia art group and displays the results of her efforts in the community for all to enjoy.
  • Thelma McNutt of New Mexico became interested in art as an adult. After she observed a woman painting china, she took a class to learn the technique. She became a freelance painter of not only china but also portraits and jewelry cases. Now she participates in monthly art therapy sessions at her community and encourages fellow residents to develop their imaginations as well.
  • Willetta Nations of Texas, a professionally trained artist, enjoys teaching others how to paint and reading about art. Primarily interesting in watercolors now, she shares her work with fellow residents daily.
  • Alexander von Heister of Georgia is a native of Germany who moved to the United States as a child. His love of art was influenced by his family, which included accomplished artists. During his service in World War II, he began sketching planes.

Emeritus is offering the cards for sale, too. It might be too late to send them as holiday greetings this year, but the cards are blank inside and, therefore, can be used to send notes throughout the snowy months. Those interested can purchase the cards here.

Research already has revealed the important role that artwork plays in healthcare settings. The Emeritus Resident Art Contest—this year’s was the third one—is just one of the ways in which the company is sharing the wonders of visual creativity. Whenever it updates community artwork to coordinate with new décor, Emeritus donates the poster-sized art and prints that formerly hung on the community’s walls to nonprofit charitable organizations and senior centers that have applied to receive it.

How does your community use art to beautify the living environment for seniors and others? How does your community celebrate the talents of residents and share their gifts? Please relay your stories to me via email or in the comments section below (click on the dark blue box).

View a gallery of the contest-winning cards by clicking on the photo, upper left.

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Topics: Activities , Executive Leadership