Calgary seniors display art with skills acquired during the pandemic

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Calgary seniors display art with skills acquired during the pandemic
After years of COVID restrictions, a Calgary senior home is using art made by its residents to celebrate and spread joy this Christmas Season. Carolyn Kury de Castillo has the details – Nov 26, 2022

For many people living in long-term care facilities, the isolation that came with pandemic restrictions took a heavy toll.

“It was hard. Lots of loneliness,” said Dorothy de Vuyst, executive director of Shalem Society for Senior Citizens Care in southwest Calgary. “We could see residents sort of deflate.”

“It was very upsetting at first and scary. One night I thought enough of this. I’m going to get doing something,” recalled Shalem resident Florence Lowry.

Lowry decided to make the best of the miserable situation. She did something she always wanted to do and wrote a book of poems while other residents at Shalem Seniors Community took up painting.

“It was something to do to pass the time while I was confined to the room. COVID lasted quite a while,” said resident Lou Damphousse

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During the time residents were confined to the building, staff encouraged them to explore new hobbies. Some began taking art lessons from an in-house painting instructor.

“It’s just amazing how she taught us,” said resident Jill Moroney. She said she surprised herself at her ability to create art after just a few lessons.

This week, all the artwork completed during the pandemic was put on display in the hallways of the centre.

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“It’s lovely,” Lowry said. “It just sparks the place up to have all these pictures that people have done and it makes me realize there are a lot of artists and a lot of really talented people living in our place.”

The supportive living centre looks more like an art gallery now with all the paintings and wood carvings on display — complete with plaques that include the artists’ names.

Eight-six-year-old Lou Damphousse said this is proof that when life gives you lemons, you need to get creative — and that you’re never too old to learn a new skill or brush up on an old one.

“The painting is a pastime and it’s very creative. You learn as you go along. One thing about painting – you can always do it over again, better or maybe make it worse,” Damphousse said with a laugh.

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During the time of the pandemic restrictions, Shalem also teamed up with local photographer Shallon Cunningham with the goal of capturing the “kitchen wisdom” and food memories of the residents.

A photo gallery of those images is also on display at the centre.

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