Age is no barrier to being creative

Category: Caring

Miriam Simcock didn’t believe she’d paint again. But all she needed was a bit of encouragement and a paintbrush.

Miriam Simcock painting | Retirement village | Bupa

Painting by Miriam Simcock

Creativity is widely known to be emotionally uplifting. It can enhance wellbeing and reduce stress. So, when, Fergusson Retirement Village Manager, Judith Bain, discovered one of her residents had been a great painter in her younger years, she set about finding a way to bring art into her residents’ lives.

Judith catches up with her residents regularly to find out how they are. One day she was in the apartment of Miriam, one of her residents, and looked up to admire some paintings. “I was taken aback by the beautiful art and realised it was signed by Miriam”, says Judith.

Judith asked Miriam, who is now in her 90s, about her paintings. Miriam, who lives with dementia, said she was no longer capable of creating art. 

The conversation stayed with Judith over the following weeks. She began to ask other residents if they’d ever painted, or if they were interested in nurturing their creative streak. 

I loved being able to help them travel back in time and find a skill they thought they had lost. It was an emotional journey because it brought such pleasure and pride to residents.

Judith Bain

While some of Judith’s residents had painted in the past, others had never painted but were keen to learn. As she talked to them, Judith thought about how to encourage them to get painting. She settled on the idea of hosting an art class. 

As luck would have it, a teacher was close at hand. A local artist already knew the Fergusson Retirement Village residents and was enthusiastic about helping them get painting. “Jenni, an accomplished painter, also specialises in exercise for the elderly. She takes classes at the village and was happy to volunteer her time,” Judith says. 

Judith purchased canvases and brushes and Jenni got the residents working on landscapes and still-life paintings, helping them mix colour and create shading. 

Despite her previous artistic accomplishments, Miriam was reluctant to join in with the painting group and was adamant she could no longer paint. But Judith managed to persuade her to come along by suggesting she share tips with the other residents. 

Soon after she showed up, Miriam picked up a brush and immersed herself in the activity, producing a lovely painting of the sea. 

Miriam wasn’t the only one who discovered, or re-discovered her creative streak through the class. “A visually impaired resident did a lovely painting. She told me she’d always wanted to paint when she was young but never had the chance,” Judith remembers. 

‘The experience was very rewarding for the residents and for me,” says Judith. “I loved being able to help them travel back in time and find a skill they thought they had lost. It was an emotional journey because it brought such pleasure and pride to residents.” 

Not only did the art class get the residents creative but it was great for socialising too. “The residents were interested in seeing what the others were painting and comparing their art works,” Judith says. 

Judith hung all the finished paintings in the Community Lounge for everyone to admire and the paintings became a conversation point for both the residents and their visitors. 

Judith plans to host more art classes in future to keep her residents creatively inspired.


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