For some people it’s never too late to pick up a new hobby.
Seniors at Stanford Place in Parksville and The Gardens in Qualicum Beach have been enjoying the benefits of painting at home.
The program started in in January at Stanford Place and November at The Gardens.
The art classes began after the Oceanside Community Arts Council (OCAC) applied for a grant through the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN).
The grant from the RDN allowed for the OCAC to buy arts supplies, while The Gardens and Stanford Place pay for an art teacher.
Rosemary Fontenla is the teacher at both facilities. She used to work at The Gardens.
She has 12 years of experience in painting and took two years of arts classes at Camosun College in Victoria 30 years ago.
Now retired, Fontenla has worked with seniors for the past 23 years.
“When I look back at any job I’ve had, my favourite customers were seniors.”
The residents in her classes range from 80 to 100 years old, and while some have experience painting, others have no experience at all. Fontenla calls them her “super seniors.”
Fontenla’s oldest student will be turning 100 in April.
Anne Staite will be celebrating the milestone birthday April 21.
Staite said these weekly art classes at Stanford Place bring out something special in her that she didn’t know existed.
She ensures that the classes are geared toward the individual needs and abilities of the residents.
One of Fontenla’s students at Stanford Place is new to the classes. Pat Green had a stroke and cannot use her right side anymore. Now she’s learning to paint with her left hand.
At The Gardens, Fontenla is helping another woman who is now blind, but can see a little bit of light.
Fontenla was helping by holding the woman’s hand and turning the brush and adding pressure. When Fontenla felt comfortable, she held the woman’s arm, but didn’t put any pressure.
Afterward, Fontenla could hear the woman saying, “Curve and turn to the right. Curve and turn to the left.”
“I’m really happy to see there are people with challenges coming.”
With each class, Fontenla tries to pick a theme. In the beginning, she would draw lines on a chalkboard so the residents could follow along.
Now she gets pictures she feels they can paint over the course of a few weeks.
The 1.5-hour classes give the residents a chance to leave their daily lives behind, forget their health concerns and immerse themselves in the art of painting.
“I am so happy with their efforts,” Fontenla said.
Fontenla said she’s just so happy when she sees a resident who didn’t want to come to the classes enjoying themselves.
“Sometimes they just need the encouragement.”
Fontenla is trying to plan three different shows for the facilities.
She’s planning a show at The Gardens to show other works the residents have done in their lives, including carvings and embroidery work. On top of that she’s working on an in-house show at Stanford Place.
Fontenla is also arranging a show at The MAC in the late summer for both facilities.
The class runs twice a month at The Gardens and weekly at Stanford Place.
Seniors who are interested in the program and live in either one of the facilities can talk to staff to learn more.