The power of art in aged care

Art therapists have long known that the simple act of creation can help enhance emotional wellbeing. In an aged care context, art-therapy programs allow residents to explore their creativity and pursue their passions.  

Art therapy in aged care homes can be a good way for residents to communicate their feelings and connect with others. Creative activities provide a much-needed outlet for self-expression, so they can even have a positive impact on people living with illnesses such as dementia.

Discovering the inner artist

Bupa Aged Care resident Noel Outhred was 70 when he began to explore his creativity. “I always had a hankering to be an artist, but I was in business as a public accountant and very busy, and didn’t really have any time for art.”
Once Outhred had more free time, all it took to set him on his creative path was a little encouragement. “My two daughters were interested in art, and they knew I was, too, so they bought me some paints for Christmas one year. I just took to the paint and did it. I copied something or other, and it grew from there.”
Outhred works across a number of different mediums, including 3D modelling and oil painting. His subject interest is broad, and recent pieces include a sculpture of Tutankhamen, a crane made of paddle-pop sticks, and an abstract commentary on Melbourne’s (then-proposed, but now-scrapped) East-West Link freeway project.
Outhred is currently working with oil paint, creating both abstract and symmetrical works in vibrant colours. “It’s slow work, but for me it’s interesting because it gives me a chance to be creative. At the moment, I’m painting every second day.”
Man with his paintings

The impact of art

Although art therapy focuses more on creation rather than on the end product, Outhred’s artworks have received many accolades. He has been entering his work into the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) annual Story Writing and Art Competition (SWAC) for a number of years, earning honourable mentions and winning prizes.
Bupa Lifestyle Officer Sylvia Hendy has helped care for Outhred for several years, and she has observed art therapy’s positive impact on both him and his fellow residents. 
Man with his prize art
When Outhred’s work was on display at the most recent DVA exhibition, Hendy took eight of the residents on an excursion to see it and was thrilled with their response. “They were so amazed by his hard work. He’s very appreciated by his fellow residents here.”
Hendy says that Outhred’s artworks also take pride of place on the walls of the aged-care centre. “If you come to Bupa Donvale, all you can see is the artwork of Noel Outhred. Every time new people come in, we’re very proud to say that this is the work of one of our residents.”
Whether it’s painting, drawing, sewing, crafting, writing or dancing, opportunities for creativity in aged care can help improve mental health, encourage self-expression and enrich lives. The bonus is that you may discover a wonderful artist who has been in hiding for all those years. 

Bupa Aged Care

Bupa Aged Care, offers a full range of care including respite, residential and specialised dementia care.

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