Art and architecture combine to create new opportunities for resident engagement
4 December 2023
Our Senior Interior Designer Magda Myszkowki was recently interviewed by hello leaders, an important aged-care industry publication, about the role of art and architecture in resident engagement in seniors living. You can read the interview here, or scroll down below for the full text.
There is growing recognition that art in care environments is having a profoundly positive impact on residents as residential aged care homes invest in dedicated art gallery spaces. Through interaction with their residents and external artists, these spaces are also quickly developing into much-loved community features.
Art, particularly participating in making art, provides a deeper sense of cognitive engagement and connection for people of all ages – particularly for those experiencing cognitive decline.
But it’s not only the simple act of making art that’s important. Showcasing art gives residents, staff and visitors something to discuss, ponder and interpret. This is where the prospect of an art gallery inside an aged care home comes to life.
Magda Myszkowski, Senior Interior Designer Deicke Richards, told hello leaders that artwork should reflect a home’s values and positive themes. She explained that emphasising optimism, inspiring wonder and providing a meaningful connection to home are essential considerations when she works with providers establishing their art strategies.
“We put together an art strategy which represents an understanding of the building, its inhabitants and the locality. Then it’s a matter of finding out what the client wants in terms of the artwork they want or how their residents engage with the space,” Ms Myszkowski explained.
“Recently at Aveo Carindale, we focused on the notion of home, from large landscape scenery down to urban scapes and kitchen table detail. Our strategy focuses very strongly on locality so when we’re selecting artwork it references where the space is, plants growing in your garden and birds flying in the backyard.”
“That is a strong way to get people to remember aspects of their lives and where they are. It’s a nice prompt to provide a sense of familiarity with images of an area the resident may have lived in for their whole life,” she added.
Benevolent Living, an independent aged care and retirement living provider in Rockhampton QLD, successfully launched the Long Gallery in 2022, Australia’s first operating gallery in an aged care setting.
Aside from a curated permanent art collection sourced from artists connected to Central Queensland which is featured throughout the newly built Residential aged care building, Benevolent Living’s Long art gallery is embedded in a prominent setting hosting rotating exhibitions from the local art community and residents.
Eleanor Thomson, the art gallery’s manager and Lifestyle Officer at Benevolent Living, emphasised the need for quality to hello leaders as they wanted to establish a legitimate space for artists and residents alike.
“It’s spreading the input, influence and connections within the community. Our model was trying to move away from aged care being a gated community to being an open and useful space that’s genuinely relevant to the community in its own right,” Ms Thomson explained.
The Long Gallery is one aspect of Benevolent Living’s four-year Creative Arts Activation Strategy and Action Plan. This strategy has offered definition and purpose when engaging with residents, including the discovery of previously untapped potential.
Keren Hoch has been a resident at Benevolent Living for four decades but it was a recent discovery that led to Keren becoming an artist in residence with her first exhibition. Keren has been painting since she was ten years old, with art acting as a means of processing intense emotions. She said the art allows her to reconnect with her past and remain focused even when emotions and feelings may pose challenges.
“At its heart, art plays with a lot of ideas around the subconscious and for anyone, but particularly people who have cognitive difficulties or ways of processing, art provides an opportunity for interpretation.”
“You have to trust in the opportunities art gives because it’s not necessarily measurable,” Ms Thomson added.
There are benefits on the financial front, too, as Benevolent Living receives a small commission on all artwork sold, with the rest going to the artist.
While talking to hello leaders, Ms Myszkowski was reminded of a project at Lady Small Haven Retirement Village, a Churches of Christ community on the Gold Coast, where Deicke Richards sourced artwork drawing inspiration from the region. Residents were so enamoured with the work they created their own art wall showcasing personal pieces and stories. Art was a gateway to new information, just as it was at Benevolent Living.
“At Benevolent Living we made collages in a workshop and I brought images of Central Queensland and Rockhampton. We had eight residents around the table and they were so engaged for over two hours. From looking at images and cutting and glueing them on paper, it led to the sharing of stories and it was a great way to draw all this information out.
“I think this is a great way of getting to know the people we’re designing for, what their heritage is, what they did in their lives, and then you can respond to those narratives through art and design.”