WESTLOCK - Picture the hills, rolling off into the horizon under a slowly setting sun; the smell of prairie flowers on the air; the cows sounding off in the distance as they make their way home for the night; and the brightest red barn, situated among the greenery in the most idyllic rural scene you could imagine.
That’s the peaceful image some of the residents at the Westlock Continuing Care Centre are hoping to capture, along with some of their young friends, as that exact scenario comes to life in the halls of the facility thanks to artistic flair of both young and old.
Since September, residents at the facility have been visited once a week by different home-schooled students to team up on a paint-by-numbers mural in one of the hallways.
The project was made possible with a $500 donation from Westlock CONEX (Community of Networking Excellence, formerly the Westlock Drug Task Force) for paint and supplies, but the finished project may be worth much more.
First floor care manager at the Continuing Care Centre, Kim Kramer, said the mural idea had been tossed around before and with the contribution from CONEX they were able to make it a reality.
CONEX is heavily involved with numerous community organizations and events, organizing the Westlock Thunderbirds’ annual Friday Night Lights festivities, for instance, and another intergenerational activity that sees those same young football players visiting residents of the lodges in town to meet up for tea.
Kramer is married to Thunderbirds’ head coach Jon Kramer, who also sits on the CONEX committee. When he came home from a meeting one night looking for an activity the group could help fund, the mural project sprung to her mind.
Kramer contacted a friend with the Westlock Homeschoolers Association and soon enough, the youth were mingling with residents as they all came together to create their pastoral masterpiece.
It’s very much about enhancing the community for community care nursing as well, said Kramer. To make people comfortable enough to go help a senior of they see them struggling.
“This was a good fit. They’ve been excited about it,” said Kramer. “We’re hoping that if we can take children and pair them up with seniors and help them develop that kind of relationship, or that expectation that we are a helping community, that we’ll be able to serve people in the community longer.”
Debbie McCoy, a public health nurse with Alberta Health Services and CONEX committee member shared a story of a conversation she had with one of the young artists who thought he might be back to the facility one day when he’s older and actually remember painting the farm scene.
Stimulating the memories of the residents has been a great therapeutic benefit of the project, as residents are often taken back to their childhoods upon viewing the mural.
“They picked a great scene, because it’s a farming scene,” said McCoy. “The kids tell me that’s been awesome because the residents come along and talk about their life on the farm and it brings back good memories.”
AHS addictions and mental health counsellor Jack Adkins, who is also with CONEX, said it’s always amazing to see the communication between the generations.
“When they do these intergenerational things, it’s amazing how much the old can learn from the young and the young can learn from the old,” he said.
It also helps give residents a purpose for the day, said Kramer.
“Residents don’t always have a specific agenda, but this gives them the feeling they are contributing to the greater good and contributing to their home and contributing to the lifestyle and the quality of life of others and that’s such a lovely thing to be able to do at that stage of life,” said Kramer.
“It really fits our mandate as far as what we want to do in this community and with families and with youth,” said Adkins. “It’s the whole package and we were glad we had the funds to help make this activity happen.”