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Art therapy a stroke of creativity

You don’t have to be an expert in drawing or painting to reap the benefits of art therapy. Unleashing your inner Picasso can have many health benefits, so why not embrace your creative side, pick up a new skill and enjoy time with friends.

Former artist Leopoldine ‘Poldi’ Mimovich feels “at home” in front of the easel during Mercy Place East Melbourne's art therapy workshops. (Source: Mercy Health)

Residents of Mercy Place East Melbourne are doing just that through weekly art therapy workshops.

Running for almost two months, the workshops see residents painting, creating collages and practicing mindfulness with colouring activities.

Former artist and famous sculptor, 98-year-old resident Leopoldine ‘Poldi’ Mimovich, loves the program and says she is “at home” when she sits in front of the easel.

Mercy Place East Melbourne Lifestyle Assistant and art therapist Claire Ganzon runs the weekly workshops and has seen the benefits firsthand.

“Our residents love attending the workshops and are always eager to pick up a paint brush or get their hands dirty making a collage,” Ms Ganzon says.

“They’ve created more than 20 pieces of artwork, which hang either in their rooms or communal areas for other residents to enjoy.

Ms Ganzon says there has been consistent interest in the program and an improvement in activity engagement.

“Not only is the program aimed at improving residents’ wellbeing, but it is a great social activity where we all come together and explore creative ideas, which encourages participation and supports the inclusive environment we aim to foster here,” she says.

Service Manager Kate Page says the program is one of the many activities the home offers residents.

“It is wonderful to see the joy the workshops provide our residents with the big smiles that light up their faces,” she says.

Described by training organisation IKON Institute of Australia as a way of helping people develop their communication skills, confidence and happiness levels, art therapy involves many art forms such as painting, drawing, sandplay and sculpture.

IKON Institute Chief Executive Officer Brad Seaman says art therapy can help seniors develop a deeper level of self awareness and personal understanding.

“Art therapy is fantastic in helping people explore and express feelings that may be difficult to verbalise, as well as foster healthy coping skills,” Mr Seaman says.

“This is particularly important in an aged care setting, where art therapy can allow the expression of complex thoughts and emotions, help to alleviate anxiety and depression, improve motor skills and cognitive functioning, and encourage socialising.”

Residents with home care provider IRT have also started reaping the benefits of art therapy.

Home Care Team Leader Julie Trpeski says although the residents, aged in their 80s and 90s, were initially a little hesitant, the weekly class is now a big hit.

“We’d been looking to get the residents into something creative,” Julie explains.

“I spoke to four residents, who were also receiving home care, about getting involved in a regular painting class. Now they are absolutely loving it. They all underestimated themselves.”

The classes came about after former visual arts teacher Cindi Abou Haidar completed a work placement at IRT Peakhurst in Sydney’s southern suburbs. Cindi is now a care worker at the community and runs a two-hour painting class every Thursday morning.

“[The residents] enjoy each other’s company. They also want [to do] more. It’s just encouraging and something that takes them out of their [comfort] zone,” Ms Trpeski says.

Some the artwork being created by residents during IRT's art therapy session. (Source: IRT)
Some the artwork being created by residents during IRT's art therapy session. (Source: IRT)


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