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August 31, 2015

This post is written by one of our Baycrest Centre for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care (LRI) summer interns, as part of a reflective series. Read about the interns’ experiences on Twitter by following #LRIinternship2015

Art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination. For me, art has served as a tool for creating a strong intergenerational bond with a long-term care resident.

Recently, I was privileged to meet a very kind-hearted resident at Baycrest’s long-term care home as a part of my 2015 summer internship with the Baycrest Centre for Learning, Research and Innovation. Following macular degeneration, Eli lost his ability to discern colors. This was a profound loss for someone who had once been a well-known portrait and abstract painter. But loss of vision did not mean loss of interest for Eli. Losing the ability to discern colors should not put a stop to enjoying something one has previously loved! And with that thought, I took on the challenge of re-introducing art into Eli’s life. After a few trials, we found a way to create art as a team, despite changes to his vision. By partaking in several art classes together, we created beautiful art pieces at the Baycrest studio. When others ask Eli about our paintings, he turns to me with a smile and says: “We are two artists that work very well together.”

Eli introduced me to different art techniques, such as how to properly hold a brush and to mix colors effectively, but most importantly, he taught me an invaluable life lesson. Through this experience, I learned that although the changes accompanying aging may sometimes be difficult to accept or adapt to, we can learn to optimize each person’s abilities. Our society often glorifies youth and disparages aging. Unfortunately, a common misconception is that old age consists merely of physical and mental burdens. With frail aging, some declines in function may be observed; however, healthy aging in later life is frequently a time of growth, gain and fulfillment. We often assume that cognitive impairments, physical disabilities and apathy are inevitable consequences of aging. This is not the case! Many older adults, including Eli, live very rewarding lives during their senior years.

Eli continues to fulfill his passion for painting and does not fail to put a smile on the faces of those around him every day. He is a true inspiration!

 —Tina Felfeli, 2015 LRI summer intern, M.D. Candidate Class of 2019 University of Toronto

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