Assisted living resident and her artwork

True Colors: Seniors Find Beauty in the Artistic Process

January 31

Shirley Meyers was born over a century ago — 103 years ago, to be exact — in New Rochelle. She remembers her backyard and the surrounding area as rural and beautiful. So, when she got the chance to relive her memories through art, she put her whole heart into it. A resident of United Hebrew’s award-winning Willow Towers Assisted Living community in New Rochelle, she was thrilled to have one of her pieces selected as a featured work in the 2019 “Art from the Heart” Foundation for Quality Care calendar.

“There was a brook in my backyard with trees, and lots of open space, flowers and trees,” she said, describing the scene featured in “October: When I was Born,” the painting she submitted to the contest, which is sponsored by the Foundation for Quality Care, Inc., the New York State Health Facilities Association (NYSHFA) and the New York State Center for Assisted Living (NYSCAL).

“[Creating art] is something that I love. It’s beautiful and I can express myself,” she said.

Art adds to quality of life for seniors

Art therapy is part of a holistic program of enriching activities offered at Willow Towers’ assisted living community in Westchester County, according to its executive director, Nora O’Brien, who also oversees United Hebrew’s Willow Gardens Memory Care facility in New Rochelle.

“Whether it is painting, or sculpture, or drawing, art evokes feelings. Creating art is about creating a connection between people and to the world around them,” said O’Brien. “There’s something very special about reaching 80 or 90, let alone 100. It’s even more special to be able to learn something new.

The juried art contest, founded in 2004, began as a way of creating opportunities for seniors to share inspirational images from lives well-lived, according to Nancy Leveille, executive director of the Foundation for Quality Care, Inc. “Our residents have shared such rich stories through their artwork. The ‘Art from the Heart’ calendar provides a forum for these talented and interesting individuals to shine.”

Residents of more than 380 NYSHFA/NYSCAL member skilled nursing and assisted living facilities around the state were invited to submit artwork. More than 90 pieces were submitted from across New York State. The judges included representatives from the New York State Museum and the Sorelle Gallery in Albany.

Participating artists ranged in age from 52 to 103, with Meyers being the eldest artist selected. In addition to painting, Meyers remains actively engaged in the lives of her two children, seven grandchildren, and sixteen great-grandchildren. She also walks every day, gets her hair done weekly, plays poker, and participates in the full complement of social activities offered at Willow Towers.

Learn more about daily life at Willow Towers.