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Artists in Residence

Dementia and the healing power of art

Step inside Royal City Manor, a Revera long term care home, in New Westminster, B.C., and you’ll meet many residents living with dementia and other forms of Alzheimer’s disease. And while memory loss greatly effects their ability to live independently, they’ve shown that they’re capable of creating great art — and have staged their own show, with future exhibitions in the works.

Art has long been recognized for its therapeutic value.

The paintings and drawings can be viewed inside the Royal City’s dedicated gallery space, called the Creative Corner. The idea came from the residence’s recreation director, Leslie Torresan. “Some of our patients have dementia in one form or another, but we do not feel that that should stop them from being able to be creative and find a different calling in their life," Torresan told CBC News.
While dementia deeply effects memory, the process of creating art can sometimes tap into deeper layers of our personalities and subconscious memories of who we are and what we’ve done, even if we can’t put it into words.
For example, one resident, Antonia Iluongo, began painting for the first time in decades. As soon as her daughters saw her work, they noticed the brushwork was very similar to the embroidery she did when she worked as a seamstress years ago. While Antonia might not realize the connection, it’s clear she’s tapping into a part of herself long forgotten. More than this, she’s able to express herself in a new way ­— one that both she and her daughters can truly appreciate.
Art has long been recognized for its therapeutic value. At Royal City Manor, it’s a way for residents to feel a sense of accomplishment and the chance to create something new.


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