Creating art from the heart

PLP students engage in art therapy with senior citizens in Williamsburg

~Anna Dorl, Lifestyle Editor~

On Friday, Feb. 22, 15 students from CNU’s President’s Leadership Program took a trip to Williamsburg Landing and its attached Adult Day Center to do art therapy with some of the residents there.

“Williamsburg Landing is kind of like a retirement community and the Adult Day Center is an area where families can drop off their elderly loved ones who they can’t quite leave at home because it’s not quite safe enough,” said Catherine Overberg, a University Fellow with the President’s Leadership Program.

Caroline Nice, a junior PLP student and a service track coordinator with the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), started a program there for residents to do art therapy.

“We had an amazing time volunteering together at Williamsburg Landing Adult Day Center,” she said. “I personally have been volunteering there every week for a couple months now teaching an art therapy class.” 

According to Overberg, Nice usually works with the residents by herself, so she was extremely happy to be able to share the experience with her fellow PLP students. “It really meant a lot to me and the staff to have the extra helping hands there,” Nice said.

PLP students are required to engage in different forms of community service and must volunteer once a month. Working with the Williamsburg Landing residents fulfilled the Aging service track, one of many that the CCE offers.

“[The residents] do a lot of painting and stuff to help their dexterity,” said Overberg. “On Friday, [the residents had] shelf paper that was sticky on one side, so they put tissue paper on it. There was a wire and pulled the excess [tissue paper] over the wire and they could crumple it. It was like they made a little stained glass window that they can put in front of their windows so when the sun finally comes out, they can have cool colors coming into their room.”

According to Overberg, the senior citizens at Williamsburg Landing and the Adult Day Center really enjoyed having new visitors because they don’t get volunteers who come in to work with them very often. There were 10-15 senior citizens in the art class and 15 PLP students present, which allowed for a lot of one-on-one bonding. “Not only was everyone able to have one-on-one help, but they were also able to bond and have conversation with their CNU helper,” said Nice. The seniors told the students stories about their lives and experiences they had when they were younger.

“Art and creativity is a great way to boost mindfulness and relaxation, as well as exercise motor planning and cognitive abilities in elderly individuals,” Nice said. “I very much value the relationships I have made with the staff and participants there and feel lucky to witness the various memory recollections and smiles that art class brings to our participants. Being able to lead CNU students and my elderly friends together in art class was really something special for me to see. Their faces when CNU students walked in the door was priceless.”

“Anybody and everybody can go with [Nice] to help at Williamsburg Landing, it’s a really nice facility,” Overberg said. “All the participants were super duper sweet.”

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