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How a mural project creates social connection for London, Ont., seniors living in community housing | CBC News

For residents living at London Middlesex Community Housing’s (LMCH) Kent Street site, a wall mural project was more than a welcome passtime to develop a sense of community coming out pandemic restrictions. 

Seniors who are taking part in the six-week project say they hope to re-energize their building, making it a vibrant social setting that existed before the pandemic hit. 

LMCH curated the idea alongside Museum London and the Creative Age Network, a group of retired seniors working with local organizations to coordinate activities and events for older adults. Its goal is to allow residents to collaborate and build relationships with each other.

Resident Konrad Mirasty took part in a community activity for the first time ever. It’s provided a great opportunity for him to get to know and work with some of his neighbours, he said. 

“I’ve stayed to myself quite often but now I’m getting to know more people,” he said. “It’s for our community and I’m also a senior, so I thought that it would be a great idea.”

A challenging but welcome opportunity

Konrad Mirasty is one of nearly a dozen residents at LMCH’s Kent Street site, participating in its wall mural project. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

LMCH’s Chief Executive Officer Paul Chisholm said the mural is the first real group activity since pandemic restrictions ended, and provides a space for everyone. 

“What we know about the tenants that we serve, especially the seniors, is that it’s important for them to be part of a community,” he said.

“The tenants are really happy to be here. Just coming out of COVID where we spent two years saying ‘Don’t gather in groups, stay away from people and don’t interact,’ it’s a really welcome opportunity to generate programming within our community.”

Kathy Smith, coordinator of the Creative Age Network, works closely with the residents. She said the design process included looking at different styles and landscapes of paintings which helped determine the image they wanted. 

The group then painted a background, a mid-ground, and will eventually finish the foreground detail work toward the end, with an emphasis on teamwork and communication, she said. 

“It’s really interesting because it’s walking into a situation where everybody is out of their comfort zone and we didn’t want to have a paint by numbers, we wanted to solve problems along the way and make changes to bring new people in,” Smith said. 

“I think that’s really challenging for everybody but through the process of making decisions and solving problems, we always come up with something unique and different.”

Kathy Smith is coordinator of Creative Age Network, which works with local organizations to create activities and events for retired seniors. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

Mirasty said he’s also learned many new things about art and the creative process. 

“It’s calming and still has nice vibrant colours, it’s better than just paint. Quite honestly, [the building] looks pretty institutional right so now this is going to look fantastic,” he said.

Smith believes the mural is a learning process for people who have no artistic background, allowing them to experiment with different colours and designs. It creates a healthy challenge which seniors like herself really enjoy, she said.

“It’s like making a lasagna, you put together layers of colours and not everybody is familiar with that style of work. I I think it’s challenging but it’s going to be very rewarding,” she said. 

Chisholm is planning similar projects at his other sites and wants to build on more activities that engage senior residents in the coming months. 

Konrad Mirasty is excited to see the finished product of his and other residents’ hard work. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

Mirasty is excited to see the final product of his and his new-found community’s hard work. 

“It’ll bring some life back into this yellow institutional-looking lounge, so it’ll be great no matter what because it’s a feel-good painting,” he said. 

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