Putting Color into Retirement Living

in Independent Living

Written by Christine Thompson

The first time I walked along the halls of Westerleigh PARC, I was surprised to notice what was on the walls: original art.

Yes, original.

These are not IKEA knock-off prints trying to pass as art, but REAL art. And a lot of it in fact. Canvas after canvas, totalling over 50 pieces at the retirement residence.

Artist Julien Leger's Yellow Painting

Now, I am nothing of an art connoisseur but I am wise enough to know these are quality pieces. After a little enquiry, I learned a group of ten paintings in particular were part of a commission to suit the surrounding décor.

PARC Retirement Living Founder and Chairman, Rainer Müller attended one of artist Julien Leger’s exhibitions. Müller was so impressed, he bought one of Julien’s paintings and later commissioned Julien to create a series of pieces for Westerleigh PARC.

The two men had a meeting to discuss strategies and concepts considering the residents’ needs and the architecture. They decided upon a dominant colour scheme that would actually assist the residents to remember their floor, and associate with the colour. For example, they could say: “I live on the yellow floor.”  This was the inspiration for a series of ten paintings Julien created entitled “The Flower of Contrast – Yellow” which is on the 4th floor.

Julien explained the composition of the project:  “When you step off the elevator, you see the dominant Yellow Flower of Contrast in a large format piece. On either side of the hallway, the curved corridors reveal a series of smaller versions of the Flower of Contrast evaluating in a shading pattern. Towards the reds on one side and the blues on the other, the users would identify their units with one of the chromatic colours.”

For residents living on that floor, it’s a mental stimulus every time they walk by and look at a painting.  Whether it’s to look for something new in the abstract shapes, or delight in the colours.

Some of the art pieces around the residence are even used in a memory improvement class called Memory Fundamentals, part of the LivingBalance program PARC provides to residents through Independent Living+. Participants are given photos of some of the pieces and are asked to identify which one is not on the walls at Westerleigh PARC. It not only provides cultural exposure, but also engages the memory and provides a venue for social interaction.

For Müller, art is an integral part of life and he has always had a strong desire to share that with the residents who make PARC their home. He has placed pieces at all four of the PARC Retirement Living residences, providing a level of culture not often found at retirement living residences. Or anywhere, for that matter. Except perhaps an art gallery.