Painting a Brighter Future through the HeARTS Program

By Press Release

HeARTS program logo
HeARTS program

The HeARTS program (Helping the Elderly through Arts) offers a diverse range of creative activities that are tailored to meet the needs and interests of our seniors. Coordinator Sukhi Kaur notes, ‘We are always looking for new and exciting ways to engage the participants. Each week corresponds with a new theme, topic, special guest, artist of interest, technique, or a combination of all five.”.

“I am a 75 year old, fairly fit widow, and I think the HeArts program is amazing. I was so fascinated by the session on Vincent Van Gogh, that after the session, I wrote a poem about my experience as if I was in Vincent’s shoes. I shared it with my writing group, and I sent it to a publisher for review.”.

In 2021, the ODAC Board of Directors adopted a more socially responsive approach to future projects with a direct focus outward into the community, especially the vulnerable populations that would normally not have access to Arts activities due to a variety of barriers such as low income.  Building on the success of the virtual mental health program for at-risk women and their dependent children, ODAC pursued the opportunity to adapt the program within the context of seniors.

hearts program odac painting seniors

“The HeARTS educational, fun programme has brightened my life! It has given me the opportunity to make new friends (not easy at my age – 80), express my creativity & improve my health through the Gentle Movements exercises. Sukhi has the kind heart and talent to make our afternoon very enjoyable. Once we were even treated to a harpist playing as we painted!”.

Funded through the federal New Horizons for Seniors program, HeARTS is about the journey of artistic expression, not the destination.  Quite often we find that seniors in our communities are isolated and find it difficult to participate in group activity, occasionally due to transportation, or physical limitation. In partnership with St. James Church, ODAC was able to open a venue supportive of these activities.

odac hearts program seniors talking meeting art

Through the first season and a half, there has been an average of 39 participants at any given time. The purpose of the programme is:

  • Engage seniors as well as senior volunteers and mentors with college placement students
  • Offer caretakers an opportunity for respite as well as a fun outing for ones who chose to join in with the participant
  • Garner support and create further connections within community organizations (Alzheimer’s Society, Georgian College, Atrium Retirement, Victoria House, Pennywise)
  • Provide low income seniors access to a multifaceted hybrid program that they would not otherwise be able to afford
  • Offer artistic and creative activities prompting people to join the HeARTS program.

HeARTS is continuing this season at St,./ James in Orillia. Check out https://orilliaartscouncil.ca/ or E-Mail odacconnections@gmail.com for information on how to participate.