Seniors Calling. A Legacy in Brushstrokes.


20150507_124912Karen Nisbet, retired teacher, well known local artist, choruster, and champion in the theatre community, is transforming a space, like no one else could. Her gifts are intense, and they have come alive on the walls at 3rd Floor, Apple Orchard, FJ.Davey Home.

The Mural Project, supported through the generous work of The FJ Davey Home Auxiliary, is a vision to behold. Emily MacPherson, Recreation Therapist at the Davey Home, did some research on ‘exit diversion strategies’. “We researched the idea of murals. Murals provide residents with beautiful visuals. These visuals can bring back good memories of a different time and place. It’s a way to begin conversations with residents and staff, family members. It’s remarkable really. In a setting like this, (3rd Fl. Apple Orchard) where we are supporting residents with Alzheimers and Dementia, we try to create safe and calming spaces. Safety includes ‘exit diversion strategies.’ Many residents just want to go home. Especially around specific times, like dinner time. They want to go home and make dinner for the kids.(for example) This is referred to as ‘Sundowners’. Residents experiencing this, are actively looking for ways to exit, and are prone to wandering.”

As Emily was speaking to the issue of strategies for supporting residents with alzheimers, one resident could be heard saying just that. “I need to go home.” Karen’s masterpieces will go a long way to enhancing and providing just that, home. The Murals are stunning in their size, varied in subject, and draw a person right into that time and place. The Pantry Mural incorporates a staff entrance/exit. On the door is a safety feature, ‘peep-hole’. Within the face of the clock on The Pantry Shelf, a peep-hole can be found. A person would really have to look for it, and have prior knowledge of its’ existence.
Emily went on to add “By creating murals over all of the exits, by bringing visual life to the walls, there is a reduction in residents physically trying to push open a door.”


20150507_123012“Over the last 15 months or so, that i have been here, I have seen a gentle shift in the atmosphere. I really think that these murals have had a calming effect on the residents.” shared artist Karen Nisbet. “The staff and residents have been amazing. The families of residents. Very encouraging. My favourite part is when residents just sort of lean in (on the large counter) and watch me. Often a story will be told about working on The Docks, or on Boats. Crossing the Bridge. Memories come to life.”
Karen was referring to the gorgeous mural reflected in The St.Mary’s River Canal, Sault Ont. “The beginning of the idea for this mural came from a photograph dated sometime in the 1950’s.” adding “I have personalized all of the elements in each mural, to reflect Sault Ste. Marie and District of Algoma.” Standing in front of the ‘Beaver’ BushPlane FJD 3A Mural, with two fisherman casting lines into the blue waters of a northern ontario lake, a person can see how visual panoramic images, can spark a conversation, and shared story-telling. The FJD 3A is Karen’s clever homage to the very space she is painting.
The BookCase is full of book titles that include residents & staff names, and some of the varied interests of residents. “We are making history here” shared Karen “Many of the book titles and authors reflect the FJ Davey home residents and staff.” One more example of how much thought and care went into the design and execution of this collection of original murals by Karen Nisbet.

Anita McPhail, Director of Resident Care and Volunteer Services supported the project from the very beginning. “It was, and is, a brilliant idea for transforming an existing space. When Emily brought the idea forward, after researching the use of murals in Alzheimers therapy, we worked at trying to find someone suitable to do Murals.”


“The idea was sparked about three years ago” said Emily. “Finding Karen came via connection to Adam Proulx. He and Karen have together many times on local Theatre Productions, set design and more”. adding “It was important for us to have the right person. Someone who would understand, honour and respect, the project, and the disease process for Alzheimers and Dementia”.

“I’ve been working at the murals now for about 16 months, 4 days a week. I’ve had some travel plans in this time as well. Breaks for holidays, like Christmas.” said Karen “It’s been a remarkable journey. There is about 3 more months of painting left.”

A project three years in the making, transforming walls into a collection of stories yet to be told. Stories that will lift, elevate, calm and nurture a body’s mind and spirit. A living legacy, one brushstroke at a time.

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