Chardon Seniors Thrive with New-Found Gifts
October 15, 2021 by Rose Nemunaitis

Tucked away off Chardon-Windsor Road is the home of some recently-discovered artists whose creations are sealed with “X’s” and “Made with Love.”

Tucked away off Chardon-Windsor Road is the home of some recently-discovered artists whose creations are sealed with “X’s” and “Made with Love.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, isolation brought challenges to those living in The Residence of Chardon.

But Susanne Zehe, lifestyle and health coordinator, had an idea to bring creativity and fun to them.

She began dropping off packets of coloring materials to each of the nearly 35 rooms and new-found talents emerged.

“What they truly do is amazing,” Zehe said.

What started as a relaxing hobby that began independently has blossomed into twice weekly group coloring gatherings on weekends along with Crafty Wednesdays led by Zehe.

According to Americare Medical’s website and others, creative arts help to build strong relationships, especially among seniors, by providing a way for an elderly person to establish and maintain strong contacts with others.

“This, in turn, leads to an enhanced quality of life and even the possibility of a longer life for your elderly loved one,” according to Americare.

Prior to moving to The Residence of Chardon, Carolyn Zietsma, 86, a former church secretary, was busy raising a family.

She only dabbled a bit throughout her earlier years in coloring as a pastime.

Now, Zietsma said she finds sketching with colored pencils very relaxing.

Her gentle touch and patience create colorings that are made into note cards, which may be purchased, three cards for $1, at the front desk.

Proceeds of sales go back into buying new art supplies.

“I get lost in coloring and lost in the time,” Zietsma said, as she recently joined her budding artistic family in the early fall sunshine of the courtyard.

Zietsma is not alone.

Many other residents find using colored pencils, gel pens and paintbrushes an activity to look forward to thanks to Zehe.

“It is so important to realize the average age of a resident is 90 years young,” Zehe said, adding the oldest is 102.

Jean Ward, 90, loves to color pictures of animals and flowers. Her favorites are peacocks.

She usually has several pictures going at the same time and thanks her friend, Ginny Marikis, 92,  for the encouragement.

The coloring group meeting independently on the weekends is thanks to Marikis, an outspoken advocate of her friends’ talents.

Then there is Amy Fellows.

“Amy is one of our residents that spends a lot of her free time creating the most stunning figurines out of clay,” Zehe said.

A sampling of her creations recently adorned the residence’s library.

Fellows has been working with clay for the past 12 to 13 years, and enjoys making period costume dolls.

“I never know what’s going to roll out of it,” Marikis said, of her pursuits.

Her figurines are also up for sale.

Fellows is passionate about beading and orchestrated a group of women that have acquired the skill of beading bracelets, also for purchase in neatly wrapped cellophane bags.

“We are not just people living in assisted living, we are a family,” Fellows added, as she leaned across to smile at her friends.

Proceeds from the bracelet sales also go to funding new art materials.

“Just about every staff member and resident owns a bracelet that Amy has made,” Zehe said. “Everyone also likes that they have the chance to win a bracelet by playing the weekly bingo games.”

Maggie Pullen, a self-proclaimed die-hard Cleveland Browns fan, is sometimes the reluctant one to join in on Sunday art gatherings when the Browns are on television.

At 95, she spends most of her time crocheting.

Her passion began a bit earlier, when she started creating afghans blankets for her children in college with their school colors.

Pullen is self-taught and said she doesn’t do the “fancy stuff.”

“It brings us such great joy seeing our residents express themselves through the artwork they create,” Zehe said.

Fellows added it would be very sad not to be doing something together, especially during such trying times.

“Nursing homes are filled with strangers,” she said. “Ours aren’t filled with strangers, just good friends we haven’t met.”