Viral Kindness: Helping Isolated Seniors Connect Through Art

May 8, 2020

Credit Charles Baughman

Micala Gingrich-Gaylord, director of engagement for Comfort Care Homes, shares the story of local artists connecting with Wichita area senior citizens, especially those with Alzheimer’s.

"I for a long time have wanted to do an artist pen pal project with artists and our residents. It doesn’t require us to be with each other, and it just all fell together," Gingrich-Gaylord says. "All of these artists — Wade Hampton, Curt Clonts, Charles Baughman, Hannah Scott, Emily Brookover, Denise Irwin, on and on — were absolutely willing to do it. And not just, 'we’ll do it,' but, 'what else can we do to help?'

"So we had residents produce a painting one-on-one with us of their memory of a bird, because for people with Alzheimer’s that’s something that they tend to be able to remember how to paint. And we sent them in the mail in these packages, and we’ve been getting them back."

Credit Wade Hampton

The artists enhance or add to their senior pen pal’s birds, send them back, and the process continues until each piece is finished. The paintings will make up an art show this fall, and any proceeds will go toward helping these elders.

"What it’s told me about people wanting to be with each other is if we can’t do it in real, person-to-person contact, people are very much still needing connection," Gingrich-Gaylord says. "So they’ll seek it out and they’ll be a part of it however you can provide it. And that doesn’t change for 90-year-olds.

"The human condition to connect is really powerful through really difficult times, but also through diseases. I’m always proud of Wichita artists, but right now, it was like, let’s do something together. And if we can take that away from all of this, then we’re all better for it."