09/02/2015 15:25 EDT | Updated 09/02/2016 01:12 EDT

Royal City Manor gallery features artwork by seniors in long-term care

New Westminster's newest art exhibit showcases work by some of the city's most senior citizens, many of whom can't remember the last time they picked up a paintbrush.  

The gallery is located in the Royal City Manor long-term care facility and opens today, featuring projects created by its very own residents.

'I look at her, and I see happy'

The walls of the "Creative Corner" are covered with colourful artwork, including a painting of songbirds and flowers done by Antonia Iluongo.

Iluongo said she hasn't held a paintbrush since elementary school, which, for the now 83-year-old, was more than seven decades ago.

But in her brushwork, Antonia's daughters Piña and Amy, see hints of the embroidery the former seamstress used to love to do. 

"I was looking at her beautiful artwork, and I was saying to Piña how meticulous she is. That's part of her personality," said Amy. 

"That is never lost .What is lost, like the short-term memory, is made up with a day-to-day activity. I still see her personality."

"I look at her, and I see happy," said Amy.

"We're grateful for the fact that she's happy, and healthy, and able to express parts of her life that she wouldn't have been able to under other circumstances. It's wonderful. It's a powerful, powerful tool," agreed sister, Piña.

An art gallery at home

The art program began six months ago and was spearheaded by Leslie Torreson, the recreation manager with Royal City Manor.

"We are creating an art gallery in our home," said Torreson

"Some of our patients have dementia in one form or another, but we do not feel that that should stop them from being able to be creative and find a different calling in their life."

Torreson said this offers residents a sense of pride and accomplishment, allowing them to voice things they cannot always express in conventional ways.

"This is a different journey that they're entering, and we really want to encourage it, support it. We couldn't be more proud of our residents. It's lovely."

The grand opening and ribbon cutting for the art gallery happens Sept. 2nd at 77 Jamieson Court, New Westminster.

To hear the full audio piece, listen to the audio labelled: Art by some of New Westminster's most senior citizens.