It’s been almost three years since I last posted, and for anyone whose life has been severely inconvenienced as a result, I apologize profusely :)  Much as I’d like to explain my blogging absence, I won’t — it’s complicated!

What’s inspired me to write again has been several recent visits to newly constructed independent-living facilities. I don’t know who designs these things but it must be the same person who specializes in mid-priced hotel lobbies, funeral homes, and mausoleums — environments meant to be restful, subdued, reassuring, and non-objectionable. Absent are any signs of life, creativity, or personal expression, unless one counts ersatz art of bucolic rural scenes strategically placed on hallway walls every 20 feet or so.

You almost want to set a gang of 16 year-old graffiti artists loose in a place like this.

To be fair, there are rooms — generally smallish in size — where arts and crafts programs are conducted. Tidy, clean rooms that lack adequate display and storage space and have all the characteristics of a school detention room. Why does one never see the art produced within those walls displayed as an ongoing, ever changing exhibit throughout the building? Why is art confined to a designated time and area in the first place? Is its isolation from the rest of life a major reason why the vast majority of residents never bother to participate in such activities?

Personally, I’d prefer to ditch the mud tones and faux traditional décor in favor of vivid colors, bold graphics, abundant natural light that helps both people and plants to thrive, and open studio work spaces where hobbies and crafts can be pursued at any time of day, and onlookers can kibitz to their heart’s content. How about a large expanse of painted fiber wallboard that becomes the analog equivalent of social media, with flyers announcing upcoming events, personal messages, articles of interest, and random art — the background setting for a mini town square if you will.

I can’t help thinking that the same creative spirit and energy that fuel artistic process hold something valuable for all departments in a facility — administration, maintenance, life enrichment, medical care, food service, etc. Tapping into that force field is a cost-effective way to turn a previously uninspired collection of living quarters into something vital and enlivening, the kind of place that anyone might be attracted to, no matter what that person’s age.