Washington State Teen Brings Art to Memory Care Residents

Daily Point of Light # 7844 Jun 28, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Roselyn Halvorson Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

Roselyn Halvorson has turned a passion for art into a valuable enrichment service for residents of memory care centers who are living with Alzheimer’s, dementia and depression. Roselyn will be a high school freshman this coming September. While volunteering has been a huge part of her life since she was 6 years old, she also enjoys ice skating and piano, plays in the middle school band and loves animals.

Roselyn’s work with memory care center residents helps them not only express themselves creatively and enjoy some quality time with a much younger generation of middle and high school students. For residents who don’t often have family visitors and experience loneliness and depression, painting classes are a way to brighten their days and give them a creative outlet. For Roselyn, on a personal level, it’s a way to honor her grandfather’s memory.

What inspires you to volunteer?

My grandfather passed away from Alzheimer’s when I was 6 years old. I know he’s looking down and watching out for me. My parents also inspire me to do good in the community. I started creating paintings when I was stuck at home during the pandemic. I ended up making over 1,400 paintings that I gave to senior home residents. This was very rewarding, but I wanted to do something more meaningful, something more engaging for the residents. Doing the classes face-to-face has a much bigger impact than simply giving them a painting. There’s a much deeper connection.

Roselyn Halvorson shows off one of her paintings and her project logo. / courtesy Josh Lusk Photography

Tell us about your volunteer roles with Roselyn’s Caring Canvases and the Alzheimer’s Association.

I teach art classes to residents of memory care and assisted living centers in Washington state. The painting classes really affect the residents in a positive way. They show amazing creativity and even those who say they’re not artistic will create beautiful works of art. I invite my friends to help me, which makes it even more fun. The residents get to interact with younger people and we get to see them as individuals, and hear their stories. We have a rotation of art classes at various nursing homes in Washington state including Brookdale Courtyard, Brookdale South, Hearthside Manor, Bonaventure, Patriot’s Landing (retired military), as well as a few others.

I bring all of the supplies they will need, and I make sketches as a prompt that they fill in with color. They take it from there. Some people will meticulously paint in the lines, while others’ art is more abstract. Everyone’s creativity really blossoms! I’ve seen some amazingly talented people.

I teach five or six classes every month during the school year and more often during the summer. The classes run for an hour or two. Sometimes, a resident will say they don’t want to participate because they’re not an artist but almost always, they really get into it once they start. It’s something fun to do even for those who don’t consider themselves artists.

If the residents choose to, and most do, they can donate their painting back to me and I sell them at arts and crafts shows. All of the proceeds are then donated to Harvest House, which creates weekend food bags for food insecure students who may not have regular meals outside of school. The paintings the residents create are sold and do good for others so the whole endeavor has multiple levels of benefit for the residents, the people who purchase the paintings, the students who receive food bags and of course the volunteers.

The residents like knowing their art is helping students who need food. Some residents really like how their paintings come out and they choose to keep them. Most donate their art. One of the nursing homes made copies of the paintings so we can sell originals and keep the copies, or sell copies and keep the originals. Two of our painters have since passed away, so it’s nice to have their paintings as a remembrance of him. One passed right after the class, which is sad but at least his last day was filled with joy and creativity. After the art class, I play the piano for the residents.

I am also very active as a volunteer with the Washington state chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. I have been raising money and awareness about Alzheimer’s since I was 6 years old when I donated proceeds from my lemonade stand.

I have been hosting a benefit pageant for girls every year since 2017, called Miss Forget Me Not. This pageant raises money and gets more people involved with the Alzheimer’s Association. Our seventh annual pageant is coming up this year. I also do a lot of advocacy for the Alzheimer’s Association. We talk to legislators to help pass bills that support families and caregivers and find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

I love seeing how creative our residents are. They are so inspiring when they share their stories! And they’re so talented. One lady painted such a beautiful rose that people were shocked at how talented she was. The residents are so happy when we come. They don’t feel forgotten. For a while, they feel remembered and valued.

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?

I’ve become more empathetic and I have learned to communicate with people who are far outside of my age group, especially older generations. It helps make me a well-rounded person. This school year I’ve done 200+ hours as a volunteer which makes people older than me realize that my generation, “Gen Z,” can do good in the world.

Don’t let age stop you if you’re very young or very old. If you have excuses not to do something, you won’t do it. But if you want to do it, you will find a way.

No matter how bad things are going for me, I know others are suffering so much more, especially from depression. I see this a lot in nursing homes. Caring for others may not be convenient but love is not about convenience; it’s about honoring someone and making them feel valued.

Tell us about future events that you are excited about.

Every fall, or “walk season,” I participate in the Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s all over Washington state. I’ve been doing this since I was 6. The recent Alzheimer’s walk even had a dog pageant that I helped create. I would love to continue doing these walks. We’re also thinking of doing an art fair that’s at the same place as a car show, so I can spend some time with my dad and make it a family thing.

Why is it important for others to get involved with causes they care about?

Volunteering can really change people and how they view the world. Seeing the impact you can make on people also benefits you. Volunteering helps keep your community together. Being part of a community is an amazing feeling.

Any advice for people who want to start volunteering?

Google ways to volunteer. Animal shelters, nursing homes and food banks are great places to start. I believe there should be more knowledge available as to how to help. My mom signed me up as a volunteer but with the internet, you can find organizations that need help, in just about any area of interest.

What do you want people to learn from your story?

Seniors have stories too. They are people who have lived vibrant lives. They are so creative, they are filled with stories, they love to share their lives and they deserve to be remembered.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Roselyn? Find local volunteer opportunities.

Jarmila Gorman