Hey, all! Recently, we got to catch up with The Rev. Susan Bantz, Chaplain at Lutheran Living Senior Campus, a retirement community in Iowa. She gave us the inside scoop on the fun they had doing a retirement home coloring series this past Spring. Read on to find out more about their experience. You may even gather ideas for your own retirement home coloring series or hosting an adult coloring event in your congregation.
A Conversation with Lutheran Living Senior Campus
Alissa: So, what brought you to Illustrated Ministry?
Susan: I saw the Advent coloring posters mentioned in a post on Facebook and then looked up ICM. Poof! An idea was born: Why couldn’t we do a retirement home coloring series by using the posters during Lent? Many of our residents color independently. This seemed like a great opportunity to do that in community as one of our retirement home activities.
Alissa: How did you use your coloring posters?
Susan: Our goal was to finish our retirement home coloring series by Lent. That way, we’d display the posters on the chapel walls during worship. First, we held a couple adult coloring workshops. Then, we began bringing the posters out to fill time before Bingo every week. We also had them available when planned activities were cancelled. And slow Sunday afternoons were a great time to work on them, too. Additionally, we left them out in the chapel for anyone who wanted to color in a quiet, contemplative space.
Alissa: What was the make-up of the group that used the materials?
Susan: Most of those involved in our retirement home coloring series were residents. We also had staff, family members, and other visitors who lent a hand to the project, even just for a minute or two! It was a good bonding experience for staff and residents, especially. Even people who professed to not like coloring would often do a little corner.
Feedback and Reflection
Alissa: What was the feedback you received?
Susan: The residents loved having a retirement home coloring series! Many of them color in their rooms on their own already. So, this experience showed them that coloring can be a social activity as well. Our Activities Department is now offering regular adult coloring events for the residents!
Alissa: What was surprising about the experience?
Susan: Seeing how into the whole adult coloring thing so many people got! During the weeks of our retirement home coloring series, quite a few declared that certain sections were “theirs.” They made it clear that everyone else should keep their colored pencils elsewhere. It became a lesson in understanding that not everyone’s vision is the same, but somehow it all comes out right in the end when we compromise.
Alissa: How did it rate when compared with other activities you’ve done?
Susan: Many of our activities are more passive. But adult coloring was something almost everyone could do: those with dementia, those in wheelchairs, those who struggle with motor skills. Nothing had to be perfect—it just had to be theirs. And they really embraced it!
Adult Coloring Fosters Stories & Conversations
Alissa: Were there any fun stories?
Susan: So many! Early on, we were using all kinds of bright colors and discovered later that we’d made Jesus’ hair a rainbow. And the fact that Jesus’ face ended up a different color on each poster surprised us, too. There was so much laughter and camaraderie shared around those tables. People often sat next to others they didn’t know as well, which formed new connections. The whole thing really built community and helped draw people out of their shells. (Read more on deepening relationships and creativity through coloring here!)
Alissa: What kinds of conversations arose out of the activity?
Susan: We had a surprising number of theological discussions. Though, there was no formal instruction connected with the actual coloring. People talked about which verses or words resonated with them and how they tried to reflect that with their color choices. More formally, we used the posters during our Lenten midweek worship services. We hold those services in a dialogue format, so, we had the chance to discuss each of the posters in greater depth in a worshipful and contemplative context. After each service, we hung up the two we discussed. I invited people to come back at other times to contemplate the message of each station. (Learn an easy way to hang your completed posters here!)
Alissa: Would you recommend ICM coloring posters to other organizations like yours?
Susan: Absolutely! Their large size made coloring them a dream, especially for those with limited motor skills, eyesight issues, and other limitations. We are now in the process of trimming and laminating the posters so that we can use them in future years.
Alissa: What would you tell others considering ICM’s coloring posters for a retirement home coloring series?
Susan: Just do it! It doesn’t take much planning or prep. Be sure to have the supplies you want to use readily available. And the rewards your residents will get are totally worth it.
Thanks a bunch, Susan! It’s always fun for all of us at ICM to hear how our materials are helping community and creativity thrive. To many more good memories and reflections, colored pencils in hand, for you all at Lutheran Living and the rest of us, too!
The folks at Lutheran Living were using our Stations of the Cross Coloring Posters. If you’d like to take a look at all of our coloring posters (and coloring sheets) that we have available, you can find them here.
Have you used our coloring posters in a retirement/nursing home setting? Share your story below!