Jeff Gaye

You’re never too old to learn something new, and several residents at Elk Point Heritage Lodge are taking up painting for the first time.

Local artist Dawn Bruins teaches regular Tuesday painting classes at the lodge, and she says the residents are taking to it. 

“I have met a lot of seniors that never had time for painting when they were raising their kids and everything,” Bruins said. “But once they retired, they’ve started painting. And they do fabulous

Bruins is a senior herself, and she says she finds painting relaxing. She visits the lodge several times a week to visit friends and family anyway, and she thought some of the residents would enjoy painting as much as she does.

“Some of these old gals would like to do something different than just play bingo. They’ve got they got lots of stuff for exercising their hands and feet, but they need something for their mind,” she said.

The painting class began as a one-time thing, but it’s proved to be so popular that Bruins and the lodge have made it a regular activity.

“We started out with seven, and last time we had nine. And I’ve got some that want to come but they’re afraid to make a fool of themselves,” Bruins said. But there’s nothing to fear from giving a go, she says—the idea isn’t necessarily to create a masterpiece, but to try something new and have fun.

“I’ll talk them into coming and giving it a try. And whatever you get is good,” she said.

Bruins always enjoyed looking at paintings. She got her start in 1977 when a friend bought her a basic set of oil paints. She painted a milk stool, and created pictures on pieces of wood she picked up from a casket factory in Innisfail.

“I painted a couple of pictures off of Christmas cards onto those,” she said. 

After she moved to Elk Point, someone encouraged her to attend classes. Those classes were fairly elementary—she compares them with what she is teaching at the Heritage Lodge—but she progressed from there. 

And she still has her 1977 milk stool.

Bruins says she is comfortable spending time with fellow
seniors. “I had my dad live with us for 16 years, and he passed away when he was 93. And then we had my mom for nine years. And I I’d had four family members that stayed with us when they needed to be someplace,” she said. 

“I think it’s just in me to be doing something with the older people. And I sound like I think I’m young—I’m 75 years
old, but I’m young at heart!”

She understands her time and skill are valuable, and she could be charging people for lessons and classes, but volunteering at the lodge is just a natural choice for her.

“A resident who just turned 80 asked me ‘Why are you doing this for us?’ and it kind of blew my mind,” Bruins said. 

“Because the only answer I could give her was ‘because I really like you guys. I want you to have something to do.’ It seems to me that’s my chore in life, to be able to help other people and hope that they get some enjoyment out of whatever we’re doing together as a group.”

Novice painters break out the brushes at Elk Point Heritage Lodge’s Tuesday art classes.  SUBMITTED