The People We Love

Anne Basting

The worry and longing in this moment is heavy.  I miss seeing my parents, who are safely at home in their new independent living apartment just 10 minutes down the road from me. Video conferencing, no matter how thrilling to finally get all the technology to work (hearing aids and cameras and mute buttons) just isn’t the same thing as an in-person smile and a hug.

In care settings, residents, staff, and families are on edge as they fight to keep the virus contained, to connect residents with families, and tend to those who are suffering. I can’t even imagine what it is like to have dementia right now, locked down into their room, unable to see family, and unclear why people with masks keep coming into the room.

Art has a unique capacity to hold our worries. It is an emotional, symbolic language that is able to hold conflicting and enormous feelings. Fear, sorrow, joy, and hope – just to name a few.

In the Engagement in the Time of Quarantine Part 2 webinar I shared two weeks ago, I shared a visual art project by artist Angela Swan, an MFA student at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.  Angela is also a Student Artist in Residence, in her second year of the program.  Last year, she lived at Luther Manor. This year, she spent the year at Laurel Oaks, working with residents to explore relationship building through art-making that became her thesis project.

Angela will be sharing her work along with the other SAIRs from the UWM program in a webinar to celebrate the full year of art-making in their various communities. But one of projects is a balm in this moment, and she generously shared the details of how others can do their own version. I share it here in the hopes that it can bring some calm and connection to care communities.

Angela ordered origami paper and distributed it to her elder neighbors and friends in her care community.  If you are okay with amazon, here are the two links she recommended.
Origami Designs



  • Fold in half one way, then open.
  • Fold in half the other way, then open.
  • Fold all 4 corners into the middle point.
  • Invite participants to find an image that symbolizes someone they love, present or past
    These can be from magazines, etc.
  • Use glue sticks to attach images inside.
  • Display the paper quilt touching point to point.
  • With one point on top, attach to wall using poster tape.


Elders and family and staff alike can be invited to create a square and the larger quilt can be exhibited somewhere where it is visible to everyone. In this time of limited visitation, perhaps displaying it near (or in) a public-facing window would enable family members to see it.

Thank you Angela, for your creativity and deep connection to your community at Laurel Oaks. And for your generosity in sharing this project with us.