Exploring Mental Health Through Watercolor Painting


LifeStream Services is no stranger to working with older adults to help them improve their health and wellbeing. LifeStream is a non-profit that offers a variety of programs and services to help people at risk of losing their independence, their families, and their communities in East Central Indiana.

Last year alone, LifeStream touched the lives of over 19,000 older adults and people with disabilities by helping them remain independent through a diverse array of programs and services. Now, through the Indiana Arts Commission’s Lifelong Arts Indiana program, LifeStream is beginning to incorporate art and creativity into their services with a new program, “Through the Eyes of Caregivers.”

“We hope that expanding into arts programming will allow us to reach more older adults and caregivers, and ultimately build relationships with them that allow us to connect them to more services and programs that will support them as they continue to age in their communities,” said Mandy Williams, Vice President of Programs at LifeStream.

“Through the Eyes of Caregivers” will take caregivers of older adults on a journey of self-exploration through the arts. Olivia Willard, a painter from Anderson who specializes in arts education will lead the program, guiding participants through their exploration of the feelings they have towards their role as a caregiver.

Through art, they will examine what it means to care for themselves while caring for someone else. The artistic and emotional exploration will culminate in a self-portrait watercolor painting that will be displayed at a LifeStream event in November celebrating National Family Caregivers Month.

“I have found in my classes, especially with older women, there is an abundance of negative self-talk and reservation. I am wildly passionate about quieting that voice and adding joy, pride, and play. I do this through engaging everyone individually, sincerely, and frequently,” Willard said.

LifeStream began their path towards Creative Aging programming in April 2023 at the Lifelong Arts for Aging Services Provider training in Fort Wayne. Lifelong Arts Indiana is a statewide program that supports aging services professionals in developing their skills for providing creative arts experiences for older adults.

Through the training, aging services providers learn about the overall importance the arts have for older adults, a variety of creative approaches alongside the logistical action steps to make them happen, and a comprehensive understanding of the impact and outcomes of including creative arts in their programming.

Following the training, aging services providers become eligible for the Lifelong Arts Early Action Grant to receive up to $5,000 to hire a qualified artist to provide multi-day arts learning at their community site.

Lifelong Arts Indiana is designed to not only equip aging services professionals with all the practical knowledge they need, but also to leave them transformed with a renewed enthusiasm for their aging services work, and motivation to begin their own creative arts practices within their communities. After the training and grant, Williams believes that LifeStream’s new arts programming will have a long-lasting effect on her community.

“The hope is that through this project, caregivers would feel seen, heard, and understood. We hope that caregivers begin to prioritize their own health and well-being as a result of the program, and in turn take better care of the individuals they are caring for. We know that healthy caregivers are better caregivers, so we hope that by the end of this program caregivers believe that their health is important both for their own quality of life and for those who they care for,” Williams said.

Through the help of teaching artist Willard, “Through Their Eyes” is just the start of LifeStream’s goal of engaging older adults in arts and creativity, leading to improvements in their overall health and wellbeing.

“Seeing the walls come down and this generation begin to really play, is incredibly rewarding. There is nothing like the feeling of inspiring confidence and joy simply through offering a safe and supporting space to explore painting,” Willard said.