Encouraging older adults to take up the arts and express themselves is at the center of the Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America's Art is Ageless program, not only for the engagement but for the benefits to overall well-being among seniors studies have shown.

For Newton Presbyterian Manor resident and 2017 Art is Ageless honoree Lois Hamilton, it didn't take much of a push to get her involved. For one, she had the time and, secondly, she admitted she has always had a love of art.

While Hamilton said her appreciation for the form stemmed from a number of painters, she herself never pursued that medium. Instead, Hamilton's first steps towards expressing herself artistically were spurred on by a ceramics class she took at Tulane University in the 60s. After a break, Hamilton reintroduced herself to the art form once she got her own ceramics setup and continued for a number of years.

Though pottery has taken a backseat now, Hamilton has also experimented with stained glass art work (stepping stones) — though she does not have the equipment with her anymore — and sculpting with floral wire, namely trees. It is this latest endeavor that earned Hamilton an award in the 2017 Art is Ageless program, and is something she truly dove into once she moved to Newton Presbyterian Manor two years ago.

A class Hamilton took through the Sedgwick County Extension Office opened her eyes to the potential of the medium and it quickly grew on her.

"I just began to enjoy seeing trees and trying to replicate them," Hamilton said, "so I have a lot more appreciation for tress, I think, after starting this."

Hamilton heard about the Art is Ageless program once she moved to Newton and was quick to get involved. While it has been pleasing to have her work recognized, and to share that with her family, she admitted her art has never been about achieving awards — it is more about simply having that creative outlet.

"It's just something I knew I could do, more than wanting glory from it," Hamilton said.

Glory may not be the goal of the program, but Newton Presbyterian Manor Marketing Director Noelle Dickinson noted seeing that recognition is something special for the community.

Participation is something the manor tries to encourage overall. Given the number of PMMA facilities involved in the program (which began in 1980), though, it is a nice plus seeing so many local residents earn awards.

"It's quite the competition from manor to manor. We take a lot of pride," Dickinson said. "I always am so pleased to see the pieces that we think are special being recognized by those who are in the arts community and go on to that higher level."

Other award winners from Newton Presbyterian Manor this year included Carol M. Friesen (mixed media/crafts), Velera Adams (painting) and Constance Gehring (painting), who will all be featured — along with Hamilton — in the 2018 Art is Ageless calendar and note cards.

For Hamilton, art is something to be shared (sometimes in fundraising efforts) and something she is more than happy to pass on to family. Her 2017 winning piece, "Wire Tree," was sent back with her nephew to Idaho.

Though she doesn't work on pieces often, as the months-long process can take multiple hours per stage, she did point out that the tools to do so are readily available.

Ease of access is part of the focus with Art is Ageless and part of why the program is encouraged, Dickinson said, and the success of this year's winners is something she hopes continues to draw Newton Presbyterian Manor residents to the program.

"It's about the process. It's about trying something new and being willing to share that," Dickinson said, "and inspiring others through taking a risk and showing people what you've been working on."