Door images of younger selves bring tears of happiness

A small, not-for-profit aged care provider in Toukley, New South Wales, has found an innovative way to bring joy and meaning to residents’ lives that has been so successful, it’s even attracting the general public to come in and take a look!

The Viet Vets Keith Payne VC aged care facility spoke to HelloCare about how they came up with the imaginative idea that is not only beautiful to look at, but also obviously filled with meaning for residents, staff and families.

“We are always looking for ways to think outside the aged care box,” Justin Dover told HelloCare.

“It is important that we not only provide quality care, but ensure our residents feel comfortable and at home,” he said.

Staff at the Viet Vets Keith Payne VC facility aim to make residents feel aged care is just “another chapter in their life”, rather than the final stage.

“Offering these images helps them to link their chapters together and honour their lives as a positive,” Mr Dover said.

An opportunity to celebrate life histories

The images, which have been created with the assistance of Melbourne-based The Wall Sticker Company, help viewers embrace the residents’ life histories.

Hank Steeden was 18 years old when his door photo was taken, on the day he went to join the army.
Hank Steeden was 18 years old when his door photo was taken. The photo was taken the day he went to join the army.

“We decided to do the doors, rather than just smaller photos or memory boxes, because we don’t want to hide behind aged care,” he said.

“Walking through our facility and seeing these life-size images creates a positive impact and reminds us that growing old is a privilege.”

A snapshot of life that sparks joy

Each image is personally selected by the resident and their families, and is intended to be a snapshot of their life that also brings joy to them.

Each image has a story behind it that staff and other residents may never have known about if it wasn’t for the doors.

For example, in the lead image of this article, the door on the left belongs to Elaine Argall (nee McAllen). The photo was taken in 1950, when Elaine was 16 years old and at her debutant ball. Her husband of 61 years was the drummer at the ball that night.

The middle image is of Juri Denyseko, a Ukrainian dancer who was taught by his mother, herself a Russian ballerina. They travelled and performed many shows. His family eventually moved to Australia, where he performed at the Sydney Opera House.

The image on the right is of Maria Stam De Jonge.

Mr Dover said, “The stories behind each image open up opportunities for communication, comfort and support between our staff, the families themselves and visitors.”

Later stages of life don’t define the person

The doors are a reminder to others of the person the resident is.

“We believe that it is important to remember who we are caring for!” Mr Dover said.

Pat Dick is 17 years old in this photo. The day it was taken, she and her twin sister and their new boyfriends spent the day out in Parramatta. Pat went on to marry her then boyfriend, and they have been married ever since. Pat and her twin are the eldest of five girls.

“Each of our residents have lived fulfilled lives and the care that we are providing them now, in their later ages, does not define them.

“These beautiful memories are a snapshot of who this resident is, and a great way for our staff and visitors to connect to our residents each day.”

A source of calm and comfort for those living with dementia

The doors have also been helpful in caring for residents who are living with dementia.

“We have found these images also offer comfort for those with dementia on a daily basis,” Mr Dover said. “Staff are able to calm the residents by talking to them about their photo.”

New opportunities to connect and communicate

The doors have been received with warmth and even emotion.

“At recent family meetings held between the CEO, the clinical manager, and with residents and their families, the response was extremely positive,” Mr Dover said.

“Visitors to our onsite café have made many positive comments, and we find that this innovation is attracting people to the facility.”

He aded, “All residents who have participated have shed tears of joy and smiles all round, when they first see their doors.”

Residents are more than happy to share the story of their door with others, and this offers new opportunities to connect and communicate.

Images supplied.

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  1. I love the opportunity to talk about my picture on the door. It brings back many good memories. I am sorry that I did not mention my maiden name which was McAllen and I would be over the moon if anyone of my generation recognises the occassion.

  2. Many years ago when I was in my 20’s, my aunt had a pic of herself in probably her 20s or maybe 30s on a sideboard. I vividly remember thinking to myself… why would you want to look at a pic of yourself when you were so young then look in the mirror and see yourself, well, not looking the same?
    As the years have gone by (I’m in my 50s now) I get it! I know why my aunt had that picture pride of place on the side board… to show the world and remind herself that at a time, she was young and gorgeous…
    not that we aren’t gorgeous at 50 or 80 years but sometimes we (and others) forget that we were young and so full of life once.
    I think this is a fabulous idea to put these pics on the residents door and it’s a not so gentle reminder to all that the person on the other side of the door has lived a life before coming into care.
    well done!

  3. This a great idea, this will help residents find their rooms. Give them something to talk about. As well as brighten the place up.

  4. So very beautiful and moving. It really is a wonderful way to create an atmosphere of love,care and respect.

  5. Such an extraordinarily awesome idea. Great for communication and sense of worth for residents. I applaud you. I wish we could do it at My mum’s care home. Brilliant!!

  6. How wonderful. This a new prospective at looking and really seeing the person you are looking after. We are all going to be in our twilight years so what a compassionate way to remember ourselves as young men and women. Well done!

  7. I live these ideas, and have seen this before. I was looking into doing this at my facility. I was wondering how and where do you get the photos done.
    Are the pictures stickers or paper.

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