AIM The investigation was aimed towards constructing a visual art programme for communication with elderly. METHODS Pictures of works of art were used in a controlled intervention study. Dialogues were performed with elderly persons (age 82.6 years) at a senior's apartment building. The Wheel Questionnaire parameters structure, motivation, and emotional investment were analysed using ANOVA (mixed model). FINDINGS Significant improvement was found in the visual art group (n = 20) compared with a matched control group (n = 20) over the studied period of time. Communication directions were different in the intervention group compared with the control group. In the intervention group there was an inexhaustible source of topics to be discussed that originated from pictures of works of art. In the control group the dialogues dealt with daily events in the elderly persons' lives. During the final phase of the intervention period it was difficult to find topics of conversation in the control group compared with the intervention group. CONCLUSIONS The visual art programme is an example of how the language of works of art could be used for nursing management. The findings show a new way to care for elderly persons that builds upon elderly persons' knowledge and personal experience.