I’ve worked in the senior care field for almost 20 years. I continue to be amazed by the role art can play in enhancing life for seniors. It’s fair to say that art is a part of life at Hebrew SeniorLife. And as an employee, I get to enjoy it as well! The story of art and seniors is especially apparent at NewBridge on the Charles. The art on the walls, the art history lectures and trips to museums, the seasonal Photography Club exhibit, the NewBridge Art Show and a variety of art classes for members all represent the commitment of the organization to the important role that art plays in creating a vital community.
It’s interesting to note that this commitment goes back more than 35 years when former Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for Aged President Maurice May asked Natalie Wolf, then a Trustee and member of the Women’s Auxiliary, to create an art collection. According to Natalie, she has no formal background in art, but “knows what she likes and knows what others will find soothing as well as stimulating.” Over the course of 40 years, Natalie has graced the walls of all Hebrew SeniorLife facilities and communities with over 3000 pieces of original art.
In 2005, my friend, Natalie, then 85 years of age, was asked to procure 1000 pieces of original art for the campus being built in Dedham. Rather than finding this an overwhelming task, Natalie and her friend of 60 years, Phyllis Robbins, rose to the occasion. Natalie, now 92, and Phyllis, 90, approached this task with an enthusiasm seldom seen in people half their age. They, without a doubt, have reimagined what aging is all about!
Today, the results of their effort are there for all to see. The collection has been cataloged and is available for NewBridge residents on their own member website. Others can see highlights of the collection at artofnewbridge.org. They take personal pride in the art that they see every day and want to know more about each piece. One resident told me that the art on the walls has turns our community into a home – and that it’s so much more than just a place for her to live.