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Esther Kane’s Life in Art at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center Boston

The benefits of art therapy for older adults
HRC patient and artist Esther Kane alongside Life Enhancement Coordinator Joan Griffin

As a little girl growing up in Hyde Park, Esther Kane loved to draw. She carried colored pencils everywhere she went. Her mother was very proud of her, and her teachers recognized her talent.

“I loved to draw and my mother kept encouraging me to do more of it,” says Esther.

In high school, her art teacher urged her to major in art at college. Esther took her teacher’s advice and enrolled in and graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art, working in various mediums, including oil, pastels, charcoal, and watercolors. 

In the decades following her graduation, Esther found herself pulled toward other interests. For years she put her art aside. “I guess I just lost interest,” she said.

When Esther moved to Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Boston, the transition to long-term chronic care was not as easy as she or her family had hoped. She was homesick and wasn’t interested in taking part in activities or socializing with other patients, putting her at risk for isolation. Isolation can pose a serious health risk to older adults and is associated with mortality.

Taking note of Esther’s isolation risk, the life enhancement team in the Expressive Therapy Department suggested she enroll in an art class that could help her become more socially active. The Expressive Therapy Department at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center includes art, music and dance therapy programming for patients of every level and physical ability.

With the support and encouragement of her art therapist, Olga Shmuylovich, Esther rediscovered her creative spark. She quickly picked up where she left off and in a brief time built a small collection of work that she wanted to show and share with others.

Outside of her room at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, the walls are decorated with her paintings, giving passersby a chance to stop and enjoy the art, or chat with her about her process or the significance behind a particular piece.

With Olga’s help, Esther held her first art exhibit in the fall of 2016. Esther, wearing a colorful shirt, was surrounded by her two devoted daughters, Olga, some of her nurses, RAs and life enhancement staff members. Guests sampled cookies and pastries and everyone enjoyed the afternoon celebration of Esther’s work. It was a gathering of friends. 

As classical music filled the air, Esther showed her guests the sketch book she now carries everywhere with her. In it were pencil drawings of other patients and staff.

“Sometimes I decide to do a pencil drawing and I give it away,” she said. “I just want others to be happy, like I am.”

Bill Burgey's picture

About the Blogger

Health Care Marketing Communications Manager until August 2017

As a member of the Hebrew SeniorLife marketing communications team, Bill Burgey is responsible for leading marketing initiatives for Hebrew Rehabilitation Center. He takes great pride in working with staff at all levels of the organization to achieve desired results. 

He is responsible for the recent launch of Hebrew Rehabilitation Center’s long-term care lead generation campaign and works on projects to strengthen branding ties between HSL and its health care services.  Bill works with the marketing teams at Boston area hospitals to develop strategic communications plans around...

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