When it comes to LGBT elders, “most 90-year-olds have lived silent hidden lives.” This is one of the reasons that Rev. Mary Martha Thiel created a one-of-a-kind chaplaincy education unit, Spiritual Care of LGBT Elders. It’s part of the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program she directs at Hebrew SeniorLife. “We’re not aware of any other CPE program with a unit focused just on the needs of the elder LGBT community,” says Mary Martha.
Hebrew Rehabilitation Center has a large Haitian American staff that largely provide front line nursing care and food services for our residents and patients. Over the years I have gotten to know many of these staff members and shared good and challenging times together. I have not, however, learned enough about Haitian culture and religions, and so I jumped at the opportunity to be a visitor at a local Haitian Church.
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.
“It’s one of the prize accomplishments that I have had, to be able to be attached to young people and to benefit from them and for them to benefit from me.” These are the words of Irving Silverman, a 96-year-old resident of NewBridge on the Charles, discussing his friendship with 16-year-old Mariah MacKenzie through the Adam and Matan Adelson Multigenerational Program at Hebrew SeniorLife.
Today Esther is a published author and poet as well as a scholar of Judaism and Hebrew teacher at Orchard Cove in Canton, MA. Her experiences living in the community has inspired her to become a prolific poet. She participates fully in community spiritual life and is an avid reader of history and biography. Her warmth, vitality and intelligence shine through with other residents.
The biggest applause of this year’s Hebrew SeniorLife EngAGE event came not for the Emmy or Grammy Award winners but for the woman whose YouTube videos went viral and made her a celebrity at age 76. It was only appropriate for an event with the goal of redefining how we think and talk about aging.
For the past two years, registered Dance/Movement Therapist Whitney L. DiGeronimo, MA, R-DMT, has been a member of the Expressive Therapies Department at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center. I recently spoke with her about her role and the “Dance for Parkinson’s” class now offered on-site to HRC residents at our Boston and Dedham locations.
Tell us about your professional background and training, and your role at HRC?
On July 2 we lost Elie Wiesel, world-renowned survivor of Auschwitz, author, and voice of conscience. A week later, I went to Germany with a group of Boston-area rabbis, sponsored by the Boston German Consulate. While I blogged recently about that trip, I continue to process the experience and also to hear the reflections of my fellow travelers.