At Hebrew SeniorLife (HSL), we are always on the lookout for opportunities to bring seniors and young people together to build relationships and shatter stereotypes. We’re also deeply invested in training future generations of senior care providers. So when the opportunity came along to build a program that would combine the two, we jumped at the chance.
By this time every year many of us have already given up on our New Year’s resolutions, which all too often include a promise to take fitness seriously by maintaining an exercise or wellness regimen.
While many adults flounder in their efforts to change long-held behaviors, particularly those centered around wellness, it seems like adults age 65+ are enthusiastically embracing change and dedicated themselves to maintaining a healthy lifestyle all year long.
Writer Joan Halperin has lived at Orchard Cove for the past thirteen years. Originally from New York City, she relocated to New England to be closer to her daughter and son. She chose Hebrew SeniorLife’s Orchard Cove senior living community in Canton, MA as her new home due to its welcoming atmosphere and the fact that it was already home to many visual artists and writers with similar interests.
In a Huffington Post article titled “Generational Warfare Is a Media Myth: Seniors and Kids Need Each Other,” from November 2014, a clear rationale for intergenerational programming is outlined. Children and adults thrive on face-to-face contact. In fact, it is suggested that there is an inclination for older adults to connect with and guide children, which likely results in increased happiness and positive emotional well-being, according to research by George Vaillant of Harvard Medical School.
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.
A resident who is part of our Enhanced Living environment at Orchard Cove, Hebrew SeniorLife’s continuing care retirement community in Canton, MA, loves to read, but found that retaining the contents of a whole book was no longer possible for her. Through her participation in our Vitalize 360 wellness program, she was encouraged to join a community book club that reads and discusses short stories to help prompt her memories and share her impressions of what she read. She is now a regular attendee and finds she can retain enough to have a meaningful discussion with others in the club.
At CCB, one of Hebrew SeniorLife’s supportive affordable senior housing communities, residents don’t take Zumba lightly. So Sarah, the Zumba instructor, was concerned when Mrs. B. skipped a class. Sarah contacted her to see what was going on.
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.
“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 have 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.