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.
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.
“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.
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.