2000-12-30 / Columnists

From the Artist’s Studio By Susan Hartenstein

From the Artist’s Studio
By Susan Hartenstein

Ocean Promenade residents with RAA Education Director Chris Jorge and KidsmART teens Kalin and Maxine. 
Ocean Promenade residents with RAA Education Director Chris Jorge and KidsmART teens Kalin and Maxine.

Jake, the dog, greets you at the door. Live green plants fill the rooms. Young children eat, play and celebrate with their elders. Believe it or not, this is a nursing home – a home right in our own neighborhood. This is a powerful story of hope and love that will change your mind about what a nursing care facility can be. Lawrence Nursing Care Center on Beach 54 street is in its second year of implementing the principles of a program and philosophy called The Eden Alternative, designed to give comfort, dignity and the best care possible to the residents of long term care facilities. The program’s founder recognized that even nursing home residents who were physically well cared for suffered from loneliness, boredom and hopelessness. The staff of the Lawrence Center recognized the same thing in their facility and resolved to change this situation. Four of them traveled to California to receive a year of training to implement the principles and techniques of this program. Lawrence Nursing Care Center is, in fact, New York City’s first Eden Alternative home and has received official congratulations from the mayor’s office and from Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer for its good work.

The idea is to make a nursing home more like a real home. Accordingly, animals, plants and children have now become part of the daily lives of the 200 residents and 188 staff members. The three dogs, two cats, 11 birds and numerous fish are animals the residents chose to live on their floors – nothing was imposed on them. The dogs are from the North Shore Animal League’s Senior’s for Seniors Program – older dogs specially trained and tested for temperament. The home has also been transformed into a vibrant garden environment. Intergenerational programs bring in young children, some in foster care, to visit with their elders.

These efforts have made all the difference. The residents live in a true home, not a sterile space, in which they have other living creatures to love and help care for. They are happier, feel more useful and not so agitated or fearful. Many will more readily accept necessary medical care they might have otherwise rejected out of anxiety. The children have "grandparents" to love and from whom to learn. The extraordinary staff is happier working in such an environment. Each one pitches in to make this a better place to live and work. Even Administrator Barbara Young can be seen walking the dogs before she leaves for the day. The home is spotless.

Dianne Moore is the home’s community liaison. She speaks of this staff as being a family fully dedicated to each other and to the elders living in their care. It is clear in listening to her speak that her own dedication is no less powerful. Most of the staff, including Ms. Moore, has worked there for 20 years or more. Most live in Arverne, Edgemere and Far Rockaway. Moore desperately wants the work this residence does to be known. She wants the public aware that there is something so positive in this neighborhood. "You don’t have to make a huge effort to see it," she states. "Just open your hearts and your eyes." She also wishes people to understand that a nursing home can be a true home--filled with those things, which comfort and heal more effectively than any medication could. If you wish to learn more about this unique facility, log onto www.lawrencecare.com.

“Jake” with RAA KidsmART teens and Dianne Moore, community liaison, Lawrence Nursing Care Center. (Photos courtesy Chris Jorge)
“Jake” with RAA KidsmART teens and Dianne Moore, community liaison, Lawrence Nursing Care Center. (Photos courtesy Chris Jorge)

RAA strongly believes that a child’s education should include art, not just for "art’s sake," but also a means of broadening a child’s awareness of the world. Art is a way to share with and touch others. To carry out this principle, Art Education Director Chris Jorge encouraged participants in RAA’s kidsmART after school program to create holiday cards and decorations for local nursing home residents. This effort was meant to teach the children the spirit of giving. RAA is so proud of these kids. As Ms. Jorge expressed it, "They put their hearts and souls into their work and it was not easy for them to give it away. We can all take a lesson from the generosity of our children." Jorge brought kidsmART teen assistants to Ocean Promenade Nursing Home and Lawrence Nursing Care Center to distribute the artwork.

Teen assistant Maxine Harris said, "I feel warm in my heart." So impressed, by the way, was Ms. Jorge by the Lawrence care facility, she immediately pointed me in the direction of Dianne Moore.

If you are an RAA member who wishes to participate in our next RAA exhibition, "Interior – Exterior", bring your work to T6 on January 14 from 1-4 p.m. or January 15 from 4-6 p.m. You are encouraged to submit new works. Scenes can be of interiors, exteriors, views from inside looking out or outside looking in.

Pieces must be properly framed with a secure wire across the back. Works on paper should have glass or Plexiglas. Bring a list of titles, media and prices and times you might be able to sit in the gallery.

Donations of 10 dollars for hanging and 10 percent of sales will be gratefully accepted.

Walter Gurbo is presenting "We God’s Clowns" – paintings and giclee prints at Autumn Café, 244 Main street in Oneonta, N.Y. from January1 to 31. Opening is January 7, 4 to 6 p.m.

What a nicer way to end this year than with stories of hope, caring and giving, right in our own community. Oh, what we can do if we want to enough. Wishing health and a helping hand to all in 2001.

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