Long Term Care for the Dependent Elderly: Lessons from Mexico, the USA, and Japan
Photography by Cathy Stein Greenblat
Artist reception: March 9, 2007, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Bernstein Gallery
Exhibition dates: January 20 – March 10, 2007
Gallery hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"Long Term Care for the Dependent Elderly: Lessons from Mexico, The USA, and Japan" is a photo-documentary examination of institutional care for the dependent elderly. The exhibition consists of 50 digital prints from facilities in three different countries: Silverado Senior Living, an assisted living community in Escondido, California; an asilo (old age home) in Oaxaca, Mexico; and from several group homes in Kyoto, Japan. Lessons can be drawn from each of these settings about the quality of institutional care depending upon resources, commitment and an understanding of the particular needs of the dependent elderly. These photographs illustrate that regardless of the cultural differences, there is great power in touch, music and the maintenance of dignity.
Around the world, as a result of medical advances and nutritional improvements, longevity is increasing. While politicians refer to the longer life-span of their citizens as a mark of progress, they usually fail to meet the challenges created as a result of this increase in the number of dependent elderly. These challenges are compounded by the fact that an increasing proportion of those who live into their 70's and 80's and beyond, suffer from dementia. Globally it is estimated that more than 18 million people suffer from Alzheimer's disease and this number is estimated to double by 2025.
After spending decades as an academic sociologist, Greenblat decided to use her photographic skills and sociological perspective to confront the reality of our aging world. This photographic work has resulted in the publication, in both English and German, of "Alive with Alzheimer's", (University of Chicago Press, 2004), the first book of photography to focus solely on this form of dementia. Photographs from the book have been traveling in exhibits throughout Europe, the USA and Japan.
In Greenblat's photographs one vividly sees how responsive the elderly are to stimulating environments, and how the Arts play a significant role. Several of the images show how participation in musical events, along with music therapy, brings great pleasure to those with impaired memory. Other photographs show caregivers quietly sitting in conversation with residents or accompanying them in excursions into the community. But Greenblat does not turn away from showing the tough territory of end of life care, including one bittersweet image of a woman in her bed, near the end of her life, being serenaded by a guitar player.
These photographs are far more than a simple record of the daily routine of residents in senior living facilities. What makes these images particularly striking is the emotional life they depict. Those afflicted with Alzheimer's are often stereotyped as vacant bodies, without personalities, robbed of their capacity to engage in life. However, Greenblat's photographs show us that these individuals are fully alive, even if they have lost some of their cognitive abilities. These tender photographs also remind us of the shared humanity across the world as we all struggle to face aging and its inevitable challenges with dignity and grace.
Cathy Stein Greenblat was born in New York. A sociologist with a B.A. from Vassar College and a PhD from Columbia University, she is Professor Emerita of Sociology at Rutgers University. A former resident of Princeton, Professor Greenblat was a Visiting Professor in Princeton University's Graduate Sociology Department in 1985-86, and a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson School in 1987-88. She is the author of 13 books and more than 100 published journal articles. Her photographic work evolved from her research, her travels and her desire to illustrate some of her sociological writing. Professor Greenblat regularly taught an advanced seminar at Rutgers in Visual Sociology. In 2001, she converted a serious hobby into the central element of her professional and personal work, choosing to retire early from the University at the end of 2002 to pursue her photographic interests and projects.
For more information, please contact Kate Somers at 609-497-2441.