TORONTO — Aging is Living – A New Perspective is a photography and text exhibit that debunks the notion that long-term care facilities are a place to go to die.
Irene Borins Ash, a Toronto social worker, photographer and speaker, has taken a quantum leap in changing that perception.
Social worker and photographer Irene Borins Ash with environmental activist David Suzuki are seen at a preview of Borin Ash’s exhibit.
She has done this through her photographs and testimonials from 25 seniors of varying ethnic, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds who are now often more active than they were before moving into a long-term facility.
Through their own words, the seniors shed new light on the subject of aging. They are optimistic and have healthy attitudes about aging, despite life’s challenges.
Borins Ash says that seniors living in long-term care homes are often perceived to be invisible and forgotten members of society.
“Yet the reality is that… many residents continue to pursue personal interests, activities and relationships that continue to give meaning and quality to their lives.”
Borins Ash’s 2003 book, Treasured Legacies: Older & Still Great (Second Story Press), profiles 44 senior men and women who live creative and fulfilling lives.
“When I interviewed Ann Seaton for Treasured Legacies, she was the only one [I interviewed who was] living in a long-term-care facility. She told me that these are some of the best years of her life. And even though she was confined to a motorized scooter, every day was an adventure and joy to her,” Borins Ash says.
Impressed by the seniors she interviewed, especially Seaton, who lives at Baycrest’s Apotex Centre, Borins Ash approached Gilbert Heffern, director of communications and public affairs of the Ontario Long-Term Care Association (OLTCA), who agreed to help her create an exhibit about the positive side of life in a long-term care facility.
“The rest is history. And now, 21/2 years later, I am delighted to present this inspirational exhibit,” Borins Ash says.
She stresses that a long-term care facility “does not have to be the end” but rather is the beginning of a new phase in one’s life.
“It is a time when seniors do things that they never had the time to do when they were younger.”
Borins Ash is finishing a book on the exhibit, to be published by the Dundurn Group.
“Despite wars, starvation, illness, loss of loved ones, these remarkable men and women I interviewed still continue to be creative, whether it is through painting, wood carving, writing, leading committees, writing their memoirs, gardening, or perhaps through learning to forgive others for things that happened to them in their lifetime,” she says.
Zev Selinger, LEFT, a resident of Lincoln Place Nursing Home since 2002, spoke of the many activities at the home – synagogue services, bingo, tai chi and art therapy, and special events such as talent shows.
“The building is built in such a way that one cannot help but meet other people. This is really good because one does not feel lonely,” he adds.
The show, presented in partnership with the OLTCA, is open to the public from May 1 to 15 at the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, Ryerson University, Heaslip House, 297 Victoria St., Toronto. The exhibit’s official opening takes place on April 30, and the public opening is on May 1, 5 to 6:30 p.m. For more information about the exhibit, visit www.ireneborinsash.com.