“I Remember Better When I Paint”

in Newsletter
January 15th, 2010


Sailboats by Hilda Gorenstein

The Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center (BU ADC) hosted the Boston premiere screening of “I Remember Better When I Paint” on January 12, 2010. The film by Eric Ellena and BU ADC Board member Berna Huebner, and narrated by actress Olivia de Havilland, is the first international documentary about the positive impact of art and other creative therapies on people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). It examines the way creative arts, such as painting or museum visits, can transcend the cognitive limitations of AD and other dementia disorders and allow patients an outlet to exercise their intact imaginations.

The concept for the documentary was inspired by Huebner’s mother, famous artist Hilda Goldblatt Gorenstein, known professionally as Hilgos. Suffering from the advanced stages of AD, Hilda was apathetic and non-communicative, until one day her daughter asked, “Mom, do you want to paint?” to which Hilda surprisingly replied, “Yes, I remember better when I paint.” With the encouragement of her family and visiting art students, Hilda started painting again, and her mood and speech soon began to improve. Hilda eventually created over 300 paintings during her final years in a nursing home.

The documentary includes interviews with renowned clinicians who explain how creative activities engage areas of the brain that are not damaged by AD and thus reawaken a sense of personality, identity, and dignity in patients. Among those clinicians featured in the documentary were BU ADC faculty members, Drs. Robert Green and Robert Stern. The film also features Yasmin Aga Khan, president of Alzheimer’s Disease International and daughter of Rita Hayworth, who suffered from AD before dying in 1987. Other prominent members of the field are featured in the film, advocating for increased use of creative therapies in adult day programs, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.


Untitled by Hilda Gorenstein

Following the film screening, the BU ADC presented a panel discussion and took questions from the audience of more than 300 attendees. Panel members included: BU ADC faculty members Drs. Brandon Ally, Robert Green, and Robert Stern; Meg Curtis, who is married to BU ADC participant Charles “Skip” Curtis, who was featured in the film; President and Co-Founder of Hearthstone Alzheimer Care and the I’m Still Here Foundation, Dr. John Zeisel; and the film’s Co-Director and Producer, Berna Heubner. The group discussed current research and development of AD treatments, emphasizing the importance of creative therapeutics in achieving comprehensive care and improving quality of life.

“I Remember Better When I Paint” is presented by French Connection Films and the Hilgos Foundation. For more information about this film and additional projects supporting artistic creation in elderly populations, please visit the Hilgos Foundation website at www.hilgos.org. For those interested in viewing the film, “I Remember Better When I Paint” is now available on DVD and can be purchased online at amazon.com.