When Manny Jacobson was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2002, his wife, Lin, made it her goal to bring him to a museum every day for the rest of their lives.“We have always been active culturally, so we [didn’t] need to stop doing that,” Lin Jacobson said. “In fact, there’s a big need to continue.”
Thanks to programs such as The Jewish Museum’s JM Journeys, a once-a-month gallery tour and studio art workshop for people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s, the Jacobsons, as well as many others affected by these diseases, have been able to continue visiting and enjoying museums. These programs which are also offered by the Met, MoMA, the Rubin, and many other cultural institutions, are designed to help participants interact with art in a stress-free way.
Ms. Jacobson specifically praised The Jewish Museum for having its access programs—or programs for people with disabilities—on Wednesdays, when the Museum is closed to the public. “We don’t have to battle the crowds, and there are places to sit and discuss the work of art,” she said. “That’s important.”
Mr. Jacobson, a once successful caterer and high-end baker, has always been a true art-lover at heart. “He loved Picasso and Modern art,” Ms. Jacobson said. “He could spend all day in a museum.” And that’s why she plans a trip for her and her husband of 53 years to a museum, a concert, or to the theater every single day. “He enjoys it,” she said. “He asks every day, ‘Where are we going today?’”
Ms. Jacobson also explained that Mr. Jacobson, who escaped the Nazis from Danzig, Poland in 1939, always had a special connection to Jewish art. Even now, when they see Holocaust-related art, or any art with Jewish content, she notices that something stirs inside her husband, and that he engages with this art on a different, perhaps more personal, level.
For a 1980 exhibition entitled, “Danzig 1939: Treasures of a Destroyed Community,” The Jewish Museum put out a call to people who had lived in Danzig, Poland before the war, asking if anyone had mementos or photos from their previous lives there. Mr. Jacobson, having grown up in Danzig, had a singular bus pass that he used to go to school every morning. Along with some pictures, Mr. Jacobson submitted the bus pass to the Museum and it was included in the exhibition which went on to travel to different museums around the country.
Lin Jacobson is thankful to every museum and cultural institution that has made it easier to keep enjoying the activities they love.“My hats off to [museums]”, she said. “To say at any age it doesn’t make a difference where your mind is at or not.”“[They] aren’t treating people like vegetables,” she added. “They are respecting and appreciating their humanity.” While Manny is likely to forget any museum-going experience soon after he has it, Lin understands that having memories of such activities is not what is most important. “With this illness, you’re in the here and now,” she said. “Live in the moment…that’s what you have to do, [and] prolong it as much as possible.”
“You’ve got to take advantage of these pleasant, joyous moments,” she added. “Feed your soul, your eyes, your heart…It’s a banquet.”
-Samantha Sharon, Marketing and Communications Intern