Art and Alzheimer's: Film Looks at How Creativity Sparks Connections

June 27, 2017

People of a certain age will remember the lovely screen actress, Olivia deHavilland, who made many movies during the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. She is now 98 years of age. In 2009, at approximately 93, she narrated a feature-length international documentary film about the effect of art on people with Azheimer’s disease, called “I Remember Better When I Paint.”

The film, by Eric Ellena and Berna Huebner, was inspired by the story of Huebner’s mother, Hilda Goldblatt Gorenstein, the artist known as Hilgos, who had Alzheimer’s and whose mobility and speech improved as she painted. There is also an interview with Yasmin Aga Khan, president of Alzheimer Disease International, and daughter of another legendary film star, Rita Hayworth, who also had Alzheimer’s and who also began to paint during the time of her illness.

On the website (, we’re told that the inspiration for the film came from Gorenstein herself who in her later years had severe memory loss. When her daughter asked: “Mom, do you want to paint?” she unexpectedly responded, “Yes, I remember better when I paint.” Art students helped her regain a capacity for exchange and communication through painting.

“The film emphasizes the importance of emotional and artistic connections that are still possible despite a diagnosis of dementia,” says Dori Prescott, SeniorCare’s director of home care. By providing information about how Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain, but also how art and creative endeavors can help reach the non-affected parts of the brain where emotion and expression reside, the documentary shows art as a powerful catalyst for re-connection with loved ones and for improved self- esteem for the dementia patient.

Huebner and others also collaborated on a book, “I Remember Better When I Paint: Art and Alzheimer’s: Opening Doors, Making Connections” which highlights Hilgos’ paintings and sculptures, and provides much valuable information for people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. It’s available at

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