A PIANO FOR MRS. CIMINO by Robert Oliphant


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A good-hearted homiletic with an appealing thesis: that senile dementia in elderly persons is reversible, and that once given imaginative training (and rescued from legal injustice), an older person may lead a rich, rewarding, and independent life. The diagnosis on Mrs. Esther Cimino of Minneapolis, a widow in her 70s, is ""irreversible"" senile dementia; she's in the hospital, confined with crib and retainers; she's confused, unable to recognize her sons Harold and George--who agree to a ""good nursing home."" But then, after a brief time in a grimly benign perpetual-care home, Mrs. Cimino is removed, thanks to granddaughter Karen, to St. Hild's--where the program emphasizes alertness, memory training, vigorous social interaction, and salutary bullying. . . to force the inmates to remember, to do things for themselves, not to ""shuffle."" The sons, not unkind but obtuse, continue to demean Mrs. C.: without her say-so, her house is sold, and after a travesty of a hearing, she is judged incompetent, her affairs to be administered by the local bank ""for her protection."" (The music store owned by Mrs. C. and her late husband is turned over to the bank manager's incompetent son-in-law.) But--like 30 percent of the St. Hild's inmates--Mrs. C. leaves to resume her life: she moves to a retirement hotel in Florida, joins forces with Karen and young lawyer Philip to regain control over her life and possessions, and winds up living in dignified sin with Barney--a dear old musician friend of her husband's. Upbeat, earnest, oversimplified, but an A for Attitude.

Pub Date: Sept. 3rd, 1980
Publisher: Prentice-Hall