The Forgotten Ones

While a significant amount of my time during my internship has been centered around social justice issues faced by low-income and migrant families, I have recently developed an additional passion for the social justice issues faced by the elderly. It seems that no one really discusses issues they face–they have benefits, they’ve lived their lives, so why think about them, right? My passion has developed after just a few short visits to a local federally-funded senior center. I have spent time with the elderly back home in a number of assisted living homes, but these were all privately-owned.

During my first visit to the local senior center about a week ago, I chatted with a few women–the few residents who spent time in the common area. We discussed their favorite meals to cook, their grandchildren, and some of the drama within the facility. I asked one lady what she would change about the facility. She replied, “We have absolutely nothing to do. We used to do some crafts but they stopped doing that.”

Based on my prior experience with my grandparents, I had just assumed that different activities were offered to these people–dance and exercise classes, home-cooked meals, day trips to nearby cities, unlimited computer access, guest performances, etc. It only seemed right that residents be offered a variety of activities to do–they’ve been pulled from their homes, and have few sources of entertainment. I was saddened by the lady’s response, but then it kind of slipped my mind…temporarily.

This past Thursday, I decided to spend extra time at the senior center after I harvested at the farm. I enjoyed the conversations I had had the week before, and the ladies said they would like me to return. We caught up for a little over breakfast and then played bingo. As we ate our pancakes, I asked them about the food at the senior center.

“What are you guys served? Is there much variety?”
“No variety. We eat the same batch of greens beans and potatoes everyday. Everyday, they give the potatoes a different name on the menu, but they are the exact same. By the end of the week the potatoes are black.”

While I understand that funding is limited in the facility, I wish residents were given more variety. Though I cannot give the senior center funding, at least I can give the residents my time.

Alyssa Weker ’17