Today was our last class of the program and I could not be more amazed of the things we did and learned this year. This year I grew as a person because of this class. I grew in knowledge and understanding of the community I live in and of the people my community has. I grew empathy for everyone I encounter and have skills to be a kinder and more understanding person. During the end of the year symposium on Aging, I was able to display my HAP and part of my HAP was to take pictures of the people from the event and ask for their advice on aging. My peer, Tan, took a picture and her advice was “Don’t try to delay the aging process. Embrace it!” Her words stuck with me because no other words can best summarize what we learned this year. I went into this course with the perception that aging was the near end (I’m sorry!), but this course showed me the miracles of aging and how the process is so misrepresented and misunderstood. I learned that everyone has their circumstances and sometimes makes us vulnerable, but most times makes us stronger and wiser! I have definitely felt a stronger connection to my San Diego community through the resources they offer and the project we had throughout the year. I never really explored San Diego nor realize the infinite resources it offers. This year definitely connected me to San Diego, but also to my fellow peers. Learning about aging and the concept that as we get older, we start to realize the importance of making connections to those you love and want to keep close to your life has shaped my perspective on relationships and how I want to keep growing in this aspect. Through the encounters of everyone I met during the tours, events, and our own projects I gained so much experience and wisdom from them that will stick with me for my lifetime!
This week I went to my cohort’s HAP project event at the West Center in Downtown. Their project was a Fashion Show theme to give older adult there a chance for a makeover by providing donated cloths, jewelry, a face mask, self-massage, manicure, and coloring destress time. I helped set up the clothes section and the amount of clothes available was amazing to see. But the most beautiful thing I saw was the lightened-up face of many people looking for their clothes. I then migrated to the coloring station to talk to someone that was alone. I began to talk to them by asking “How are you doing today?” I never imagined the impact that question can have on someone because they just began to open up to me with a surprising comfort level. Our conversation made me realize that everyone wants to be heard and to be comprehended. They began to tell me that they were so outgoing and vibrant before, but they went through a traumatic event three years ago and is now starting to talk to people and be comfortable talking to people like we were talking. Again, I realized the events that people go through happen so quickly and can create a 180-degree change in your life. No one can know the circumstances one can go through, so we must all be kind and empathetic to everyone! Later I migrated to the nail station and I met so many people! They all left a mark on my heart with their endurance, their resilience, and beautiful hearts!! I was able to start conversation with a lot of people and I got to learn that someone would come all the way from Chula Vista through transit to be able to spend the whole day their and volunteer because her doctor told her not to be stationary or else she would be sick. And someone was so happy to receive clothes because their clothes were recently stolen so they were limited in clothes. And another person felt so honored to be having someone do their nails. And I met so many more people by doing their nails (which I love to do I would love to paint my mom’s nails). It was such a rewarding day to meet everyone and have a conversation with them because it inspires me to talk to someone and spark a conversation with many more people to gain so much more knowledge and understanding.
It is ever so amazing how we cross paths with people and discover so much from them. The meaningful conversations I had today have impacted me for the greater because of their beautiful personalities. Gary, age 71, was the first person I talked to this morning with my peer Jason. Gary began to talk about his passion: which is mentoring a few young men in Ghana, Africa. He began to talk about how hard working and creative they are. His eyes would light up talking about them and describing the goals they had and how he loved helping them create a better future by guiding them and giving them advice. It was amazing to see how filled his life was with adventure and happiness. I would have never imagined it. He is a living proof of my ideology that everyone has their own story and it is our adventure to find out a part of it. Then, a volunteer came and sat next to me. I normally am not the one to spark a conversation, but I decided to step out of my comfort zones and ask her “has someone asked you these questions?” Side note: we were given conversation cards and we on the table for us to use as reference. One of the questions was “what are your passions?” and she reversed it and asked me what my passions were. I told her mine were nutrition and the effect of nutrition, but also the effects of experiences and the environment can have on people during childhood more specifically low-income and gang affiliated neighborhoods (that’s another conversation haha). But she began to tell me that’s amazing and how it is true the effects are either positive or negative. Then she asked me if I wanted children and I said maybe one. And then she said, “oh that’s a goal but sometimes that doesn’t happen.” She had four children: one girl and three boys. She then showed me her ring her daughter gave her. Her golden ring had her four children’s names and their birthstones. I thought it was the most precious thing and she had it on her ring finger. This really showed her children are her life and she valued them so much. She told me how she worked at the balboa hospital until she retired and how she was known as a caring, cheerful, and responsible worker. She said that if you really like your job you don’t work one day and honestly yeah, it’s true. That is my goal in life to become someone who is making a difference while enjoying everything I do. She began saying how she loved her job and tried to be cheerful and treated everyone with respect, honesty, kindness, and treating people the way you want people to treat you. She said there was one person who was quite a negative person, but she always tried to cheer him up with a joke and she did once! She said no matter how stressful the situation she always tried to lighten the mood with jokes. She then told me “why did the orange stop in the middle of the world?... because it ran out of juice.” Gosh it brightened up my whole day! She is my role model and someone I will admire for my life because she kept it so positive. Then I asked how she stayed positive during rough days, then she gave me suggestions. She said she would go to a mirror and look at her reflection then literally speak to herself expressing her anger and letting it out. She said it work and another distresser is talking it off with people over coffee. She really valued laughter and cheerfulness in relationships with people. Then she told me she said have a good breakfast and said to always have meals with either your family or loved ones and have a nice conversation. To always express yourself.She emphasized that there are consequences to your choices, but you do have a choice. This really caught my eye because she was teaching her children how your choices in life are important to create your future and how you want to live it later. She had so much wisdom and lived an interesting life. She was actually a volunteer there at the West Center and wanted snacks, but she ended up giving me the best advice at the right time including telling me when someone has a stuffy nose, whiff pepper around their nose to help them sneeze.
Today in class we shared our Capstone projects which targeted debunking ageism. This project was so rewarding to make because all my knowledge of the whole year was being mixed into this project and collaborating into one huge debunk. The myths that we were debunking were once thoughts of mine and to see how much I learned and was able to debunk was very rewarding. Then, seeing all the other’s debunking was amazing because they were all so creative. Especially Grace’s project with memes. She used memes to capture the younger audience and make it enjoyable to start thinking about ageism.
I can honestly say this week was very heartfelt from all the things we discussed in class. Most of the class was focused on our book presentation on Happiness is a Choice You Make by John Leland and that is where most of the heartfelt discussion played in. One of our discussion questions was that whether we were enjoying the present or not. There were all different types of answers from everyone, but the greatest insight was from my professor, Leslie. She reminded us that everything we do and everything we spend our time on is a great lesson and we all gain something from that. We can spend time on different jobs or gap year, but we are gaining something from it. It’s a great reminder to appreciate what we are doing and not compare ourselves because we have our own experiences and gains. Also, another meaningful insight was from my classmate, Wayne. He gave his own testimony on the topic and mentioned that life has its own plan so we shouldn’t be so focused on planning the future and stressing on things that we don’t have control of. I believe these are critical keys in life that the book touches on and they explained it so much in terms of the real life. Then we spent a lot of time discussing the question, at what point do we respect our loved one’s decision on DNR? And this is where I was filled with sadness and fear in my heart but was so meaningful and insightful. At first, I didn’t know what DNR was, but now I know it is Do not resuscitate. My heart sank because it is a question no one wants to ask, or we hope not to encounter it soon, but just like Wayne said we don’t know what life has in store for us and who could be affected. As a classmate said, it’s a topic that is needed to be disclosed because there are problems and drama that can occur between family when faced with such TOUGH decisions. It is important to ask so you can help the person and your family, but, again, it is a huge responsibility. You are left with the choices of a loved one and of course you can say “yes I’ll do it” at the time, but also keep in mind that at the moment it will be tough to uphold their decisions. No one wants to imagine or be put on that situation, but it takes the best in us to respect one’s decision. I just wanted to cry putting myself on that position and facing the reality, but at the same time grateful of the things I’m learning and for being there to discuss with such a great group of people. This ties back to living life in the present and enjoying what you have (and can do) because we never know what life will have in store for us and when something could happen, but we should appreciate the now. And a great point was brought up by Andrew that yes, we are living through things and sometimes they are hurting experiences, but shouldn’t we be grateful that we found something meaning that it would hurt us this much?
This week we went to the Bay Side Community Center to have our LEG with the participant of the Zumba class. There were a lot of people We were conversing about “life at 20” with a woman named Jackie. She was so kind and full of advice. She really focused on the questions and making the whole experience insightful and fun. One memorable thing she had mentioned is that when she was twenty, she left from the East Coast to San Diego alone with her brother without knowing what she wanted to do in her life. The first few years in San Diego she was working from job to job until her brother wanted her to go to school because she was young and full of life. She said that no one really knows what to do in their lifetime, but you must take advantage of all the opportunity that life gives you and to appreciate them all. Whenever one door closes another one opens and to always know your priorities was something she taught us. She shared her bracelet with her cousins’ names and birthdates showing her love for her family and how much she valued them. She was very sweet; I am glad I was able to talk to her.
This week we went to Casa de Mañana to talk with the residents about their life as 20. I was able to talk to Deana about all the adventures she had. She traveled to all seven continents and almost all the states in America except North Dakota. She had nine children because she always wanted a big family since she was part of a small family herself. She began traveling when her children were old enough to maintain themselves and she decided to travel to places she always wanted. Throughout our whole conversation she really emphasized her travel experience indicating how special travel is in her heart. She was very passionate of travel and wanted all of us to see travel in her eyes. She saw traveling as a way to learn about more cultures and lifestyles, for it is the best way to learn and broaden your horizons. She inspired me to never stop being young and achieve your dreams no matter what your age is because it is never too late.
Today was our first day back from spring break which was much needed. We went over our HAPs projects during our class today and then everyone shared their project with the class. I enjoyed working with my group to finalize a few things and converse on our ideas. I believe sharing our ideas together made the project come together and, also, receiving feedback from our professors was very insightful because they are our biggest resource. Then, everyone shared their own HAP, and I was amazed by everyone’s ideas. I got really excited for many of them because I thought they were all great interactions with the elder community. I really enjoyed hearing the idea of the cook book of the elders of our community and the way to receive the recipes is by interacting and sharing a conversation with them. I thought this idea has so much connection and heartwarming interactions with the community.
Aw what a day! The moment I walked into the cafeteria, I was filled with joy. The whole room as filled with colors; colors I didn’t notice the last time. All the decorations and thought put into the Prom was just so heartwarming. It was heartwarming to see everyone work hard and offering a helping hand everywhere. The games, the photobooth, the food was all so wonderful, and I know the people loved them. I wanted to cry of joy when I saw people coming in with their fun, party clothes and just having such a huge positive attitude. Though everything went so quick, I enjoyed every moment. The announcing of the King and Queen filled me with joy especially when I saw the face of the Queen. She was so grateful and happy, oh how wonderful it was to see her smile. We know they may have been going through rough patches, so I really hope this brightened their day. AWW and then my friend Alisa was filled with joy when she crowned the Queen, I was so happy to see her reaction and to see the huge impact the crowning was for her and seeing Queen’s smile. Definitely a heartwarming experience! Then, I saw people dancing on their own and it just gave me joy that they were able to have this time to let go of their worries and emotions, and just dance everything away. I think what impacted me is watching them seize the moment to have fun and enjoy themselves. I can’t explain it, the pureness of them dancing and having a wholeheartedly good time just filled me with joy. I guess in college we forget to do that, so I miss seeing these joyful encounters. I’m glad this prom happened. Afterwards, when we were giving their goody bags, EVERYONE was so happy and so grateful to receive one. A lot of them kept saying “is this for me?” or “you all are so generous.” Also, on my way to another commitment, I saw a woman from the center was on the same bus as I was because I recognized her blanket (the ones we raffled). It amazed me how far she was coming from just to come to the center. She found a home and shelter there, so distance doesn’t stop her. It made me wonder “Wow, imagine how many other people are doing the same thing to be there?”
Today we all presented our NAPs to the class and I got to learn about so many areas in San Diego that promote healthy aging. We discussed about Little Italy, Sabre Springs, Barrio Logan, and Encinitas. It was amazing to see the diversity in each city and they all cater to the needs of its community. For example, in Little Italy the majority of people living there are pretty young-ish averaging around early 40s, so the central of Little Italy is all dining and entertainment. There is not much catering to people needs like a nearby grocery store or anything really crucial for home living nearby. Everything is far in walking distance, making it difficult for residents- more accessible for people with cars. In contrast, Sabre Springs was much age friendly and higher quality maintenance for the residents because it is such a high-class neighborhood, for the average household income was around $100,00 a year. Each place was so beautiful and expensive; San Diego always surprises me on how expensive it is. This project was definitely an eyeopener for me because as I go to a new city, I see the WHO checklist in my mind and compare them on my own time. I see through a different lens to determine how age friendly it is and how impactful the city is to its residents.