The past two quarters of the Life Course Scholars Program has been one of my favorite academic experiences. Every trip, activity, and group project taught me so much about the diversity of the aging experience in San Diego and the shocking amount of disparity between rich and poor seniors. It’s hard to not notice the differences between the seniors at the Gary and Mary West Center and the seniors at the Casa de Manana Retirement Community. In the first quarter, I most enjoyed our long trip to visit the various senior housing options in San Diego. It opened my eyes to both the desperate need for affordable housing and the fact that affordable housing doesn’t have to detract from the value of a neighborhood. Affordable housing complexes can blend into the surrounding neighborhood well. So, there shouldn’t be opposition based on that issue. I also enjoyed completing the Neighborhood Assessment Project. I saw first hand the lack of thought given to the accessibility of seniors and disabled persons. This quarter, my favorite activity was my group’s Healthy Aging Project. It evolved throughout the quarter as plan after plan fell through, but still ended up being a successful event. I also enjoyed our visits to our partner sites, particularly the visit to the LGBT Center in Hillcrest. I wish we had visited that site in the first quarter. Overall, this experience was well worth the time (even on weekends) and I believe it has shaped by academic and career interests. I’ve also already recommended it to friends.
We began class on May 9th with a debrief on the our LEG at the West Center. We also discussed the second half of the book “Happiness is a Choice You Make”. I enjoyed the second half of the book more than I did the first. I think the lessoned were extremely insightful and important to remember. Life is precious and fretting on small details will just prevent you from fully enjoying it. But, this is easier said than done. Being a college student means fretting over small details--emailing professors and TAs for every small clarification, making sure you get every single extra credit point, getting frustrated over small mistakes. Or maybe that’s just me. It’s definitely difficult to not worry about small details when they matter (or at least seem to matter) so much in the present moment. I completely understand that 10 years from now, I’m not going to care that I got an A- instead of an A on a paper. However, right now, it’s kind of ruining my life (exaggeration). This notion of not fretting over small things is definitely something I’m trying to improve on. Not necessarily ignoring the small details in life, but more of not letting those details negatively affect my future experiences and actions. The seniors in the book found happiness despite of their situation. They focused on the better parts of their lives and on the parts that gave them feelings of happiness and fulfillment. This is something I want to be able to do.
On Wednesday May 15th, the class visited the LGBT Community Center in Hillcrest for the first time to participate in an intergenerational cafe. It was initially pretty intimating. Usually, we outnumber the seniors, but this time they outnumbered us and we all had to split up. Still, by the end of the event, this became my favorite site visit of the quarter.
I had the opportunity to talk to three men (Pat, Dave, and John) at the center. Although we had a prompt on the table, our conversation did not follow any of the questions. Instead, it began and flowed in a more natural manner. One of the main things we discussed was the difference between being gay now and being gay when these three men were in their 20s. The men talked about how in the past they would have to bring female dates to gay bars in order to conceal their sexuality. They also had to hide this facet of their lives from their families. Meanwhile, the general consensus towards homosexuality right now is much more lax (at least in this area of the country). Coming from a more conservative Catholic family, I could understand and empathize with this experience. I am bisexual myself, but this topic reminded me more of my cousin Andy. He is an extremely brilliant and successful person in every way and pretty much the ideal child that any Asian immigrant parent would want. But, there’s a caveat. He’s gay and he’s never been able to come out to his parents. So, although I do agree that attitudes towards the LGBT+ community have become much more positive over the years, there are still communities in which it’s still very stigmatized.
Another facet of the conversation I found interesting was how these men viewed being gay in relation to their identity. They saw being gay as just part of who they are rather than something that shapes their entire identity. Pat said, “I’m just a man who happens to be gay.” I thought this was interesting because, I usually meet and interact with people on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to that issue.
We also talked about the generational difference between my generation and theirs. In particular we talked about music. The men all vehemently declared that they do not in any way understand the current music trends, but they also admitted that their parents said the exact same thing to them when they were in their 20s. I really appreciated this because I feel like a lot of people (my generation included) like to jump on the hate bandwagon when it comes to newer things. I strongly believe that it’s okay to not understand new music trends or new forms of art or anything along those lines and still be able to not put it down as “worse than before” or say something along the lines of “kids these days”. It happens with every generation though. Overall, I had a really good time. It was 100% my favorite site to visit.
On Wednesday May 22nd, the class met for the second to last time. It’s insane to think about how fast the quarter has gone by. It seems like everything just started off full speed this quarter. It’s been extremely stressful. Personally, I have just a lot on my plate and a lot to catch up on still (including my blogs :/ ), but I was happy to finally be able to execute my group’s HAP on Saturday. We all thought we had so much time, but May 25th came very quickly. The event on Saturday is much different from what we initially intended for it to be. We wanted to be able to provide haircut and massage services, but things did not fall into place as we hoped. However, we were able to maintain the overall theme of self-care and relaxation. Our event shifted into a more casual, DIY self care day with a clothing and jewelry giveaway. It turned out great. There were a few kinks throughout the morning, but I still think our backup plans fell together pretty well. I was able to take a lot of photos (attached is my favorite), talk to seniors, and overhear a lot of things being said about our event. It seemed like everyone enjoyed it and was really appreciative. Among other things, I heard that a man who only had one pair of pants be able to get another pair and a woman whose backpack was broken was able to get another. The donations from Casa de Manana were extremely important and my group will definitely have to figure out a way to properly thank them. Overall, I’m extremely happy it all worked out in the end. This HAP was definitely a big source of stress and to see that it ended up working out gives me a little (not much) confidence for the next few weeks of my life.
On Wednesday, May 1st, the LCS class returned to the Gary and Mary West Center for another LEG. My HAP group was looking forward to this day to be able to discuss details with Tim in person about our healthy aging project. When the class first arrived, there were only a few seniors, but as the morning progress, more trickled in. I was able to talk to three seniors that day. The most vibrant and memorable conversation for me was with a man named Hugo. Originally from Peru, he talked passionately about the history of his homeland, the Inca empire, and the dominant religion. Our conversation then widened into a geopolitical analysis of South America and Cuba I really enjoyed our conversation not only for the topics, but for the vibrancy Hugo exuded when he spoke on these topics. You could tell that he was extremely passionate about each topic. He even drew diagrams to accompany his stories, so we would understand. He reminded me a lot of my uncle, whom I did my EP on. Joe is also a big storyteller. My group’s conversation with Hugo concluded with a bit of an introspective tone. He wanted us to think about the brevity of life and how to best use the short time we have on Earth. He questioned whether it’s worth it to focus on just one thing, medical school, law school, etc, rather than focusing on passions and hobbies. I understand where he’s coming from and the point he wishes to make. I usually put my creative passions and hobbies on the back burner to focus on academic and professional pursuits. I don’t think that’s going to change much anytime soon, but I also don’t intend on living a life completely devoid of those activities. At this stage in my life and with my current responsibilities, I just need to put other things first. Overall, I had a great time talking to Hugo.
Today we the class met on campus. My group presented on the first half of the book, “Happiness is a Choice You Make” by John Leland. The presentation was followed by a lengthy discussion about old age, happiness, and hard decisions. We spent a lot of time discussion whether family members should respect things such as do not resuscitate wishes. Our last discussion question was something along the lines of, “at what point do your honor your loved one’s wishes over your own desire to keep them alive?” This got me thinking about what I would want if I were terminally ill or how I would respond if it were my mom. Personally, I do believe that at a certain point using medical science to extend biological life is inhumane. Being alive involves more than having a heartbeat. I would choose a shorter lifespan with a better quality of life during my last few days over an operation that may extend my life for a few months, but render me bound to a mechanical ventilator during that “extra” time. I would hope that if I were in such a situation, my loved ones would respect my wishes. At some point the trade-off between quality of life and longer lifespan is just not worth it. My mom sees things the same way. This is a discussion we’ve had and a decision we’ve had to make when my grandparents were terminally ill. They didn’t have plans for this situation, so it was something that my family had to discuss when it happened. I’ve always considered myself to be a person who can put logic in front of emotion when it comes to certain situations. I’d like to believe that I would be able to follow my mom’s wishes if such a scenario were to happen. Still, it’s a difficult choice to make when it’s a loved one and not something that I can say with certainty. Overall, it was a heavy discussion and one that stuck in my mind.
Today, Wednesday April 17th, the Life Course Scholars class went on our second LEG. This time, we revisited the seniors at the Casa De Manana retirement community. Before our LEG, we had the opportunity to discuss the status of our HAPs with the professors and IAs. My group was able to confirm a date for our HAP that morning with the West Center. There were only two seniors in the room when we arrived, both of whom were at our previous events. Two more arrived later into the morning. Much like our previous LEG, the intention of this activity was to talk with the seniors about their lives at 20 and discuss ours at 20. The senior woman my group spoke to had attended both of our previous events. This time our conversations began centered heavily around travel (she was an avid traveler). She talked about things like her adventures in Egypt and the experience of riding a camel or her trip to the Arctic and coming to the rescue of a sinking boat. Then, we went around in a big circle and each of the students discussed places they’ve traveled to or have plans to visit. Later in the conversations, we asked questions to learn more about her life at age 20. What was surprising to me is that at 20, she was much like us, in college and constantly studying. I’m not sure why this in particular surprising to me, but it was. Maybe, I thought things were different back then. Women didn’t have much opportunity to pursue higher education. But, this wasn’t the case for this senior. Overall, I really enjoyed doing this activity again.
Last Wednesday, April 10th, the Life Course Scholars class went on our first LEG. I wasn’t able to come to class the previous week, so it was also my first time seeing my classmates again. On this day, we revisited the seniors at the Bayside Community Center. This time, we met across the street at the Thrive building. The majority of the class got to the location at 10 am, but due to logistical issues we had to wait a bit longer before beginning our LEG. Unfortunately, we were not able to participate in Zumba this time around. We began the activity by splitting up into groups of 4-5 students with each senior (there were not many there). My group talked to a senior man who was originally from the Philippines. He told us a variety stories, from the adventures of his college years to his experience in the armed forces, and even how he met his wife (who was also in the room at the time). With each story, he explained the lessons he learned and wanted to pass along to us. An example that comes to mind is his decision to go into real estate despite being educated as an engineer. Real estate gave him more flexibility in life and he found value in that. He emphasized finding a career that you both enjoy and allows you to enjoy your life. My group didn’t get to share much about ourselves with him, but I don’t think anyone minded. We all enjoyed his stories and the lessons he paired with them.
We continued with EP Presentations this Wednesday. Like last week, I enjoyed listening to my classmates as they presented on their EPs. Everyone put so much effort into their projects and it was nice to see how much thought they put into the physical gift for their ep. I also presented my EP this week. I admit that it was uncomfortable to me. I usually don’t talk much about my family to other people. The entire EP project was a different experience for me because culturally Vietnamese immigrants don’t talk about these things. I talked to a few Vietnamese classmates about this as well and they shared the same sentiment.
We also discussed the second book this week, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism. Overall, I thought it was an interesting read. I am a little familiar with the WHO’s healthy aging and anti-ageism initiatives, so it was nice to further learn about that topic. The book did get me to think more about the certain connotations behind certain words that we as a society use to describe older adults. Following the book presentation, we discussed examples of ageism in society, the difference in the ageing experience between men and women, and how ageing is portrayed in the media.
Towards the end of the class, we discussed the upcoming senior prom at the Casa de Manana retirement community. I was not part of the group that planned this event, but I am very excited to participate that day and see how the event turns out as a whole.
On Tuesday, February 26th, the Life Course Scholars Class set up and attended a Senior Prom at the Casa de Manana retirement community. When I arrived, the prom had already begun. The room looked really nice and I could tell that my classmates put in a lot of effort to put up the Rock n’ Roll themed decorations. The photoshoot corner was interesting. It seemed like the seniors really liked wearing the props and getting a polaroid to take with them. I got there just in time for the raffle. Joey did an amazing job as MC. I couldn’t stop laughing and I’m sure the seniors were entertained as well. I was paying attention to one particular senior in the back. Every time a ticket was called that wasn’t his he would make a face and I was just rooting for him the entire time.
After the raffle, the band started playing and a few seniors got up to dance. It was an interesting choice of music. As the night progress, more seniors got up and danced. I would say that towards the end pretty much every student who were left joined in on the dancing. It was nice to see the energy in the room. I had the opportunity to talk to a few ladies and they both said they had so much fun (one even complained about how her husband was boring because he wouldn’t dance with her). Overall, I think everyone had a good time and I’m glad I was able to make it.