This week we went to visit our friends at Bayside Community Center. The purpose of this visit was to engage with the seniors of the community in what we call learning exchange groups. Initially, when we arrived the seniors were busy working up a sweat in their Zumba class so we waited for them to finish. Once they completed their class, we informed them of what we would be doing then we got into our groups. The seniors were excited about as being there and we got into conversation right away. I was excited about this visit because I knew I would get the chance to hear about someone’s life when they were in their twenties whereas we typically hear about certain periods of our senior’s life when they are older. We conversed with Sue who was very enthusiastic about talking with us. Sue told us that when she was young approximately 18 years old that she got married early and in doing so that would actually help her husband be exempt from the draft. I found this portion of the conversation most intriguing because I wanted to learn more about how things were during those times. Sue told us that during the Vietnam War there was a lot of turbulence in the country because a lot of people were against the war and with the implementation of the draft she lost a lot of her friends who had to go to war. She then began to speak on some of the things that she did before she retired such as teach at a local high school and raise her children. After speaking with Sue, I got the chance to hear about my fellow LCS member’s lives while they were in their 20s and their stories were enjoyable and inspiring at the same time and I really appreciated the opportunity to listen them. Overall it was a very nice day visiting our friends and sharing memories with each other.
After a well-deserved spring break, the LCS crew met back at the classroom. It was great to see everyone again. At the beginning of class we went around to listening to everyone share what they did over their break. It was nice hearing how so many people were able to travel to other countries and perform volunteer work and how others were able to visit the family members. After sharing stories, we began to discuss our healthy aging projects. We formed our group and informed the class that we had initially wanted to do a vegetable garden but later decided to do something more personalized in the form of decorating masonry jars with succulent plants inside or maybe even herbs and spices. We thought this would be a great intergenerational activity for the seniors and us to take part in. We also planned on doing this activity at multiple sites. After presenting our HAP we were excited to hear about the other groups plans for their projects as well. One project that really stood out to me was the group that will be collecting different recipes from the seniors and doing some type of cooking based of the senior’s recipes. I think this is a great idea because not only does it allow for more social interactions but it also allows us to experience some of their culture through food and who doesn’t like food. The last portion of the class we all met up Prof. to give them more details about our healthy aging project. I thought this was a great resource because we were able to get additional insight on how to go about getting certain things done within our project and also we got some good contact information. All in all it was a joyous and productive day back in class.
The day started off bright and early with a trip to Costco to pick up a large amount of pizza for the senior prom at the West Center. Once I arrived patrons of the center quickly ask if they can help me offload the pizza which was great. Then once my group and I assembled, we began setting up decorations in the photo booth alongside the area for all the games and activities for the day. We finished early and it was so funny watching the seniors getting excited about what they were going to be partaking in shortly. Once underway, we got things started with nice music and an announcement of the prom king and queen, which I thought was so heartwarming especially when they had their first dance. I did notice however that there were not a lot of people dancing but they still seemed to be enjoying their time watching the festivities. Meanwhile at the Photo Booth and gaming area, the seniors were enjoying all the carnival themed activities that were set up for them playing ring toss to playing bean bag toss. While I was at the Photo Booth it was amazing to see how everyone was standing in line enjoying themselves as if they were waiting for some special concert to take place or to get into a club. The seniors were so excited to enter the Photo Booth they were dressing themselves up in the assortment of carnival garb they had at their disposal. Another highlight of the event was when we held the raffle and people were so excited when their number called everyone received very nice gifts. Overall I had a really great time interacting with our friends at the West Center and I was glad to hear from many of the seniors how much they appreciated what we did for them and how they cannot wait till next year. After we completed the event at West Center, the following class was a quick debrief about our thoughts and feelings about how the prom went and to my pleasure the majority of the class felt that everything went really well and the seniors had an amazing time at the event. The only negative thing that was mentioned was that the event felt as if it was rushed and the seniors did not have enough time to do everything that they wanted to do potentially due to time constraints. After that discussion, we enjoyed a wonderful array of different food people brought to class for our potluck. The last portion of our class was just going over some of the details about how we are going to plan our healthy aging project and form groups. I felt this was an amazing way to end a nice quarter.
Earlier this week in class, we discussed details about our healthy aging project at the West Center that was coming up soon. My group was super excited about planning this dance for the seniors because we felt they would really appreciate it and we were also hoping that we would see some familiar faces from when we visited them last time. Today, we mainly focused on our neighborhood assessment project presentations. Our group decided to visit the town of Little Italy. Little Italy is full of history and amazing culture. Our group had an amazing time visiting the community where we ventured off into the farmers market and even indulged in some of their fresh foods. While giving our presentation we did discuss some of the findings in regards to senior living or lack thereof because there was only one senior living home in the area. Also, after chatting with some of the community residents we found out there is not much in terms of transportation inside of Little Italy which makes it hard to access food. For example, the nearest Albertsons and Vons were not within walking distance compared to the neighborhoods. It was also interesting to learn that the majority of the housing there was mainly young renters and this was unfortunate because we learned that most of the housing that was there were mostly luxury apartments and there were only a small amount of affordable housing options for seniors. Overall, after completing the neighborhood assessment project presentation and discussing the findings with the class we felt as a group Little Italy is more geared towards the younger crowds simply for the fact that most of the stores there tend to cater to younger crowds, the terrain which was mostly uphill would be difficult for certain seniors to navigate, and also the fact that most of the luxury apartments were all typically high-rise buildings with a lot of stairs which could present a problem for elders.
It was a fun filled night with our friends at Casa de Mañana and their annual senior prom. The night got off on the right foot literally. The bands had music going and the LCS crew and our seniors were going to town on the dance floor. The event was so exciting because we set up a photo booth that was rockin’ the early 1950s soda pop shop classical theme. The seniors and LCS staff were instantly drawn in by the allure of the photo booth. It was really nice to see how the photo booth became a central hub for the seniors who were not only taking all sorts of photos with their friends and the LCS staff but also made for a great medium for socializing. The seniors were even suggesting taking pictures with all sorts of props such as large glasses, boas, and rainbow colored beads. It was obvious that the seniors were having a blast. The night festivities also featured an awesome raffle giveaway which was handled by our amazing LCS members who had the seniors laughing and on the edge of their seats with anticipation waiting for their lucky member to be called. The lucky seniors who won enjoyed different types of prizes such as succulent plants which seem to be the hottest item of the night and others received gift cards which they were very excited to receive. All in all, I feel that from the feedback I received from the seniors they enjoyed everything from the music to the photos to raffle and everything in between. This blast from the past was a complete success.
This week we started off with the second half of the classes EP presentations and group current event presentations. I got the morning started off by presenting my mother as my EP and shared with the class some of her finest memories relating back to her childhood and her Native American ancestry. I was really excited to present because I knew it would give me a chance to not only talk about how awesome my mother is but also allow others to learn a little bit about Native American culture. I was glad that the class enjoyed my physical element that I created which were three dream catchers that had symbolic meaning for my mother. After my presentation, others in the class shared their EP’s stories and it was such an honor and inspiring to hear about their life and achievements. Later in the morning we began the group current event presentations which were full of interesting topics. The group that stood out to me the most was the group that discussed how in Europe they are proposing that robots act as caretakers for seniors. This topic sparked amazing discourse because the idea that robots could assist seniors I believe could be a positive thing in terms of medication reminders or some type of digital interface where doctors could communicate directly with seniors through the robot for example. On the other hand, cost was brought up and who would be able to afford this type of technology and would this lead to further widening the gap in healthcare based on income. In the end it was a nice day full of great presentations and conversations.
Wednesday was very eventful because we had our oral history project presentations and a group book review. I found the oral history presentations to be very inspiring because I got a chance to listen to my classmates discuss stories about their exceptional person and some of the reasons as to why they chose them. It was also nice to see the many physical elements that the presenters created such as origami flowers, intricate jewelry boxes, and even a hand molded model airplane. Overall I thought the presentations were nicely done and I could see the joy my classmates had in presenting their family members. After the presentations, we began to discuss the book Selling the Fountain of Youth. I feel we could have discussed this book for days because there was so much to talk about within the ideas of intervening with the aging process by creating so many untested products that claim it can reverse the aging process. This ideology is further compounded by the fact you have celebrities endorsing these untested products. I believe that this book further strengthens my belief that marketing and advertising play a large negative role in promoting this “idea of what youth is” and “what youth should look like,” while at the same time making older people feel less confident about aging naturally which leads them to purchasing a plethora of anti-aging products which can be harmful. In the end I feel there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way society views aging and only then as a collective whole we can truly see the beauty in aging naturally.
After spending the past couple of week outside of the class visiting different sites, we finally made it back to our classroom. This session back in class was very interesting because this was our first set of presentations on current events regarding aging. The first presentation was about elderly driving and when and if they should have their license removed due to old age. This got me wondering how and if this could be a positive thing because maybe on the surface people may think one’s numerical value should be the ultimate determining factor in when one should stop driving however, I would challenge that argument and discuss the fact that there are studies that show some 80-year-olds have the same cognitive ability and reflex ability as those who are 50 years younger. I also feel that by preventing someone from driving based on their age not only perpetuates ageism but it could also place an elder in a situation where one can no longer enjoy the freedom of mobility, which can have a harmful effect on their mental health and also can prevent them from accessing healthcare and participating normal daily living activities. Our group followed that presentation by discussing loneliness which seemed very fitting because transportation can be one’s means to interacting with others based on their location. As a group we felt that loneliness in the senior community seems to go unscrutinized on a large scale so we thought it was a perfect opportunity to discuss some aspects of senior loneliness and how it can lead to health problems. It was also nice receiving feedback on how community leaders can use technology to reduce the amount of loneliness seniors experience especially those in rural areas. All in all, it was a very productive class session which made for great discussion.
Visiting the retirement community Casa De Mañana made for a pleasant day. On arriving to the facility greeted by a stunning panoramic view of La Jolla Cove. The friendly staff welcomed us and discussed some of the demographics about their community. I found it very interesting that this community is for the most part comprised of seniors that are highly educated and affluent according to the marketing manager. As one would expect Casa De Mañana is full of amenities ranging from fine dining to well-being and fitness programs to libraries that promote lifelong learning. Later we were able to meet a few of the residents and hear about their background and discuss how much they enjoyed the community. While touring the facility, we noticed there were plenty of people enjoying themselves and we even walked through a couple of fitness classes that the seniors were participating in and they gladly invited us to join in. The thing that struck me the most was finding out how much it costs seniors to live in the retirement community. Casa De Mañana offers traditional apartments, deluxe apartments, and deluxe villas ranging from $4300-$13,000 per month. This was a dramatic difference in price as compared to other senior centers we visited, so it was really interesting to see firsthand how one’s social economic status in life can have a dramatic effect on living conditions later on in life and witnessing how wide the wealth health gap really is. At the end of the day it was nice to see the seniors at the center living and enjoying long healthy life.
Bright and early Saturday morning we loaded up on a shuttle to go and visit different affordable housing options for seniors primarily in the downtown area. The first stop was the Potiker Family Senior Residence. I really enjoyed this housing option because the ambience was very relaxed. The facility featured plenty of areas that let in natural light to give the place a greater sense of openness. While the staff at this facility focuses on key areas such as lifelong learning, nursing care, legal services, and advocacy, I was intrigued at seeing how the residence utilized some of the amenities there such as the large vegetable garden, the fitness rooms, the library, and the computer lab.
Continuing on our tour we stopped by the Celadon @9th and Brodway which was a new construction. We did not get to enter the facility however the outside of the building looked amazing while at the same time using sustainable products in its construction. It was also nice to know that out of the 250 affordable units 25 of them would be allocated for youths who are aging out of foster care. Our last stop on the tour was the Northpark Senior Apartments. This is San Diego’s first LGBT affirming senior housing community. This facility features 76 affordable apartments for people 55 and older and for seniors of all sexual orientation. I found this facility to be one of the best not only was the building decorated with artwork it also featured some very nice community areas for social gatherings. Lastly, I think it was great to see that there are multiple housing options and programs across the wide spectrum of living circumstances that seniors are faced with that can help them continue to live long meaningful and healthy lives.