buildOn Afterschool students in Chicago have periodically visited senior apartments in the city to engage with residents–playing games, helping out, or just chatting. This summer, we had our students write reports on specific members of the senior community. They conducted interviews in an effort to examine key differences between older generations and their own, as well as to mine pearls of wisdom from their elderly friends. Several of the students were told fascinating stories that brought them closer to the residents of these apartments and enriched their understanding of the senior citizen experience.
“Jesse is an old woman who likes to talk about love a lot. Her age right now is 87, and she was born in the southern state of Arkansas. Her grandparents were born in Arkansas as well; they spoke Indian and a little bit of English. Jesse smiles a lot when she brings up the word ‘love’. During my interview with her I could tell that she wanted to cry a bit. I saw the happiness and all the love she had in her eyes.
I asked her, ‘What are the most serious problems that you think teenagers have to face?’ She replied, ‘Drugs and no love.’ And by ‘no love’ she meant that teenagers are sometimes treated badly for the things that they do.
Overall Jesse is a really kind and sweet old lady, I really had fun interviewing her. I would like to see her again someday.”
– Richard Jara
“I interviewed Catalin Padilla. She and most of her family before her were born in Puerto Rico. She lived there the first 11 years of her life. She came to the United States at the age of 11 with her parents for better living and more opportunities. She says that a serious problem all the people in Chicago and all Americans face is injustice – people just can’t live for peace! But Catalin describes herself as able, friendly, and calm. She is still able to take care of herself without needing the help of anyone. She is really nice with everyone she meets and almost never dislikes anyone.”
– Catalin Padilla
“We started to play bingo and I met Mr. Johnson. He was from Bari, Italy. He also served in World War II and showed me a picture of him and his brother in the war. Bingo was not going well for him until he won twice and went to get his prize. He got some shampoo and a light blue hat. So me and this other lady kept telling him that with the shampoo he won he can take a shower and then get all the ladies in the apartment.”
– Marco Mercado
“My interview was on an elderly African American woman from Greenview Apartments. Her name is Ms. Burrell. I learned that she had about 16 children and took care of them all on her own. She needed to balance a family and two jobs. Her life was more work than play. Her most treasured possession is her family and life itself. ‘I consider myself lucky,’ she said, ‘to have a big a family and people like you and your friends to care for me. There are people that die sad and even angry because they have no one. Although being here today might not seem like a big deal, it really is for people like me.’
Being at the retirement home was educating. It made me think of my future and how I would spend my time. I thought of where I would end up and who I would be with. How many children I would have and about my brothers and sister and where they would be. Being there made me want to come back in the future and help out even more.”
– Clara Aguirre