January 22, 2018

We recently had to cancel plans for an elderly home performance due to the outbreak of the flu. Unfortunately, all the residents were quarantined as to prevent the spread of the flu throughout the elderly home. This particular performance was supposed to be dedicated to one of the residents I’ve known for quite a while so I’d like to take some time and talk about her and what she’s taught me in today’s blog post.

I’ve known Einez for two years now ever since I started volunteering at her elderly home. I first met her in cafe on the first floor when I was responsible for preparing tables, utensils, and the like. Einez was the one who taught me how to fold napkins into those fancy shapes you see at restaurants. After a couple months, however, I realized that I stopped seeing her on the first floor. I asked around and soon learned that she had been moved to the third floor.

The third floor is reserved for dementia patients. Other than the emergency exit, the only way in and out of the third...

November 5, 2017

“Actually, when I was your age, I spent my time playing the piano too. I really loved some of the pieces you kids performed because my favorite composer is Chopin. When I was your age, I wanted to be a concert piano, but my parents refused to send me to school to be a concert pianist. They said when I got to college I could decide what I wanted to be but I couldn’t go to a piano conservatory until I was older. And by the time I got to college, I changed my mind and I decided I wanted to become a commercial artist. I never became a commercial artist though. I never made it through that point. But I became a court reporter instead, doing artwork on the side. I really like crafts and my interests have changed throughout the years. So now I’m into beading.”

I feel that Suzy’s life experiences resonate with many high school and college students. A few people will know exactly what they want to do with their lives and have planned it out a decade into the future. But the rest of us aren’t tha...

August 6, 2017

At this particular elderly home, many performers including myself played classical piano songs. Many eyes lit up in recognition of the pieces, but Sherry took a stronger liking to the jazz standards.  

“I played piano for a while as a kid, but I didn’t want to take the classics, so I switched to jazz and it’s something that I cherish to this day. I wish young people would take piano because it’s a wonderful things. You go to a party and you’re the only one that can play and they’re all around the piano. Having that skill gives you so much flexibility and helps you out a lot in the long run. I like classical music but I prefer playing jazz because it has this bouncy dance feel to it. I know kids these days will sing and rap or whatever but I just love jazz.”

Just as Sherry said, music is such a practical skill and helps you connect with people of all generations. During most of our performances, residents will recognize our tunes and hum along; on our “holiday expedition”, residents went...

June 19, 2017

The elderly home fundraiser was a big success! The crowd at the elderly home was far larger than we had expected and included both the residents and their families. As a result of the performance, the elderly home was able to raise substantial funds that will continue to support individual elderly activities and elderly well-being in the community as a whole. I like to give a special thanks to Rivtka, a manager at the elderly home, who was very active in helping us coordinate and expedite the event. Without her help, organizing the event would have taken significantly longer and the turnout would not have been as large. In addition to the flute trio I mentioned in the previous post, I would like to thank Madison Starr (left) who came all the out here to photograph the event. I would also like to thank Rachel Burak (second from the left) for her amazing piano finale. Both students are from Calabasas High School. Finally, I would like to thank all the parents, families, and administrator...

June 18, 2017

 It's the day before the big elderly home fundraiser! Three flute players from three separate high schools organize a final rehearsal before the performance. From left to right in the first picture is Quynh-Anh Nguyen from Calabasas High School, Hannah Malak from Agoura High School, and Mikayla Quintana  from Westlake High School. After a month of scheduling and rescheduling between the performers and the elderly home, the event was finally set in stone and put on the calendar. We all hope that it will be a big success!

May 21, 2017

Even before I asked if I could sit down and interview her, Margaret waved me over and tapped the chair next to her signalling me to come over. “Aren’t you going to ask me some questions? I’m busy and I have to go soon but I guess I have time for a few.”

“I moved from Philadelphia to New York and I was unhappy until I met my husband. I was 16 and he was 18 at the time. I met him in New York. I’ve learned over the years that no matter how much money you have, it doesn’t buy happiness. It doesn’t at all buy happiness. It’s frustrating because you can’t get extra doctors. Well, you can but there’s a limit to what doctors can do for you. Be grateful for good health because part of it is just luck. Sometimes you will face problems that money can’t fix, so it’s important to have a good attitude and go about life with a happy mentality. And that’s what I’ve learned.

Money can’t buy you happiness. It’s one of those old sayings that we hear too often and end up ignoring. Instinctively, we believe...

April 23, 2017

When we talk with our grandparents, we often expect them to be overly serious. So when Jerry told me I should refer to him as “The Emperor”, I was completely taken aback; to be completely frank, I wasn’t even sure if he was joking when I first met him. However, as I got to know him better, I understood Jerry to be a very witty person whose jokes could make people from any time period laugh.

As we talked further, Jerry and his wife emphasized the value of empathy and an open mind.

“When I was your age, I was going to school and working at the same time. I was in junior high; boys had a job. My first job, if I remember correctly, was in a grocery store. I met a lot of different people working in the grocery store and learned how to get along with people. It’s got to be in your personality, but you can improve on it if you have a basic background. Your personality has to be so that you’ll be receptive to people. You have to be receptive to other people’s ideas and opinions.”

Today’s society...

April 9, 2017

Foreign languages. It’s something that many of us want to learn but few of us have the self discipline to master. Personally, I find it immensely frustrating and sad when my grandparents recount poems from their childhood and I can’t understand due the nuances of language outside of prose. Jeanne talked to me about similar experiences.

“I’m Jewish. I went to a public school but I also went to a Jewish school twice a week after public school to learn to write and speak Yiddish. I also tried to teach myself Russian so that I could speak and translate for my parents and my grandparents who didn’t speak much English. They came from Russia. My sisters and I were first generation Americans. My sisters were born in Chicago and I was born here in California. If I could go back and learn another language, I would learn spanish. I wasn’t too smart in high school and took French, but nobody uses French in California so much good it’s done for me.”

I remember this one time when my family and I stopp...

March 5, 2017

After talking with Jerry, I spoke with Evelyn, Jerry’s wife and retired pathologist. She too spoke about the importance of empathy as a personality trait.

“I too am very sensitive to other people’s feelings, so I can understand or try to understand what others feel. It just breaks my heart that this world is going in the direction that it’s going but it’ll straighten out. There has to be hope for you guys. That’s what we do for the next generation: we support you and have faith that you’ll be the ones that change society.

Evelyn sentiments about worsening state of the world were not unique to her. In my many conversations with senior citizens and residents at various elderly homes, I have found that many people believe that the status quo is worse than the decades that have preceded it. What is responsible for this belief? This idea is particularly surprising to me considering that most of the people I have spoken to have lived through World War II. It is definitely concerning...

February 19, 2017

When speaking with residents, they often talk about the many lessons and core values they have gained throughout the course of their lifetime. Bert, a civil engineer, recounted his simple and rather minimalistic approach to life. After detailing the small joys of his childhood playing basketball and going to the movies every Friday night, Bert left me with one seemingly simple piece of advice.

“Be a good person and help people out when you can. Even when you’re having a rough time, remember that there are always people struggling more than you are.”

Seems simple, doesn’t it? Ever since our childhood, we are always told in some form or another to do all good and avoid all evil; lend a helping hand whenever we can. But how many of us actually live this belief to the fullest? Inevitably, we succumb to that small bout of selfishness once in awhile out of expediency.

In my conversation with him, Bert seemed to embrace this mindset as a life philosophy. If an aged man who lived through a world...

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"To forget the elderly is to ignore the wisdom of the years"

                         - Donald Laird