Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Unconventional Friendships: What I’ve Learned From Senior Citizens

Things were getting heated.

“How about adding an ‘S’ to that and making it plural?” I asked, trying to sound innocent.

Ann leaned in—“I may be old, but I am certainly not stupid”—and with that, my progress was foiled. I desperately needed that “S” to make my next move, and I was officially scrambling at Scrabble.

Only a few minutes prior, the 85-year-old woman rolled over in her wheelchair and asked me to play. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

“O X A Z E P A M…oxazepam… 28 points plus two triple word scores, a triple letter score on the ‘Z’ and a 50 point seven-letter word bonus. 392 points,” she declared as I tallied up her significant lead in shock. Nope, I thought to myself, certainly not stupid. This was the first time Ann and I played together, but it wasn’t the last. By far the most superior Scrabble player at Brighton Gardens Assisted Living, she claimed that I always gave her a challenge. She was just being kind.  Ann had spent her life working for a pharmaceutical company, which is probably how oxazepam (which she later told me is a drug used to treat anxiety) had made it into her vocabulary. She lived in a time when medicine was seen as a man’s profession, but Ann didn’t mind. She loves proving people wrong. It occurred to me that she was the epitome of why one should never be underestimated. During my time at Brighton Gardens, I have met other amazing seniors and one by one, their stories have enlightened me.

 Rosemarie is an 89-year-old Venezuelan immigrant who is fluent in three languages and spent her life working for the United Nations. A single mother of three, she originally moved here for her infant son to get treatment for cerebral palsy. She is a lover of the romantic novel but the senior home had no books in Spanish. I offered to get her one, and the next day I found myself  in Barnes & Noble, purchasing the Spanish version of  The Fault in our Stars. “The teenage book?”, my mother inquired.  “Yep” I responded, “Why not?”  Truth be told, the selection on the one shelf devoted to Spanish books was pretty limited, and Fabio just wasn’t cutting it. So as I sat next to her, reading in Spanish about modern day star-crossed lovers Augustus and Hazel, it occurred to me that all things should really be for all people.

And then there’s Henry. It may be that the word “dapper” was originally coined for Henry (I will have to ask my wordsmith Ann.)  A well-dressed man, who never forgets to smile and tell me how “bootiful” he thinks I am, he has unabashedly hijacked my heart.  Henry is the only adult I’ve ever met that rounds up when discussing his age. “Next year I will be 100”, has been his favorite phrase of the decade.  Last winter, during my snowflake making activity he decorated his yarn snowflake with such precision that I wondered if maybe he had been a jeweler by trade. “No. Electrical engineer,” he retorted as he gave me the snowflake to keep.  I swooned and all the female residents and aides were jealous. So despite our 82 year age gap, I was crushing. Though Henry takes great pride in his age, he refuses to let it define him.

So my number one take away from the University of Brighton Gardens: people are interesting. Just talk to them and ask questions and you will most likely be treated to a treasure trove of experiences and ideas. I can only hope that the senior residents foreshadow my experience in college and beyond.  One thing is for sure: I have one very special snowflake to hang up in my dorm room.



Similar Reads👯‍♀️