9 Life Lessons From My 90-Year-OId Friend

I met Arthur six years ago, thanks to an online ad. A community-based nonprofit called DOROT — meaning “generations” in Hebrew — was looking for volunteers to visit older New Yorkers, many of whom couldn’t easily leave their homes. The commitment was once a week for an hour. Knowing how much my Pop Pop loved (and needed) company, I signed on. Little did I know that the decision would change my life. DOROT paired me with Arthur, and we hit …

Away From Home for the Holidays

I looked out at the setting sun, and twisted the ring Pop Pop gave me, the one I always wear on my right hand. I forgot the candles. I cannot believe I forgot the candles. It was the first night of Hanukkah, and I had failed. I was without candles, matches and a menorah. But more importantly, I was without my family and friends. I felt fortunate to be traveling in Thailand, where I’m studying for the year (so very …

Guardian Angels: Volunteering to Make an Impact

Nobody knew much about Roger. His niece had dropped him off at the nursing home one day, saying there was a family emergency. Could they keep him overnight? Days passed, and then weeks. Some thought that Roger’s niece had been pocketing his Social Security checks, and when authorities started catching on, she bolted. Whatever the reason, she never came back. Enter Mark Desmond, Roger’s volunteer guardian. Mark, a newly retired sales manager, was determined to find out all he could about Roger, …

Talking (and Listening) to People With Dementia

I talk with my friend Arthur twice a week, and each conversation starts the same way. “Hi Arthur, it’s Laura.” “Laura, dawling. Whe-ah are you?” “I’m in Ohio.” “You’re still the-ah?” It’s been almost 10 months since my boyfriend, Joe, and I left New York. “Yep, still here! Grad school is going really well, and it’s great to be close to family. It’s hard being far from friends, though. I wish we were tasting olives together right now.” >> Sign up …

The Power of Pause: Taking Time to Visit Seniors

I’ll admit it: I love a good to-do list. When I’ve got a lot on my plate, or even when I don’t, there’s something so satisfying about crossing things off as I go. But my latest project has been a lesson in letting go of the list. As part of my grad school assistantship, I’m administering cognitive tests to older adults at a care facility near campus. When my adviser, Kate, told me about it, I was excited to jump …

Why Oscar Nominee ‘Nebraska’ Has Already Won

I saw Nebraska over the holidays with my boyfriend and his mom and my mom. It was a rather odd double date, come to think of it, but this isn’t about that. The movie just got me to thinking. There’s an important message in Nebraska, particularly in the relationship between David (Will Forte) and his father Woody (Oscar contender Bruce Dern). When Woody says he won a million dollars and has to travel 800+ miles to collect the prize, his …