I was born and raised in India where ancient traditions seamlessly mingle with modern day city life. A core value in Indian culture is the respect we afford our seniors who are responsible for
inculcating the ancient traditions and sharing their wisdom with our youth. Living as joint families, caregiving is part and parcel of our culture. According to our religious beliefs, a child who cares for their grandparents is blessed, and consider it ‘Punya’ or the accumulation of good Karma. I am blessed with a wonderful life here in California and am well aware of the sacrifices that my parents and grandparents made to make this life a reality. My memories are vivid of my grandfather carrying me on his shoulders, helping me learn how to ride my first bicycle or with my childhood science projects.
While the passage of time has taken my grandparents from me, in the name of R.P and Bhimsen Gupta, I pay it forward by supporting Bay Area Older Adults. In the Bay Area, many seniors live alone, one in three has some form of vision loss and more than 40% of adults age 65-84 are widowed. These physical challenges and emotional distress lead to social isolation and detrimental health effects. Social support is one of the most important contributors to a higher quality of life, health and wellness. This is why BAO’s program focuses on improving their social well-being.
I encourage you to visit their website at www.BayAreaOlderAdults.org and check out the better than good work they are doing in our community!
Jack, an 88-year-old veteran, lives in a San Jose mobile home park and cares full-time for his wife of 68 years who has dementia. Jack nearly shouts because he is almost deaf and his hearing aid from the VA is not enough. I speak slowly and clearly during our Bay Area Older Adults hikes and have learned about his youth, his time during the war and how much he loves his wife. He glows with energy and is so grateful to be outside. It is rare for him to take a break from caregiving and enjoy the outdoors and comradery of others. One day I told him how I hope I will be hiking at his age and how healthy his heart must be. He laughed as he told me he has already had three heart surgeries. Jack’s wife died two weeks ago.
Cornel is 67 years old, lives in San Jose and is in the forefront of this photo. Cornel, a long time Vista Center for the Blind client, joined Bay Area Older Adults for a walk around Almaden Lake in March 2019. The walk was led by a California naturalist who taught us about the birds around the lake as we listened to the bird songs and enjoyed the gurgling of the nearby creek running under the bridge. Cornel said he saw the world in light and shadow and could follow me only because I wore a light-colored shirt. It was a beautiful day to walk on the path around the lake, and Cornel was just happy to be out catching a few rays of sun and learning about the birds in the area. He laughed and joked with us and his fellow VIPs (visually impaired persons), charming and joyous even though his world had long gone dark. Two months later, we saw Cornel on another walk. As he climbed into the van, I saw him wince as he tucked his feet into the van. When I asked about it, Cornel said he recently had broken his back from a fall, so he was recovering from back surgery and motivated to get outdoors. He enjoyed walking along the rippling creek, learning about the Sycamore trees, touching and feeling their large-sized leaves. Then we went to the Nature Center where he laughed as we put a live snake in his hands. Even though Cornel’s eyesight is deteriorating rapidly and his world is getting darker, Cornel is humorous, resilient and an inspiration to everyone who meets him.