Metta Fund

Gwen Thomas, 73

"You don't have to sit at home doing nothing! There are programs out there!"

Keep your mind right. Try to get out.

Gwen Thomas wants you to get up off the sofa and get out there.

“There’s programs out there for people over 65,” she states. “You don’t have to sit at home doing nothing! There are programs out there!”

And Gwen knows programs. Hired by the Felton Institute in Visitacion Valley, San Francisco, a nonprofit that responds to “human needs with innovative social services and treatment” and places “special emphasis on the needs of low-income families, children, the elderly, and people living with disabilities,” to oversee outreach and programming for people over 65 years of age, Gwen goes out of her way to recruit individuals for community-building activities and programming offered during the week and on weekends for members of Visitacion Valley and neighboring Sunnydale. Programs include roundtable discussions on a wide range of topics that interest members to courses like knitting and energy boosters like dance classes.

“I try to get them out [of the house],” says Gwen. “At my age, I’m not gonna sit in the house. I’m going to get out as long as I can.” Watching her mother “give up” after her friends began to pass left a mark on Gwen.

“You need to get out – you need to keep your mind going. I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to give up – I’m going to get out as long as I can.”

“My mother gave up after a while,” she remembers. “She just gave up. All she was doing was staying in the house not getting up – she just gave up. She used to go do stuff but…” Gwen trails off.

“You need to get out – you need to keep your mind going. I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to give up – I’m going to get out as long as I can.”

And any words of advice for those who are torn about joining programs for any reason?

“Keep your mind right. Try to get out,” says Gwen. Spoken like a woman who’s living it.

All photos courtesy of: Sahara Marina Borja