Our grey hairs show the way our life went…what we did, what we saw…
The calendar hanging in Marie Luna’s kitchen in her tidy one-bedroom apartment is full of names, numbers, times, and big x’s – she is booked straight through fall. Timothy, her friend and a volunteer with San Francisco’s Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, teases her that he has to find just the right time of month that will work for her busy schedule so that they can meet just once!
Marie and Timothy met about a year ago through Friends of the Elderly, a program that “brings people together” and offers a “life-enriching experience to young and old alike” by encouraging monthly meetups. These meetups can range from coffee dates to more lively outings like the one Timothy and Marie took a few months ago to Napa Valley riding the “Wine Train!” The Friends of the Elderly program matches volunteers with individuals over 65 years old who are facing increased social isolation. Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly “bridges the generational divide, creating meaningful social connections for young and old alike [and] creates in person connections and build a community around elders when they may feel abandoned by those around them.”
Marie became a member of Little Brothers in 2018 after leaving the hospital.
“I’ve worked here 54 years! Many of us have been through the workforce and then we get to a certain age and have to move over, because something new is coming.”
“When Timothy came into my life I was very vulnerable. I weighed 93 pounds after 4 months in one hospital. I was touching God. And somehow, I received this comfort in my life, in my soul,” Marie states.
“What amazed me [was] our personalities…We are from entirely different cultures and everything – but wow how we click,” Marie shares. “To me, he’s my friend. I never had a friend like that. He reminds me somehow of the brother I lost…that I have the same relationship. We were fighting but we were loving each other…and that’s why I feel so comfortable with him. That’s the beauty.”
“Our grey hairs show the way our life went…what we did, what we saw…what is going on,” Marie states. In Marie’s case, her ‘grey hairs’ would tell the story of her incredibly brave journey from Guatemala to San Francisco in the 60s and a full career for a large North American electricity company. Later, she became the final survivor of her immediate and extended family and for the first time, found herself without friends in San Francisco.
Reflecting on some differences between Latin America and the United States, Marie shared that “America is great in many different ways, but it’s cruel for the older people. There is no compassion. And many of those seniors – counting me – we’ve been working all our lives here. I’ve worked here 54 years! Many of us have been through the workforce and then we get to a certain age and have to move over, because something new is coming.”
“America is great in many different ways, but it’s cruel for the older people. There is no compassion.”
“Even if you have a family, it’s hard,” she continues, “but when you don’t have that, it’s even harder – then you just have to do your best.”
In Marie’s case, who feels that she “somehow” doesn’t “fit in the ‘old age group in any shape’ or form, meeting Timothy has allowed her to keep expressing herself and relating to others in a way that feels most authentic to her.
Marie worked until the age of 72 because she didn’t “want to give up” as she has seen others do before her. Working three days a week “fed” her energy and “kept me going,” she says. “It was wonderful.”
“That’s what you need,” observes Timothy, taking a sip from the tea Marie has prepared for him. “Engagement.”
All photos courtesy of: Sahara Marina Borja