Mary Tony is a vibrant, funny 98-year-old. Her hearing and sight may not be what they used to be, but her mind is sharp, and she is able to get around with relative ease.
Though Mary lives alone in her Easton rowhome and often struggles to find ways to pass the time, she has found a place that fills that gap with friendship and camaraderie in the Easton Area Lifestyle Campus, formerly the Easton Senior Center. She takes a shuttle to the center each weekday and participates in drum circles, dances, and most importantly, good conversation with friends.
Mary’s story has received national attention because of a viral video, but unfortunately, like many seniors across the country, her story is just one of many.
Lafayette students and faculty have worked with the center for decades to educate the public about the circumstances many elderly people live in and to actively support seniors in our community.
Through academic programs such as aging studies and women’s and gender studies, students have performed research on a variety of issues from seniors’ nutritional needs to the role social relationships play in promoting health in later life.
Christina Shaman ’16 (Briarwood, N.Y.) spent a summer focusing on Mary Tony and three other women at the center in her documentary “In This Day and Age.” The film gives a peek into the ups-and-downs of their lives and explores issues such as the loss of loved ones and looking at life with humor and optimism. It won the Best Short under 15 Minutes award at this year’s Greater Lehigh Valley Filmmaker Festival, and was supported by the College’s Preminger Gerontology Scholar Program.
“These women taught me that aging is not something to fear but something to embrace and be thankful for,” says Shaman, a double major in film and media studies and women’s and gender studies. “I learned about their pasts, their hopes for the future, their relationships, and the way they see the world. I also learned the proper way to call bingo.”
Many faculty members also include the center as part of coursework. This semester, Elaine Reynolds, associate professor of biology, has students performing research at the center in her aging class.
In addition to educational outreach, many students volunteer at the center through the Landis Community Outreach Center’s MOSAIC program and Pre-orientation Service Program for first-year students (images below).
Nicole Giambalvo ’18 (Northvale, N.J.) coordinates a team of more than two dozen volunteers that visit the senior center on a weekly basis. Over the past two semesters, students have dedicated more than 180 hours playing games, participating in and planning activities, and hosting the annual Senior Prom.
“My time at the senior center has been some of my happiest times on College Hill,” says Giambalvo, a chemical engineering major. “The people at the senior center are full of love and compassion and wisdom, and they deserve the same attention and respect they received 40 years ago. When I have the ability to do that, I feel happy and content, they feel happy and content, and everyone’s good. That is why I volunteer.”
Former football standout and Pepper Prize winner Brad Bormann ’14 was nominated for the America Football Coaches Association Good Works Team because of his work with the senior center.
Bormann volunteered weekly at the center playing checkers, chess, cards, shuffleboard, and ping pong with the residents. He also performed research focusing on the ramifications of living in an urban environment have on the aging process.
“What I’ve come to realize is, the volunteer always goes with the intent to improve and contribute to the lives of those they encounter,” says Bormann. “But more often than not, it’s the volunteer that experiences the positive benefits of that work. I’ve learned a great deal about life from these people.”