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Meet Mark


“My history is unique.” This is the first thing Mark says to me when we meet. “Some people say that their own lives are ordinary, but in reality that is never true.”  Mark and his family were European Jews who came to the United States from Belgium.  He grew up speaking French at home, but for the most part his parents wanted to leave their European background behind. “My parents always said they came to America to be Americans. It was deeply impressed upon us that the U.S. was our home.” According to Mark, coming to the U.S. was an “overwhelming experience,” but he embraced his adopted country by learning its history. “I wanted to know especially about the South and the black experience,” he says. “It’s very important.”

Teaching and education have always been important to Mark. “My mother was an extraordinary teacher, and somebody really special. She was a tremendous influence on me.” Mark went to Queens College. He continued his studies after graduating, eventually becoming a physics professor in Indiana. Mark’s former students, now professors themselves, still keep in contact with him.

Married for many years, Mark becomes very emotional when talking about his wife. “[My wife] is an important factor in my life.  She’s a very beautiful woman. An extraordinary woman.” Mark and his wife both love traveling and meeting new people. They once spent a year in Italy, living with a host family as part of an exchange program. “I still remember the family we stayed with. We kept in touch for many years.” These days he doesn’t get to travel very much, but he enjoys music. Although Mark was taught the violin as a child, according to him, “it failed.” He ended up enjoying singing a great deal. Mark tells me his favorite songs are those by the Beatles, and spirituals from the American South. Mark is also a foodie, and enjoys playing games. “When people come to visit, I get out my walker and I play games with them.” 

He decides not to open his Gramsly box right away, instead saving it for later. Among other things, it contains some gourmet snacks and a Domino set to entertain his many guests.

At our last meeting, Mark says he is continuing to enjoy life. “I’m not ready to give up yet,” he says with a big smile. At the end of our chat, he leaves me with a quote: 

“My life has been good, and it’s not over yet!”    


This post is part of our Meet a Senior blog series, in which we showcase senior citizens and tell their stories. All of our subjects receive a customized Gramsly box as a thank you for their participation. If you know a senior (including yourself!) that wants to participate, please contact info@gramsly.com.

Alive Inside: Music + Dementia

Music & Memory is a nonprofit that provides personalized music therapy for patients with Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia:

Based on neuroscience research, Music & Memory helps set up playlists that trigger deep memories not lost to dementia, enabling patients to” feel like themselves again.” According to their website, the program consistently yields the following results in nursing home patients:

  • Residents are happier and more social.

  • Relationships among staff, residents and family deepen.

  • Everyone benefits from a calmer, more supportive social environment.

  • Staff regain valuable time previously lost to behavior management issues.

  • There is growing evidence that a personalized music program gives professionals one more tool in their effort to reduce reliance on anti-psychotic medications.

For more information, or to donate to the organization, please visit http://musicandmemory.org/.

Meet Harvey


Harvey and I meet near the activity room at his senior living community, where some residents are playing a game with visiting teens. Their game seems to involve frequent shouting and clapping, so Harvey and I have to lean in close to talk, and we often have to repeat ourselves. 

“This is a very interesting way of talking,” Harvey says. “There are a lot of activities today.”

Born and raised in San Francisco, CA, Harvey is a local celebrity. He was a semi-professional baseball player with the San Francisco Seals, a minor league baseball team that played in the Pacific Coast League until 1957. Harvey’s team has several notable alumni, including Joe DiMaggio and his 2 brothers Dominic and Vince. Harvey tells me that he wasn’t as good as those guys, but he was “pretty good.” He played several positions, including catcher. 

“I just automatically got into it,” Harvey says of playing baseball. “I didn’t consider it a possibility to do anything else.”

 Harvey played baseball all through high school, and transferred to another team after playing for the Seals. After leaving baseball, he became a basketball referee. “I enjoyed baseball, but it wasn’t something I could do all my life. It wasn’t difficult to transfer from one sport to another. I got to meet lots of people, and it was very nice.”

These days, watching sports on television is Harvey’s biggest hobby. He says, “I don’t go outside that much, but there’s a lot to do inside.” Harvey also spends time with his children and grandchildren, and he enjoys playing cards. His Gramsly box contains several snacks, since as he says he “likes to eat everything.” He also gets some handkerchiefs and a deck of cards to play with his friends.

Harvey was described to me as the perfect gentleman, and it’s a very apt label. With the help of his walker, he stands up when I get up to leave. “Thank you for spending time with me,” he says gallantly. We shake hands and agree to meet again soon.


This post is part of our Meet a Senior blog series, in which we showcase senior citizens and tell their stories. All of our subjects receive a customized Gramsly box as a thank you for their participation. If you know a senior (including yourself!) that wants to participate, please contact info@gramsly.com.


Meet George


“George is really smart.”

“Oh, George is very impressive. He knows a lot.”

“When I’m George’s age, I hope I remember as much as he does.”

I learned a lot about George before I ever met him. He’s famous among the residents in his retirement community for how much he knows. The word around town is that George is very intelligent. He is also quite charming.

“I have a lot of good friends here at [the retirement home]. I get along with everybody very easily. I’m not the type of person to have arguments. I’ve always gotten along with people.”

George was born in Reading, PA. When he learns that I’m from Philadelphia, he becomes animated, telling me about the history of the town and we discuss the pagoda on the south end of Mount Penn.

“You know Reading!” he chuckles, pleased to have found a shared connection.

George left home at 17 years old to go to West Chester State Teachers College (what is now called West Chester University). He still wears his class ring.

“West Chester State was a very good school. I loved it. I was elected class president, and I was on the tennis team. I was a good player so I found it easy to balance playing tennis with my studies.” Although his mobility is restricted now, George still loves watching matches on television. “I don’t have a favorite player. Everyone that plays I like. I’m a tennis enthusiast!”

George's West Chester State College class ring.

George’s West Chester State College class ring.

George enlisted in the Army after graduation. As he puts it, “the Army got me. I was ‘invited’ to join. And while I was there, I did whatever they told me to do.” George’s unit was ready to ship overseas when World War II ended. He was stationed in Hawaii instead. “I was happy not to go to war, and happy to be in such a nice place.”

Since leaving the Army, George has had a full life. He married and had several children before eventually settling down in the community where he lives now. “[My retirement home] is very nice. People are very agreeable. I get good meals, we are very well treated. I enjoy being here very much.”

George is very interested in food. He says he likes to eat everything. “I’m not fussy.” We finish our chat just before lunch, and George is eager to find out what’s on the menu. We shake hands, and I promise to come back in a week with a Gramsly box for him.

When I do return a week later, George is dressed up. He is wearing a collared shirt, sweater vest and dress slacks. “Oh, hello!” he says when we meet again. I give him the box and we open it together. The items are gift wrapped, and he tries to guess what each present is before unwrapping. Knowing how much George likes to eat, I included lots of snacks such as popcorn, fruit & nut bars, and sugar-free candy (he’s diabetic.) There are also handkerchiefs and thick socks to keep his feet warm. George is delighted. “Oh, thank you so much! My mouth is watering. When can I eat these?” We decide together that the snacks should wait until after lunch, which is just starting.

As I help him wrap up his presents and put them away for later, George starts to cry. “Thank you so much. Oh my gosh!” I escort him to lunch where several residents and staff greet him warmly. Composed again, George shakes my hand and we say goodbye. I leave him with his friends at the lunch table, happily perusing the menu.



This post is part of our Meet a Senior blog series, in which we showcase senior citizens and tell their stories. All of our subjects receive a customized Gramsly box as a thank you for their participation. If you know a senior (including yourself!) that wants to participate, please contact info@gramsly.com.

Meet Aiko



Aiko has been a resident of a senior living community for 2 years. The first time we meet, Aiko is at the reception desk. She has stopped by to get a newspaper to read, and a nearby staff member asks her if she wanted to go to tai chi.

“I don’t like tai chi,” she says emphatically. The staff member replies, “Oh, that’s right, you don’t like tai chi.”

“That’s right. It’s TOO SLOW.” For emphasis, Aiko nods her head as she says the last two words. “I like more energy.”

It turns out Aiko prefers aikido and dancing. These activities, she says, are good because they have “some movement.”


Aiko is obviously well liked. During our chat, several people walk over to say hello to her. She has the grace of a dancer, and the stage presence of a Broadway legend. In fact, Aiko is a classically trained pianist. Her music education started at home in Berkeley, CA, and continued when she and her family were relocated to a Japanese American Internment Camp during the Second World War. After graduating from the camp school, Aiko taught music to the other children.

“Camp life was hard,” Aiko says. “In the camp, you don’t have what you want to eat, and you get only so much money for the work, maybe $15 a month. But we were lucky. My mother purchased a home after we left the camp, so we had somewhere to go. Not everyone had that.”

Although she was encouraged to pursue a musical career, Aiko attended UC Berkeley to study politics. She didn’t want to be a concert pianist, she says, “I wanted to meet Mr. [Ronald] Reagan.”

These days, Aiko spends her time reading, playing the piano, visiting with her friends, and helping the staff plan activities for other residents. One of her favorite activities is working with volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – they plant gardens and do crafts together. One such craft project, a beaded dragonfly, is proudly displayed on the handle of her walking stick. In addition to the dragonfly, Aiko wears a bracelet, a turquoise ring, and her mother’s wedding ring.


Aiko’s dragonfly craft jewelry.

“Since my sister got married, I was the only one to carry on the family name,” she says, holding out her hands. “That is why the ring came to me.”

Aiko’s jewelry catches the light as we shake hands at the end of our interview. Aiko smiles and thanks me; graciously saying it was nice to meet me. And then she’s off to her next activity for the day. I don’t quite catch what the activity is, but I’m certain it’s something with lots of movement.

I meet Aiko again a week later to deliver her Gramsly box. She greets me right away. “I remember you! We talked downstairs for a long time!” She’s wearing a smock, getting ready to do a painting. When I give her the box, she says it’s like Christmas.

“I didn’t have much of a Christmas this year, so this is nice.” The Gramsly box contains things I think she would like, based on the time we’ve spent together. Among other things, the box contains seaweed snacks, chocolates, and a scarf in her favorite color, pink. Aiko’s face lights up when she unwraps the scarf.

“How pretty! This is so pretty,” she exclaims. “I don’t have anything fancy like this because I don’t have a boyfriend.” Everyone assures her that she doesn’t need a boyfriend as a reason to look pretty. A nearby volunteer compliments Aiko on the scarf. Aiko turns to her and says, “Oh, you love it? I don’t want you to love it too much, you might take it!” Everyone laughs, and we shake hands again. Aiko’s grip is strong. She bids me goodbye. “Leaving already? Thank you very much for the gifts. I hope to see you again soon!”

I tell her it was good to see her, and that I hope we meet again soon. When I leave Aiko, she is surrounded by friends, happily engrossed in her painting.



This post is part of our Meet a Senior blog series, in which we showcase senior citizens and tell their stories. All of our subjects receive a customized Gramsly box as a thank you for their participation. If you know a senior (including yourself!) that wants to participate, please contact info@gramsly.com.

Socks for Seniors

Have you heard of Socks for Seniors? They’re a non-profit community service project that helps seniors keep their feet warm:


Each year Socks for Seniors hosts it’s annual Sock Drive along with Community Leaders and Volunteers. Families throughout the United States became involved with the Socks for Seniors project in 2002.


Community organizations across America are embracing it by volunteering, sponsoring sock hops and becoming involved in distributions. The Socks for Seniors program is a feel-good, low-cost Holiday project. A project that an entire family – whole community or seniors themselves can participate in.


Communities all over the country have collected warm socks for seniors and helped with distribution. Gramsly thinks the best part of Socks for Seniors is that they aren’t just looking for regular old grip slippers or tube socks (although those are welcome, as well). They want socks that are fun:

The funnier, funkier holiday styles you can find. Yes, we still can use traditional socks as well. We tend to use the philosophy of the residents when choosing the socks to purchase and the quote from 91 year old nursing home resident Emma Mae.

When giving Emma Mae the choice of socks at a nursing home distribution location she quickly choose the bright colored, striped, individual toe socks and immediately said ” 

“We’re just old, not dead and we still have a sense of humor” I want those!

From that point forward Emma Mae’s comments have been the focal point for the socks that we choose to collect for these seniors.

Want to get involved with Socks for Seniors? Use this link to register a project in your own community.