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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.

What goes in a Gramsly Box?

People often ask how we choose what goes in Gramsly boxes. Unlike other care package companies, we provide a personalized gift experience. There is no “standard” Gramsly box – we customize each one based on the intended recipient.

Why do we do this? The reasoning is simple. Gramsly believes that every senior is special. We’re all unique, and that doesn’t simply go away when we get older! We also believe that the real joy in gift giving is the thought behind the present. Our customers describe their loved ones to us, often painting a vivid picture of the gift recipient. This enables us to find just the right items to put in each box.

In this post, we thought we’d show you some recent Gramsly boxes and explain why certain items were chosen:

Gramsly Box

The first box was created for an active woman in a senior living community. She loves snacks, especially sweets. We chose several sweet snacks that are healthy, including kettle cooked apples and fruit & nut bars. We added dark chocolate and hot cocoa because they taste good, and because regular consumption is linked to health benefits for older people. This box also contains a stationery kit (complete with blank notecards, envelopes, stamps, and pens) for keeping in touch with her grandchildren.

Gramsly Box

We created the second box for a older gentlemen who spends a lot of time in medical facilities. We included warm socks, since these places are often cold, and items that help pass the time while waiting: a puzzle book and earbuds for his iPod. The gift recipient is a baseball fan, so we put in some vintage cards from one of his favorite teams. The box also contains a few snacks that are suitable for his diet.

We love learning about our customer’s loved ones and and choosing the perfect gifts for them. Every box tells a unique story that we feel privileged to share.

Every day we help people stay connected with their older loved ones. If you’d like to send a Gramsly box to someone special, please visit our website for more information.


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.