Tag Archives: stories

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.

School pairs autism students with senior citizens

A very special program allows students with autism to form unique friendships with the elderly (via the Huffington Post):

The Lionheart School provides a specialized learning environment for students, including a vocational program that brings their older students who have autism together with senior citizens in a win-win of friendship and real-world training.

What a lovely idea!

Foster Grandparenting

Have you heard about foster grandparent programs? Foster grandparents are volunteers age 55 and over who help children in their local communities:

Foster grandparents serve 15 to 40 hours per week helping children learn to read, mentor ing teenagers and young mothers, caring for premature infants or children with disabilities, or helping abused/neglected children. Volunteers receive training, meals while on duty, and may be eligible to receive a small stipend.

Know anyone who might be interested in becoming a foster grandparent? Please click on this link for more information:


We think this is a fabulous idea!