GLADYS H. AGE 92
I was born in Brooklyn. I lived in Brooklyn until I came to this independent living facility in NJ. I have lived here for a couple of years.
I graduated from Hunter College as a Kindergarten teacher. I married during the last year of college, but then my husband went into the army so I worked for a year in an office. Then I followed my husband to different states where he was stationed. In those places I worked for the army, something having to do with weapons. I never ended up teaching because by the time I came back I was pregnant. But for many years I worked as a volunteer for my son, who was elected as a NY State Senator when he was just 25 years old. I worked in his office. In those days they didnt pay the local offices anything, so I volunteered. I took phone calls, fielded complaints. Finally they gave him a part time worker so the two of us stayed in the office. I primarily took care of the campaign funds, so I dealt with the Board of Elections a lot. I did that for 22 years until my son retired. After awhile my husband and I started to travel so toward the end of his term my son hired someone else.
I once flew across to Europe on a propeller plane. That made me very
nervous. My husband bought fabrics in Europe and he was gone frequently
to Holland and France, so one time he said come meet me. That was about
I have few complaints about my physical health, although I have been without good mobility for the last couple of years. I use a cane when I leave my room, or if I go out to dinner or do other activities. When I leave the building to go grocery shopping I use a walker. Three times a week they take us to the supermarket at 10:00. I cant go too many places by myself anymore. But we have a van and that is very helpful. Any time I have to go to a doctor or a dentist they have a superb service.
Mentally I feel good. But I do take medication for minor ailments. Sometimes I go to the movies with my daughter. That is difficult because I dont hear well, but I use a hearing aid in the movies. I see pretty well. I had cataract surgery. One thing I did not anticipate about being older is feeling fearful.
Some days the place where I live has programs in the afternoons. For example, once a month on Monday there is a gardening program. There is a garden in the back of the building so I help take care of the plants. They teach us the name of the plant, what it needs, and they bring the pots and the soil and everything. Then once a month we have a book reading and we play scrabble on certain afternoons. I read a lot too. I have a Kindle. Lately I find I especially like a good thriller.
I generally feel at peace. I feel that I was lucky in my life. The only thing I worry about is my family. My grandson is a doll; he comes here all the time, but he doesnt always have a job, so I worry about him. My daughter is very good to me, and my son-in-law Alan is good to me as well. I have no complaints about that. My son is gone. He was quite something. He was very dynamic. He still remains the youngest state senator ever elected.
I used to have a lot of friends. I had a wonderful neighborhood and lifestyle. I have a couple of friends from the past that I talk to on the phone but I dont get to see them. Now my social life is pretty nonexistent. The people here are nice, they provide companionship, but it is not the same. There are some people I cannot tolerate, but thats another story. So much of my family is gone, and it is lonely. Ive seen people come here and latch onto somebody and never lose sight of them. They walk together every night. But I dont want to be so tied to another person here.
I hate new technology. I think it will destroy human beings. I have a cell phone, but I do not have a computer. I dont think I can do it. I cant stand people sitting there looking at a cell phone all day long. Regarding how the world is today compared to 50 years ago, I feel it is not particularly better, not particularly worse. Its what we grow up with, what we are used to. But I feel that the world will be destroyed, not in my lifetime necessarily, but for my grandchildren. I think everything will be mechanical.
What advice would I give to young people? Its hard for me to give advice to young people because I am so far off their level. But I will say dont smoke. Please dont smoke. Try to get a job you like. More important than how much money you make is doing something you enjoy doing every day. Stay close to your family. Some peoples children move all over the world. There are people in this building whose families come once a year to see them. I would like young people to stay a little closer to their families and I think friends are extremely important as well.
Interview conducted by New Jersey artist Janet Boltax
for this exhibition.