We met up with Lisa and Jan from Seniors First to got out and do more shooting today. One thing I failed to mention in the last post is something about Seniors First's leadership. You cannot have a productive and successful organization without incredible leadership and it starts with the four great women I had been working with over the last couple of months. I couldn't have been able to get this great footage and experience in Orlando without the trust and auspices of Marsha, Jan, Lisa and Kathy. They didn't know anything about me and trusted that I would make a great documentary and really open America's eyes to this story. Without their trust and assistance I would not have been able to tell the story I want and need to tell for this film. Now that I got that off my chest I want to get back to what we experienced a different community center.
Marsha Lorenz is the Executive Director of Seniors First in Orlando, FL.
Today is Friday and we are heading off to the L. Claudia Allen Community Center to film another Neighborhood Lunch Programs Seniors First provides. As at Engelwood they also have an on-site coordinator who is responsible for getting the activities and food ready for all people coming that day. It should be noted here too that this Neighborhood Lunch Program is something that takes place FIVE days a week and not something just happening on the day we were filming. Again, like before, we wanted to sit back and listen to people, watch their interactions and learn a thing or two. The woman responsible for this site is name Gloria and I looked forward to seeing her again. I had met her before when I had scouted these locations for my initial visit. Gloria was someone I immediately bonded with when talking with her. I think you can always tell when a person is genuine, sincere and cares what they are doing to work with people. Gloria works to ensure the food is prepared correctly and meets standards set forth by the government, coordinates the events and makes certain everyone has a great time. Nilda, who I spoke of in yesterday's blog, does all the same things as Gloria and is an employee of Seniors First.
Here's the wonderful Gloria - the woman who rules the roost at the L. Claudia Allen Center. She makes sure everyone gets take care of when it comes to getting attention and lunch.
On this particular day the Neighborhood Lunch Program (NLP) is not only offering lunch but they have provided a health fair for the attendees. Also, on Fridays, an Asian group meets at this predominantly black community center to join in the festivities and then us the community center for some socialization and some kick ass Tai Chi. I thought it would be interesting to see the two cultures interacting and talk with the Asian women about how different their culture is from the predominantly Caucasian beliefs and treatment of the elderly. So I was really looking forward to seeing everyone in action and the how different or similar the two cultures would be while interacting. And, this day was truly, truly special because they were not only offering the Health Fair but they were providing BINGO. I think it was the largest BINGO group I have ever seen - then again, I haven't stepped into too many BINGO parlors. But the best part of this is that yours truly will be calling some of the BINGO. There was another group from a different community center/area also in attendance (Three Groups - two African-American and on Asian) that day so we had a bit of a rivalry with the BINGO. Gloria gave Kaleb and me some L. Claudia Allen Community Center T-Shirts to wear so we donned them proudly and started filming the festivities.
Land of the Free, Home of the Forgotten, Hungry Senior.
Before BINGO and lunch everyone was there for the Health Fair - this was a great added bonus for the seniors in attendance.
I had a chance to call BINGO for the entire group. I don't think I disappointed anyone was able to hold my own as a BINGO caller.
I talked with the people at the Health Fair (those displaying as well as the attendees) and wanted to hear how important they thought this was. It was interesting to see the weight machines, blood pressure machines and nutrition information. This information is important to all of us regardless of age. But the most interesting display on hand that day was the STD Awareness table/booth. After doing some research I have learned that seniors are one of the bigger rising groups contracting STDs. I guess it is true that some things don't have to stop when you get old. 🙂 As the Health Fair ended and in between the BINGO session I started walking around taking photos of some of the people in attendance. I took a lot of photos and too many to post here but I will do something with them eventually. I saw all kinds of people and they were doing everything from knitting to talking to laughing or playing cards. After a while of taking photos I started having people come up to me and ask if I would take their photo. I could see the joy in their faces when I would take their photo because someone was paying attention to me. In fact, one woman approached me asking me to take her photo stating, "I just bought this dress. Do you think it's pretty?" That statement made me somewhat sad because, even though I could see the joy in her face, I believed her request to be more about attention than anything else. I could tell she wanted someone to pay attention to her and that's what I did. I took her photo and thanked her for letting me do so. I also let her know how beautiful I thought her dress was. She smiled and walked away. After calling a few rounds of BINGO I handed the mic back to their normal BINGO caller and started taking more photos. One photo, shown below, I took at the end of the BINGO session. I wanted to get all the people I could in frame and just snap a photo. This photo brought a tear to my eye (literally) because all the people here were so happy and grateful someone was there to film them. Everyone there was so happy and it was great to see the three different groups interacting together and enjoying their time at the community center.
While waiting for the BINGO and lunch some people find time to socialize or get some knitting done. Regardless, she's not sitting at home knitting alone and has companionship here at the center.
This woman saw me taking pictures and asked if I would take her picture in her new dress. It really touched me that she just wanted me to take her picture. I felt so very special to make that happen for her.
All the people at the L. Claudia Allen Center Waving at Me!
After BINGO was finished then everyone ate lunch. I made my way over to the Asian table and started talking with the group there. Fortunately I had an interpreter who was able to tell me everything the people were saying. Most knew English but some of it was broken so Andrew (the group leader) was able to interpret for me to make things easier. The only time I have been yelled at during this entire documentary process came when I asked the table of Asian women a question about the treatment of the elderly. When I asked the table if it would be acceptable for them to put their elderly relatives into a nursing home or assisted-living facility like it is in the United States. After the interpreter asked my question one of the Asian women started speaking very quickly and angrily and pounded her fist on the table while looking at me. I had no idea what she was saying but I am smart enough to realize she was PISSED! Andrew told me that this question is an insult to the Asian culture and something that is just unheard of to them. However, Andrew informed me that this is starting to change in the Asian culture. He said that as more and more western culture trickles into the Asian culture the younger generations are not seeing the importance of taking care of the elderly relatives. It appears as if this problem could be growing because I have always admired the way the Asian (as well as many other cultures) admire, respect and revere their elderly. After talking with them it was time for me to get out of their way and let them do their Tai Chi. I ended up snapping off a few photos while being completely intrigued and mesmerized by their balance and patience while performing this beautiful, ancient art.
The Asian women were doing all sorts of Tai Chi that day and this particular exercise these beautiful fans
The lovely Asian women posing with their fans for me.
My friends from Seniors First, Jan and LIsa, giving Tai Chi a try.
On the last blog of the documentary I will share an interesting time Kaleb and I had at the Ms. Florida Senior Pageant. The women competing are gorgeous and wonderfully agile. It's nice to see how some seniors are not letting life pass them by and are as active now as they were in their younger years.
See you then,
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