Today in the Visual Arts Center, my PAL Alice and I worked on linocut printing, a process that involves carving a relief into linoleum and using ink to transfer the design to paper. Observing each others’ designs afforded me the opportunity to learn more about Alice and what inspires her, and the activity created a relaxed environment where we were able to talk amongst ourselves as we etched. Although it is early in the program, I already feel quite comfortable with Alice. She makes it easy – as she is forthcoming about her hobbies and demonstrates an interest in mine as well. My past experiences with the senior population include caring for my late grandfather and caring for patients at VCU Health. Working with Alice, it’s refreshing and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced (or expected) to relate to Alice not as a granddaughter or caretaker, but as a friend.
My grandfather was always introverted, but his aging experience caused him to withdraw even further from the external world. Alice has shown me that aging does not necessarily equate to “loss.” She is an active member of the JCC gym, attends hip hop classes regularly, and (I was so excited to find out) has tried yoga! Not only that, but she finds intellectual stimulation through trivia and connects with her community at church and the JCC. Undoubtedly, everyone has their own unique experience of aging. What I am learning through PALETTE and my PAL is that my own experience can be one of continued growth and optimism.
Rachel Erickson, graduate student in Physical Therapy
Getting to know Ann is something I will always be grateful for. She has taught me so much about what it means to live each moment and to really make the most of today. Her positive attitude and bright nature continually rub off on me, and I always leave each class with a huge smile on my face, ready to take on anything. Ann continues to inspire me every day, and I know now that it is very possible to live a fulfilling and independent life, no matter your age.
As today was our last time with one another, I decided to bring a gift for Ann. I brought her a candle as well as a scarf. She loved both and even asked me to put the scarf on her. I was assuming she meant that she wanted me to tie it around her neck, but she quickly told me, “No! I want it like how you have it!” I proceeded to wrap the scarf neatly around her head, similar to how I wear mine. The fact that Ann was so keen to try the headscarf spoke volumes to me. It is evident that we have formed a special friendship over the course of the program, one that transcends any potential religious or age barriers. This experience with the PALETTE program has been absolutely wonderful and I am really glad to have participated.
Mariam Abuagla, graduate student in Pharmacy
Today was a bittersweet day, as it was our very last PALETTE art class. The activity was called printmaking, where we were to paint on these plastic sheets and then transfer them onto our piece of paper, making 3 layers. My PAL Alice and I had both created very similar pieces that actually complemented each other well. We both laughed together at our art and said that they were “contemporary” pieces because they were made of mostly shapes, compared to some of the other beautiful pieces our other classmates created. Once we were done printmaking, we both walked together into the reception to look at all of our artwork from the semester and reflect back on all that we had accomplished. It was so wonderful to talk about our art and how similar our styles were to each other. Alice told me that she felt that she connected with people in my age group more because of our energy and that she did not like to do things with older people because they depressed her. I thought this was really interesting, especially because of our last class discussion we had about how individual people are and that their age has nothing to do with who someone is as a person.
I loved being a part of the PALETTE program this semester and especially having the ability to meet Alice. We connected so well and are extremely similar in our values and hobbies. We exchanged numbers to keep in touch and even have plans to hang out and do something later in June that we both enjoy. Before joining this program, I would have never thought that I could create such a wonderful relationship with someone who is from a different generation than I am. Alice and I are more alike than many people I know that are the same age as me, and I know she feels the same way. Age has no limits, and I now have no more fears of aging. My new relationship with Alice, and being a part of PALETTE is all to thank for that.
Today was the second to last session of the PALETTE program with my PAL, Ms. Osmalov. We painted our totem from last session and worked on the mirror painting as a part of our class project. My PAL and I decided to draw a rose, taking turns leading the drawing while the other followed with the brush. Honestly, we couldn’t have done it without each other’s help. We always relied on each other for support. At the end of the day, Ms. Osmalov said, “we are better than Pablo Picasso”, she quickly added “in our own eyes”.
I have to say, early on in the program, I was nervous meeting my PAL. Now, I can confidently say there was never a dull moment with Ms. Osmalov. I find an appreciation of how art is used as a bridge connecting different generations. Through our conversations about culture, religion and age, I realized that we have a lot in common. Thanks to the PALETTE program, I have established a solid friendship with my PAL and developed a more positive set of lenses regarding aging.
Omar Hassan, graduate student in Pharmacy.
As we wrap up our program, the remaining times we spend with one another become more and more precious. Today, we painted our vases, which are to be fired once again. It was very exciting to see how our creativity rooted from our different backgrounds. Not only was our uniqueness reflected in the structure of our bases, but also in the choice of colors. It’s incredible how close we have become with our PALs in the past few months. I have learned so much about Bertha as a person, and have also gained so much knowledge about intergenerational gaps as a whole. The biggest thing that this program has offered me was a chance to embrace aging, and to not fear what is to come. I have come to see how aging is a beautiful process and how wonderful our life experiences can be. I will take these values with me as I continue on my path to becoming a healthcare professional.
Gina Pak, graduate student in Pharmacy