First-graders serenaded a crowd of elderly Morningside Heights residents as volunteers played tambourines at Le Monde restaurant on Monday.
The event was organized by local non-profit Morningside Village, a subset of the national organization Lifeforce in Later Years, in honor of Love an Elder Day. It started off with a luncheon for elderly locals and the volunteers who care for them regularly, and concluded with a performance by first-graders from the School at Columbia University, who sang numbers including “My Dog Rex” and “Shalom Chaverim.”
The national organization Lifeforce in Later Years, which was founded in 2009 and focuses on improving quality of life for the elderly, lobbied Mayor Michael Bloomberg to officially designate Oct. 1 as Love an Elder Day. The day coincides with the United Nations’ International Day of Older Persons.
“The elderly are sort of invisible—they’re not in the media, not even in family homes anymore,” said Irene Zola, founder of Lifeforce in Later Years. Morningside Village is hoping to bring the elderly back into focus by involving the Morningside Heights community in Love an Elder Day.
Among the attendees at the luncheon were Edith Taussig, a regular volunteer with Morningside Village, and Ereny Poulos, who has lived in Morningside Heights for over 30 years.
Over cauliflower and roasted tomato soup, Poulos and Taussig made it clear that the generation gap is not nearly as wide as students may think.
“I use Starbucks as a rest stop on my walk,” Poulos said. “I always feel like I’m the oldest one there. So I asked the guy, ‘Do you give a discount to seniors?’ and he said, ‘No.’”
“It’s the first time I’ve been to one of these events,” Poulos added. “I recognize all the elderly faces, even though we don’t know each other.”
Taussig has lived in Morningside Heights since 1951.
“I came here in 1949 as an immigrant, and some of my friends moved out of their apartment, and so I took it,” Taussig said. She lived in the same building until Columbia bought it.
Miriam Hurbitz, another guest at the luncheon, has lived in Morningside Heights for more than 60 years, and her husband taught at Columbia. She attended the luncheon with her volunteer, Charlotte, who “comes once a week and makes me go for a walk,” Hurbitz said.
Over lunch, Hurbitz talked about the importance of organizations like Morningside Village.
“This idea is a good one,” Hurbitz said. “We live in a neighborhood with lots of elderly people who are connected to Columbia University. It’s nice to have people you can see who you have something in common with.”
But while many of the seniors involved with Morningside Village are affiliated with Columbia, Françoise Noble, co-coordinator of Morningside Village, emphasized that the organization is open to all seniors in the neighborhood.
“There are a lot of Columbia people we are getting connected with,” Noble said. “But we try not to be only Columbia.”