Looking for NYC-based activities for recently retired grandmother
June 17, 2014 8:35 PM   Subscribe

My grandmother is 89, and only retired in the last year. Since she's retired, she hasn't been doing much, and I'm worried about how she'll do over the next few years if she doesn't stay busy. I'd like to make a list of things she could be doing in NYC, where she lives, to stay active. She has some very specific needs and interests, though, and can be a bit ornery, so I'm hoping you can help me work within her limitations.

My grandmother, a widower, stayed in her job (teaching at community college) until this year. Now that she's retired, she hasn't been doing much, and we're all a bit worried about her. I'd like to help her think about what she could be doing with her time, but because of her age, health, and general disposition, it's been difficult to come up with anything much. Hopefully you can help!

Her interests:
-Kids: Think 10 and under. It comes up often that she student taught, many years back, in elementary school, and loved it.
-The arts: She enjoys going to the ballet, opera, and theatre productions. She is also an avid reader.
-Travel: She can't really travel much anymore because of her age/health, but she used to travel regularly to places all over the world.
-Walking: She seems to really like walking around the city (slowly) and window shopping.

Her limitations:
-After kids pass 10 years old or so, she is not a fan.
-She is in the early stages of Parkinson's, so dexterity is an issue. She can't currently drive (though who would ask her to drive in NYC, I have no idea) and she can't really hold/carry things reliably.
-She often prefers standing to sitting.
-I have heard secondhand that she is really against the standard old lady-ish activities - canasta, bridge, bingo, etc.
-She's pretty ornery. Often this looks like disagreeing with what others are saying, even when they're basically paraphrasing her. It can also look like a lack of empathy. I think this comes out most with her family and students, so I'd like to think that if she was out and about elsewhere in the world this wouldn't be such an issue...but I can't be sure. This disposition means that she might not be a great fit for an activity that requires too much kindness, or good customer service.

I'm looking for any and all suggestions about what my grandmother could be doing with her time - volunteering, joining a particular group, part time work, etc. I realize these limitations might make this task completely impossible...if it helps, I think it'd be better to have things that fit her limitations but not her interests, rather than vice versa, as they seem to be a much more important factor for her decisions.
posted by violetish to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Get her a subscription to the opera or symphony, if at all financially possible. Look into museum memberships, as well, which often have cultural events that are free for members, and are less sitting down oriented.
posted by Sara C. at 8:49 PM on June 17, 2014

Best answer: My great aunt lived to be 100 and worked until her mid 80s. She lived in Queens. She stopped driving in 1957 when she moved into the apartment she lived in for 48 years. She used to get down on the floor well into her 70s and 80s and sit cross legged playing board games such as Candyland with my kids. She also used to volunteer at the local elementary school. She would come in once a week and read a story to a class or help chaperone one activity or another. I have no idea how she got the gig, but she loved it. I would call a local elementary school or in the summer a day camp and offer to read stories and tell stories. Maybe there is a small branch of the public library where she can read stories at story time.

Although I was too young to remember, appartently my great grandmother spent her 90s writing all the stories of her life. I have read them and they are absolutely fascinating for the family lore, the history context and how varied of a life she led. Maybe your grandmother who as a former teacher would appreciate it, would write the family history and tell family stories from her generation?
posted by 724A at 9:00 PM on June 17, 2014

The performing arts center in my city has trained volunteer ushers at all performances; they help collect tickets and show people to their seats, then see the show (some sitting, some standing depending on job). They're mostly retired folks and are very enthusiastic about the arts. Is there a similar group where she is? See also: volunteer docents.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:44 PM on June 17, 2014

Best answer: Foster grandparenting? The link is to the NYC Department for the Aging.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:46 PM on June 17, 2014

Best answer: JASA has good services/activities in NYC and you don't have to be Jewish to access them!
posted by blue_bicycle at 11:37 PM on June 17, 2014

What part of the city, broadly speaking, is she in? I'm assuming Manhattan? If so, uptown or downtown? Do you know if she's okay with taking the bus?
posted by Narrative Priorities at 5:50 AM on June 18, 2014

Tutoring kids, one on one, seems like a natural fit.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:58 AM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the ideas! This is very helpful so far.

Extra info:
-she's already a member/patron of the opera and symphony. Money really isn't an issue for her, luckily.
-she's in uptown Manhattan, and can take a taxi somewhere if need be.
posted by violetish at 6:20 AM on June 18, 2014

Does she play bridge, or would she like to learn? Both my mom and my grandmother enjoy classes; my mom's in NYC.
posted by mlle valentine at 7:17 AM on June 18, 2014

What was her subject when she taught? Maybe there's some opportunity to volunteer or mentor or perform additional research in that field, to keep her hand in and her mind engaged.
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:10 AM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In re Iris' suggestion, Hunter offers steeply discounted auditing credits to senior citizens, or at least it did when I was an undergrad there a decade ago. Other CUNY schools may, as well, but if she's Upper East/Upper West, Hunter will be most convenient for her anyway. They have a strong reputation in education, so she could develop her skills/interests in that direction, but there's also a ton of course offerings all over the humanities and liberal arts. As an anthropology major there were always a few elderly people in my classes who were either boning up on a subject that interested them or attending in lieu of the college degree they always meant to get but never had time for.
posted by Sara C. at 9:03 AM on June 18, 2014

The Met Opera has an online subscription where she can stream many, many performances, if she doesn't have that already. (One of my mom's friends adores it, and recently had my husband get her an iPad/AppleTV setup so she could watch it on her TV in addition to her computer.)
posted by telophase at 11:11 AM on June 18, 2014

Best answer: She could volunteer at the NYPL. They list some different opportunities at various branches (although, alas, the tutoring they're doing is for kids older than she's interested in).
posted by carrioncomfort at 12:45 PM on June 18, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks again, everyone! There are lots of really good ideas here. I marked a few, though they are all helpful. I'm going to use these responses to put together a nice list.

(Also, thanks for ignoring how I called my grandmother a "widower", which is driving me crazy.)
posted by violetish at 3:41 PM on June 18, 2014

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