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After a long day of work, most people just want to go home. But Arielle – a volunteer in the Citymeals Friendly Visiting program – looks forward to spending a few hours with 75-year-old Margolit. For nearly three years, Arielle has regularly visited Margolit in her small, tidy apartment.
In college, Arielle worked as a caregiver for an elderly woman and later for a community organization serving seniors. After moving to New York, Arielle knew she wanted to build a connection with older people in her neighborhood. “Intergenerational relationships are so interesting. When I spend time with Margolit, I really feel like she teaches me,” Arielle explains.
Margolit’s earliest years were spent in a concentration camp, leaving her with severe anxiety and fear of meeting new people. Despite Margolit’s shyness, Arielle has forged a deep connection with her. “Our relationship has evolved but we’ve always had a lot of trust,” Arielle confides.
Over the years, Margolit has shared her coveted borscht recipe and even agonizing memories like the death of her mother. Each time she opens up to Arielle serves as a testament to the friendship they have built.
"Intergenerational relationships are so interesting. When I spend time with Margolit, I really feel like she teaches me."
When Arielle arrives, Margolit beams with joy. Legally blind, Margolit can no longer leave her walk-up – these visits are one of her last remaining connections to the world beyond her apartment. Arielle always begins by reading the mail to Margolit and helping her pay bills. Margolit loves hearing the updates from the local senior center newsletter. It’s the same center where she volunteered for many years.
A former English teacher in the Soviet Union, Margolit teaches Arielle Russian – sometimes dropping in a word or phrase from one of the seven other languages she knows. And using an app on Arielle’s phone, they are learning Spanish together. When not immersed in languages, the pair loves talking about art, music and meditation – Margolit’s favorite activity. They sometimes spend a few minutes meditating, giving Margolit a small respite from the anxiety that rules her life.
By the time she leaves for the night, Arielle is already looking forward to the next visit. “Even though work can be hard and life can be stressful, I’d never give up our time together. I think of Margolit as family.”