94-year-old Agatha has lived in her apartment, located on the ground floor of a Brooklyn brownstone, for more than half a century. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” she explains.
She rarely leaves her home these days, even for medical appointments. Severe arthritis in both knees has restricted her movement for years. But far more difficult has been the loss of her eyesight. After years of slow deterioration due to cataracts, Agatha now only sees vague shadows.
Having always been an active person, she struggles with these new limitations and relies on a cane to navigate her tidy apartment. Unable to read the paper or write a letter, she often passes her time listening to the news on the radio in her kitchen.
Agatha arrived in New York City as 19-year-old newcomer from Trinidad. It was a stark difference from island life – she worked part-time and went to school. In her free time, though, she was an avid tennis player – a pastime she still misses. Now, she says that her home is her hobby.
I often wonder, why am I still here.
Four years ago, her doctor referred Agatha to Citymeals. She has come to know all the meal deliverers and often invites them in for a cup of tea. These regular visits help Agatha feel safe in a neighborhood that is rapidly changing around her.
The highlight of every week is a visit from Kumiko, a volunteer in Citymeals Friendly Visiting program. They have developed a close relationship. Living just a few blocks away, Kumiko tries to bring the outside world to Agatha – telling her what church is being renovated and what store is closing. They listen to the news together and talk about politics. “Without her, I’d be lost,” Agatha says.
Agatha also became involved in a pen pal program with a local fourth grade class. Eventually some of the students came to visit her at home. As someone who always enjoyed being involved and helping others, this has allowed Agatha to feel she is still of service in her community.
All of Agatha’s seven siblings have passed. “I often wonder, why am I still here,” she admits. Having never married or had children, she treasures phone calls from her nieces and nephews, who have built lives far away in Texas and California.