Estelle with a childhood photo of herself hanging behind her.

From the moment you meet Estelle, it’s clear age has limited her body, but barely dampened her spirit. She beams with joy at any visitor, eager to invite them in and chat. At 98 years old, her bubbly nature is a stark contrast to her circumstances. Like the majority of our meal recipients, she lives alone and depends on a wheelchair just to get around her studio apartment.

From an early age, Estelle was entertaining. “I was a showbiz kid,” she laughs.  She came from a family of performers -- her mother was a dancer and actress, her aunt was a songwriter. A large portrait of Estelle hangs on her wall, she was just five years old and dressed for the stage. Her enthusiasm for entertainment was endless. She taught herself to sew elaborate costumes and, for a time, furiously studied opera, learning songs by listening to them on a gramophone. “Music is in my soul!” she declares. 

I'm Estelle wherever I am. I'm not a phony!

All around her apartment there are cherished mementos to Estelle’s past. Atop an old piano are framed portraits of her family. One wall is adorned with colorful artwork from a time when Estelle taught herself painting after becoming obsessed with the Impressionists. And in a small closet hang skirts she lovingly crocheted.

Estelle is rueful knowing her once active days are long behind her. “I’m a dancer, I miss that,” she admits. Her broad smile when talking about the past disappears as she thinks about the present. While Midtown Manhattan bustles and neighbors come and go, Estelle has only become increasingly isolated. She has been receiving home-delivered meals for many years, which breaks up the lonely days.

Although she struggles with her memory and many of the details of her life have faded, she has a great sense of who she is on a deeper level: “It makes me happy to see people. And I’m comfortable everywhere. I’m Estelle wherever I am. I’m not a phony.”