Interviews with Elders
At the Gerontology Institute, we are fortunate to get to know many older people who inspire us to make the most of our lives, no matter what age we attain. These people’s journeys to this later stage of life are varied and often complex, and in this short space we can capture only a snapshot in time of each person. Yet, we hope that introducing you to some of the people we’ve met will help you understand why gerontology/aging studies can be so rewarding.
Ardie Bennett: Longview Resident and Volunteer Extraordinaire
Q. Tell us a bit about yourself, Ardie.
Ardie: Well, I grew up in Smithboro, NY—that’s about 30 miles south of here, in Tioga County. I went to high school in Owego, NY, and then went on to Morrisville State University. I first worked at Cornell, then moved to Rochester, where I worked as a dietitian in food service at Rochester Psychiatric Center until I retired ….I never married, couldn’t find a left-handed person who has blue eyes and likes to dance!
Q: What kind of dancing do you like?
Ardie: Oh, polka, jitterbug—although I don’t do much of that anymore! I learned to dance at school, where we had a jukebox. I liked to dance with my twin brother, “Spike.” But he’s gone now—died 12 years ago of heart failure.
Q: Why did you move to Longview? [Ed. Note: Longview is an adult residential facility located up the road from Ithaca College.]
Ardie: Well, I knew I didn’t want to be alone all the time [when I retired]. So I applied to be on the list at three places, and Longview contacted me first, and it’s been a good match….When I was first looking at places, people would say, why are you doing that? You’re still so young! (I was 67…) And I said, I can either choose to be with people, or be alone. So I moved in, and that was 13 years ago. I’ve made a lot of friends here, and there are plenty of activities available. I can come and go as I please.
Q: From what we hear, you’re quite the community volunteer. Where do you volunteer?
Ardie: Oh, lots of places! I help out at church [St. Paul’s United Methodist Church], and I sew sleeping bags for the homeless. When people I know go to a nursing home I make sure to visit them there. For 12 years I volunteered at the Service League; I really enjoyed that, but it closed up. And now I help repair wheelchairs with Carol John [retired Ithaca College professor of occupational therapy]. We had about 70 broken wheelchairs when we started up [Wonderful Wheelchairs], and I go out to Cayuga Ridge, where we work, about 6 hours a week and help repair them for people.
Q. With all that volunteering, you still find time to help out the Ithaca College students who are involved in the IC/Longview partnership. What do you like about the partnership?
Ardie: The students! I always enjoy when they come and interview us—they’re amazed to hear that the ice man and the milkman actually used to deliver to our homes. And the senior OT students have been great—they worked with us for six weeks, taught me how to use a computer, helped me organize my apartment, and we’d go on outings together. Like I tell them, “You can get older but you don’t have to act it.” I’m a cancer survivor, you know—so I want to do things for other people while I can, and maybe someone will do for me when I can’t.
Q: Anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
Ardie: Don’t just talk about [doing something]….just DO it!