A whole new world

September 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

An extract from my fieldnotes on the hidden phenomenon of massive age segregation in urban America.

As I deliver food for Meals on Wheels, I discover the magnitude of urban age-segregation. I uncover a whole new world made up of buildings filled with old adults, mostly living alone. These buildings are sometimes so vast and intricate that I get lost in their corridors. Some were schools or hospitals. In one of them, a three-story building, big enough to occupy an entire block, Georgia (the driver of Meals on Wheels) and I have five meals to deliver. Georgia carries four bags: as a novice I carry only one. To open the iron gate, Georgia buzzes a client. We cross a manicured garden, and enter the edifice through a wooden door. Before disappearing in a corridor to deliver her bags, Georgia tells me, “Go right, follow the corridor. At the end of the corridor you will find an elevator. Take it, go to the second floor, go straight to wing North, room Y213.” It takes me five minutes of meandering through the shiny linoleum of corridors to find the door; a smell of mothballs and soup hits my nostrils along the way. When I knock, a tiny lady opens the door wide enough to snatch the bag and exhale a thank you. For a split second I glance at a room filled with boxes and clothes on hangers. On the way back, even though I am careful to find my way, I exit from a wrong door and wait in vain for Georgia in another garden identical to the first one. We often joke about my terrible sense of direction.

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