Life after retirement can be lonely for most, but for a group of aged ladies in Ramona Gardens, it has become a new opportunity to make friends and even learn some new skills.
For the last 20 years about a dozen women 55 years or older have met every Wednesday and, for close to three hours every time, engaged in activities that bring them closer and, more importantly, keep them occupied.
“It’s good for me because one needs to get out. Older people cannot be tucked all the time inside their homes,” says Consuelo Gracia, the oldest member of what is now called the Senior Club.
Gracia, a Ramona Gardens resident since 1971, has been learning to knit during the meetings and is making a colorful bag intertwined with metal clips from soda cans. She has participated since the beginning, when the club was called The Golden Girls Unlimited.
She remembers that it was Isabel Ayala, the founder and coordinator of the group for more than 20 years, who gave them that name.
Ayala also introduced arts and crafts into their meetings. “She used to say that we should not stay with our hands crossed, that we needed to be doing something,” Gracia recalls.
“It’s all about coming to chat and hang out for a while. If you want to knit, you can knit, if you don’t know how, someone will teach you. If you don’t want to knit, you can do a crossword puzzle, or just talk and drink coffee,” she adds.
Bersavé Padilla, who joined the club four years ago, is the newest member of the group. She says she does not like to weave or knit but enjoys the company of the other women.
“Sometimes I bring crossword puzzles and I get to do them, when somebody brings food, I help them serve,” she says.
Padilla explains that the meetings are very entertaining. “We play lottery sometimes, or do raffles. We are always waiting for Wednesday to come; some of us avoid making other appointments on that day so we can be here.”
The members that are more experienced in the task of knitting and weaving teach the others.
While the ladies work, Rosa Cervantes looks on and guides them through the process of making their craft items. She is called “la maestra” by the others, although she insists she is not really a teacher.
“I just teach them what I know,” says Cervantes, while she looks over to her right, preoccupied with the way one of the seniors is weaving the steel rings into the thread.
“The way you are doing it is going to make your hands hurt. That thread is too coarse,” she warns.
The Seniors are supervised by the Ramona Gardens Resident Advisory Council (RAC). Besides providing them with a meeting place and coffee every Wednesday, the council also takes them on field trips to parks and libraries in Los Angeles, and informs them of upcoming events in Ramona Gardens.
There is always food at these meetings–homemade, fresh tortillas, cheese and refried beans that everybody enjoys while the women keep chatting, often teasing each other and making jokes.
Cecilia Murillo is one of the veterans at the Seniors Club. She has been coming to the Wednesday meetings for more than 15 years. She says she enjoys bringing food to the meetings to share with the others.
“From the very first day that I joined I really liked to share with them,” says Murillo. “We teach each other to do our embroidery; the one that knows how to do it teaches the one who doesn’t and we enjoy our time together very much.”
Murillo explains that throughout the years, their friendship has transcended the walls of their meeting space.
“We know each other, we always used to go together to Plaza Olvera or to Sunday mass, and when we go on field trips, we always stick together,” she adds.
A mother of 11 children, close to 60 grandchildren and more than 20 great grandchildren here in the United States and in Mexico, Murillo still enjoys the warmth of the friendship between the members of the Seniors Club.
“We get to be close to each other, and we stay that way,” she adds.