In a collaboration with MoMA, our seniors learn about the art of photography

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City is the largest and most influential museum of modern art in the world. As part of a creative aging initiative, our seniors got to engage with the art of photography in the MoMA.  The program featured a guided tour of exhibits, and two photography classes at our center conducted by Jano Cortijo, an artist-educator from the museum.

“Looking” at photos at MoMA:

Jano Cortijo, an artist educator from the MoMA asks our what they notice in Samuel Fasso’s self-portraits

Our seniors study Robert Rauschenberg’s photographs at the MoMA

Henri Carter-Bresson, considered one of the world’s greatest photographers, said, “In photography, the smallest thing can be a great subject.” Our seniors were encouraged to look for the smallest thing in a photo and asked to wonder why it had been included and what effect it had on the photograph. We looked at light falling through a sheet, the lines on a tower, various graphic shapes in Robert Rauschenberg’s work — with Cortijo asking guiding questions that made our seniors understand the many choices that go into making a photograph. We talked about Samuel Fasso’s self-portraits which have him taking on roles of his heroes like Nelson Mandela and Angela Davis, and his attempt to take on a larger political and activist role as an artist.

Seniors workshop their own photographs

Photography class, homework and all: 

Taking photos outdoors and in the street

A lesson about backgrounds

After looking at photos by famous artists, our seniors got a lesson in taking better photographs using a smartphone. They learned about backgrounds, about lighting, angles, position of the photographer, focus on the subject and rudimentary editing. They also learned about the difference in portrait photography versus landscapes, tricks to modulate the brightness in iPhones and so on.

Cortijo, the artist-educator, also assigned our seniors “homework.” They were asked to take photos at home using their new found skills. When their homework assignments were displayed on the TV,  the class enthusiastically critiqued the results – generously pointing out what worked in the photos  as well as the flaws.

Our seniors listened avidly and responded with enthusiasm to this foray into photography as art. While it is true that modern technology has made taking a photograph easy, it was fascinating for seniors to see it as an art form, one that required more than just a point and click. We could see that the lessons had made a difference–many of the photos taken after the class showed that they were paying attention and practicing their skills!

Our seniors loved the tight focus on the little boy, the symmetry of the trees, the repetition  of ochre color in this photograph. (c) Jayesh Patel.

Seniors get answers to pressing issues from NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio

Elders waited patiently at Queens Borough Hall to see the Mayor and air their issues

On 18th July, Mayor Bill de Blasio hosted a City Resource Fair at the Queens Borough Hall in order to help residents understand the various services available to them, and untangle problems incurred by the people of the city. The event was very well organized and different departments like NYC Department of Health, Department of Aging, New York Police Department, Fire Department of the City of New York, MTA’s Access a Ride as well as Reduced Fare services, NYC Rent Freeze Programs were represented at the venue. 

India Home seniors Bharti Parikh, her nephew, and Narendra Bhutala with NYC Mayor Bill D’Blasio at the City Resource Fair in Queen

Most of the people who were waiting to meet the Mayor had come in search of a solution to specific issues like health care, transportation, housing and so on.

Several seniors from India Home attended the Resource Fair. Our seniors were very excited as well as honored to be able to meet the Mayor of New York City. The long lines did not deter our seniors, instead, the waiting allowed  our elders more time to come up with other concerns they wished to share with the Mayor. “Since the Mayor has made so much of effort to organize this type of an event for all of us, in turn, we can definitely spare a few minutes standing in the line to meet him,” said Mr. Butala.

In the end, the hassle of waiting in line paid-off as the seniors finally got to meet the Mayor and expressed their problems. Mayor de Blasio immediately helped the seniors find solutions. “He was very friendly and patient in listening to all my problems and further asked Donna Corrado, Commissioner of Department for Aging who in turn helped me with information on care resources for my husband,” said Bharti Parikh. As for Mr. Butala, he brought an important issue to the Mayor’s notice: “I notified the Mayor about the increasing number of accidents near my neighborhood and how badly someone needs to take action for it,” he said.

By Rohandeep Arora, Intern (Pace University).

Voice of America on India Home: “Aging New York Immigrants Confront Shortage of ‘Culturally Appropriate’ Services”

For 75 years the Voice of America – VOA has been the the official news source of the United States government and provides news and information in 47 languages to a weekly audience of more than 236.6 million people on 5 continents around the world. Last week they did a multi-media segment on India Home.

They explored the problems our seniors face…

“Among New York City residents over the age of 65, the immigrant population accounts for 49.5 percent, up from 38 percent in 2000, and growing. Facing language and cultural barriers, increased isolation, and higher levels of poverty than their native-born counterparts, the rapid expansion has taken its toll on both immigrants and the small, cash-strapped organizations that serve them….

Interviewed Lakshman Kalasapudi, India Home’s Deputy Director : 

“But Lakshman Kalasapudi, deputy director of India Home, says there is a misconception that South Asian immigrants who arrive as older adults are “fully taken care of” when they live with their children.

“This financial dependency kind of creates family tensions, especially when the seniors are living in overcrowded situations,” Kalasapudi says. “There becomes a real breakdown in the family structure and it really profoundly negatively affects the seniors’ mental health.”

And talked about India Home’s services:

“India Home is a secular organization that depends heavily on community donations and discretionary funding from local council members. It confronts social isolation and loneliness among South Asian elders. But it does so by partnering with existing centers, including Jamaica Muslim Center.”

To read more click here: https://www.voanews.com/a/aging-new-york-immigrants-confront-shortage-of-culturally-appropriate-services/3959423.html

India Home’s Ladies Rock the Rubin Block Party

They danced on the stage, they danced in the street, they danced in front of our table. They were India Home’s wonderful senior ladies and nothing was going to stop them. Not the heat or the crowds or their sore feet. Our wonderful seniors had come prepared to be the life and soul of the Annual Rubin Block Party and they gave it their all.

Our seniors taught everyone, from the littlest guests to seniors like them, how to use the dandiya sticks. They demonstrated garba dance steps. They let people admire their beautiful chaniya choli (skirts and blouses) or saris. They also got the entire crowd to join in the dancing at one point.

We were thrilled to be one of the 6 community groups invited by the Rubin Museum’s Dawn Eshleman, Jane Hsu and Tashi Chodron to be part of the renowned Rubin Museum’s Annual Block Party that is held every summer. What we didn’t realize through all the planning and meetings was that it would offer so much fun for all concerned.

On a more serious note, our immigrant seniors who are also people of color, are sending a a very important message by participating in giant public events like the Rubin Block Party. Their very presence in these spaces demonstrates that older people of color are active and engaged in public life, that aging is what you make it to be.  Their visibility helps to break down prejudices and benign ignorance around aging and seniors of color, and forces people to change their perspectives. Our mission is to challenge the stereotypes around aging, and we are grateful to the Rubin Museum for helping us realize it.