I must have been around eight or nine years old the last time my grandparents invited me over for dinner. Granted I was only eight or nine years old so it’s not like I had a choice, but nonetheless I reverently sat down at their dining room table and watched as my grandma brought out my favorite meal of mac and cheese with sliced pieces of hot dogs inside it (luckily for them I was a kid with a very cheap appetite). I’m sure we didn’t speak much during that meal besides my grandma’s occasional comment of “elbows off the table”, and once my plate was licked clean, I said my gochisousama and left to go watch my cartoons. Without any other regard or fanfare, I had just eaten my last homemade meal from my grandparents.
Last week, Kelsey Harmon, and her five other cousins received a similar invite to go over to their “Papaw’s” for a dinner which consisted of his infamous homemade hamburgers and ice cream. Unfortunately the dinner did not go as planned and Kelsey snapped the picture below which went viral only hours after being posted. Check out the link for the full story. (Side note…we can solve the California drought with all the tears from people after reading the story, so get your tissues ready).
Photo by: Kelsey Harmon
This story hit home for me as my paternal grandparents died while I was relatively young (and my maternal grandparents live out of town), so I never had opportunities like this to meet up at grandma and grandpa’s for a cousin dinner. However, if you’re fortunate enough to still have your Nisei parents or grandparents, when’s the last time you were able to take advantage of an old-fashioned (and by old-fashioned I mean without you texting your friends underneath the table) family dinner? Hopefully it was relatively recent and hopefully it was meaningful.
In 2015, Keiro and the Nikkei Senior Network identified social isolation and loneliness as two of the biggest problems facing seniors in our community. Social isolation is defined as the experience of being separated from others and may result from either being physically removed from others or from the perception of being removed from a community. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau found that 11 million people who are 65 years and older lived by themselves in 2010 (or about 28% of the 65 years and older population.¹ Studies show that seniors who live socially isolated lives are at higher risk of mortality, are more likely to have poor physical and/or mental health, are more vulnerable to elder abuse, and are more susceptible to higher blood pressure (something that is already very prevalent in the Japanese/Japanese-American community).²³
Thankfully for Papaw, his granddaughter’s tweet has made him an overnight celebrity, and there has been a tremendous amount of support his way. (His other grandchildren have gone over for dinner since the story went viral) However not everyone is as lucky as Papaw. While it’s easy to get lost in our daily lives of perseverance and success, we often need to remind ourselves that the littlest things can have the biggest impact. As the quote goes, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.”
- United States Census Bureau (2014) Current Population Reports. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2014/demo/p23-212.pdf
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (2013) Social Isolation, Loneliness, and All-Cause Mortality in Older Men and Women. Retrieved from http://www.pnas.org/content/110/15/5797.full
- National Center for Biotechnology Information (2009) Social Disconnectedness, Perceived Isolation, and Health Among Older Adults. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2756979/
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