Kindergarten for Russian-speaking grandparents in Miami - ForumDaily
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"Kindergarten" for Russian-speaking grandparents in Miami

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Among the favorite pastimes of visitors to the center are board games, including dominoes. Photo: Raphael Apriam

Adult Day Care is a small facility in the Miami suburb of Hallandale. There is a day care center here, not for children, but for the elderly, which opened at the beginning of the year. Its name translates as “Center for Health, Communication and Active Lifestyle.” True, as the center’s employees say, the word “elderly” is not used here.

“We communicate with them only as with young people - “girls” and “boys”, “guys”. We want to make them feel younger and make it interesting for them. Of course, we do this very carefully, because we don’t know how they will react,” says Larisa Birman, teacher, coach, mass entertainer and professional musician all rolled into one.

Immediately get to the morning warm-up. In the 18 hall people, there are several married couples. Larisa asks to repeat various exercises after her - not the most difficult, taking into account age, physical exercises, but also exercises on concentration, brain activity and memory development.

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First of all, waiting for everyone to warm up. Photo: Rafael Apriam

All exercises are performed while sitting on a chair. Standing is dangerous,” Larisa explains to me later. In addition, it is necessary that the body is as relaxed as possible, which is facilitated by the sitting position.

“Sam, you don’t have to do this, just look at me,” Larisa sternly warns one of the “students” at one point. “Michael, you’re not listening to me at all, I’ll call my parents tomorrow.”

In the hall - laughter. So, with humor, literally in the same breath, a warm-up flies by. It ends with dancing. And they are different here, including national ones.

“Everyone dances as best they can, we play different songs - both Russians and non-Russians, the Jews love them very much, and we lift people’s spirits,” says Larisa.

After the dance various classes begin in groups. Someone goes to play dominoes, someone - in billiards.

"We are in America - not the dregs of society"

I walk over to a woman who confidently holds a cue in her hands and sends another ball into the pocket with excitement. This is Inna, her 83, although it is absolutely impossible to believe in it.

“I’ve been living in Miami for 11 years, before that I lived in New York for a long time, but I’ve never met such a “kindergarten” as we call it,” Inna shares her impressions. She is originally from St. Petersburg. “The main thing is that everyone here is doing what they love.” We are all already old, sick, hard of hearing, bad of vision, but here we feel young. We leave here extremely cheerful and filled with energy. We understand that we can still be useful to someone, although we are already looking back more than forward.”

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Inna plays billiards almost at the master level. Photo: Rafael Apriam

Inna says that she, like many of her new friends, lives alone. After leaving the Soviet Union, she graduated from college in New York, although at that time she was almost 60, and even worked as a taxi driver.

“Formation in America was, of course, difficult, but I love America very much. This is a country that makes you feel like a man. For the elderly and the elderly, this is just a paradise country. We are here - not the dregs of society according to the principle “live out as you like”: they take care of us, make us feel equal. A good pension allows you to be self-sufficient. If you want to play sports or music, there are such opportunities. For example, I sing in the local choir, and for each holiday we prepare a different repertoire, go to nursing homes, make pleasant surprises and lift our spirits to ourselves. ”

Inna's son lives in New York, and the only granddaughter who grew up and stayed in St. Petersburg does not communicate with her.

“My granddaughter graduated from the university with a degree in 19th-century English literature. I would so much like her to come here, but she has absorbed so much of this poison about America that she treats me badly too. “I’ve never even seen my great-granddaughter, who was just born,” Inna complains. — In Russia, such a policy is being pursued towards America, people are kind of zombified, they believe that America is trying to take over Russia. This pains me very much, and I do not share Russian policy, I’m even ashamed of it. Russia is losing a lot, the great minds and pride of the Russian people are leaving and doing good in other places, not in their own country. The culture that I left behind no longer exists.”

Echoes of the Ukrainian conflict

Isaac Milgram, or Isaac, as he is called in America, is a native Kiev resident and scientist. He writes poetry, which is highly valued and praised at the Center.

I meet Isaac in English class. In the room - he and his wife and another married couple. He will soon turn 80, of which exactly half he lived in exile.

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English lessons are held in groups, depending on the level of proficiency. Photo: Raphael Apriam

“It was a conscious choice; I have long wanted to go to America. At first he lived in New York, but was alone, then he met his wife - she lived in Canada with her son. I followed her to the north of Canada, but every six months for the winter we went to America, and I won’t even put Canada and the States close. America, in my opinion, is the most humane and noble country, it is a country of people and for people,” says Isaac.

He has a son of his first wife - he lives in Europe, Isaac has no connection with him. His wife’s son and granddaughter live in Miami; it was because of them that Isaac settled in Florida. They live separately, but their son, according to Isaac, helps them.

As a person associated with Ukraine, Isaac can not but share his opinion about what is happening in the east of the country and the rapid deterioration of relations between Kiev and Moscow in recent years.

“For me, Kyiv is the best city in the world, it is dear to me, I was born there, even before the [Second World] War, then I served in the Russian army. I cannot tear either Ukraine or Russia out of my heart. What is happening now between Russia and Ukraine is very unpleasant,” says Isaac.

He says to himself: he was always “counter”, so he saw the best decision to move to the United States during the Soviet years, and today he does not regret it at all.

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Isaac Milgram lived half of his 80 years in North America - in Canada and the USA. Photo: Raphael Apriam

How to find a common language with all

Natalia, who I found playing dominoes, says that she went to Russia in 2000 for the first and only time since she moved to the United States.

“The treatment for nostalgia is amazing - you only have to go once and the nostalgia disappears. As soon as I landed and saw the faces at customs: if looks could kill, they would. That's all. I was there for a month, after two weeks I howled and said that I wanted to go back. There was no more desire to return,” she explains.

Natalya is a librarian by profession, but after moving she worked first as a bartender in hotel restaurants, then as a sales consultant at Macy's department store.

Natalya learned about the Adult Day Care center from a friend, and after her first visit she realized that she felt comfortable here. The woman lives alone - both of her grandchildren, whom she raised, are already adults, and they, like her son, have their own lives.

“It’s very easy for me here, it’s easy for me to find a common language with everyone. I called my whole house and brought many people here, everyone really likes it. You can play billiards and learn how to use a computer,” says Natalya.

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After emigrating from the Soviet Union, Natalya traveled to her homeland only once - she doesn’t want to anymore. Photo: Raphael Apriam

Natalia is fluent in English, reads and speaks it, at the same time emphasizes that she is more comfortable to spend time in the center with Russian-speaking visitors and staff.

“In Miami there are many cultural and entertainment clubs for the elderly, but not for Russian speakers. Half speak English, but somehow they still don’t feel like going there. She’s drawn to her own people,” explains the center’s teacher, Larisa Birman. “Now they are watching an American film with a Russian translation, although I think it’s better to watch it in the original.”

On the big projector at this time - the famous Hollywood comedy Last Vegas (“The Last Bachelor Party in Vegas”) about four elderly men who go to Vegas to roughly hold the traditional party that precedes the marriage of one of them. The spectators in the hall react violently to various jokes and rather vigorously discuss films with each other.

Pressure, Diabetes and Nutrition

For now, Adult Day Care operates two days a week - on Wednesdays and Thursdays - in the morning. However, in the near future, managers plan to switch to at least a three-day schedule with two shifts. Among the plans are to gather our own choir, organize picnics with outdoor games and fishing.

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A film about the adventures of four elderly Americans in Vegas, visitors to the center asked to show them in Russian. Photo: Rafael Apriam

People who live far away are brought to the center and taken away in a minibus. In addition, they are fed twice a day.

“Naturally, we feed well. The meals are specially formulated for older people, because among them, for example, there are many diabetics,” explains Larisa. — Immediately when they arrive, we measure the pressure. Everything is dietary, organic, drinks are decaffeinated, there are always fruits and vegetables.”

According to Larisa Birman, there are no special wishes for the elderly. The main thing is to get them out of the depressive state, which they sometimes fall into because of their loneliness.

“The children and grandchildren of many of them have left for America and, in principle, they feel somewhat depressed. - says the teacher. — There are difficulties in any work with people. With children - some, with old people - others. Children don’t know anything yet, but old people, on the contrary, already know everything. They love to advise, and we accept absolutely all their requests. Among them there are candidates of science, writers, literary critics, tour guides, the smartest people, they have something to tell others.”

Costs will cover Medicaid

On average, around 20 people attend classes at the center every day. The age range is from 65 to 80 years. Americans are rare guests here, but in the center they want to work not only with Russian-speaking grandparents.

“It’s not difficult, we’ll hire those who speak both Russian and English. The Russians who come to us have mostly lived in America for a long time and know the language,” says Pavel, the head of the center. “The idea came about because it didn’t exist here.” There are centers in English, in Spanish, but there were no Russian ones. In New York, where I lived, there are such centers. I decided to try it."

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Visitors to the center plant flowers in pots and write their names on signs so they don’t forget to water “their” plant. Photo: Raphael Apriam

According to Pavel, it turned out to be quite difficult to realize his plans. It took a year to get a license.

“We had to deal with both the state and the city, we had to completely refurbish the premises, including the toilets, which had to be adapted for people with special physical needs, and install all the necessary systems, including an alarm,” says Pavel. — Nobody gave any benefits, including for renting premises. For now, we cannot receive money from the state, but in the future the Medicaid program will cover the costs of each individual visitor to the center.”

In order for the US State Medicaid Medical Assistance Program to cover their stay at the Center, older people are tested by special institutions in the city and state. The living conditions of a person and his state of health are checked to determine whether he needs long-term care. On average, according to Paul, each decision has to wait from six months to two years.

“This is simply permission for a person to come to this type of institution like our center. Today we already have 3-4 people, whose presence is paid for by the state, but we want to recruit at least 15 people in order to open for 3 days a week, 6 hours a day,” says Pavel.

In the process of meeting with visitors, the center staff distributes questionnaires to them in order to learn more about each of them and about their abilities and talents. This will help in the future to organize additional programs for their interests.

Center address: Beach Club Adult Center, 2500 E. Hallandale Beach Blvd, Hallandale Beach, FL 33009, tel. 754-210-7154

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