Every week, Gloria Patiño looks forward to Friday. That’s the day when Patiño, who is 92, gets together with Spanish-speaking senior citizens from all over Latin America at the LAA.
“I like the company of people who speak Spanish,” says Patiño, whose daughter teaches yoga to the group regularly. “I am looking to make friends with people. I come every Friday.”
The LAA’s Senior Citizens’ Club, or Club de la Tercera Edad, has gathered at the LAA for decades. Spanish-speaking immigrants 55 and over meet not only to seek company and friendship, but also to engage in educational and recreational activities. They enjoy arts and crafts and engage in physical activities such as zumba, yoga and Chi Gong. They play bingo and lottery. They go on field trips to the YMCA and Zoo Atlanta. And they celebrate birthdays the last Friday of every month, with a member of their group playing the accordion while they sing Happy Birthday.
The Senior Citizens’ Club has been coordinated by volunteer Griselda Bustamante since 2005. LAA family support specialist Thomas Fuller supervises and supports the group.
“The LAA’s Senior Citizens’ Club offers the Latino community in Georgia opportunities to interact with one another, as well as opportunities for recreation and socialization,” says Bustamante. “At the gatherings we share information that can improve the participants’ quality of life.”
The group is always looking for activities to stay entertained and physically active. On Friday, August 23, the LAA’s Senior Citizens’ Club went on a field trip to the Atlanta Botanical Garden to see the “Imaginary Worlds: Plants Larger than Life” exhibition, which features gigantic sculptures of animals created out of plants.
“What a beautiful thing,” says Patiño, who was wearing green pants and a purple blouse, of a butterfly that is circling around flowers in front of the monumental Earth Goddess sculpture in the Cascades Garden. “This botanical garden is marvelous. What a beauty!”
To many of the participants, the group is about more than just friendship. “We feel like family,” says Nora Melean, who is originally from Venezuela and has been coming to the LAA for 13 years. “When you first start coming, you don’t know anybody but then you make friends.”
Mina Palomino, originally from Mexico, is the group’s photographer. She has been attending the group’s meetings for six years and she’s there “every Friday, without exception.” She used to take two buses and the MARTA train to get to the LAA before her son gave her his car. “I’m one of the first ones to arrive,” she says. “Someone always brings food. We have a nice time.”