A film crew called Voyager recently visited Mary Tony in her Pennsylvania apartment in an effort to document a day in the life of the 98-year-old senior citizen. With the cameras on, Tony candidly describes what life is like for her living on her own, without significant interaction from family, and without the camaraderie of a retirement home.
“I don’t mind. What am I going to do? Where could I go? I am by myself,” Tony responds when the crew asks if she likes her living situation. Alone in her apartment, time for Tony is a seemingly never-ending struggle to figure out how to keep busy.
“You know what I do? Don’t laugh,” Tony explains, “I get junk mail, I strip it. And after I strip it I cut it up small, put it in a bag, and put it for garbage.” She then chuckles before admitting, “I have to do something, otherwise I’d go nuts.” Fortunately for Tony, there’s an establishment that fills up her calendar with open arms, and the occasional drum circle, Monday through Friday.
The Easton Area Lifestyle Campus (formerly the Easton Senior Center).
“They kind of get pushed off to the side…so they come here,” explains an Easton Area Lifestyle Campus worker. The senior center, which offers shuffleboard, Wii bowling, friendships, food, conversation, and special events like a Senior Prom, are the reasons why Tony says she “can’t wait until morning comes so (she) can go to it.”
In a role-reversal, the filmmakers invite some of the senior center workers into Tony’s home to get a glimpse of how Tony lives in the hours away from the campus. Tearing up from emotion, one of the workers reflects on the realization that seniors like Tony often spend their waking hours completely isolated, stating, “I guess I never thought of that after they leave me, and I go home to my life.”
Congregated in her small living room, Tony’s words are a stark reminder of how much a simple visit can mean to someone who hasn’t felt the warmth of the company in such a long time. “I love you all for coming,” Tony says to the intimate gathering, “It’s made my day, and I’ll never forget it.”
Tony might not live with anyone else in her apartment, but she is not alone. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released A Profile of Older Americans study. The study shows that 46% of non-institutionalized women over the age of 75 live alone. A percentage that the Department of Health says increases with age.
With establishments like the Easton Area Lifestyle Campus, there are large portions of Tony’s week where she doesn’t have to feel like she’s alone. This documentary sheds light on a large portion of the world’s population who still yearn to live life.
“I do whatever I can,” Tony explains, “and when I can’t anymore, I’m done for.”