Sibley Plaza is a public housing apartment building exclusively for elderly and disabled residents located in northwest DC. While the mission of A Wider Circle is to lift children and adults out of poverty, at this location their mission is more specific. They want to make the residents of this building and others like it live a dignified life and to establish human connections. Our team visited Sibley Plaza on our first site visit and helped clean up the community garden, which was finished earlier this year. Throughout the day, we met and talked with many of the residents, working alongside of them, or sitting down to talk. On Tuesday we met with Liz Anne our community coach, and Beverly our resource coach. As we discussed elderly populations, the things that are most important to them, and their most common needs we began to realize that we had already witnessed and experienced some of these issues on our first day at Sibley.
We learned from Beverly and Liz Anne that many elderly people simply want to tell their story, that a main issue they face is stress management, and that over the age of 65 the average number of health problems is three. While working in the garden at Sibley, Olumide asked one of the residents the simple question of how her day was. In response she told him every detail about how she had cleaned her apartment. It was clear that she was very happy having someone to sit down with and talk about what she had done. When Liz Anne asked another resident about her day she described her trip to the doctor where she had multiple tests and was relived that they had come back negatively. Multiple health problems seemed to be an issue with many residents as well as their willingness to discuss them. These examples were common experiences among everyone in our group, and we were surprised and excited about how open and eager everyone was to talk with us.
Many of the residents came out and worked alongside of us in the garden. More than once, residents pointed out their parts of the garden, and even instructed us about how to care for their plants. It was clear that they were proud of their small plots and took great care to make sure everything was growing properly. This was reinforced by Liz Anne when she described how much the garden has helped bring people together and how it has given them something to really take pride in. Beverly also talked a lot about how some activities can be seen as something to simply fill up a person’s day, but the greatest accomplishment is providing something that makes people feel meaningful and engages them in their own stage of development. The garden is definitely accomplishing this as well as giving residents an outlet for their stress.
Through our trip to Sibley and our team meeting we were able to associate our real life experiences with the thought provoking discussion. Being able to interact with the residents before we learned about the problems they face introduced a human aspect that is critical when going into people’s lives. Through our reflections it was clear that we were all have a great respect for the residents of Sibley and are hoping to provide something meaningful, fun, and dignified for them.