“The older I get, the closer I get to God,” Emma Powell, at age 65, said.
She is sitting in Catholic Charities Josephine P. Argento Senior Center in south suburban Harvey, flanked by two women: her mother, Evalena Brown, then age 85, and her grandmother, Annie Davis, then age 103. The three-generation group is a familiar sight on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when they take the Thornton Township bus from their home in South Holland to the Argento center, located in Catholic Charities Bernadin Manor senior apartment complex. The trio has a favorite table where they meet with friends to share food, activities and conversation.
Emma learned about the center eight years ago, from a Thornton Township newsletter. She was looking for a senior service program for Annie who had come to live with Emma in her ranch home in South Holland after suffering a stroke. Emma’s mother, Evalena, also lives with her; though she often stays overnight at the family home on Chicago’s South Side with some of her other children.
Annie had only one child, Evalena. But Evalena had nine children, so Annie is now a great-, great-, great-grandmother. Emma is Evalena’s second eldest, and has six children of her own. The younger generations look after their elders by cleaning the South Holland home on the weekends and preparing meals for Annie, Evalena, and Emma to enjoy during the week.
“I’m trying to sow seeds of peace and love,” Emma said of her positive relationship with her adult children. As the primary caretaker for Annie and Evalena, Emma knows that the time will come when she needs help, and she is glad to know her children will be there for her.
What advice do these three remarkable women have for other seniors? “I like being old,” Emma said, laughing. She enjoys using senior discounts and services like the township bus. “You don’t need a lot of money to live,” she explained. Because the three women live together they pool their Social Security income. They also live frugally, shopping at resale stores and visiting Catholic Charities’ South Holland food pantry and clothing room. “Learn to help each other, eat right, and keep yourself busy,” Emma added.
“What kept me going was my children,” Evalena said. For Annie, socializing and exercise are important. She only uses a wheelchair part of the time and tries to walk as much as possible.
One more thing that keeps these women strong and connected is daily, shared prayer. “She (Annie) prays, I sing and Mama (Evalena) will read,” Emma said.