JUNE 1, 2017 — PEABODY — Many elders feel lost after the death of a spouse. Some retreat to the comfort of their home or apartment. Some move into a condo, while others opt for an independent or assisted living community.
Unfortunately, folks can still remain reclusive and depressed even though there are lots of people and activities around them. The perception is that women seem able to socialize more easily than men, although there are always exceptions.
Meet 97-year-old Marty Lawson, an outgoing, affable assisted living resident at Harriet and Ralph Kaplan Estates in Peabody.
“You know, I’m not the oldest person here,” he told me. “There’s another man who is 102; he can talk very intelligently.”
Marty can do all that and more. He attends lectures and other cultural events, including art appreciation, discussion groups, and even a cooking demo.
“You can’t be a grouch when you’re living here,” Marty said. “You have to be happy when you come to this place.”
Marty and his wife, Eleanor, fondly known as Tybie, moved into what was then known as the Aviv Centers for Living about seven years ago. The couple, married 63 years, had only six months together at Aviv before Tybie passed away.
“I don’t think I could have lived alone,” said Marty.
Marty, whose dad died when he was 2, was born in Springfield and raised by his widowed mom. During the course of his life, he’s lived in many Jewish communities, including Chelsea, Winthrop, and Revere.
For several years, he worked at Lechmere Sales in the camera department. From there, he started his own wholesale camera business with family assistance.
Marty is the father of Bette, Bruce, and Ronald. Bruce picks up his dad every Friday for Shabbat dinner at his Peabody home. He has three grandchildren.
Marty’s varied interests keep him young and mentally alert. You may find him in the computer room scanning news, reading a book on his Kindle, or solving a crossword or Sudoku puzzle. He and his friend Betty, a former New Yorker, led the Sudoku group for a time after the instructor left. Betty refers to him as “my good friend, Marty.”
Marty also has a unique talent that adds another dimension to his busy life. When a preschool opened onsite, Marty was asked if he would work with the 5-year olds. It was a perfect match. Now he shows up three mornings a week and he loves it so much, he’s recruited others to do the same.
The popular great-grandfather figure is there for the kids, whether to read a story, talk, listen, or maybe color a picture together. He’s proud to be included in birthday parties and graduations. At the end of the year, though, he’s sad to see the children heading off to kindergarten. Still, he knows there’s always another class coming up.
When North Shore Elder Services was holding its annual “We Give Thanks” award dinner recognizing volunteers in the community, Ellen Gordon, director of resident life at Kaplan Estates, nominated Marty. Last November, Marty received the Lois Stern Award for volunteerism.
“We consider Marty an ambassador for the preschool,” Gordon said. “He’s what you want to be in your old age.”