André Maurois famously said in An Art of Living, "The art of growing old is the art of being regarded by the oncoming generations as a support and not as a stumbling-block." As the Vice President of the GlamourGals Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to inspire and organize teens to provide ongoing complimentary beauty makeovers to elderly women living in senior homes, these are words that constantly run through my head when setting up for a GlamourGals makeover.
We as an organization constantly strive to teach our teens to view the elderly as valuable assets, whom we can learn from and build connections with, and so the juxtaposition of arriving to what is essentially an unadorned facility and experiencing that same space during our event just an hour later truly reinforces the transformational nature of our work.
Last Saturday, September 8th, we were welcomed by the staff and residents of The Workmen's Circle Multicare Center, a 500-resident long-term, short-term, and sub-acute care center for senior patients in the Bronx, to hold a GlamourGals event in partnership with SoapBox Soaps. After gathering the requisite supplies of moisturizer, foundation, blush, lipstick, nail polish and nail files, the volunteers from Herbert H. Lehman High School began to gravitate towards the line of residents who were eagerly awaiting their turn at having a visitor speak to and pamper them.
Within minutes, the room came alive with chatter as volunteers connected with their resident. One young woman mentioned to her elderly partner that she had recently obtained her American citizenship, provoking a loud round of applause for her accomplishment from those surrounding the two. At another table, a woman with tears in her eyes explained to those around her that she was overcome with emotion and felt so much gratitude to those who had made the event possible. And tucked away in the corner, SoapBox Soaps Co-Founder David Simnick quietly laughed along with the only male resident who had chosen to participate in the manicures.
When our GlamourGals gave the residents of The Workmen's Circle Multicare Center their makeovers, they were not awkwardly making conversation with a stranger, but rather they were drawing on past experiences of pampering their own beloved grandmothers. Many of our volunteers tell us that their own mothers and grandmothers allowed their faces to be used as a canvas when first practicing how to put on makeup, truly underlying what we already know: Beauty rituals have always been a way for different generations of women to bond.
Every girl remembers the first time she got a manicure, or the first time she wore make-up. It meant that you were now part of "the group," and that you entered into an unspoken fraternity with women everywhere. Quite simply, this simple bond creates a connection that surpasses any generation gap.
In today's world, it is too easy to dismiss the elderly. We can sometimes forget about their contributions and significance. GlamourGals endeavors to combat this stigma by teaching our volunteers the true value of our elderly, while at the same time helping them to recognize their own empowerment. As I passed a clump of individuals who had been involved in coordinating this event, it warmed my heart to hear them speaking about their own beauty-related memories with their grandparents and loved ones, and reminded me, once again, that our makeovers do more than just give these residents an ego boost; they also remind them that they are still loved, still appreciated, and still worthy of our time.
Bringing two generations of women together, encouraging the exchange of life stories, and hearing the laughter that invariably ensues is what this is all about. Every smile we create, every bond we help foster, and every life we touch brings our organization further along its mission of promoting compassionate leaders within our communities.