What: Assisting the elderly with bingo
Where: Bialystoker Home for the Aged, Lower East Side, through New York Cares
When: Wednesdays and Sundays
When you first arrive at Bialystoker, you’ll be asked to sign in with security and then be directed straight ahead to the auditorium where bingo will take place. You’ll spend the first half hour waiting for all of the guests to arrive, chatting and passing time with whoever shows up first, until it’s time to start playing. Since this is a home for the aged, most of the players are residents in the building, and need assistance to play (see my previous post about my last experience with a home, and what you can expect to see at a place like this). Some of the residents invite their spouses or friends to come play; for obvious reasons, the people who come to visit are usually healthy enough to play their own bingo, and help their spouse/friend who invited them.
I was placed with a nice gentleman who spoke little english and had poor hearing. After each number was called, I had to point at it on his board, or shake my head ‘No’ if he didn’t have it. There were points in the game (you’ll play about 9-11 games depending on time), where I think he thought I wasnt paying attention, and would hold a chip over each space, and look at me to see if he could put it down. Either that, or he was just trying to cheat.
I was really excited when I was able to sign into the Bialystoker Bingo project. I had heard from other volunteers that bingo was one of the most fun activities that New York Cares has to offer, and the fact that it seems to fill up fast confirmed that for me. The thing I always seem to forget is that my idea of a rowdy time, and a rowdy time at a senior center, are two very different things. After hearing that ‘Bingo with the seniors is a ball’ from others, I pictured a much different scene than what it was: about 15 immobile senior residents, a few of whom were excited to possibly win $1. However, I do believe there is another New York Cares project at a senior center, not a home, that does in fact, get rowdy…Regardless, I was more excited that my mom decided to come into the city and join me in volunteering; this is one of New York Cares’ ‘family-friendly’ activities, where you are allowed to bring children (or in my case, parents) along with you. She was hoping to relive her past, when she used to run a senior center in brooklyn-and I think she had a great time. It was a great feeling, working side by side with my mom, helping other people. It’s a rare bond to share and I recommend, as I have in the past, to try it yourself. Other things to know:
- Each game has a $1 prize, which can be used at the local dollar store up the block from the home, and the last game has a $5 pot, so keep your ears open. If you miss a number, there’ll be hell to pay.
- Don’t repeat the numbers often or talk to anyone while a game is going on. It confuses people, and can cause delays, which really angers those who are trying to play and win big. Get there early if you are feeling chatty.
- Get two sets of directions- subway and walking/car. I have never been to this far east land of the city, and had no idea where I was or how to get home. The subway from the west side didn’t work, and even the cab driver has to use GPS. Plan ahead.
- Having a good time and want to stay past the last ‘bingo!’? Feel free to ask your senior partner if they’d like to sit in the Bialystoker garden for a little while longer and chat. One woman I had spoken with before the games got underway asked my mom and I to come play cards with her and her husband. We declined, since my dad was waiting outside, but they would’ve enjoyed the company.