A newsmagazine by and for the youth of Louisville

On the Record

A newsmagazine by and for the youth of Louisville

On the Record

A newsmagazine by and for the youth of Louisville

On the Record

Back in My Day

While there’s a perceived divide between the elderly and youth, some local teens prove that friendship has no age limit.
Photos by Anna Burzynski

The workday started like any other for Kampbell Fitzpatrick, 16. Her mom dropped her off and she went to the dining room to prepare for the day. Fitzpatrick is one of many tasked with fulfilling the dining needs of several people. Once lunchtime started, she went about taking orders and filling up waters. Everything was mostly normal, except for one thing: one of the ladies being served, Joan Chatman, who is in her 70s, kept calling her “Maggie” instead of Kampbell. Fitzpatrick was confused, but assumed that the lady was mixing her up with someone else on staff. This “mishap” went on for weeks, until one day Chatman explained that the name Maggie was in reference to a song titled “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart. The song, which came out in 1971, is about a beautiful girl. Chatman wasn’t getting Fitzpatrick’s name mixed up, she was calling her beautiful the entire time. 

Once Fitzpatrick learned this, she and Chatman exchanged phone numbers, marking the beginning of what would become a blossoming friendship — one that transcended age. Fitzpatrick and Chatman have had a special connection ever since.

Fitzpatrick, a junior at Ballard High School, works at Brownsboro Park Retirement Community. She decided to work there simply because she needed a job, but it has become a community to her just as much as it has for the residents. Chatman is one of the residents at Brownsboro Park and she is grateful for the young people that work there. 

“I love them all very much,” Chatman said. “I’m closer to them than anybody else. You’re going to make me tear up. They’re great people.”

Many of the teen workers at Brownsboro Park have adopted Chatman as their designated “funma,” a grandma, but even more fun. Chatman has been living in the residence for close to two years and has made the place her home. She explained how sometimes, at dinner, the teenage waitstaff will sit down with her and talk until the dining room hours are closed. 

“It’s very interesting to me to know what young people go through, what they’re thinking,” Chatman said.”Their lives are so different from what I went through.”

These talks, which happen regularly at the retirement home, showcase the beauty of conversation. And while it’s not uncommon for retirement homes to have teenage workers, the teens that work at Brownsboro Park seem to be a big part of the staff — immersing themselves fully.

“I love talking to the old people and hearing their stories,” said Lizzie Dohn, 16, another Ballard sophomore that works at Brownsboro Park.

An average day at work for Dohn consists of setting up for meals, taking orders, getting everyone their food, and cleaning up. Similar to Fitzpatrick, talking to the residents is an important part of her job.

While serving up dinner, Dohn and many of the other volunteers and workers get to become close with the residents. Emily Ansari, 15, is also a sophomore at Ballard and agrees that working at Brownsboro Park is an enjoyable, and beyond that, fulfilling job.

“I just like talking to the residents,” Ansari said. “They’re really nice and welcoming, and they’re fun to talk to.”

While Chatman loves all the teenagers that work at Brownsboro Park, her special relationship with Fitzpatrick stands out. Chatman even went to one of Fitzpatrick’s dance competitions where she won first place. 

“We kept getting closer and closer, so we picked her up and she saw me go on,” Fitzpatrick said, reminiscing on the competition day while sitting next to Chatman.

Chatman nodded at Fitzpatrick, then explained that Fitzpatrick had actually won a couple of dance competitions. Chatman beamed, her pride for Fitzpatrick evident as she pulled up photos of Fitzpatrick dancing.

“I’d never seen something like that, it was amazing,” Chatman said.

That’s not the only adventure these two have been on. Every time Fitzpatrick works, Chatman makes sure to see her.

“I printed out pictures for her that we took at the dance competition,” Fitzpatrick said. “And I came in with them when I was working one day, and she was just so excited and then she framed them in her room.” 

Chatman and Fitzpatrick have an incredible bond, but they aren’t the only ones who have made one of these unlikely friendships. Donna Ellis, another resident at Brownsboro Park also loves being able to hangout with the teenage workers there. While the staff can learn from her amazing sense of humor, they’ve also taught her something in return.

“One day I told Sam, who’s a server here, to tell Derrick that the rolls were ‘bussin,’” Ellis said.

Ellis giggled while telling this story, explaining how she had learned the slang term from one of the workers there and has used it on multiple people since to see their reactions. This isn’t the only time Ellis has used trendy words. Dohn explained that Ellis has also used the term “rizz” on the waitstaff, which is sure to crack them up. 

The teenage workers help entertain the lives of the residents; however, the residents also help the teens learn important life lessons while they’re on the job. Ballard sophomore Madeline Neil, 16, has experienced this firsthand.

“A lot of them have just taught me how to be more mature about certain situations and how to act,” Neil said.

Ansari has also learned important skills from the residents. She explained how the residents have helped her grow her social skills — a big part of her job is having to build a foundation with the residents because she’s a guest in their house. This foundation is crucial to these facilities operating smoothly, and the teens are able to develop this by proving themselves as reliable employees to the people that live there.

It may be surprising that even with the wide age gap, everyone gets along well; however for the majority at Brownsboro Park, age is just a number when it comes to friendship.

“It’s kind of like the friendships you have when you’re younger and really find someone you instantly click with,” Fitzpatrick said.

Growing up as a teenager in 2024 is worlds away from growing up as a teenager in the 1950s. With a large age gap and extremely different means to being brought up, there can often be a divide in groups like Baby Boomers and Gen Z’s. There are few spaces where this gap can begin to close, but one of them is, shockingly, retirement homes. 

A place like Brownsboro Park can help the generational divide, as well as give people from different generations a chance to learn from and grow with each other. Additionally, to anyone at the residence that doesn’t have a grandchild or grandparent, these interactions can be crucial to understanding all walks of life with decades of difference.

“When I was little we didn’t learn our ABCs or 123s until we went to first grade, all we’d do was play from 1 to 6,” Chatman said. “But you all don’t, that’s why you’re so much smarter and wiser by the time you’re 16.”

The community that retirement homes build through their teenage staff and each other is a step toward developing an understanding of the ever changing quickness of the world, while not forgetting where others used to be. Working in a place where there are differences in personalities, upbringings, and ages can be difficult, but knowing that the residents’ knowledge is vast, and that they have stories waiting to be uncovered, is enticing. 

“It’s not something that’s just easy, you have to want to be here,” Dohn said. “But it’s so fun. I would recommend it to so many people.”

While retirement homes may not seem like groundbreaking settings, they have become a way to connect generations. No matter if you’re young or old, retirement homes have given everyone an opportunity to learn and grow from one another.

“You meet so many wonderful people along the way if you pay attention,” Chatman said. “I don’t think I always did, but as I’m getting closer to that upper scale I definitely do.”

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About the Contributor
Anna Burzynski
Anna Burzynski, Assignment Editor
Anna Burzynski is a senior Photographer for On The Record. She is passionate about taking photos that help capture a story. In her free time she likes to rock climb and have picnics with her friend.
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