San Francisco Seniors Celebrating Culture, Making Connections

Bay Area senior living residents connect with community members at a St. Patrick’s Day event.

For a few hours every March, a little piece of Ireland comes to AlmaVia of San Francisco. Each year, the dining room fills up with residents and staff for an afternoon of traditional Irish entertainment put on by the United Irish Societies of San Francisco.

Performances include step dancers, Kerry dancers, bagpipers, storytelling, a fife and drum band, and more. The entertainers range from dancers as young as 4 to singers well into their 70s.

The show has been a tradition at AlmaVia of San Francisco for more than a decade. Allison Zalko, Life Enrichment Director, says it is the most popular event of the year. “The residents enjoy the Irish dance performances, and to see that energy in the room is wonderful,” she says. “Residents are so amazed by the performances; they talk about it for days.”

Margaret McAuliffe, who organizes the event, also sees a positive reaction from residents year after year. She says that it isn’t uncommon for residents to start lining up outside the dining room early to secure a front row seat. McAuliffe says that residents are always delighted to see the young children performing the complicated dances in traditional Irish costumes.

The event is also popular with the groups that participate. Valerie McGrew, Vice President of the United Irish Societies, says that all the performers look forward to visiting AlmaVia each year. “Everyone is very friendly. Every time we go in there it’s like being welcomed into someone’s house,” she says.

The event is about more than providing entertainment. It gives residents a chance to interact with community members from multiple generations. After the show, residents and performers mingle and snack on Irish soda bread. Zalko says that residents appreciate the chance to meet new people and enjoy the company of so many different age groups.

It also provides some with a chance to reconnect with old friends. One AlmaVia resident used to participate in events at McAuliffe’s son’s school. Now, she enjoys visiting with him and his wife at this annual event. Her son has also been attending the St. Patrick’s Day event since he was a baby. She says that residents recognize him and are excited to see how he has grown each year.

This is one of several events that bring members of the surrounding community in to visit with residents. Students from nearby St. Thomas More Catholic School and Brandeis Hillel Day School come to help with activities and art projects throughout the year.

The opportunity to celebrate as a community and connect with different generations and cultures is one of the ways that AlmaVia enriches the lives of its residents.

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