“A meal with…” (2018)

Loneliness can be cured with good food and conversation. That was the basis for the social practice art piece that I and my fellow classmates created in May.

Social practice art is categorized by its collaborative nature and features people or communities as the medium. The emphasis is shifted away from individual ownership and, in many cases, can be used to solve a problem within a community.For our project, we made a list of things we struggled with as college students and then looked at other demographics in our area to see if we could find any parallels. It turns out that many people in their 20s and 30s feel lost and incredibly lonely. Many of them aren’t working jobs in their preferred field, many are living alone, and many feel isolated from the rest of the world. A demographic that also faces these problems are older generations, specifically people over the age of 70.

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The final form of our project manifested as a homemade dinner shared by a few of my classmates and my 86-year-old grandma, Dee. Elderly people like my grandma often don’t cook as much and bringing a hot meal (and letting them keep the leftovers) ensures that they’re eating and being taken care of in a way. Many Americans today also eat a majority of their meals alone, oftentimes in front of the television. Not only was it beneficial for my grandma to have people to talk to, we as younger individuals also benefited in that we were able to have a meal with a group and enjoy the conversations. 

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Over the course of history, relationships between older and younger generations have been prevalent—if not crucial—to the survival of our race. The older generations teach the younger vital information on how to live and survive and I think that as we’ve modernized as a human race, we’ve failed to maintain this relationship. It was surprising listening to some of the things my grandma described about growing up here in Northwest Indiana, and we were also shocked at how similar some things were despite the age gap.

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 To commemorate and chronicle our conversations and experiences, we created a zine. It featured artwork from each student, photographs of my grandma when she was around our age, and information about the benefits of shared meals and intergenerational relationships. 

Both my grandma and the students walked away from that three-hour long meal feeling energized and with a belly full of good food. Though this was just an assignment for a class, the hope is that we’ll be able to continue this project: visiting other elderly individuals in our community, sharing a meal and a conversation, and documenting it.