Last week I met with staff and residents of a retirement community in Budapest. It was a wonderful experience and I am very grateful for their time, stories, and insight.
Meet Edit, a 90 year-old resident who lives here because her husband passed in 1997. Edit has no family in Hungary left. Her son moved to the U.S. for school and work decades ago, and now works in the aerospace industry in Houston. She has a granddaughter in her 30s in America as well.
She misses her son and granddaughter in the U.S. but can only see Budapest as home. She is relatively healthy and faired well during communism. She loved to ballroom dance and met her husband through work. I wanted to know what it was like living in Budapest under communism.
This was a very difficult subject for Edit to discuss, but eventually she did open up about "Bloody Thursday" in 1956 when hundreds of protesters were shot in Kossuth Square. Edit recalled the terror, but also recalled her mother calming her, assuring her that it would pass. "It was a very scary time."
Returning to Budapest
The second resident I interviewed is a 77 year-old who preferred to remain anonymous. She and her husband had a nice condo with three bedrooms and a garage (but no car!) in Budapest, but they weren’t free. She left Hungary during the 1970s and moved to Sacramento where she lived most of her life.
When they moved to America, they worked jobs painting homes and saved enough so that they could buy a sailboat and enjoy their life’s passion. Being on the water in the San Francisco Bay was her epitome of freedom. She misses the people in America, but for care reasons, she and her husband moved back to Hungary.
Her husband broke his hip last year and they moved into the community so that he could receive care. The couple doesn’t have children, but they do have family nearby. Her mother is 95 and is fiercely independent. She's only recently (finally!) agreeing to have a cleaning lady come to her home.
Are students pursuing aging?
Three years ago? No. Now? Yes. It seems as though more students are pursuing paths in the field of aging. I need to research this a bit more, but the director of the community I visited told me that about 5 years ago, a law was enacted requiring students to complete 50 hours of social services in aging, disabled or child care.
This has seemed to help to bridge the labor gap in aging care. Now there doesn't seem to be a major problem. I don't know if such a bill would pass in a non post-communist government, but it is worth exploring and learning more.