Girls enjoy getting together to share stories, food and fun. That’s true whether the girls are 15 or 90 years old.
Or — in Westport — whether they’re 15 and 90.
Carolyn Malkin is midway between those ages. As a volunteer meal-deliverer for the Senior Center, she realized a lot of women live alone. They’re interesting, chatty and filled with amazing histories — but they didn’t always have a chance for social interaction.
Carolyn had a great relationship with her own grandmother, who lived to 99. But — as the mother of 2 girls — she knew a lot of teenagers in Westport don’t have grandmas nearby.
Working with the Senior Center’s Sue Pfister; Human Services’ Barbara Butler and Sue Lebrija; Staples High School administrators John Dodig and Rich Franzis, and “younger seniors” Mary Maynard and Mildred Bunche, Carolyn created the Girlfriends Club. Pairs of high school girls spend an hour or so a week with a “girlfriend”: an older Westporter.
Last year, Carolyn’s senior daughter Melony and a few friends formed the first relationships.
This year, Carolyn’s sophomore daughter Sydney recruited her own friends. A couple of dozen more teenagers signed up. It’s unclear who has more fun: they, or their 80- and 9o-something girlfriends.
“This is not about teenagers visiting women who are helpless and lonely,” Carolyn emphasizes. “It’s a 2-way relationship. These are very lively, very lovely women. The girls adore them, and the feeling is mutual.”
Carolyn goes to the 1st meeting, introducing everyone and helping the conversation along. Very quickly, though, she’s not needed.
“Their relationship develops better without me,” she says.
Joyce Clarke is the oldest girlfriend. At 103, she didn’t know what she’d talk about. She hadn’t been around young people for a while. Quickly, Carolyn says, she learned they’re interested in the same things she was, years ago.
Joyce is just one of the older girlfriends with remarkable lives. The women were business owners, artists and photographers. Rita Adams was a dancer and circus performer. “These are fun, vibrant people,” Carolyn emphasizes. “The girls fall in love with them. Having young blood is great, and the women have so much to give.”
The weekly meetings are fun. So too are get-togethers with the entire club.
At a Valentine’s party earlier this month, the group gathered at the Senior Center. Nothing was planned, beyond food and decorations. Soon, everyone was talking, laughing — even dancing. One woman and her girlfriends made up a dance. Once Rita joined in, everyone else did too.
“It was great to see so many smiles,” Carolyn says. “For the next party, we’ll get a DJ!”