My life with a hundred grandparents

What my job has taught me and how it changed my perspective on life

When I sat down for an interview with my soon-to-be boss, he told me, “This job is like having a hundred grandparents come at you all at once.” I found out pretty soon that he was right.

About two and a half years ago, I started working as a dining server at an independent living facility called Asbury Pointe. I just thought I hit the jackpot finding a part-time job that fit my schedule, was right down the street from school and provided food – free food: the college student’s dream.

But as time went on and I got to know the residents, make friends and take on new roles in the staff, I started to realize that my perspective on life was changing.

With the age difference between the residents and myself, learning about their lives and hearing their stories makes me think about the life I have ahead of me.

Some were teachers, nurses, doctors, dentists, business owners, or were in a war. One resident even saw Adolf Hitler when he was a child. You start to think about everything they’ve seen over the years and it’s amazing. You think about the history that they’ve experienced, many things that I only learned about in middle and high school.

A lot of residents ask me about myself. They ask where I’m from, where I go to school, what I’m majoring in, what my future plans are and even ask about my family.

I told one couple in particular that I was writing for The Spectrum and when I had my first story published, they said they were so proud of me and I can’t even begin to explain how that made me feel.

But there are also downfalls to this job.

Because this is an independent living facility, there are instances when a resident requires more assistance and has to move to a better-equipped facility for their needs. I’ve come to know these people, talk with them and provide them with the best service I can every day, so when I learn that someone is moving, I try my best to catch them before they leave and thank them for sharing their stories and advice with me.

Moving, though, isn’t anything compared to a resident passing away. That is truly one of the toughest parts of the job.

I become so used to seeing that person every day, talking to them one day and they’re gone the next – that’s what really makes me think about life and how everything can change so quickly.

I lost my grandfather a few years ago and it was the hardest thing I’ve been through, so all I can think, is that someone had just lost their grandparent, their best friend.

But I love seeing the residents happy and having fun. A typical night is similar to eating at a restaurant. Residents sit at your table, you take their order and serve their meals. Occasionally, we have something special or themed for the holidays. In the summer, we have a few barbecue buffets outside in the courtyard with live music.

One resident will often ask me if I’ve behaving, and if I say that I am, he responds with, “Why? You’re young. You shouldn’t be.”

I know I won’t be working there forever – maybe I will, who knows – but one thing I know is that my experience there has been extremely rewarding and I have learned so much from the residents, my new friends and my bosses. And for that, I am grateful and I will never forget about my days or the people at Asbury Pointe.

Katie Kostelny is a features staff writer and can be reached at