Who Said Only Kids Can Have Fun?

By Zachary Milewicz

For eight years, I spent my summers in the Poconos at a sleep-away camp. Like many of the camps other Byram students head off to at the end of finals and Regents, my camp offers a myriad of activities—athletics and arts—enthusiastic counselors, and ‘delicious’ meals three times a day plus snacks.

Going into last summer, I knew it was definitely not going to be the same; I had to leave it (camp) all behind in order to stay home and complete my Authentic Science Research project, which I had been working on since sophomore year.

My research revolved around photography, memory, and motivation. My idea was for memory-impaired, elderly individuals to wear a camera capturing autobiographical images of the activities in which they participated. I developed an app that presented some of these images, hoping that if users looked at the images just before an activity reoccurred, it would trigger some excitement and make them want to join in.

To my delight, the app worked!

But that wasn’t the only surprising part of my summer spent in Armonk conducting my research. In fact, I had high hopes for the app’s success. What I was completely unaware of, however, was how much of an impact The Bristal, where I conducted my study, would have on me.

The participants in my study were residents of The Bristal, an assisted living facility located right here in Armonk. Just a mere two-mile drive on Route 22 from Byram Hills High School, directly across from Equinox, is a thriving community of senior citizens.

The Bristal opened its Armonk facility in the spring of 2014. In addition to Armonk, there are several other facilities throughout Long Island and New Jersey, including another in White Plains. Since The Bristal’s opening in Armonk four years ago, it has developed into an attractive home for Westchester’s aging population. And reasonably so, given what I found.

I can still vividly recall the first time I walked into The Bristal, greeted by a receptionist, a beautiful floral arrangement, a fireplace, and a member of The Bristal staff laughing with a group of residents.

As I spent the summer there on a daily basis, I discovered even more about how welcoming The Bristal is, offering daily activities for residents to engage in, including volleyball, gardening, and jewelry making to name a few. The Bristal also provides residents with the opportunity to see a movie twice a day in their cinema, group trips across the county to go shopping and dining, readily available snacks and refreshments throughout the day in the Bistro, and three gourmet meals each day.

Additionally, The Bristal offers opportunities for Byram students to engage and interact with seniors. Just a few months ago, members of the high school’s Growth in Awareness for Alzheimer’s (GAGA) club took a trip to The Bristal and spent the afternoon there engaging with residents. Even more recently, residents of The Bristal took a trip to Byram Hills High School to admire the artwork of Byram’s students displayed in the school’s annual art show. And each spring, graduating BHHS seniors choose to intern at The Bristal.

What I found last summer was not exactly my sleep-away camp, but it did compare. The Bristal offers their own myriad of activities, enthusiastic staff (constantly checking in on residents, smiling, and laughing just like I saw the first time I stepped in), and amazing meals.

Although I’m only a graduating high school senior, The Bristal doesn’t make aging seem too bad!