An Ethnographic Research on the Aston Gardens Retirement Home in Parkland in United States
The social setting I have chosen for the Ethnographic Research Project is a retirement home called Aston Gardens in Parkland, also known as my place of work. I am a server in the dining room where the residents come to eat for dinner, my time of arrival started promptly at about 4:15 pm on Saturday night. I began my observations standing right by the hostess and podium where the residents are greeted.
The physical environment of the dining hall has a very old fashioned yet fancy feel to it. There are about 50 available tables across the floor paired with etched out wooden chairs, along with formal dinner settings placed on each table. The walls are a light-beige color accompanied with low lighting to set the dinner ambiance. There are two coffee and soup stations, one in the front and one in the back, because of the large approximately of the dining hall. Behind the first soup station is the kitchen where all the food is prepared and where all the chaos takes place. Overall the environment has a very vintage and classy feel to it to accommodate the elderly residents, allowing them to feel at home.
The people who dine here as well as live here, are older retired and wealthy men and women. I would describe the residents as very aware and alert, not your stereotypical depiction of people in retirement and nursing homes. I would also describe them as very active and able bodied, they are able to take care of themselves and most of them do not need to depend on an aid or walker to assist them. When the residents come to the dining hall for dinner they most definitely dress to impress, especially the women.
The women usually come in a nice printed dress shirt with slacks, along with close-toed flats or jeweled sandals accompanied with a flashy necklace for the finishing touch. The men usually wear sweaters, or dress shirts with slacks and brown or black dress shoes. Approximately there are much more women than men in this facility, I would say 70% of the residents are women leaving the male population to be 30%. The age groups for the residents are about 80 and up, shockingly the residents look much younger than they really are.
There is a lot of laughter and socializing that go on in the dining room, I would compare it to lunch or recess time in elementary school. The residents socialize and joke around just as much as us kids. The residents walk around the dining room from table to table saying hi to all their friends, it’s like everybody knows everybody around there. Besides socializing, people of course are eating their dinner. The residents interact with us (servers) and they enjoy making small talk and hearing about our lives and future plans for college and life after college, they also enjoy sharing their stories and experiences wit us from when they were young. Occasionally the residents do get impatient and raise their voice and unfortunately make rude remarks when they do not get their way but, for the most part that happens minimally in an average night.
Generalizations I have come to find during my observational research is that older women who tend to be outspoken tend to migrate with women who are outspoken, and women who are easy going and shy migrate towards the same women in which they identify with. I’ve also noticed that the older men do not order salads, mostly the older women are ordering salads. Also I found that the men always order the beef entrée of the night and the women mostly order the chicken or fish entrée.
One generalization I can say for everybody is though that no matter how full a resident is after dinner they always have room for dessert. A theory I have formulated from my observation is that women for the most part out live men because they are very conscious of what they are eating and on top of their medications, while the men are very nonchalant and mostly are stubborn and do as they please.