Fort Worth resident Esperanza Robles-Rodriguez, 67, takes English as a second language, ESL, courses at the Fort Worth Public Library Diamond Hill/Jarvis branch, 1300 N.E. 35th St., every Friday and Saturday.
“I want to learn to communicate. I feel bad — I want to understand it, and I want to speak it. I stray away from English-speakers,” Robles-Rodriguez said. “I was in anguish. It takes a lot. It’s very difficult.”
Robles-Rodriguez and her husband, Robert Rodriguez, 71, attended ‘La Hora de los Abuelos,’ or hour of the elders, at the Fort Worth Public Library’s North Side branch, 601 Park St., on April 5. The April 5 session was the first of four sessions designed to provide a social outlet for elders in the community.
Myriam Hernandez, the ESL instructor and public education specialist at the Fort Worth Public Library, started her job in October 2021. She teaches the ESL classes in Diamond Hill every Friday night virtually and Saturday mornings in person.
“We wanted to create an opportunity for seniors to come and socialize a bit. Not all of them have an opportunity to leave the house,” she said.
Hernandez planned “La Hora de los Abuelos” after her mother was having trouble with her grandmother. She wished she had somewhere she could take her grandmother to socialize and distract herself.
“In our community, Latinos, we don’t really diagnose it as dementia — we just think of it as, ‘My parents are just getting older,’’ Hernandez said. “My mom was struggling with my grandma. She didn’t want to leave the house and she started to forget things. My mom was telling me that it would be nice if we had a place to take her to socialize.”
The idea for the social hour was then born.
“La Hora de los Abuelos” provided Spanish music, puzzles, crosswords, painting, tools and memory kits provided by the James L. West Alzheimer Center. The memory kits are designed to be interactive to stimulate the mind and memory.
Robles-Rodriguez has been to four ESL class sessions taught by Hernandez. She and her husband watch TV in different rooms because she often doesn’t understand English-language shows.
Her husband, however, tries to teach her as much as he can. Rodriguez grew up in Fort Worth — his father was bilingual in Spanish and English, and his mother spoke solely Spanish.
Robles-Rodriguez grew up in Jalisco, then moved to Oaxaca at 16 years old. She lived in Oaxaca for more than 30 years until she moved to the United States.
Robles-Rodriguez said she hopes to attend the next sessions as a way of escaping the confinement of her home.
The North Side branch will host three more sessions from 10:30-11:30 a.m. on April 12, 19 and 26.
Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.