Halfway down the corridor were two recreational rooms, one on either side. Unlike the solid condo doors, these rooms had glass door fronts. The one on the left had shades drawn, but the room on the right was full of elderly folks, including two she immediately recognized. Louisa stepped aside and held the door to allow Janiss to enter first.
“Mr. Fisher! Vivian!” Janiss could hardly believe it. They looked great, and Mr. Fisher was out of bed. How was he standing up on his own when he couldn’t walk before?
“Just call me John, my dear,” Mr. Fisher replied. “It’s good to see you again.”
Janiss gave both her old acquaintances quick hugs, then noticed how everyone was looking at her. It was as if she was the most important person in the room, or possibly the one that something terrible was about to happen to. It all seemed too well and good, as though something sinister lurked beneath the surface of the situation.
Then it dawned on her: it was their movement. None of them were doddering or shuffling about. Their actions were quick and deliberate, like a younger person’s movement. Janiss imagined that people half their age might have been wearing the masks of the people they had become. What was happening? Janiss looked back toward Louisa, who was conferring again with her thin assistant.
“Questions?” Louisa asked, looking toward her potential new employee.
“What’s happened to everyone?”
The group chuckled together, a few even patting Janiss on the back or arm in reassurance, exactly the way an older person does when they believe someone doesn’t understand something that they clearly do. Afterward, they looked to Louisa silently for her to answer the question for Janiss.
“It’s a specialized treatment, one we’re pioneering here at Cedarcrest. Not everyone is a candidate, but everyone you see here has responded positively to it. Ruth is our most recent patient to be accepted into the program. This is all still experimental, hence the need for secrecy.”
Janiss nodded cautiously, but dared to be a bit optimistic. “Is this some kind of stem cell research?”
Louisa shook her head slightly. “It’s organic, but not stem cell related. The source is very precious, almost unique, something akin to a supplement. It has restorative properties, cognitive and physical. Years of research will be required to determine the long-term effects, but it looks promising.”
“Is it anti-aging? Does it extend their lives?”
“All in due time, Janiss. Perhaps you would prefer to know exactly what I hired you for?”
Louisa looked over at Vivian.
“I want to follow my grandchildren online. What social networks should I use?”
Janiss smiled pleasantly. “Wouldn’t you rather just talk to them?”
Vivian shrugged. “They don’t talk anymore. They just peck away at their phones when I see them at all.”
There were periodic bursts of laughter, some even boisterous, as side conversations spontaneously erupted about kids these days, how no one called, and other things that weren’t like they used to be. The remarks overall, however, were positive; these people wanted to learn new things. There was passion in the room, an exuberance that could only be called youthful.
It was wonderful, but it wasn’t right.