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Learning & Connecting: Park Place Educators Promote Social Lifestyle

Krishna Chakrabarty grew up near a crocodile-infested river in Morbi, India. When she was a little girl, her father, an educator himself, taught her to swim in that river. When she expressed fear about the crocodiles, he shooed off her concerns. “He said, ‘If you just keep moving, they won’t get you.’ So I learned to swim fast,” she laughs.

It seems that since those days on the river, Krishna hasn’t stopped moving. After completing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in India, at age 20 she moved to California to pursue her PhD in biochemistry at UC Davis. She didn’t have time or inclination to date, so she agreed to an arranged marriage with Ananda Chakrabarty. “It turned out well for me,” she says. “My parents knew best what I wanted.”

As a biochemistry professor with a husband who would become famous for his own scientific work, they raised two children, but still found time somehow to host numerous social gatherings. And after her husband passed away in 2020, and seeing the pandemic drive people further apart, Krishna has a renewed interest in bringing people together.

“There are many of us who came to Park Place as two people, but then lost our partners,” she says. “If someone has suffered a loss, I want them to know they are not alone.”

While Krishna still teaches medical students, she also hosts gatherings in her apartment, inviting both Park Place residents and staff. “I still love to entertain and to cook,” she says. “My goal is to invite every single person here. I have 80 more to go.”

As naturally as academics came to Krishna, learning was a constant challenge for Linda Dibblee.

“I just struggled,” she says. “In school, teachers thought I was dumb because I just couldn’t get the connections. But I knew they were wrong.”

In college, she started out her freshman year with 5 D’s. “I wasn’t going to drop out,” she says. “I knew I was smart. I just had to figure out how to learn in a way that worked for me.”

Linda stayed the course and completed college with straight A’s, then worked as an elementary school teacher. She later  earned her masters degree and became a reading specialist, helping kids get the help that she so desperately needed at that age. She was especially adept at seeing the students who needed help and making sure they felt successful and connected. That strategy of connection continues at Park Place.

“It’s so friendly here,” Linda says. “Most of our friendships develop around our meals.”

Linda is also an artist, so she has also connected with the many residents drawn to the art programs at Park Place.

“Art attracts a certain group of people, sometimes people that may not fit in easily. But there’s a place for everyone here.”

Linda used to eat with the same people, but she’s so comfortable now that she likes to sit with different people every night. “That’s how I learn about everyone,” she says. “It just makes living here even better. You have all these people, and if you’re feeling lonely, you’re never far from a friend. We’re connected.”

Former teacher Cathy Shea’s career began in elementary education, but after finishing graduate school, she taught ethics at the university level. She now co-facilitates the monthly Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group. If you visit on Tuesdays at dinner, you’ll find her at what she calls the Tuesday Teacher’s Table.

“When you find another teacher, it’s almost an immediate connection,” she says.

Her group loves to talk about current events schools face today – everything from banned books to kids with cell phones. “We still love to discuss the issues even though we’re not actively involved in the classroom.”

Being connected to each other is more important than ever as you age, Cathy feels. “We have health problems. We suffer loss. Life can get hard,” she says. “But when you have someone to lean on during those times, the load gets lighter.”

This was never more true than when Cathy’s husband unexpectedly died. “My friendships here really got me through,” she says. “We’re bonded through our various life experiences. These relationships are invaluable.”

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