Eighty-five-year-old Luis Cajigas doesn't need much to keep him happy.
Cajigas, known as "el gallo," or the rooster, of El Barrio, loves spending time with his friends and family — three children, nine grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren — feasting on sopa de gandules and Kola Champagne soda and wheeling around on a motorized tricycle covered in roosters and adorned with a banner hailing his Puerto Rican hometown of Mayaguez.
"I love people. I love the world. I am not a millionaire, but I'm rich," said Cajigas, who was born in Puerto Rico and came to East Harlem, where he worked as a manager of a Carvel Ice Cream store and a building superintendent before retiring in his 60s.
Cajigas' life, and his insistence on living it despite a painful hernia and heart problems, is the subject of a year-long project called Exceeding Expectations, a project run by the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and led by journalist Dorian Block and Ruth Finkelstein, an anthropologist and health policy expert.
The project, which profiles 20 seniors whose lives defy stereotyping, is funded by the New York Community Trust.
Cajigas, whose life defies easy stereotypes of aging, is among the subjects of a year-long project by Columbia University's Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center and Mailman School of Public Health. Credit: Floor Flurij
The full story of Cajigas' life, which originally ran in Narratively, and those of his 19 peers in the project is available at www.exceedingexpectations.nyc or on Twitter or Facebook (@exceedingexpec).
To reach the Exceeding Expectations team, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Luis Cajigas, 85, displays his collection of hats on the wall of his home, along with a photo of him with mayor Michael Bloomberg. Credit: Dorian Block