SENIOR POWER: Meet some not-young members of the community.

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Thursday April 29, 2010 - 11:34:00 PM

Part 2: “…go with the flow.”  


Eighty-three year old Lawrance J. Phillips rents a “studio” in a Berkeley Section 8 project. (HUD subsidizes low-income seniors’ and disabled persons’ rents via the Section 8 program.) Born and raised in Iowa, Larry had a year of college. He feels secure in the streets of his community “most of the time.”  

His hearing and eyesight “could be better,” and he takes several prescription meds and uses the Veterans Administration health service. Larry serves on the North Berkeley Senior Center Advisory Council. He would like to see trips scheduled by the Center to the new Catholic Cathedral in Oakland, the Fox Theater and whale watching, also an Italian class. 

Asked, whether he has ever attended a Berkeley Commission on Aging meeting, Larry replies, “No, what do they do?” He is a member of the Peace and Freedom Party. Before retirement, he worked for an insurance company. He uses the central public library. Avatar was “too juvenile for me!” History is his preferred subject, currently reading R.R.Tolkien’s The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun. 




Berkeley resident Ying Lee has been a Kaiser patient for many years. She has an advance health care directive. She does not attend senior centers, uses the YMCA gym. When asked if she smokes, her response suggested that she once did but “gave it up.” She takes one prescription med and never took estrogen. She experienced a recent fracture, and has begun calcium and Vitamin D. Her main health problems are “hearing, fading eyesight and arthritic fingers.” Two years ago she fainted twice while driving. Now without car, she uses buses but not taxi scrip.  

Seventy-eight year old Ying Lee is a former member of the Berkeley Public Library board of trustees, although she borrows books from the University library. Her family consists of 2 children and a grandchild. Before retirement 10 years ago, she was employed as Barbara Lee’s legislative director. When asked about current volunteer work, she mentioned her concern for “peace and social justice issues”.  

Ying Lee’s favorite TV programs are Bill Moyer, Frontline, Nova, POV, Boston Legal, and Justice. [“Justice: What's The Right Thing to Do?” is on PBS KRCB Channel 22, taught by Harvard Professor Michael Sandel. Euthanasia is among the “issues” he considers. The entire series is available on the web.] 




Avis Worthington is a well known Gray Panther; she edits and writes the Berkeley chapter’s newsletter. She is 78 years old and has been “going to Kaiser” for 30 years, with “a little time off when…got divorced.” Yes, she has an advance health care directive. Her main problem is eyesight— macular degeneration, with cataract surgery in the offing. Still, she identified arthritis as her main health problem. When I asked about what she would do if she were alone and fell, she acknowledged that would be a problem. She recognizes the considerable difference between a rental that is ‘low income housing’ and one that is considered “affordable housing.”  

She’s from Wisconsin. Earned her B.A. degree in art history at the University of Illinois and M.A. in writing at San Francisco State. Avis drives her own car, but does not have a disabled person’s placard. My question prompted her intention to look into it! [It’s free. The application form is at ] 

Not surprising that she uses a Mac-- pre-retirement she was a writer. She attends the North Berkeley Senior Center and is an AARP and Wellstone Democrats member. She doesn’t use the public library, preferring to buy books and donate them. Her favorite TV programs are Monk and CSpan. 




Through thick and thin, 83-year old Jocelyn Ferguson is ready, willing and able, although getting her to discuss herself wasn’t easy. Joy was born in Trinidad and has completed university-level education. Before retirement, she was employed as a travel agent. When asked how ‘your’ senior center may have changed, her response was so Joy: “It offers a wide selection of Trips, Classes and Programs. There have been some changes with New Management, but this is bound to happen – there are changes every day in normal living, and we must be able to go with the flow.”  

For years, Joy has been caring for the flower beds in front of the North Berkeley Senior Center as well as tending her personal Strawberry Creek Lodge garden patch. She innovated, and is responsible for, the Center’s Friday after-lunch opera video series. She is a Gray Panther who prefers mystery novels -- currently reading Lynda LaPlante’s Above Suspicion -- and publications about opera. Movies that are “oldies,” like Turner Classics, appeal to her. She enjoys Hallmark and BBC Chanel 4 News. She has a pc and email.  

Not as “active as I used to be, and don’t attend many meetings anymore.”  

Joy’s main health problems are hypertension and asthma (she does not smoke). Hearing and eyesight are both good; arthritis is treated with aspirin and Icy Hot. She uses the Over 60 Health Center and does not have a power of attorney or advance health care directive. She is “not sure” of the difference between a nursing home and assisted living and was unaware of the Elmwood Nursing Home scandal in the news in March.  

Lucky Joy’s response is “Don’t have one,” when asked what is or has been her main housing problem, and she feels secure in her community. She lives alone in a Section 8 unit, and has family nearby. She screens incoming phone calls “most of the time.” Asked about her main transportation problem, again: “Don’t have one.” Joy manages her transportation with a formulation of automobile, taxi scrip, and bus. 


+ + + 


For your consideration:  


If you are eligible for a Disabled Person Placard, note that “When parking, hang the placard from the rear view mirror. REMOVE IT WHEN DRIVING.”  


CALL TO CONFIRM these May 2010 meetings of interest to senior citizens: 


When: Tuesday, May 4. Noon-1 PM 

What: Brown Bag meeting on public policy issues.  

Where: 1247 Marin Av., Albany branch, Alameda County library, Edith Stone Room  

Details: League of Women Voters-sponsored. Public is invited 

For more information: Ronnie Davis (510) 526-3720 x16  


When: Wednesday, May 5. 

What: CINCO DE MAYO special lunch. Reserve by May 3. ($8.00) 

Where: Emeryville Senior Center, 4321 Salem St.  

Details: Emeryville Senior Center programs, facilities, and services are for adults 50 years old+ who have completed a free membership application. 

For more info: (510) 596-3730.  


When: Wednesdays, May 5, 12, 19, 26. Noon-1 PM  

What: Play Readers at Central  

Where: Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 4th floor Story Room 

Details: Adults read aloud from great plays, changing parts frequently.  

For more info: (510) 981-6241 


When: Wednesday, May 5. 6-8 P.M. 

What: Lawyer in the Library.  

Where: 1247 Marin Av., Albany branch, Alameda County library 

Details: Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney. Advance registration required;  

For more information: Sign up at the Reference desk or call (510) 526-3720 ext. 5. 


When: Thursday, May 6. 1:30-3 P.M.  

What: “Seniors: Making Daily Activities Easier”  

Where: Albany Library, 1247 Marin AV.  

Details: Alameda County Library’s Karen Marshall demonstrates and discusses “Simple and Easy Gadgets & Other Devices.” Free. Refreshments.  

For more information: (510)745-1499, 526-3720. 


When: Thursdays, May 6, 13,20, 27. 10-11 A.M. 

What: Computers for Beginners at Central 

Where: Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge  

Details: Free, drop-in-classes - Self-Paced. Learn how to use the mouse and the keyboard, set up e-mail, and search the internet.  

For more information: (510) 981-6148 


When: Tuesday, May 11. 7-9 P.M. 

What: Second Tuesdays Poetry Reading and Open Mic 

Where: 1247 Marin Av., Albany Branch, Alameda County Library. 

Details: Free.  

For more info: Vivian Jaquette (510) 526-3720 x20.  

When: Saturday, May 15. 11am – 12 noon 

What: Landlord/Tenant Counseling at Central 

Where: Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 2nd Floor - Berkeley History Room  

Details:Berkeley Rent Board housing counselors offer free, one-on-one counseling  


When: Wednesday, May 26. 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM 

What: Great Books Discussion: Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. 

Where: 1247 Marin Av., Albany Branch, Alameda County Library. 

Details: Lively discussion of selected Great Books, led by Rosalie Gonzales.  

For more information: Ronnie Davis (510) 526-3720 x16  

When: Thursday, May 27. 12:30-3 P.M. 

What: Older Americans Month High Tea. Entertainment.  

Where: Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Av.  

Details: $4.00 per person includes light lunch and tea. Reserve a table.  

For more information: (510) 524-9122  



Helen Rippier Wheeler can be reached at  

No email attachments; use “Senior Power” for subject.