Senior Power: The Future

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Monday January 10, 2011 - 06:16:00 PM

Telling the future by looking at the past assumes that conditions remain constant. This is like driving a car by looking in the rearview mirror.”--Herb Brody 

Life review was described by Dr. Robert N. Butler, M.D. (1927-2010) as “a normal developmental task of the later years, characterized by the return of memories and past conflicts. Life review can result in resolution, reconciliation, atonement, integration and serenity. It can occur spontaneously, or it can be structured. Reminiscence, simply recalling events or periods of one's life, is only one aspect of a life review; although it can be therapeutic, it is usually not evaluative.” 

Other definitions and perceptions of life review are mostly in the near-deathand out-of-body experience or life flashing before one’s eyes zones. 

Butler was both an aging scholar and a scholar of aging. John Q. Trojanowski, M.D., Ph.D. (1946- ) directs the Institute on Aging at the University of Pennsylvania and co-directs its Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research. He identifies lifestyle factors that may help lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Among them is cognitively stimulating activity. He has visited The Quadrangle to speak with the residents about these factors. 

The Quadrangle is a Sunrise Senior Living Community located in Haverford, Pennsylvania. This retirement community’s “dining room resounds with literate conversation, and in the well-stocked library, an entire bookcase is filled with volumes penned by present and former residents. It's a place where people are less interested in the size of your investment portfolio than in what you're reading.” [Nov. 10, 2010 Philadelphia Inquirer “Seniors wrap their minds around Joyce's Ulysses”] 

They have been meeting to read aloud from Ulysses, a dense and complex masterpiece of English literature that many have started, few have finished, and fewer still have understood. "This is not a book for sissies," says Mark Ball, a Quadrangle resident and the group's convener and master of ceremonies. "It's outrageously experimental and modernist. Joyce was brilliant, proud, and pretentious. He thought he was writing the greatest book of the 20th century, if not all time. He put himself in first place ahead of Shakespeare.” 

Trojanowski commends reading and discussing Ulysses (he says he read it long ago.) "But you may get the same benefit from reading comic books or the Bible or doing a crossword puzzle. The evidence is hazy." 

Each to her/his own cognitively stimulating activities. Somehow I doubt that any of the Quadrangle folks have public library cards, although it’s likely they have bank accounts, and families too. 




Book Club To Go  

I used to have a Berkeley Adult School Lifelong Learningclass at the North Berkeley Senior Center. I called it Strong Women. While not a book club per se, we did sometimes consider books by and about women who were strong in numerous ways. 

But my commitment to senior center classes that are free and without required purchases was a problem. It interfered with every class member having a copy of what we were reading or otherwise considering as a group. There were those for whom a $20.00 outlay was no big deal. Some advocated taking a collection—like “voluntary contributions” for flu shots! I was never really satisfied with my make-do solution of photocopying fragments, which was time-consuming and not cheap either.  

When Oprah Winfrey started her book club in 1996, interest in reading, literature, and book clubs got a shot in the arm. Public libraries have long been expected to respond to popular demand for books suitable for book club discussion. Groups often seek author information, book reviews, discussion questions, and material to improve and to publicize their experience as well as how-to information about forming and conducting book clubs. One of the great challenges faced by libraries in supporting book discussion groups is supplying enough copies for each group member of the book being discussed. 

The Johnson County, Kansas Library staff reviewed its reader services in connection with meeting the goals of its own strategic plan and for addressing the National Endowment for the Arts’ Reading at Risk report ( The strategic plan charges staff with providing convenient and personalized materials for patrons; it had already identified book club discussion kits as an objective. 

Each of the Berkeley Public Library’s Book Club To Go’s kits includes 8 copies of one title, information on how to run a book club, biographical information about the author, and (when available from the publisher) a discussion guide. A list of 31 available titles can be found in the library catalog by searching on Book Club To Go.  


The Alzheimer's Project features a four-part documentary series. 

Contents : Disc 1: The memory loss tapes; Grandpa, do you know who I am? with Maria Shriver. Disc 2: Momentum in science (parts 1 & 2). Disc 3: Momentum in science: the supplementary series [12 segments]. Originally broadcast in 2009. The DVDs of these 3 discs are in the collection of the Berkeley Public Library. Closed-captioned; English with optional English or Spanish subtitles. 

The Emeryville Senior Center wants you to know that it’s not going anywhere! It’s still at 4321 Salem Street. The Emeryville Center for Community Life will be a new facility blending the Emeryville secondary School with a state of the art Recreation Center, enabled by passage of Measure J. 

Colleen, Oona and Vivian. These are three of Berkeley’s hard-working and talented public servants. Their full names and specific job responsibilities are generally unknown by the public. What is it that they have in common? 

First correct responder will receive a copy of a Berkeley author-autographed book. (