Senior Power: Potpourri

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Tuesday April 05, 2011 - 10:18:00 PM

This week’s column is a potpourri-- a collection of miscellaneous or diverse items. 

One of the requests shared last week (Q&A column, March 30 Planet) related to avoiding outdoor falls, a wise concern inasmuch as the elderly are often associated with being indoors, and falling may lead to avoiding going outdoors. I made a few feeble suggestions. 

But wait -- there’s more! Handling bifocals and avoiding falls outdoors can be a problem. In a study published in medical journal BMJ, Australian researchers found a decrease in the number of falls among people who switched to single-vision eyeglasses for outdoor activities and stairs. The results “demonstrated how multifocal glasses can impair visual abilities needed for detecting obstacles and judging depth.” A caveat from this study: Some participants fell in the process of switching glasses. 


Most meetings of the Berkeley City Council are televised (Channel 33), and usually an agenda appears online shortly before the meeting. The March 29, 2011 agenda included several items worthy of senior citizens’ note. 

#26: “Taxicab Improvements in Berkeley and Request for Formal Response to Berkeley Taxi Cab Association” [BTCA] was from District 7 Councilmember Kriss Worthington [, (510) 981-7170 and 7177], who recommended “Refer to the City Manager a comprehensive number of issues concerning taxi operations in the City of Berkeley, and request that the City Manager formally respond, in writing, to Berkeley Taxi Cab Association's October 4 letter and accompanying grievances.” Kriss’ suggested alternatives included provision of “additional times for taxi operators to trade in their taxi scrip for money.” This reminded me that a cab driver had told me that he never "goes in there" to redeem scrip-- he simply accumulates the scrip and -- like other drivers -- turns it all over to "the owner" who redeems it. 

Incredibly, the BTCA’s grievances demand that not all drivers be finger-printed! And they impose "other cities of the bay" [sic] not requiring all taxi cab drivers be finger-printed as an analogy, which should be rejected or at least refuted. 

The BTCA's references in both their Grievances and Rules and Regulations to being "always engaged in handling people with special cases i.e. blind, disable, sickness and old age" [sic] is falsity. From experience, observation and reports, I know that senior citizens are ignored, neglected, avoided, and abused. There is no point in reporting scrip rejected by drivers, scrip thrown back in passengers' faces, phoning for a cab that does not show up when the address is senior housing. Many old people (whether scrip users or not) hesitate to respond to abuse and to report it. Fear often accompanies old age. Senior center directors could but do not provide forums for such matters. 

#27: “Send a Letter to AC Transit Asking to Implement Ease-of-Boarding Featuresof BRT.” Kriss recommended sending “a letter to AC Transit, asking to participate in two key aspects of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT): level boarding and prepaid boarding.” 

Action Calendar #30: “Support AARP's Petition to Oppose Social Security and Medicare Benefit Cuts” recommended sending a letter to Senators Dianne Feinstein Senator Barbara Boxer supporting AARP’s petition to oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits. 



Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature have reached an agreement on the 2011-12 Executive Budget. It includes restoration of Title XX funding for senior centers, keeping 105 senior centers open for operation for 10,000 older New Yorkers. A ground swell of advocacy efforts moved this issue forward. Older New Yorkers, and other concerned citizens led the efforts by organizing dozens of rallies, making thousands of phone calls, and writing thousands of emails/letters to Governor Cuomo and the legislature.  

Some elderly Americans got a surprise visit on March 23. Across the country, 1,500 mayors delivered hot meals to seniors as part of the sixth annual event. The Meals on Wheels Association of America reports that 1 in 9, or 5 million, seniors are hungry. Many Americans assume incorrectly that seniors are being taken care of by Social Security. Unlike themillions of children who struggle with hunger each day, the problem isn't always about money; rather, it is a lack of access or ability to prepare food due to transportation or health problems. For more information on Meals on Wheels and how you can get involved, visit the Meals on Wheels website

ACT NOW: According to the National Council on Aging, Congress will shortly vote on a budget proposal that may include massive, historic cuts in seniorprograms that provide jobs, housing, and volunteer opportunities for older Americans. Already, the House has passed a bill that would: 

Cut the Senior Community Service Employment Program, thenation’s only jobs program, eliminating jobs for more than 83,000 poor seniors. 

Abolish the Senior Corps program—"firing" more than 450,000 senior volunteers in the Foster Grandparent, RSVP, and Senior Companion programs. 

Cut the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderlyprogramby a two-thirds reduction. 

Email your lawmakers before these cuts become law. Urge them to reject cuts in senior programs that provide jobs, housing, and volunteer opportunities for older Americans. Congress will vote within two weeks on the FY11 funding bill, and is considering massive cuts. 


"Older lesbians, gays have higher rates of chronic disease, mental distress, isolation," reports the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging is the country's first and only technical assistance resource center aimed at improving the quality of services and supports offered to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Established in 2010 through a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Center provides training, technical assistance and educational resources to aging providers, LGBT organizations and LGBT older adults. It is a project of Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) in partnership with several organizations. 


Donna Davis reports that the BAS Poetry Workshop at the North Berkeley Senior Center “is an endless delight.” To her amazement, every Thursday morning people enter the classroom, read her prompt, and start writing--like turning on some miraculous faucet--and remarkable poems come forth. 


Wednesday, April 6, noon. Free admission. Andrew Imbrie Festival Birthday concert. University Symphony Orchestra, David Milnes, conductor. Violin concerto, Ariana Kim, soloist. UCB Department of Music. (510) 642-4864. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011: The Friends of Albany Seniors will hold its annual White Elephant & Bake Sale. Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic ve. Bargains in handcrafted items, jewelry, books, toys, housewares, baked goods. Proceeds support the Albany Senior Center. Donated goods (except large furniture, electronics, clothing) are welcome; contact Zion Lee, Program Coordinator, Albany Senior Center, 510-524-9131. 

Sunday, April 10, 11 AM, 125 Morrison Hall (Elkus Room). Free admission. Symposium on contemporary music. After the symposium, view the Andrew Imbrie Exhibit at the Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library. (510) 642-4864. 

Sunday, April 10, 3 PM, Hertz Concert Hall. Free admission. Andrew Imbrie Festival concert. UC,B Department of Music (510) 642-4864. 

Thursday, April 14, 12:00 noon – 1:30 Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress is the title of presenter Candacy Taylor’s 2009 book and of her presentation. Free, refreshments. Three of the chapter titles may give you an idea of why the cover picture’s waitress has aged arms: The waitressing stigma; The generation gap; Refusing to retire. Photographer, writer and former waitress, Candacy Taylor uses interviews, cultural criticism, photography, and oral histories to document an overlooked group of working women, profiling waitresses aged 50 + in American neighborhood diners. AgeSong SeniorCommunity. For information and directions, contact Cherriebianca San Pietro at and (877) 243 - 7664. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011 5-7 P.M.: Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress is the title of presenter Candacy Taylor’s 2009 book and of her presentation at UCB Stephen’s Hall, Room 460 (area 5C on campus map.) RSVP to

Thursday, April 21 - Older Adult Passover Seder – Jewish Community Center of the East Bay, Berkeley. 11:30am-1:30pm - $10 JCC Member / $13 Non-Member
The event sells out each year. RSVP by April 14. Call JCC Front Desk at 510-848-0237.Kosher meal will include chicken and matzo ball soup, gefilte fish with horseradish sauce, fresh green salad w/ hard boiled eggs, roasted chicken, matzoh kugel, and wine. The Seder will be led by Ron Feldman and Achi Ben Shalom. 


Helen Rippier Wheeler can be reached at Please, no email attachments or phone calls; use “Senior Power” for subject.