Senior Power: We live in a death-denying, death-defying culture....

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Monday May 23, 2011 - 03:51:00 PM

We live in a death-denying, death-defying culture declares seventy-year old Jane Ellen Brody, the high priestess of health, per Time magazine. Our attitudes about life affect our attitudes about death. Brody’s Guide to the Great Beyond -- “a practical primer to help you and your loved ones prepare medically, legally, and emotionally for the end of life” -- is especially good on advance directives (file your living will with the U.S. Registry of Living Wills), assisted dying, and palliative treatment (relieving pain without curing). Compassion & Choices online bookstore carries this Guide to the Great Beyond. 

Compassion & Choices is an organization dedicated to the care and rights of terminally ill patients, including those seeking physician aid in dying. An excellent guide to help people prepare advanced directives can be downloaded from or call 1-800-247-7421. 

More Recommended Reading: 

Gardening For a Lifetime: How to Garden Wiser As You Grow Older, by Sydney Eddison. Illustrated. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2010. 

Seventy-nine year old Eddison shares her personal transition from dynamic garden maker to an aging garden caretaker, with advice for gardeners who are approaching the time in their lives when a garden sanctuary can feel like a burden. Includes a chapter on container gardening. 


Lenore Waters shared Aaron Glantz’s article, “Census: More than 25 Percent of Bay Area Seniors Live Alone…” (May 11, 2011 The Bay Citizen.) The Bay Area is getting older, and many of the region’s senior citizens live alone. More than 220,000 Bay Area residents 65+ live by themselves, an increase of approximately 30,000 over the past decade. The growth in the region's older population comes at a time when the state is dramatically cutting services to senior citizens. Women are twice as likely as men to live on their own. They are more likely to be dependent on Social Security as a primary source of income and tend to be heavily dependent on social services currently being cut by politicians. B. J. Bryan of the Older Women’s League notes that getting around is perhaps the biggest issue for seniors living alone, especially when health issues begin to impair the ability to drive. 

New York’s Council of Senior Centers and Services’ Advocacy Day Coordinator Matt Hynes wrote to share a YouTube video from May 11 City Advocacy Day to oppose Department of Aging cuts. Director of Public Policy Bobbie Sackman and New York City Council Member Charles Barron spoke. Other Council Members attended or sent representatives. 2011 CSCS Advocacy Day Press Conference. 7 videos.  

The POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) form indicates which types of life-sustaining treatment a seriously ill patient wants. POLST helps give patients more control over their end-of-life care, and should complement an advance directive, not take the place of it. POLST has been in use since January 2009 and recently went through a revision effective April 1, 2011. Changes were made to the form based on actual usage from the medical field. Because the POLST must be signed by your physician, speak to her/him to obtain a copy. POLST forms are printed on ultra pink card stock so they are easily recognizable by emergency medical staff. Previously filled out POLST forms are still valid. 

The National Council on Aging has issued a lengthy facts sheet about senior centers. Recognized by the Older Americans Act as a community focal point, senior centers have become one of the most widely used services among America’s older adults. Nearly 11,000 senior centers serve 1 million older adults every day. Approximately 70% of senior center participants are women; half of them live alone. The majority are Caucasian, followed by African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians. Compared with their peers, senior center participants have higher levels of health, social interaction, and life satisfaction and lower levels of income. The average age of participants is 75. 75% of participants visit their center 1-3 times per week and spend an average of 3.3 hours per visit. 

MARK YOUR CALENDAR : May, June, July 2011 And be sure to confirm date, time, place. 

Now until Sunday, May 29 Photos show at Farley’s, 1195 65 St., Emeryville (San Pablo and 65 St.). The art will be on display during cafe business hours: Monday - Friday: 7:30 A.M. – 4:30 P.M.; Saturday: 8 A.M. - 4:30 P.M. MY GEMS/MY TREASURES is a showcase of work by local artists working in the medium of digital photography. All of these artists are connected by the North Oakland Senior Center and a free digital photography and image manipulation course recently offered at the Center. For information: (510) 597-5085. 

Wednesday, May 25 2 P.M. Alameda Free Library (1550 Oak Street—corner of Lincoln). 90-minute presentation entitled “Laughing for the Health of It.” Free. No reservations required. Refreshments. 

Thursday, May 26 1:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, a division of the Alameda Recreation and Park Department, at 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Music Appreciation Class. Join volunteer William Sturm for "The Nocturne: From Chopin to Faure". Mr. Sturm will discuss and play various pieces by Field, Chopin, and Faure. Preregister in the Mastick Office or call 747-7506. 

Thursday, May 26 The documentary, How to Die in Oregon, will premier on HBO and be available "On Demand" for HBO subscribers beginning May 27. It follows the decisions and experiences of people preparing for and using Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. 

Thursday, May 26, 1:00 - 3:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Celebrate Spring With Dancing and Fun! Hawaiian Fling dance in the Mastick Social Hall. $2 per person (volunteers are free). Mastick’s own Wahine U’I Dance Group, David Henry, D.J., Norma Nocera, line dance instructor. (510) 747-7510. 

Thursday, May 26, 6 P.M. West Berkeley Pubic Library. Free. Lawyers in the Library. Free. Information: (510) 981-6100. 

Tuesday, May 31 11:30 A.M. Fall Prevention. Free.Jewish Community Center of the East Bay. Consult Join the JCC East Bay for a discussion and tips on reducing your chance of falling. More than one-third of adults age 65 and older will fall at least once a year! Falls are a leading cause of injury and even death in older adults, but they can be avoided. Facilitated by Andrew Teran of Vital Link. 

Wednesday, June 1 Noon. Playreaders, Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Meets weekly to read aloud from great plays, changing parts frequently. Intended for adult participants. Free. Also June 8, 15, 22 and 28. (510) 981-6160. 

Wednesday, June 1 9 A.M. – 1:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. AARP Driver Safety Refresher Course specifically designed for motorists who are 50+. To qualify, you must have taken the standard course within the last 4 years. Preregistration is a must. There is a $12 per person fee for AARP members (AARP membership number required) and $14 per person fee for non-AARP members. (510) 747-7510. 

Wednesday, June 1 10 A.M.-Noon North Berkeley Senior Center Advisory Council, 1901 Hearst. (510) 981-5190. 

Thursday, June 2 10 A.M. Computers for Beginners. Central Berkeley Public Library. Free, Drop-In Classes - Relaxed Atmosphere - Self-Paced. Learn how to use the mouse, use the keyboard, set up e-mail and search the Internet. Also June 9, 16, 23, 30. 510-981-6148.  

Friday, June 3, 12:30 p.m. Downtown Oakland Senior Center, 2000 Grand Avenue. Movie-Lecture Series continues with Sanity and Secrets in Suddenly, Last Summer. Center Director Jennifer D. King will present this controversial 1959 classic and lead a discussion of the themes explored in this movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn. Free but you must RSVP by calling (510) 238-3284 or signing up at the Reception Desk. Refreshments. 

Saturday, June 4. Giant community flea market to raise funds for senior programs. 

North Oakland Senior Center, 5714 MLK, Oakland. For information: (510) 597-5085. 

Monday, June 6 6-6:50 P.M. Evening Computer Class. Central Berkeley Public Library. Free drop-in computer class for beginners. (510) 981-6148. Also June 13, 20, 27. 

Thursday, June 6 5 P.M.,6 – 7:45 P.M. Lawyers in the Library, West. West Branch Library. Free legal advice. Sign-ups begin at 5 P.M. . “Names put in random order at 6 P.M.” Also June 23. 

Wednesday, June 8 10 A.M. Emeryville Commission on Aging. Meets monthly on 2nd Wednesday, at the Senior Center. Confirm (510) 596-3730. 

Thursday, June 9 5 P.M.,6 – 7:45 P.M. Lawyers in the Library, South. South Branch Library, 1901 Russell St., Free legal advice and help with questions on such problems as employment, consumer, landlord/tenant, and domestic law. Referrals to Alameda County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service, or to an appropriate free or low-cost legal service provider, if further help is necessary. Wheelchair accessible. In-person sign-ups only; sign-ups begin at 5 P.M. . Names pulled by lottery at 6 P.M.  

Thursday, June 9 7 -8:45 P.M. Café Literario. West Branch Library, 1125 University Avenue. Part 2 of facilitated discussion in Spanish of Julio Cortazar’s Rayuela. Cortazar (1914-1984) was an Argentine poet, short story writer, and translator whose pseudonym was Julio Denis. Rayuela, es la gran novela de Julio Cortázar. El libro donde el escritor argentino supo condensar sus propias obsesiones estéticas, literarias y vitales en un mosaico casi inagotable donde toda una época se vio maravillosamente reflejada. 

Tuesday, June 14 10 A.M. Mastick Senior Center. VA Benefits and YOU! Michael Ennis, Alameda County Veterans Service Officer, will provide an overview of VA Benefits. To reserve a seat, sign up in the office or call 747-7506. 

Wednesday, June 15 Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Advocates from around the world set out to promote awareness, in an attempt to prevent elder abuse, the “silent epidemic” that is unacceptable in any language or circumstance. More in June 8 and 15 Senior Power columns. 

Wednesday, June 15 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging. Meets on 3rd Wednesday at South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis. Call to confirm (510) 981-5178. 

Saturday, June 18 11 A.M. – Noon. Landlord/Tenant Counseling, Central Berkeley Public Library. Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board housing counselors offer free, one-on-one counseling sessions. (Third Saturday each month Contact Jacquelyn Morgan for more information at 510-981-7368 Ext 4917. 

Wednesday, June 22 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM Albany branch of the Alameda County Library. Great Books Discussion Group. Discussion Group meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month. This month's book is A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf. Rosalie Gonzales facilitates the discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. (510) 526-3720 x16  

Tuesday, June 28 3-4 P.M. Tea and Cookies at the Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read. (Monthly on the 4th Tuesday ) (510) 981-6100. 

Friday, July 15 8 A.M. – 2 P.M. Compassion & Choices of Northern California is a participant in the Healthy Living Festival. Oakland Zoo, 9777 Golf Links Road. For information, email 

Wednesday, July 20 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging. Meets on 3rd Wednesday at South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis. Call to confirm (510) 981-5178.  

Helen Rippier Wheeler can be reached at Please, no email attachments or phone calls.