Senior Power… “Always my best day of the week.” Part 1.

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Thursday October 20, 2011 - 12:01:00 PM

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859), famous for his Democracy in America, wrote about Americans, “I have often admired the extreme skill they show in proposing a common object for the exertions of very many and in inducing them voluntarily to pursue it.”

The traditions of community service and citizen participation have long been at the heart of American civic culture, through town meetings, local school systems, political parties, hospital auxiliaries, and national and local organizations. Many Americans act on the need to give something back to their communities. There’s a good feeling that can come from commitment to an unpaid responsibility that impacts others positively. Some activities that are considered voluntary provide compensation or remuneration in kind.  

Volunteering is the practice of people working in behalf of others or a cause without payment for their time and services. It is usually considered an altruistic activity, intended to promote good or improve quality of life. People also volunteer for their own skill development, to meet others, to make contacts for possible employment, to have fun, and a variety of other reasons that might be considered self-serving. One’s skills and time enter into the give and get back equation. Volunteerism is the reliance on volunteers to perform social or educational work in communities, to maintain an institution, carry out a policy, or achieve an end. 

Work placement programs cannot handle the influx of elderly retirees seeking jobs. Now, more than ever, volunteers are needed. How come most senior citizen-volunteers are women? That’s easy – most people over the age of – say, sixty – are women. O K, so how come most men age 60+ do not volunteer in the same numbers? A cautionary tale applies to some older adults in some senior housing projects and senior centers. Beware role assignment by the would-be social worker who judges and screens [out] applicants. 

There’s a special-interest subpopulation of grandparents who are parenting again. But are they volunteers? Heard about Rent-A-Grandma, profiled in Entrepreneur Magazine? National Public Radio (NPR) reported “a new employment agency is recruiting women of a certain age for a job many working families desperately need to fill: someone to care for their children.” One listener responded that he doesn’t “think that this is an entirely bad idea. We have many older people, men and women who are unemployed and because of their age might not be employed again before their retirement age. At the same time, we have loads of people who have to work and need child care which is very expensive. Maybe it is a win-win for some?”  

The Berkeley Information Network -- the Berkeley Public Library’s BIN -- is a good place to start a search for almost anything anywhere. Go online. Keyword. The Library’s own application form for prospective volunteers is available online.  

Whether you are “an agency” or a prospective volunteer, check out the Volunteer Center of the East Bay.  


Senior citizens often volunteer their services in hospitals, senior centers and schools. 

Hospital volunteers typically work without regular pay in a variety of health care settings, usually under supervision of an employee. Hospitals often train and supervise volunteers through a non-profit auxiliary.  

Volunteers' services are important to the American health care system. Some people volunteer during high school or college, either out of curiosity about health-care occupations and professions or in order to satisfy community service requirements of some schools and courts. Others volunteer at later stages in their lives, particularly after retirement. The “candy striper” nickname derived from cutsey outfits worn by cutsey volunteers. The name and uniform are now less frequently used. Miss Cutsey has pretty much been replaced by Ms Older Woman in a smock. 

Recently, when I picked up a friend from day surgery, I noted not-young people staffing the hospital front desk. And when some fabulous fire fighter-paramedics brought me to the Alta Bates Hospital Emergency Department and we waited in the cold narthex, I heard a "mature" male voice say "I am a volunteer. I'll get you something to keep you warm." I wanted to interview someone like him for a Senior Power column about volunteers! 

Apparently my guy was an “ER Customer Service Liaison.” The Hospital’s Volunteer website provides an Adult Volunteer Application form that offers skills choices: accounting, computer data entry, foreign languages, training. Bottom line, the Public Relations Regional Manager was enthusiastic about my interest in interviewing senior citizens as volunteers in a hospital setting. But she insists on being present at all interviews. Mine are all one-on-one, and each subject is then provided with a pre-publication draft. 


Senior centers provide a perfect example of opportunity to volunteer in behalf of the good life for fellow senior citizens. Many retired seniors have training, bilingualism, or experience in areas that community senior centers need, e.g. education, medicine, management, technology, advocating. The welcoming greetings of senior citizens who are front desk volunteers and telephone responders are strategic to implementing the goals of many senior centers.  

Volunteers who deliver Meals on Wheels to the homebound additionally save the expense of paid drivers’ salaries. In these times, most salaried senior center-staffing is unjustified; turning off senior citizens who volunteer is inexcusable. A Berkeley senior center - Aging Services - Meals on Wheels application form titled “Volunteer Registration” is available online.  

Visit online or in person senior centers whose events are listed in the Mark Your Calendar section.  

I was interested in interviewing a senior center volunteer. A North Berkeley Senior Center gent turned me down (“… do not want to do anything that may cause a problem”); likewise, the director wouldn’t respond to my request for an interview location!  


Schools rely heavily on donations and on volunteer parents, grandparents and community members. In next week’s column Part Two, meet a Berkeley schools volunteer who explains why his weekly day in a unique elementary school is “Always my best day of the week.” 



Senior citizens also volunteer nationally and internationally, e.g. 

U.S. federal government program created under President Bill Clinton by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, later expanded under President George W. Bush. The work done by these groups ranges from public education to environmental clean-up. 

Experience Corps

Americans older than 55 years tutor and mentor children in urban public schools across the country. San Francisco and Marin.  

Meals on Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) 

Provides home-delivered meals services to people in need. On October 3, 2011 Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee announced the award of $315,667 to the Meals on Wheels Association of America to establish a new National Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging. 

Peace Corps 

An American volunteer program run by the United States Government, as well as a government agency of the same name, in which Bessie ‘Miz Lillian’ Gordy Carter (18981983), mother of former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, was also known as a Peace Corps volunteer in India.  

Skilled Veterans Corps for Fukushima 

The Japanese government is promoting “purpose of life” for independent elders through senior citizens’ clubs and participation in volunteer organizations. Seventy-two year old Yasuteru Yamada decided it would be better to send men and women who have finished raising families, rather than younger workers whose lives could be cut short by extreme radiation exposure, to Fukushima. The Corps consists of 500+ seniors like grandmother Kazuko Sasaki.  


This is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening communities by making it easier for good people and good causes to connect, best known for its public Web service available at The organization works with clients in technology, manufacturing, packaged goods, financial services, and others industries. 


MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Call to confirm, date, time and place. Readers are welcome to share news of events that may interest boomers, seniors and elders. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred. 


Sunday, Oct.23. 2-3 P.M. The Albany Library (Community Center Hall, 1237 Marin Av.) presents Laurie King, author of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. 510-526-3720. 

Mondays, Oct. 24, 26 and 31. 10A.M. – 12 Noon. Oliver Guinn, PhD Economics, returns to teach “Our Damaged Economy: The Financial Meltdown and Economic Inequality.” Free. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

Tuesday, Oct. 25. 1 P.M. AC Transit and YOU! Representatives from United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County will inform about the Regional Transit Connection (RTC) Discount Card Program, Clipper Card, route changes, and the 10-year AC Transit Fare Policy. Refreshments. Free. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

Tuesday, Oct. 25. 3 - 4 P.M. Tea and Cookies. Central Berkeley Public Library. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday, Oct. 26. 12:15 P.M. – 1 P.M. Noon Concert Series Performing Arts - UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. Tony Lin, piano. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864. 

Wednesday, Oct. 26. 1 P.M. Berkeley Gray Panthers meets at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. Free. 510-548-9696. 

Wednesday, Oct. 26. 1:30-2:30 P.M. Alameda County Library Albany branch. 1247 Marin Av. Great Books Discussion Group. Roman Fever, Edith Wharton short story. Facilitated discussion. Books available at the Library. Parking! 510-526-3720 x 16. 

Wednesday, Oct. 26. 6:30 P.M The Jewish Community Center of the East Bay (1414 Walnut Street, Berkeley and 5811 Racine Street, Oakland) Planning meeting for Mitzvah Day on May 20. Do you know an organization that could benefit from a crew of volunteers? Would you like to be matched up with an existing volunteer site? Noah Zaves, the JCC's Program Coordinator,

Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 26/Sacramento and 27/South San Francisco, 2011 .  

"Dementia Care Without Drugs - A Better Approach for Long-term Care Facilities" symposia about misuse of psychotropic drugs as treatment for dementia, difficulty in managing dementia treatment, and non-pharmacological approaches to care. CANHR staff attorney Tony Chicotel presentation, "Stop Drugging Our Elders!" California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform 415-974-5171. Fax 415-777-2904.  

Thursday, Oct. 27. 12:30 P.M. Celebrating a birthday in October? Cake, music, 

balloons, and good cheer. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. . 510-747-7506. 

Thursday, Oct. 27 1- 3 P.M. Fall Dance Halloween Stomp. Come in costume, be eligible for “best costume award,” door prizes, refreshments. Volunteers free; others, $2.00 per person. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

Thursday, Oct. 27 1:30 P.M. Music Appreciation with William Sturm, Volunteer Instructor. Piano recital and discussion on “The Sceptered Isle: Music of England”. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

Thursday, Oct. 27. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. Berkeley Public Library West branch. 1125 University. 510-981-6270.  

Saturday, Oct. 29. 12:15 P.M. Halloween Bingo Bash. Patrons will receive a free Halloween dauber (ink marker) compliments of Center Advisory Board and Bingo Committee. Doors open at 10:00 A.M., with the first game at 12:15 P.M. 18 years of age+ are welcome. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av. 510-747-7506. 


Tuesday, Nov. 1. 12 Noon – 2 P.M. League of Women Voters. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720 x 16. The League of Women Voters invites you to join them. 

Tuesday, Nov. 1. 6 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. Discussion: School violence-- myths and realities. 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday(s), Nov. 2 and 9. 9 A.M. – 1 P.M. AARP Driver Safety Program. Preregistration required. $12. for AARP members, $14. for others. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. Note: FREE for ALL Veterans in November.  

Wednesday, Nov. 2. 12 Noon. Playreaders. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. Also Nov. 9, 16, 23, and 30.  

Wednesday, Nov. 2. 1 P.M. Mastick Book Club members review One Day by David Nicholls. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506, -7510. Free.  

Wednesday, Nov. 2. 1-2 P.M. Jewelry Making for Adults, with Yu Lan. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720 x 17.  

Wednesday, Nov. 2. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Free. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-0660. 

Wednesday, Nov. 2. 7 P.M. Democracy For America Meetup. Pizza 6:30 P.M. Presentation at 7 P.M. Rockridge Library, 5433 College Ave., Oakland. Contact Nancy M. Friedman at

Thursday, Nov. 3. 10 A.M. – 12 Noon. Literacy Reading Club. Practice English conversation. Albany Library, 1257 Marin Av. 510-745-1480. Also Nov. 10, 17. 

Thursday, November 3. 1:30 P.M. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720. SOCIAL SECURITY & MEDICARE. Free workshop. Speaker Mariaelena Lemus from the Social Security Administration. For older adults, family members, service providers. Reservations not required. Continuing into December, program will be presented throughout the Alameda County Library system; for a list of dates and locations, check the Alameda County Library system website. Older Adult Services at 510-745-1491. 

Thursday, November 3. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library at South Branch, Berkeley Public Library, 1901 Russell. 510-981-6260. Also, Nov. 10 and 30.  

Friday, Nov. 4. 6 P.M. Legal Assistance for Seniors’ 35th Anniversary Gala. Oakland Marriott City Center Ballroom, 1001 Broadway. 510-832-3040.  

Saturday, Nov. 5. Book Into Film: The Last Station. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6236 for required registration. 

Sunday, Nov. 6. 2 P.M. Performers’ showcase. At Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Participants from the weekly Playreaders program present scenes from classic and contemporary plays. 510-981-6241. 

Sunday, Nov. 6. 3-5 P.M. Cuban Music & Dance, refreshments. At Redwood Gardens, 2951 Derby Street, Berkeley. Benefit Performance for the Berkeley-Palma Soriano Cuban Sister-City Association. To support December solidarity brigade delegation to Cuba. Street parking. AC #49 (Counterclockwise) stops in front. Sliding scale donation $10-25.00, no one turned away for lack of funds. Contact: Dana Merryday 510-464-4615. 

Monday, Nov. 7. 9:30 – 11:30 A.M. Roger Baer, Volunteer Instructor, returns to teach his American Backgrounds 7-weeks course. Free. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Wednesday, Nov. 9. 6:30-8 P.M. Drop-in poetry writing workshop. Free. Albany Library. 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-0660. 

Thursday, Nov. 10. 10 – 11:30 A.M. Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506  

Thursday, Nov. 10. 10:30 A.M. New Member Orientation & YOU! Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. Complimentary lunch provided by Bay Area Community Services (BACS). Registration required. 510-747-7506.  

Saturday, Nov. 12. 12 Noon. Beef Bowl Anime Club meeting for adults. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720 x 16. 

Monday, Nov. 14, 11:30 A.M. & 12 Noon. J-Sei Center, 110 Carleton St., Berkeley. Lecture “Do You Have the Right Insurance?” Speaker: Darrell Doi-CLTC Financial Advisor. To place a reservation for the lecture and/or lunch, call 510-883-1106. 

Monday, Nov. 14. 12:30 P.M. – 1:30P.M. Brown Bag Lunch Speaker’s Forum: Bob Lewis, Birds of the Bay Trail cosponsored by Albany YMCAnd Albany library at 1257 Marin Av. 510-526-3720 x 16. 

Tuesday, Nov. 15 is Annual National Memory Screening Day. http:///

Tuesday, Nov. 15. 1 P.M. Falls Prevention Discussion Group. Senior Injury Prevention Project. Participants will receive a Falls Prevention Manual and other useful, easy to read information. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Tuesday, Nov. 15. 7 P.M. Author Showcase. Annette Fuentes, investigative reporter and author of Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse, is an op ed contributor to USA Today. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Avenue. 510-526-7512. 

Wednesday, Nov. 16. 11 A.M. Outreach Specialist Colleen Fawley (510-981-6160) will visit J-Sei Senior Center, 1710 Carleton Way, Berkeley, to answer questions and take requests for books and magazines available from the Berkeley Public Library in Japanese and English. 510-883-1106. 

Wednesday, Nov. 16. 7 – 8 P.M. Adult Evening Book Group. Facilitated discussion . Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av., 510-526-3720.  

Thursday, Nov 17. 10 A.M. – 12 Noon. Free dental consultation with Dr. Alfred Chongwill. By appointment only. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Thursday, Nov. 17. 12:30 P.M. Birthday Celebration. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Thursday, Nov. 17. 1:30 P.M. Volunteer Instructor William Sturm presents “Musical Grab-Bag” medley of pieces by composers discussed in the Music Appreciation Class for 2011. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Saturday, Nov. 19. 10 A.M. – 4 P.M. Friends of the Albany Library Book Sale, 1247 Marin Av. Please do not bring donations the week prior to the sale. 510-526-3720 x 16. Also Sunday, Nov. 20 11 A.M. – 4 P.M. 

Saturday, Nov. 19. 11 A.M. Landlord/Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6241. 


Wednesday, Nov. 23. 1:30-2:30 P.M. Great Books Discussion Group: John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Monday, Nov. 28. 2 – 3:30 P.M. “Vigee-LeBrun:Woman Artist in an Age of Revolution” presentation by Brigit Urmson. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506.