SENIOR POWER: Our Bods, Ourselves

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday April 13, 2012 - 01:47:00 PM

It’s Saturday afternoon, April 7. A goodly crowd is gathered in front of and inside Berkeley Public Library’s North branch. People standing around in long-time-no-see groups, chatting and filling up space. Among North’s additions, I notice a second Disabled parking spot, this one in front of the building. Somebody hands me a colorful I LOVE MY LIBRARY button, and I do, although subsequent visits prove disappointing. I’ll postpone judgment for a month or so. More later… Which is my segue into books.  

Our Bodies, Ourselves; A Book By and For Ourselves is a feminist classic about women's health and sexuality. A class initially, later a pamphlet, Our Bods was produced by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, published as a book in 1971. The cover is a photograph of women parading and carrying a Women Unite poster. One woman is clearly old. (As I recall, she was a governor’s mother, perhaps Miz Lillian Carter.) In numerous editions, published in foreign languages and Braille, it has always provided information related to many aspects of women's health and sexuality, including menopause and general well-being.  

In 1987, Simon & Schuster also published The New Ourselves, Growing Older in cooperation with the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, and in 2006, Our Bodies, Ourselves : Menopause by the Collective.  

For women as they age, hormone therapy (HT) and osteoporosis are two major quality of life topics. The North American Menopause Society -- a nonprofit, multidisciplinary membership organization dedicated to promoting the health and quality of life of all women during midlife and beyond through an understanding of menopause and healthy aging -- supports starting HT around the time of menopause to treat related symptoms and to prevent osteoporosis in women at high risk for fracture. A position statement was published online on February 27, 2012 in Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society

"Current evidence supports the use of HT for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women when the balance of potential benefits and risks is favorable for the individual woman… The more favorable benefit-risk ratio for estrogen therapy (ET) allows more flexibility in extending the duration of use compared with combined estrogen-progestogen therapy (EPT), where the earlier appearance of increased breast cancer risk precludes a recommendation for use beyond 3 to 5 years." 

Differences have emerged in the therapeutic benefit-risk ratio between estrogen therapy (ET) and combined estrogen-progestogen therapy (EPT) at various ages and time intervals since menopause onset. Recommended duration of therapy differs for EPT in women with a uterus and for ET in women who have had a hysterectomy. The decision to use HT should still be individualized and patient-specific, based on the patient's priorities regarding health and quality of life, as well as on specific risk factors for thrombosis, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and breast cancer. 

A great deal has been learned in the ten years since the first results from the Women's Health Initiative, initiated by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in 1991. The objective was to conduct medical research into some of the major health problems of older women. In particular, randomized controlled trials were designed and funded to address cardiovascular disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. HT remains the most effective treatment available for menopausal hot flashes and night sweats. However, there is a growing body of evidence that formulation, route of administration, timing of therapy and duration of therapy may produce different effects. 

The absolute risks of HT in healthy women ages 50 to 59 are low. In contrast, long-term HT or HT initiation in older women is associated with greater risks.  

This year Penguin Press published Going Solo:The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. The title of sociologist Eric Klinenberg (1970- ---)’s book sounded like it might be especially relevant to senior citizens remaining active in their own lives as well as in their communities. Note: National Volunteer Week is scheduled for April 15-21. I was hoping this would not be yet another collection of anecdotal interviews of first-named people in the guise of “pioneering research” about the so called singleton society. Not so.  

However, Klinenberg has a lot of interesting data. Our cultural preference for living autonomously is a key reason why today more than 11 million elderly Americans and 72 million elderly Europeans live alone. He reports that the majority of the single elderly believe that living alone beats any other available option such as moving in with children, or “far worse, a nursing home.” Consider Sweden, says Klinenberg. 47% of all households have just one resident, compared to about 28% in the U.S.,. In Stockholm, 60% of all dwellings are occupied by someone who lives alone.  

Fifty percent of American adults are single, and 31 million – roughly one out of every 7 adults – live alone. States and societies that recognize the social changes driving the shift toward living alone will be better able to meet their citizens’ needs. These driving social changes are the emergence of the individual, women’s rising status, the growth of cities, the development of communications technologies, and expansion of the life course. 

Chapter 6 is about “Aging Alone”. Wouldn’t we all feel more secure if we knew there were residential options for elderly seniors beyond the solitary private apartment or the lifeless nursing home, wonders this author. He suggests the way to begin addressing this problem is to increase public support for caregivers, including some of the 38 million Americans who provide uncompensated care to aging family members. I agree with the need for concern about the mostly-women family caregivers. But for the vocational caregivers, I favor training to provide qualifications that are not now generally apparent, although it’s not acceptable to say so! 

Personal health columnist and author Jane E. Brody (1941- )’s March 27, 2012 New York Times column describes the two years following her husband’s death. She reports in "Forging Social Connections for Longer Life" that a helpful book is Healthy at 100: the Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World's Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples, by John Robbins. (Random House, c2006) 



Ninety percent of Hawaiian voters strongly believe end-of-life decisions are between doctor and patient alone. That level of support is higher than in any other state. A statewide public opinion poll commissioned by Compassion & Choices resulted in 77% of Hawaii voters favoring full support for aid in dying—among the highest percentages recorded in the U.S.  

Gen Silent is a new documentary from filmmaker Stu Maddux that asks if lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults and caregivers will hide their lives to survive in the health care system. Gen Silent follows six Boston-area LGBT older adults over the course of a year, fearing discrimination in long-term care and health care and choosing to go back into the closet or avoid seeking care altogether. Gen Silent offers hope and new models of care that are taking place in Massachusetts. A related article is Lori Gilbert’s "Gay seniors still dealing with fear of discrimination." (Stockton Record, April 3, 2012.)  


MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Be sure to confirm. Readers are welcome to share by email news of future events and deadlines that may interest boomers, seniors and elders. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred.  

Fridays, April 6-July 13. 10 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Conversiamo in Italiano. Learn Italian with instructor Donatella Zepplin. 510-747-7510. 

Friday, April 13. 8:30 A.M. The Annual Thrift Shop Fashion and Spring Luncheon, Good Ship Lollipop. Tickets go on sale at 8:30 A.M. today in the Mastick Senior Center Office, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. The fashion show is scheduled for Thursday, May 10, in the Mastick Social Hall. Cost of the luncheon is $16 per person. This event guarantees good food, fashion, and fun! All proceeds support Mastick Senior Center. 510-747-7510.  

Friday, April 13. 12:15-1 P.M. UCB Music Dept. Noon concert. Department of Music students perform chamber music. Tammy Lian, violin; Hong Wong, viola. Mozart: Duo for Violin and Viola No. 1 in G major, K. 423 (I. Allegro) Alia McKean and Emma Lundberg, violins; Sarah Jarjour, viola; Lukas Whaley-Mayda and Rio Vander Stahl, cellos. Schubert: String Quartet in C Major, D. 956, Op. 163 (I. Allegro ma non troppo, IV. Allegretto) Hertz Concert Hall. Free. 510-642-4864 

Saturday, April 14. Thrift Shop Half-Off Special. The Thrift Shop Committee is offering a half-off sale (except jewelry and electric carts) to celebrate the IRS tax deadline. All proceeds support Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510. 

Saturday, April 14. 12-1:30 P.M. Free admission. UC BERKELEY CHAMBER ORCHESTRA. Wagner: Overture to Diemeistersinger Copland: Appalachian Spring, Suite for 13 Instruments Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 Featured conductors include Jane Kim, Melissa Panlasigui, and Garrett Wellenstein. Hertz Hall. 510-642-4864 

Saturday, April 14. 2-3 P.M. Be an expert-- Genealogy. Berkeley Public Library Central, 2090 Kittredge. Free introduction to online genealogy tools and, a database of searchable census tracts, immigration records, photos+. 510-981-6100. 

Monday, April 16. 12:30-1:30 P.M. Library Brown Bag Lunch Speaker's Forum: Richard Schwartz discusses "The Amazing Volunteer Relief Effort in the East Bay After the 1906 Earthquake." Go to for more information. The forum is co-sponsored by the Albany YMCA and the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av..
Contact: Ronnie Davis. 510-526-3720 x16. 

Monday, April 16. 7 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. Author Panel: So You Want to Write a Book? Four local authors discussing their writing journeys. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday, April 16. 9:30 A.M. – Noon. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Join Rose O’Neill, custom jewelry designer. Beads and tools will be supplied unless you would like to redesign beads already in your possession. Cost is $15 per person. Sign up in the Mastick Office. 510-747-7510. 

Mondays, April 16, 23, 30 and May 7 and 14. 10 – 11:30 A.M. Free. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Pain Management 201: How Thoughts and Management Imagination Relieve Pain. 5-week class will provide 2 types of tools to assist you in managing physical pain. Elizabeth Dandenell, LMFT and Jeri Ryan, Ph.D. have used these tools with many people. They have also facilitated Pain Management 102 (Guided Imagery), and Pain Management 103 (Relieve Your Pain by Adjusting Your Thoughts) at Mastick Center. Sign up in the Mastick enior Center Office. Free. 510-747-7510. 

Tuesday, April 17. 6:30 P.M. Oakland Public Library, Rockridge Branch, 5366 College Ave.. Vegan Outreach presents Jack Norris, author of Vegan for Life, speaking about the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Program is part of Oakland Veg Week, April 15-21. Linda Jolivet, 510-597-5017.  

Tuesday, April 17. 6:30-7:30 P.M. An evening of theatre discussion in the Library: Anatol & Arthur Schnitzler. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. Join Aurora Theatre Company’s Education Director Michael Mansfield and Anatol translator Margret Schaefer for a closer look at playwright Schnitzler and the translation process. Free. Sponsored by the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library. 510-981-6241.  

Tuesday, April 17. 1 P.M. Stress Management with health educator Susan MacLaughlin. 2-part part workshop. In Part 2 (April 17), learn to use guided imagery to remember a state of perfect wellness. This powerful tool is helpful for stress reduction and self-healing. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7510. 

Wednesday, April 18. 12:15-1 P.M. Noon concert: Music Dept. event. Hertz Concert Hall. Songs of Persephone. Soprano Alana Mailes performs 17th-century Italian and French opera arias and cantatas by Caccini, Peri, Monteverdi, Rossi, Lully, Charpentier. Tickets not required. Event Contact 510-642-4864. 

Wednesday, April 18. 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging. South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street. Be sure to confirm. 510-981-5178.  

Wednesday, April 18. 7-8 P.M. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Adult Evening Book Group: Nadifa Mohamed's Black Mamba Boy. Rosalie Gonzales facilitates discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Contact: Ronnie Davis 510-526-3720 x16.  

Thursday, April 19. 10 A.M. – 12 Noon. Dr. Alfred Chong will provide free dentistry, by appointment only. To make an appointment, visit the Mastick Senior Center office, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda or call 510-747-7506. 

Saturday, April 21. 11 A.M. – 4 P.M. Free admission. CAL DAY Concerts. Orchestra: winners of the annual concerto competition perform: Milhaud: Cinéma-Fantaisie, Joe Neeman, violin. Chausson: Poème, Casey Nosiglia, violin Saint-Saëns: Violin Concerto No. 3, Wooho Park, violin. Liszt: Totentanz, Lisa Wu, piano. BAROQUE ENSEMBLE: Corelli & Bach. CHAMBER CHORUS: excerpts from their recent concert "La Chanson". String quartets; Gamelan; African Drumming & Dance; Gospel Chorus. Hertz Hall. 510-642-4864. 

Saturday April 21. 1-5 P.M. Oakland Public Library Rockridge Branch, 5366 College Ave.. California Writers' Club, a workshop open to all writers. Contact: Anne Fox 510-420-8775. 

Tuesday, April 24. 1-2:30 P.M. James Felton, Ph.D., associate director, UCD Cancer Center, presents “Why We Get Cancer.” Dr. Felton will explore cell division and tumor growth; the affects of diet and environmental exposure; and the role of genetics on developing cancer. This Cal State East Bay Scholar-Olli program is sponsored by the MSCAB. Mastick Senior Center office, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Sign up in the Mastick Office or call 510-747-7506. 

Tuesday, April 24. 3-4 P.M. Berkeley Public Library Central, 2090 Kittredge. Tea and Cookies at the Library. A free monthly book club for people who want to share the books they have read. 510-981-6100. See also May 22. 

Wednesday, April 25. 12:15-1 P.M. UC,B Music Dept. Gamelan Music of Java and Bali performed by classes directed by Midiyanto and I Dewa Putu Berata with Ben Brinner and Lisa Gold. Hertz Concert Hall. Free. 510-642-4864. 

Wednesday, April 25. 1:30-2:30 P.M. Great Books Discussion Group: William Butler Yeats’ poem, Lapis Luzuli. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Rosalie Gonzales facilitates the discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Contact: Ronnie Davis 510-526-3720 x16. 

Wednesday, April 25. 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Gray Panthers. Monthly meeting at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. 510-981-5190, 548-9696, 486-8010. 

Wednesday, May 2. 12:15-1 P.M. UC,B Music Dept.: Renaissance Music, A Cappella.  

Perfect Fifth, Mark Sumner, director, is an a cappella choir in UC Choral Ensembles specializing in medieval and Renaissance music—sacred and secular, as well as contemporary art music. Hertz Concert Hall. Free. 510-642-4864. 

Thursday, May 3. 9 A.M. – 1 P.M. 6th Annual Senior Health and Wellness Resource Fair. Kenneth C. Aitken Senior and Community Center, 17800 Redwood Road, Castro Valley. 510-881-6738.  

Thursday, May 3. 1:30 P.M. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Cherisse Baptiste from non-profit ECHO Housing will introduce Alameda County Library system audiences to the workings of the reverse mortgage, which is a loan against accumulated home equity that provides cash advances to certain homeowners at least 62 years of age. This free program is for older adults. 510-526-3720. For dates of this presentation at libraries throughout the system, call Patricia Ruscher, Older Adult Services, 510-745-1491 

Saturday, May 5. 1 P.M. Ribbon cutting ceremony. Music, Refreshments. Claremont Library Branch Library Reopening. 2940 Benvenue Ave. Library services resume at 2 P.M. Free. 510-981-6100. 

Monday, May 7. 6:30 P.M. Castoffs knitting group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. An evening of knitting, show and tell, and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Thursday, May 10. 7-8:45 P.M. Cafe Literario at West Berkeley Public Library, 1125 University Ave. Facilitated Spanish language book discussion. May title: La Casa de Dostoievsky by Jorge Edwards. Free. 510-981-6270. 

Thursday, May 10. Annual Spring Luncheon & Fashion Show. The Annual Thrift Shop Fashion and Spring Luncheon, Good Ship Lollipop. Tickets went on sale Friday, April 13, at 8:30 A.M. in the Mastick Senior Center Office, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Cost of the luncheon is $16 per person. This event guarantees good food, fashion, and fun! All proceeds support Mastick Senior Center. 510-747-7510.  

Friday, May 11. 8:30 A.M. – 2:30 P.M. The African American Caregiving and Wellness Forum V: The End of Alzheimer’s Starts With Me. West Oakland senior Center, 1724 Adeline Street. Registration required by April 27. 1-800-272-3900.  

Sunday, May 13. 12-4:30 P.M., 1:30 - 2:45 P.M. Hertz Concert Hall. Concert and Commencement Ceremony. Sponsor: Department of Music. Concert featuring award winners in the performing arts. Open to all audiences. Event Contact:, 510-642-4864. 

Monday, May 14. 7:00 P.M. Identity Theft Program. Barbara Jue, a Legal Shield associate, will offer information and advice on how to prevent identity theft and how to cope should it happen. She will also talk about children and computer use and cyber bullying. Q&A follows. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesday, May 15. 6 – 8 P.M. Free Legal Workshop: Alternatives to Foreclosure. Steven Mehlman, a local attorney, will offer an informational session to explain the pros and cons of each financial decision to help you make the right choice for your 

situation. Sponsored by the Contra Costa County Bar Association. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Avenue. 510-526-7512. 

Monday May 21. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: Color of the Sea by John Hamamura. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always welcome. Free. 61 Arlington Av. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesday, May 22. 3 – 4 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. Tea and Cookies at the Library. A free monthly book club for people who want to share the books they have read. 510-981-6100. 

Sunday, May 27. 130-4:30 P.M. Book Into Film: Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Read the book at home. Watch the movie together. Discuss the book, film and adaptation as a group. Registration required- call 510-981-6236 to sign up. 

Monday, June 4. 6:30 P.M. "Castoffs" - Knitting Group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. An evening of knitting, show and tell, and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday, June 18. 7 P.M. Art historian Michael Stehr will discuss Gian Lorenz Bernini, who was the Michelangelo of the Baroque. He will also present a slide show. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday June 25. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: The Chosen by Chaim Potok. 61 Arlington Av. Free. 510-524-3043.