Helen Rippier Wheeler,
Thursday December 18, 2014 - 10:20:00 AM

Oh, Joy… Jocelyn Ferguson, that is… and Kim Brewer too, staffing the reception desk, welcoming people as we entered the North Berkeley Senior Center recently. These two are old old-timers. There are other volunteers of course. 

For decades, Joy watched over the watering of the plants in the Center’s front yard. Kim was on hand following my first cataract surgery – my personal R.N. (Maggie Cheng was there too). Both Joy and Kim rent in senior housing—Strawberry Creek Lodge and Amistad; Maggie is now a home-owner.  

Two computer screens are also at the front desk. Seniors register in order to participate in Center activities and enjoy services and programs. This process takes attendance and replaces the daily clipboard with participants’ paper and pen[cil] signatures. So far, there has been no charge of which I’m aware, although some classes already require tuition. The Privacy Notice part of the registration packet concludes “You have the right to look at your record on file with the Senior Center …make a request in writing to: Senior Center Director…”  



On December 20, 2014 “holiday food baskets” will again be delivered to senior housing citizens who have signed up. This annual special is provided by the City of Berkeley Fire Department, Berkeley Fire Fighters Random, Albany, Berkeley and West Berkeley Lions Clubs, and the San Francisco Fire Credit Union, plus their volunteers. 

The Berkeley Public Library is introducing a “new service for the homebound—Books by Mail. We will send out books, movies and other library materials through the United States Postal Service. After use, patrons or caregivers simply mail the materials back to us with the convenient reusable packages. Pre-paid postage is included. Interested patrons need to fill out the ‘Application for Books by Mail.’ ” Also at the BPL’s website is an ‘Application for Extended Services for Library Patrons with Disabilities.’ This process may involve a “proxy.” Many senior citizens are homebound. Many senior citizens are disabled. Many are both. Having access to a personal computer (PC) will also greatly enhance their lives. 

The BPL has copies of Still Alice, a jargon-filled, 2007 “first novel” by Lisa Genova, who, holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard University, and has done research on the molecular etiology of depression, Parkinson's Disease, drug addiction, and memory loss following stroke. She is a member of the Dementia Advocacy, Support Network International and Dementia USA and is an online columnist for the National Alzheimer's association.  

Still Alice is also a new motion picture, soon to be in theaters. Based on Genova’s novel but co-directed and written by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, it follows the deterioration of 51-year old linguistics professor Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) dealing with early-onset Alzheimer’s, who, with her husband and 3 children, must endure a cruel and absurd ordeal that has no real chance of growing easier. Alice slides from a witty, intelligent, capable adult into a fragile and confused shadow of her former self. Julianne Moore has received great praise. A. O. Scott (December 4, 2014 New York Times) refers to a powerful presentation of a mind falling to Alzheimer’s. “Still Alice is a movie that addresses a nightmarish circumstance with calm, compassionate sensitivity.”