Age Well Senior Services

What Can You Do About Stroke?

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

Here’s a name you don’t hear every day: Johann Jakob Wepfer.  He was a Swiss pharmacologist and pathologist who lived from 1620 to 1695 — a remarkable life span for a person of that era.

He contributed many important things to the field of medicine.  He was the first to warn us that arsenic and mercury and some other things that I can’t pronounce really aren’t good for us. But his most important contribution was his study of the vascular anatomy of the brain which led to our understanding of what causes stroke.

Some time around 400 B.C., Hippocrates, the father of western medicine and the man who gives his name to the Hippocratic Oath, first recognized stroke, which at that time was called apoplexy. Because doctors didn’t connect the condition with the brain, the cause of apoplexy remained a medical mystery for centuries.

It was not until the mid-1600s that Dr. Wepfer found that patients who died with apoplexy had bleeding in the brain. He also discovered that a blockage in one of the brain’s blood vessels could cause apoplexy, which eventually became known as stroke.

Today stroke is the Number 4 cause of death, and the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S. Each year in this country people suffer 795,000 strokes, 610,000 of which are first strokes. Stroke can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of race, sex or age.

Strokes, sometimes called “brain attacks,” occur because of a sudden failure of the brain to receive the oxygen and nutrients it needs to thrive. This can happen for either of two reasons: a vessel leading the brain is blocked or a vessel in the brain ruptures.

At this point I’m tempted to show how smart I am by defining the different kinds of strokes and proving that I can spell such exotic medical terms as ischemic and hemorrhagic.  But a more productive approach would be to forget the lecture and instead say what we all can do to prevent stroke.

Here’s the really good news. Experts say that fully 80% of all strokes are preventable.   Eighty per cent! Think about that. If you buy a lottery ticket, your odds of winning the big one are as tiny as 1 in 127 million against you.  But if you control your risk factors, the odds of avoiding a stroke are 8 to 10 in your favor.  So why would you not do that?

Here are some risk factors you can control:

Blood Pressure. If your blood pressure is regularly about 120/80, it’s in great shape.  If it’s regularly above 140/90, you’ve got a problem and should see your doctor to find out what to do about it. Diet, exercise and medication can help,

High Cholesterol.  Every body needs cholesterol, but too much cholesterol in the bloodstream can clog arteries and lead to a stroke or heart attack.  In addition to having an overall cholesterol reading of less that 200, you should have an HDL (good cholesterol) reading above 40, and an LDL (bad cholesterol) reading of less than 100. The best defense is a diet high in grains, fruits and vegetables, and low in saturated fat.  In addition, your doctor can prescribe medications that can help lower your cholesterol.

Diabetes. If you’re a Type 2  diabetic keeping your blood glucose level in the low 100’s is essential.  Weight loss alone can accomplish this in many people.  Doctors can also prescribe medication.

Controllable lifestyle factors. Maintain an anti-stroke lifestyle: a heart-healthy diet, regular exercise, no smoking, little or no alcohol and using any medication your doctor prescribes.

While there are some risk factors you can’t control — age, gender, race, prior heart attack, and family history of stroke — there is much you can do to switch the odds in your favor.

Diagnosing Stroke on the Spot

Two million brain cells die every minute during stroke, increasing the risk of permanent brain damage, disability or death. If you can recognize the symptoms of stroke and act immediately, you may help to limit the disabilities the person will incur and you may even save that person’s life. 

If you are in the presence of someone who is exhibiting symptoms of stroke, use the FAST method to do a layperson’s diagnosis.

Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

Arm. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, such as, “Most grass is green.” Does the speech sound slurred or strange?

Time. If you observe any of these signs, it’s time to call 9-1-1 — immediately.

If you want more information about stroke prevention, diagnosis, treatment or support groups, contact the RTH Stroke Foundation in Laguna Hills.   Phone: (949) 305-8450. www.rthfoundation.org  Their sole purpose is to wipe out stroke.  Their seminars, support groups, and screenings are all free.

A final few words about Johann Jakob Wepfer.  Every year since 1990 stroke specialists have gathered for what is known as the European Stroke Conference. This year it was held in London, next year in Nice. In 2005 the conference began honoring one scientist annually with an award for, in the conference’s words, “outstanding scientific work in the field of cerebrovascular diseases and significant contributions to our knowledge about treatment of acute stroke.” 

They named it the “Johann Jacob Wepfer Award” in recognition of the pioneering work Dr. Wepfer did more than 350 years ago.  Dr. Wepfer’s name is not a household word, but among cerebrovascular scientists, he is a legend.

Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:

August 8.  The Annual Donor Recognition and Board Installation at the Ritz Carlton, Dana Point, hosted by First Bank. High tea, wine and cheese reception. The event will be in the Pacific Promenade from 4 pm to 7 pm. Tickets: $50 per person.  For more information, call (949) 855-8033.

A thousand words …

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

In spite of having to make a sudden u-turn after just leaving home (“I thought you had the tickets,” I said.)  the McD’s made it to Casino Night again this past Saturday, along with hundreds of others.   “An even bigger crowd than last year,” Florence Sylvester Director Shirley Witt said. When we walked in a few minutes after six, the dice were rolling, the decibel count was close to raucous, and dozens of salivating foodies were already snaking their way through the delicious offerings in the buffet line.

Some highlights:

• The gambling went on nonstop for just shy of three hours. Vegas Knights, which annually provides the tables, dealers and croupiers, were as professional and helpful as ever.

• Like so much else in the Age Well world, the evening was made immeasurably better by the dozens of volunteers handling tickets, dishing out food, and picking up the inevitable stray plate and soiled napkin. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Age Well has the world’s best volunteers.

• The Silver Foxes, always a terrific instrumental treat, took their big band sound to new heights this year.

• Thanks to the generosity of many individuals, merchants and other organizations, dozens of holders of winning ticket numbers went home well rewarded after the drawings that concluded the evening.   Most notable among them: Jerry Young of Laguna Woods Village who made his way to the parking lot lugging a brand new 37-inch Vizio flat screen TV.

This is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Florence Sylvester Center, thanks to the outstanding support of Saddleback Kiwanis and the major sponsorship of Dody Hohnstein and MemorialCare Medical Group.

“It was just a wonderful evening,” an obviously pleased Shirley Witt said as she decompressed from nearly an hour drawing tickets and handing out gorgeous gift baskets, money trees, high tech gadgets, and prepaid merchandise cards.

But enough of words.  Check out the smiling faces in the photos. And, oh yes, see the picture of Mrs. McD.  She’s standing at the roulette table.  (Unfortunately, her back is to the camera.)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

August 8.  The Annual Donor Recognition and Board Installation at the Ritz Carlton, Dana Point, hosted by First Bank. High tea, wine and cheese reception. The event will be in the Pacific Promenade from 4 pm to 7 pm. Tickets: $50 per person.  For more information, call (949) 855-8033.

Arnie Makes a Pitch for Casino Night

Monday, June 17th, 2013
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

“You two going to Casino Night?” Arnie asked us.  At the time we were down on our hands and knees, doing some gardening in our front yard and Arnie was out for a walk. Before I could say yes, Mrs. McD spoke up.

“What Casino Night?” she said, pretending to be totally ignorant.

“Age Well’s Casino Night.  It’s June 29th at Club House Five in the Village. Six p.m. It’s the year’s biggest fundraiser for the Sylvester Center.”

“Never heard of it,” Mrs. McD said.

“Really!  I coulda sworn I saw y’all there last year.”

“Not us,” Mrs. McD said as she tossed another clump into a pile of weeds she had pulled.

Of course we had gone, but by now I figured I’d better go along with whatever game Mrs. McD was playing. “You probably saw someone who looked like me.,” I said. “A lot of people look like me.”

“That’s right,” Mrs. McD said. “Years ago at the Bangor airport a baggage handler came up to him and said, ‘Aren’t you the movie star?’ And before Riley could say no, I said to the guy, ‘Would you like his autograph?’ ‘I sure would,’ he said, and he gave Riley his Red Sox cap and asked him to write on the visor.”

“I was dumbfounded,” I said to Arnie. “What name was I supposed to sign?”

“So what name did you sign?”

“His name was Don, so I wrote ‘Best of luck, Don,’ quite legibly. Then I made a series of scrawls intended to look like a first and last name.”

“Who did he think you were?” Arnie asked.

“Clooney. Hugh Jackman. Maybe Stallone,” I said.

“Probably Buddy Ebsen,” Mrs. McD said. “Anyway tell us about this Casino thingy.” So Arnie raved on about what a great night it was every year and how much fun everyone had.

If you look between the two ladies at the table, off in the distance you will see the back of Arnie’s head.

“There’s poker and craps and roulette and blackjack and Texas Hold ‘em.  There’s even bingo if you’re not into industrial strength gambling.”

“You’re talking to the wrong woman, Arnie,” I said.  “She plays some heavy duty craps every time we’re on a cruise ship.” To emphasize my point, Mrs. McD screwed up her face, spit on a clump for good luck, rolled it towards the weed pile as if she were tossing a pair of dice.

“Well then you’ll love this,” Arnie said.  “For $25 you get a hundred bucks in play money, a super yummy refreshment table, and four hours around hundreds of people who are having more fun than a bunch of hogs in a…”

“Don’t finish that, Arnie,” I said. “We believe you.”

“Where do we get tickets?” Mrs. McD asked.

‘At the door or at the Sylvester Memorabilia Senior Center,” he replied.

“Memorial, Arnie,” I said.  “Memorial.”

“Right. Then at the end there’s a drawing for some really great prizes.   Not just a few.  I mean it seems like that drawing goes on forever, and there’s a bunch of hoopin’ and hollerin’ every time someone realizes they’re holding the lucky number.”

“What kind of prizes? I asked. Now I had trouble keeping a straight face, because just about every year Mrs. McD and I contributed a prize.

“A flat screen TV, an iPad, restaurant gift cards, grocery gift cards, money trees, mall gift cards and gift baskets, lots of gift baskets.  I won one of them last year. It had all kinds of cheeses from Holland and fancy shmancy crackers and little yummies wrapped up in gold and silver foil.”

“How long did it take you to eat all that?” I asked.

Arnie’s face turned really serious.  “Oh, I didn’t eat it,” he said. “I gave it to a lady on my Meals on Wheels route.”

Mrs. McD  straightened up and looked at Arnie. He had her full attention.  “Really?”

“Really,” Arnie said.  “This woman has no one.  I mean no one.  No husband, no kids, and I don’t think very many friends.  But she’s always happy to see me and gives me a big hug and asks about my daughter and all.  She raved about that basket for months.”

Mrs. McD stared at him for several moments.  Finally she said, “Arnie that was so sweet of you.”

“Aw shucks,” he said.

After Arnie continued on his walk and was out of earshot, I said, “Now don’t you feel guilty for tricking a nice guy like that?” She kept on digging without speaking.  “Wait! Are those really a couple of tears I see on the face of Hard Hearted Hannah?”

She picked up another clump and hurled it viciously at the weed pile.  “Hush your mouth,” she said.

Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:

Saturday, June 29: Casino Night from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Clubhouse 5 in Laguna Woods Village. Major Sponsors: Dody Hohnstein and MemorialCare Medical Group. For $25, you get admission, $100 in play money, and a bountiful snack table, You’ll also be able to win some great raffle prizes, including a flat screen TV, an iPad, restaurant gift cards, grocery gift cards, money trees, and mall gift cards, with more prizes to be announced. This is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Florence Sylvester Center, thanks to the generosity of many individuals and businesses and the outstanding support of Saddleback Kiwanis. Tickets available at the door and at the Florence Sylvester Memorial Senior Center.

August 8.  The Annual Donor Recognition and Board Installation at the Ritz Carlton, Dana Point, hosted by First Bank. High tea, wine and cheese reception. The event will be in the Pacific Promenade from 4 pm to 7 pm. Tickets: $50 per person.  For more information, call (949) 855-8033.

June 3 Golf Tourney to Support Age Well

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

 

Former Angel and AL All Star Clyde Wright.

On June 3 Age Well will host the Clyde Wright Invitational Golf Tournament. But just who is this dude Clyde Wright?  (I use the term “dude” advisedly because it appears to be one of Clyde’s favorite words, as in, “That Blue Moon Odom, he is one goooood dude.”)

First there’s Clyde the big league pitcher.  He played for ten years, eight with the Angels, and one each the Brewers and the Rangers. In those ten years he pitched 67 complete games, a number unheard of in today’s game of middle relievers, set up men and closers.   He finished with a highly respectable career earned run average of 3.50.  His best season was 1970 when he had a 22-12 won-loss record, pitched a 4-0 no-hitter against the Oakland Athletics in Anaheim, and was named to the American League All Star team.

In his last three seasons, the designated hitter rule took the bat out of Clyde’s hands but in his first seven he was a better than average hitter for a pitcher.  He hit safely 69 times, including 17 doubles and four homers. His overall average was .183, and he hit over .200 in three of those seasons.

He later played for three years with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan.

Then there is Clyde Wright the retiree, who among other honors, is listed as one of the eight notable former residents of Jefferson City, Tennessee.  Today he runs a pitching school in Anaheim, does community outreach work for the Angels, and gives his time to charity events like the Clyde Wright Invitational. 

“The big thing when you retire is keeping in touch with all your buddies.” he said to Ken Goldenberg on Channel 6.  “You get to see them and tell stories, and every year the stories get a little longer and a little less believable.”

Clyde, the relaxed retiree, is quite willing to poke fun at himself.

“I’ve joined a select club by throwing a no-hitter,” Wright told Doug Miller of MLB.com. “I’ve also joined a select club by winning 20 games in a season.” But then he came back to earth. “I’ve also joined a select club by losing 20 games in a season. Not a lot of people can say they’ve done that.”

While waiting for the interview with Ken Goldenberg, another guest in the green room pointed out some historical trivia:  Clyde pitched the day the first man landed on the moon.

“Yeah, “ he said, “but she also reminded me that we lost that game, 8-3.”

The Clyde Wright Invitational

“I am a huge golf enthusiast and when I was asked by Age Well to put my name behind their golf tournament, I didn’t think twice,” he said. “At 70 now, I am a senior and I felt this was the perfect marriage. Aliso Viejo’s newly re-vamped 18-hole layout is a fun and challenging course. We have a great day planned and are looking for sponsors who are interested in putting their names behind one of the most important assets in our society, our seniors.” 

Wright isn’t the only retired pro athlete in the tournament. Twenty other NFL and MLB stars will be there as well, including Clyde’s son Jaret who had a standout ten-year big league pitching career. Among the others are Blue Moon Odom, Tommy Davis, Jay Johnstone, LeRoy Irvin, Marv Fleming, Rudy Law, Ricky Ellis, and more.

Foursomes are available for $1,100, including 18 holes of golf, plus cart, continental breakfast, box lunch, tee prizes, player bags with Angels hats, shirts, divot markers, sleeves of balls and more, along with the dinner buffet and opportunity to participate in an auction for valuable items.

Individual golfers can play for $300 each and will receive the same benefits. There is a special senior rate of $250 for single golfers age 55 or older and $1,000 for senior foursomes.

“We just want everyone to have fun so we have lots of special things planned,” Clyde says.

The festivities begin at 11 a.m. with a shotgun start at 12:30. The event includes a hole-in-one contest, a closest to the pin contest, and a putting contest, plus a longest drive competition and opportunity prizes.

How to register

“We’re not hard to find when people want to play in our golf tournament,” Clyde says.

• Call Age Well at (949) 855-8033.

• Go to www.myagewell.org

Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:

Monday, June 3: Clyde Wright Invitational Golf Tournament. Benefiting Meals on Wheels and other Senior Services. 12:30 p.m. shotgun start at the Aliso Viejo Country Club. Golf plus continental breakfast, box lunch, buffet dinner, and prizes for contests.  For more info, call (949) 855-8033.

Saturday, June 29: Casino Night from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Clubhouse 5 in Laguna Woods Village. For $25, you get admission, $100 in play money, a bountiful snack table, and the opportunity to win some great raffle prizes. This is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Florence Sylvester Center, thanks to the generosity of many individuals and businesses and the outstanding support of Saddleback Kiwanis. Tickets available at the door and at the Florence Sylvester Senior Center.

McDee Award Goes to ‘Temporary, Honorary’ Senior

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

Those of you with good memories will remember that the McDee Award, which is given out irregularly, goes only to seniors who have made some notable contribution to the lives of others.   But this week the award goes to Jessica Silver-Greenberg, a financial reporter for the New York Times, who is at least three-plus decades shy of being a senior. So for the purposes of this blog, I hereby designate her a temporary, honorary, short-term, transitory senior.

Ms. Silver-Greenberg, a 2004 graduate of Princeton University and a Pulitzer Prize finalist for national reporting in 2112, is currently doing extensive coverage of the ongoing shareholder saga at JPMorgan Chase.  In the past she has covered all kinds of debt stories, including lending practices, debt collection, student loans, credit cards, and mortgages.  Some of her reporting is about consumers getting the short end of the stick when it comes to finances. Her McDee Award is for being so far out in front of the rest of American journalism on a particular kind of scam targeted at seniors — the pension loan scheme.  

Here’s how it works.  Say you’re a senior with a pretty good monthly pension payout, but not a whole lot in the bank.  All of a sudden you need a whopping big amount of money for a major medical expense or some other reason.  Or maybe you don’t really need it, but you want it.  Let’s say you want to buy an RV or even a yacht. Well there are companies that will advance you money against your pension.

“What’s the problem?” you ask.

Jessica Silver-Greenberg is tough on financial predators, but says, “I am very close to my 88-year-old grandmother, Ruth Silver. She is my inspiration for many things.”

In an April 27 story, Ms. Silver-Greenberg explained the problem, “The Times’s review of more than two dozen loan contracts,” she wrote, “found that the loans, once fees were factored in, could come with effective interest rates from 27 to 106 percent — critical information that was not disclosed either in the ads or the contracts.”

She wrote about Ronald Govan, a retired marine from Snellville, Georgia.   Mr. Govan had a military disability pension of $1,033 a month. A company offered him an advance of $10,000 in return for five years of monthly payments of $353 from his pension. According to both the New York Times and my Quicken loan calculator, that works out to an effective interest rate of 36% — a really bad deal at a time when you can get a mortgage for about three percent and when your CDs earn just a smidgen above one percent.  And by the way, lending against military pensions like Mr. Govan’s is illegal, but the companies doing so claim they are making “advances,” not loans.

I don’t want to give Ms. Silver-Greenberg too much credit, but if the timing I see is correct, a number of people in government took quick notice of these practices after the Times began publishing her stories.  (Apparently the old post hoc, ergo propter hoc idea isn’t always a fallacy.)

On May 7, about ten days after Ms. Silver-Greenberg’s seminal story, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an investigation into pension loan companies.

“These companies are literally harvesting the hard earned pensions of seniors, military veterans and other hard working New Yorkers,” said Governor Cuomo in a statement on his web site. “Using deceptive practices to cheat people out of their pensions by enrolling them in backdoor high-interest loans will not be tolerated in our state.”

Benjamin Lawsky, the state’s Superintendent of Financial Services, echoed his sentiments. “These pension advances appear to be nothing more than payday loans in sheep’s clothing,” he said.

Massachusetts wasn’t far behind. On May 13, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin announced his state was taking action. “It’s a novel industry and it seems to be flourishing,” Mr. Galvin told the online site Investment News. “I understand the pressure someone may have to sell [their pension],” he added, “and we’re not saying it’s never appropriate [but] obviously you’re going to get less than the value of future payments.”

Attorneys general in several states aren’t buying the argument that the payouts are advances and not loans, and are going after the companies.  New York has issued subpoenas for ten of them, the ads for several of which popped up on my screen when I Googled “pension advances.”  Three are located in California, including two here in Orange County.  Others are in Indiana, Florida, Delaware, Michigan and Arkansas.

Consumer watchdogs generally urge that people steer clear of these loans. “Just don’t do it,” one said bluntly. But if you have a real emergency need for cash, see a legitimate financial counselor for advice before you commit.  If in the end you decide to get one of these “advances,” do the following.

• Don’t take the sales pitches as gospel.  What counts is what’s on paper, not what a salesperson told you. If you don’t understand the paperwork, take it to someone who does — a lawyer, an accountant, a financial advisor at your senior center.

• Make sure the interest and all other fees are spelled out specifically.

• If a loan officer presents you with paperwork, but tells you that you have to sign on the spot and can’t take it with you to look over, get up and leave — immediately.

On behalf of the thousands of seniors in Age Well Meals on Wheels and other  programs, and on behalf of any senior anywhere who benefited from the Times’s stories, thank you Jessica Silver-Greenberg.

Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:

Monday, June 3: Clyde Wright Invitational Golf Tournament. Benefiting Meals on Wheels and other Senior Services. 11 a.m. shotgun start at the Aliso Viejo Country Club. Golf plus continental breakfast, box lunch, buffet dinner, and prizes for contests.  For more info, call (949) 855-8033.

Saturday, June 29: Casino Night from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Clubhouse 5 in Laguna Woods Village. For $25, you get admission, $100 in play money, a bountiful snack table, and the opportunity to win some great raffle prizes. This is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Florence Sylvester Center, thanks to the generosity of many individuals and businesses and the outstanding support of Saddleback Kiwanis. Tickets available at the door and at the Florence Sylvester Senior Center.

Beatrice Vivian Divic, 1925-2013

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

 

Besedka Johnson, nee Beatrice Vivian Divic

Beatrice Vivian Divic was born in Detroit in 1925.  She eventually had aspirations of becoming a model and in her late teens she went to Los Angeles to chase her dream. 

I know what you’re thinking — Beatrice Vivian Divic is the birth name of some star who went to Hollywood and later changed her name to June Lockhart or Dorothy Malone or Angela Lansbury, all of whom were also born in 1925.  But no, Ms. Divic’s life in Southern California followed a more traditional path.

In her late 20’s she married a painter named Johnson — an artist, not a house painter — whose first name, alas, remains unknown. Together they had three children, Jim, Marc and Lloyd. They divorced about ten years later.

Los Angeles Times reporter Valerie J. Nelson said that after the divorce “Johnson took acting lessons as a sort of therapy,” but never had any visions of becoming a professional actress. She soon remarried but that union also dissolved after ten years.

Now known as Johnson, she became a successful entrepreneur, opening a dress shop called Besedka in Woodland Hills and eventually another Besedka in North Hollywood.  According to the NewYork Times, she practiced yoga for much of her life. She moved to the Bay Area for a period and managed a condominium in San Francisco, but eventually came back to L.A.  Like so many of the seniors Age Well serves, in her later years she developed knee problems and worked out regularly as a form of physical therapy.

We’ve all heard the story of how the actress Lana Turner was “discovered” while sipping a soda at Schwab’s Drugstore on Hollywood Boulevard.  (If you’re too young to have heard that story and in fact have no clue who Lana Turner was, trust me, that’s how it happened and Ms. Turner went on to have a wildly successful Hollywood career.)

Ms. Johnson, who had long since adopted the first name of Besedka, was also discovered, not at Schwab’s but working out at a North Hollywood YWCA when she was 85. In 2011, the producers of the independent film Starlet were two weeks away from beginning shooting and still had not found an older actress to play Sadie opposite 21-year-old Dree Hemingway, the daughter of Mariel Hemingway.  In what can best be described as serendipity, Shih-Ching Tsou, an executive on Starlet, was working out at the same time as Besedka Johnson.

“When I saw her at the gym, I was stunned,” Ms. Tsou recalled in an interview with the New York Times. “I thought, ‘This lady is who we are looking for.’ ”

Ms. Tsou asked Ms. Johnson if she would be interested in playing the role. She was flattered but skeptical, so she told her son Jim who is in the film industry. “Mom,” he said to her, “do you know how many waiters and waitresses have slaved throughout their lives for the chance to get to do what you’re doing? Do it!”

So she did.

The film is about a growing and not always harmonious relationship between 21-year-old Jane (Hemingway) and 85-year-old Sadie (Johnson) after Jane discovers a hidden stash of money inside an object at Sadie’s yard sale.

The reviews were very good.

“The relationship,” said Entertainment Weekly, “unfolds with a matter-of-fact integrity that accepts all personal quirks, weaknesses, and sorrows as human and worthy of love.”

The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis, a notoriously tough critic, wrote, “A model, Ms. Hemingway… has appeared in only a few films and is a spectacular find, as is Ms. Johnson, a longtime Angeleno making a true, piercing screen debut.”

Roger Ebert gave the movie three stars and wrote of Ms. Hemingway and Ms. Johnson, “These two women, so very different, are the film’s heart and soul, inviting us to decide for ourselves what’s beneath their seemingly obvious facades.”

Besedka Johnson reportedly was an extremely nice person who was sensitive to the feelings of others, but the character of Sadie required that from time to time she be mean and antagonistic. Starlet director Sean Baker told the L.A. Times that after a scene required her to be particularly abrasive to Hemingway, Johnson “would turn to Dree and apologize for the way she was acting. It was so sweet.”

By all accounts Besedka Johnson thoroughly enjoyed her relatively brief moment in the sun, speaking at showings of Starlet and traveling to film festivals in Mill Valley, Austin, Texas, and elsewhere. After the movie’s critical success, several directors approached Ms. Johnson with offers of other roles but unfortunately she fell ill from an infection.  In early April she died in a Glendale Hospital.  She is survived by her three sons and by thousands of ardent fans who last year at this time had never heard of Besedka Johnson. She lives on, however, in Starlet, which is almost sure to become a cult classic.

Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:

Monday, June 3: Clyde Wright Invitational Golf Tournament. Benefiting Meals on Wheels and other Senior Services. 11 a.m. shotgun start at the Aliso Viejo Country Club. Golf plus continental breakfast, box lunch, buffet dinner, and prizes for contests.  For more info, call (949) 855-8033.

Saturday, June 29: Casino Night from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Clubhouse 5 in Laguna Woods Village. For $25, you get admission, $100 in play money, a bountiful snack table, and the opportunity to win some great raffle prizes. This is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Florence Sylvester Center, thanks to the generosity of many individuals and businesses and the outstanding support of Saddleback Kiwanis. Tickets available at the door and at the Florence Sylvester Senior Center.

We Love Volunteers!!!

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

Clubhouse Five in Laguna Woods Village is a big place, but only barely big enough to hold the close to 600 generous people who were honored at Age Well’s 16th Annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon Wednesday.  Mrs. McD and I got there at 12:45 thinking we were early, but no way. The parking lot was already in over flow mode and from the far end of the entrance hall we could hear the buzz and laughter of animated conversations.  When we looked inside, being honored seemed to be the farthest thing from the volunteers’ minds. They just wanted to have fun and enjoy one of Jolanda’s legendary lunches.

Some of the nearly 600 honorees

A series of speakers welcomed the volunteers and thanked them for all the good they do: Age Well CEO Dr. Marilyn Ditty, Board of Directors President Doug Zielasko, and Shirley Witt from the Florence Sylvester Senior Center.  In any other circumstance three thank you speeches, no matter how brief, might seem redundant, but not in this case.  These are people you just can’t thank enough.

The Meals on Wheels volunteers pack and deliver more than 450,000 meals to seniors every year. The remaining nutrition volunteers help set up and serve Congregate Lunches and clean up afterwards. Other volunteers assist at senior centers in a variety of ways: answering phones, staffing the reception desk, doing clerical tasks, serving as activities instructors and assistants, helping seniors in Adult Day Services and at the Alzheimer’s Treatment Center, and last but far from least, doing fundraising.

Mrs. McD calculated that if instead of having volunteers we hired all these people at minimum wage, it would cost Age Well more than $400,000 a year for the nutrition volunteers alone. “That’s just hourly pay,” Mrs. McD said at the time.  “On top of that you have to pay Social Security and other such payroll taxes.  Pretty soon that amount is over half a mill.” It’s an irony, she added, that while they are happy to volunteer at no pay, if these talented people really wanted to earn money, they wouldn’t have to settle for anything close to minimum wages.

But volunteering isn’t only about saving the Benjamins. Just as important, it’s about sharing human contact with seniors, too many of whom have few friends or family nearby. Meals drivers get to do this every day, and so do volunteers in senior centers and day care settings.  That care means a lot to seniors.  Last year at a musical performance I watched as a volunteer helped an elderly lady move to a chair closer to the performer.  The lady had been pretty stoical up to that point, but when the volunteer assisted her, she said “Thank you” several times and beamed at her with a smile that could have melted the snowcap on an Austrian alp. 

We asked some site managers what volunteers mean to their operations.

“They are the heart and soul of Age Well Senior Services and the Dana Point Senior Center,” said Dana Point’s Vanna Murphy. “Their dedication, compassion and love of seniors makes a difference in the clients’ everyday life.”

“Age Well or any of the senior centers would not be able to exist without our army of volunteers,” said Shirley Witt of the Florence Sylvester Senior Center where volunteers range in age from 97 all the way down to 18. “Age Well is the nucleus and our volunteers are the heartbeat of our organization.”

Among those recognized were the following:

Evie Love from Dana Point who received a pin for 25 years of volunteering. “I love the work,” she said.  “I love you all,” she exclaimed to the audience.

Sande Conant from Rancho Santa Margarita who was named Ambassador of the Year.

• Thirteen individuals who were named Volunteer of the Year from their respective sites:

Adult Day Center, Jeff McCrory

Dana Point, Luigi LaValle, Congregate Meals

Laguna Beach, Linda Chazan, Congregate Meals

Laguna Beach, Sylvia McGregor, Congregate Meals

Laguna Hills (Florence Center), Irving Garber, Meals on Wheels

Laguna Hills (Florence Center), James Taylor, Congregate Meals

Laguna Niguel, Toby Curry, Meals on Wheels

Mission Hospital (Laguna Beach), John Keith, Meals on Wheels

Mission Viejo, Kay Palmieri, Congregate Meals

Oasis, Rachel Wolcott, Meals on Wheels

Rancho Santa Margarita, Sande Conant, Meals on Wheels and Congregate Meals

San Clemente, Trish Troffer, Meals on Wheels

San Juan Capistrano, Pauline Marshall

Musical entertainment was provided by Gustav Holst, Alexander Borodin, Antonin Dvorak, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Okay, I admit it, those dudes are all dead, but the wonderfully talented Pacific Symphony string quartet performed flawless renditions of some of their compositions and followed those up with two jazz interpretations. The ensemble was present thanks to a new collaboration between Age Well and Pacific Symphony’s Heart Strings, an outreach program that for the past eight years has linked the Orange County symphonic jewel with a variety of nonprofits.

The Pacific Symphony String Quartet (from left) violinists Nancy Eldridge and Alice Wrate, cellist Ian McKinnell, and violist Cheryl Gates.

Also entertaining was “Rock ‘N’ Country” singer Doug Houston who belted out a pair of patriotic numbers.

Shirley Witt emceed much of the event, threatening at one point to play the violin and later to sing. As it turned out her real talent may not be in music but in standup comedy.

Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:

Monday, June 3: Clyde Wright Invitational Golf Tournament. Benefiting Meals on Wheels and other Senior Services. 11 a.m. shotgun start at the Aliso Viejo Country Club. Golf plus continental breakfast, box lunch, buffet dinner, and prizes for contests.  For more info, call (949) 855-8033.

Saturday, June 29: Casino Night from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Clubhouse 5 in Laguna Woods Village. For $25, you get admission, $100 in play money, a bountiful snack table, and the opportunity to win some great raffle prizes. This is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Florence Sylvester Center, thanks to the generosity of many individuals and businesses and the outstanding support of Saddleback Kiwanis. Tickets available at the door and at the Florence Sylvester Senior Center

Mayors Find Out There’s More to Meals than Meals

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

When I think of Meals on Wheels, more likely than not I think of Penny.  She’s the lively sprite of a lady I met while doing a Meals ride-along in Laguna Niguel back in July of 2010. My guides that day were a husband-and-wife volunteer duo, Muriel and Al  Calfe.  Midway through the ride, as we approached Penny’s house, Muriel said with noticeable excitement in her voice, “Come meet Penny.  You must meet Penny!”

In the blog for that week I wrote, “When Penny opened the door, I saw instantly why I had to meet her.  She is a short slight woman in her 80’s with a contagious smile and an energetic wit. We all went into her kitchen, and the three of them talked on like old friends. This week the subject was movies.”

In that one visit I got to see the best that Meals on Wheels has to offer: a nutritious hot meal, a brief daily interlude of companionship, and although neither Muriel nor Al said anything about it, a welfare check to see that everything was okay with Penny. Penny can’t drive and there is no supermarket even close to walking distance, so Meals on Wheels is what makes it possible for her to stay in the familiar surroundings of her home.

That’s one of many kinds of stories we want the world to know about Meals on Wheels.  Variations on this story aren’t always as happy, but they all share one kernel of truth — if Meals on Wheels had to close up shop, millions of seniors in this country would lose a lifeline.  Some who can’t cook or shop would be forced out of their homes and into group settings. Others who live a life of poverty would be hard pressed to find nutritious food. And in the most dire cases, some people who suffer medical emergencies might lie unattended for days in their home.

Increasingly, however, it is the growing menace of hunger among seniors that makes Meals on Wheels such a vital resource.  According to “Senior Hunger in America: An Annual Report,” one in seven seniors is threatened with hunger — that’s 8.3 million in 2010, the latest year for which statistics are available, which is a 78% increase since 2001.

And in spite of Orange County’s reputation for affluence, hunger is a real threat right here as well. More of our county’s senior citizens who depend on food programs are being put on waiting lists or are being asked to pay for home-delivered meals because of rising costs, increasing demand and reduced federal funding, according to agencies that serve the county’s older population.

Once a year Meals on Wheels gets its story to some people who can influence public policy and spread the word about Meals to others who have the kind of access and resources to grow the program.  They are America’s mayors, and last week a number of the local mayors took part in the annual Mayors’ Meals deliveries from Age Well sites.

Laguna Niguel Mayor Robert Ming had never done the ride-along before, although he was familiar with Meals on Wheels.  He visited nine homes with a volunteer and watched the packing beforehand which he termed “quite an operation.”  Would he do it again? “Sure,” he said without hesitation. “I’m always glad when an organization not just donates but allows people to go out and help someone else. This is a great thing.”

What did he learn? “How important the relationship building experience is for both recipient and volunteer … especially getting to know someone and spending some time with people.”

Other local officials who participated were Newport Beach Mayor Keith Curry; Dana Point Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Bartlett; from Laguna Hills, CEO of United Way Max Gardner; Rancho Santa Margarita Mayor Anthony Beall; and San Clemente Mayor Robert Baker and his wife Pam.

Thousands of other mayors from throughout the U.S. took part. “Seeing is believing,” said Port Vue (PA) Mayor Brien Hranics. “We are seeing the needs of our communities firsthand, and we can address it.”

Delaware (OH) Mayor Gary Milner participated for the third consecutive year. “A lot of these people don’t have much outside contact, so this is not just about delivering a meal – it’s also about making a personal connection,” he told a reporter.

Houston (TX) Mayor Annise Parker echoed that sentiment. “It is about making sure our seniors have enough nutritious food but it’s also a life line and a social connection,” she said.

Dorothy Harris, a Florida resident, said she was “really happy to see the mayor.” She praised the meals volunteers for being conscientious about making sure she’s okay. “If I’m not home, they’re frantic,” she said.

When we ask seniors what Meals on Wheels means to them, inevitably a number of them tell us, “I could not survive without it,” and they mean it quite literally. If you want to know how recipients feel, go to http://www.mowaa.org/stories, where you can see their faces and hear their stories in their own voices.

YOU CAN HELP Age Well and its volunteers who deliver an average of 450,000 meals every year right here in Orange County. Go to www.myagewell.org and make a donation.  Better still, join the Next Meal Club, and help thwart hunger every day of the week with a continuing donation.

At the Florence Sylvester Center, Meals on Wheels Manager Chris Etcheverry, Age Well CEO Dr. Marilyn Ditty, and United Way CEO Max Gardner. Photo by Sandy Zimmer.

Florence Sylvester nutrition volunteers Choon Ja Yeam and Sook Ja Lee. Photo by Sandy Zimmer.

Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:

Monday, June 3: Clyde Wright Invitational Golf Tournament. Benefiting Meals on Wheels and other Senior Services. 11 a.m. shotgun start at the Aliso Viejo Country Club. Golf plus continental breakfast, box lunch, buffet dinner, and prizes for contests.  For more info, call (949) 855-8033.

Summit Highlights Senior Abuse

Monday, March 4th, 2013
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

First, a shamefaced admission for which my friends at Age Well Senior Services will excoriate me: When I first heard about the South County Senior Summit two months ago, the thought of sitting through four hours of talks about senior issues really didn’t excite me.  I mean I’m not exactly ignorant on such matters. I live among seniors — eighteen-bloody-thousand of them.  I read senior periodicals like Life After 50 and our weekly newspaper, The Globe. In the real world, TV stations carry commercials for high-end clothing stores, wonderful feminine fragrances, and 400 horsepower SUVs. The cable system in our senior community hawks hearing aids, Preparation H, and reverse mortgages.  Some of my neighbors may not be able to name our congressman, but they darn well know who Fred Thompson is. (If you don’t know, ask a parent or grandparent.)

So after more than thirteen years of immersion in the culture of aging, what in heck could Mrs. McD and I possibly learn at a geezerfest?

As it turns out, a lot, I must now humbly admit.

• “Elder abuse and financial fraud  [are] … rampant, and seniors are vulnerable, “ Age Well CEO Marilyn Ditty told the gathering at the outset.

• Later Carol Mitchell, director of Orange County Adult Protective Services, reinforced that idea. Eleven percent of seniors are victims of abuse, she pointed out. Worse still,  only one in five cases is actually reported to authorities.

• Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas gave a chilling recitation of elders who had been defrauded by caregivers and relatives, and in some cases had lost everything they had. One con artist took $3 million from seniors at his church.

“What a cover,” Mrs. McD said to me.  “His victims must have thought, ‘Well he goes to church.  He must be honest.’”

And we learned some things we can do to protect ourselves:

• Lock up valuables.

• Don’t let caregivers and others access your bank accounts and credit and debit cards.

• Call Adult Protective Services if you suspect you are being victimized.  800-451-5155 — that’s a 24-hour hotline,

I asked our neighbor Arnie, who was with us, what was the best thing he learned at the summit.

“How to stop being scammed on the telephone,” he said.

“How?” I asked

 “’Hang up. I mean that’s about as simple a solution as you can get.  Hang the ding dang phone up. Some people are too polite for their own good.”

Actually what I’ve recounted is a relative smidgen of what we all learned. The morning was filled with an array of highly engaging speakers.  I occasionally take long walks past dozens of homes whose occupants I don’t know.  As peaceful as the homes look, I’m now beginning to wonder if there aren’t some felonious scenarios being played out behind a few of those doors.

If you didn’t attend the Summit, you can read Globe reporter Jennifer Karmarkar’s excellent coverage of the event either in the February 28 Laguna Woods Globe or online at http://www.ocregister.com/news/county-497100-seniors-services.html

And you can still see what went on if you have access to the Laguna Woods Village cable system. According to the official program handed out at the Summit, TV-6 will air three broadcasts of it: Friday, March 8 at 2 p.m., Friday, March 15 at 6 p.m., and Tuesday March 26 at 2 p.m.  You can also see showings via the Cox Communications Available On Demand service, Cox Channel 1636, from March 8 through the end of 2013.

The event was sponsored by Orange County Fifth District Supervisor Pat Bates, who for years has been an outspoken champion of senior issues, and by the Office on Aging, Age Well Senior Services, and Laguna Woods Village. And next year, you can bet we will be there.

Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:

Monday, June 3: Clyde Wright Invitational Golf Tournament. Benefiting Meals on Wheels and other Senior Services. 11 a.m. shotgun start at the Aliso Viejo Country Club. Golf plus continental breakfast, box lunch, buffet dinner, plus prizes for contests.  For more info, call (949) 855-8033.

‘Feeder of the Masses’ — Nevin Scrimshaw, 1918-2013

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

Mrs. McD and I were reading last week — she, the New York Times;

 I, Golf Digest — when after many minutes of silence she said, “Nevin Scrimshaw died.”

“Really?” I said.  “That’s too bad.” I went on reading about how to add ten yards to my drives, but soon got the feeling Mrs. McD was still looking at  me.  I turned to see that indeed she was — “glaring” would have been a more accurate verb.

“You have no idea who Nevin Scrimshaw was, do you?” she said sharply.

“Of course I do.  He’s the Brit who wrote On the Beach.”

“That was Nevil Shute,” she replied even sharper.  (I think she resisted the urge to add the phrase “you dimwit.”)

“Okay, who was he?”

“A pioneering nutritionist.”

“Nutritionists are good,” I said. “I mean we need them, right? Even Meals on Wheels needs them. But so the world has one less nutritionist.  Is that so awful?”

Bad move.  Bad, bad thing to say.  You see, Mrs. McD studied nutrition in college.  Not just your ordinary how-many-calories-and-carbohydrates-a-day nutrition, but the nutrition of people in developing countries. Did your mom ever tell you to finish your meal because starving kids in poor countries would love to have the food you were passing up? Mrs. McD went light years beyond that.  She could actually tell you what those kids were eating — and more importantly, what they weren’t eating and why it was killing them. I soon realized that Dr. Scrimshaw was one of her heroes. So I spent the next hour or so reading about him from several sources.

He lived 95 years, from January 20, 1918, when he was born in Milwaukee, until February 8, 2013, when in died in Plymouth, New Hampshire. He earned a bachelors degree in biology at Ohio Wesleyan and a PhD in physiology from Harvard.  He went to medical school in Rochester, New York, where he developed a keen interest in nutrition. When he was thirty-one, he relocated his family from New York to Guatemala, and eventually founded the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama.

At the time nutrition wasn’t one of those sexy fields that attracted hordes of young med students. “My professors thought I was throwing my career away,” he told the Boston Globe in 2008. Even his wife Mary, who is a nutritional anthropologist. raised a caution flag. “If you do this, “ she told him, “you know you’re going to be identified with nutrition from now on. ”

But he brushed aside his professors’ concerns, and spent the next sixty-plus years working tirelessly to improve the health of millions of children in developing countries by creating low-cost vegetable-based foods for weaning infants. During the course of his long career he developed nutritional supplements for alleviating protein, iodine, and iron deficiencies in the developing world.

“To help protein-starved children in Central America, Dr. Scrimshaw created a gruel made of corn, sorghum and cottonseed flour that was nutritionally equivalent to milk,” Douglas Martin wrote in the New York Times obituary of Dr. Scrimshaw. “In India, he adapted the same principle to peanut flour and wheat. He then brought both products to market, where they sold for only pennies.

“Working in Central America, Dr. Scrimshaw also helped eliminate endemic goiter in children — a swelling of the thyroid gland that can lead to mental retardation, deafness and dwarfism. The ailment is caused by a mother’s iodine deficiency.”

Back in the states he founded the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In his work as a teacher and mentor at MIT,  he “populated the world with first-rate scientists,” said Jean-Pierre Habicht, a professor emeritus of nutritional epidemiology at Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology.

“If there were a pantheon in the field of international nutrition, he would be absolutely at the top,” Dr. Irwin Rosenberg, a former dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and board member of the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation, which Dr. Scrimshaw founded.

“There’s no one else who comes even close to having cast as much influence around the world: in Asia, in Central America, in Africa,” Rosenberg told the Globe. “I can’t even think of anyone in a close second-place.”

The Sydney (Aus) Morning Herald placed an elegantly simple headline over the announcement of his death: “Feeder of the Masses.”

At least once or twice a year we cite the late Dr. Robert Butler, the founder of gerontology, who said our goal shouldn’t be just to live to 90, “but to make 90 a better 90.”

Dr. Scrimshaw is the poster child for doing exactly that. He skied, hiked and worked out at a fitness center well into his tenth decade.  In his late eighties he was still traveling to give workshops.  If Age Well had a hall of fame, Dr. Scrimshaw would be a charter member.

Five years before he passed away, he credited his longevity in part to (would you expect anything else?) “an optimal diet” and having lived a stress-free life. 

“I have a wonderful marriage, the children and grandchildren are doing well, and I’ve received all the professional recognition that anybody could ask for. I’m very satisfied.”

After I finished this blog, Mrs. McD proofread it for me.  “Not bad,” she said.  “Not bad at all.  But you left out an awful lot.”

I did indeed — there’s just so much space, you know. But if you Google Nevin Scrimshaw, you will discover even more about his remarkable life.

Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:

 Friday February 22: 6th Annual Senior Summit Clubhouse 3, Laguna Woods Village, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Registration begins at 8 a.m. Complimentary breakfast and lunch. RSVP to (800) 510-2020 or (714) 567-7500.

Saturday, March 2: “The Captain’s Ball 2013. Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel.  Cocktail reception and Silent Auction begin at 6 p.m., followed by dinner, live auction and dancing.

Monday, June 3: Clyde Wright Invitational Golf Tournament. Benefiting Meals on Wheels and other Senior Services. 11 a.m. shotgun start at the Aliso Viejo Country Club. Golf plus continental breakfast, box lunch, buffet dinner, plus prizes for contests.  For more info, call (949) 855-8033.