Age Well Senior Services

Old Age Sells

Friday, September 14th, 2012
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

Imagine a screenplay about an older chronic complainer with a potty mouth who has never had a good relationship with his daughter and still can’t get along with her in his eighties.  Sounds like a real downer, right?

Audiences didn’t think so. The film, On Golden Pond. opened on January 22, 1981, and by the end of the following year it had grossed just shy of $120 million. Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn won Oscars for Best Actor and Best Actress, and Ernest Thompson’s script won an Oscar for Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Medium.  The movie was nominated for seven other Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography.

The filmmakers knew that old age, properly portrayed by great talent, would sell, and it still does today. I don’t know if it’s a trend (I hope it is) but two current films about senior citizens are doing quite well at the box office.

Exhibit A is Robot and Frank, which Mrs. McD and I saw a few days ago, and which takes place “in the near future.” The plot (I’m not giving away anything you wouldn’t know from seeing the trailer) involves a retiree with a Noo Yawk attitude and a few memory problems.  The main character, Frank, is not your customary senior citizen — back in his working days he was a cat burglar.

Frank Langella, who in my opinion doesn’t know how to make a bad movie, plays Frank, and Susan Sarandon plays his acquaintance, the local librarian. Frank has two adult children, Madison (Liv Tyler), and Hunter (James Marsden). whose relationships with Frank and with each other are prickly at best.

Hunter worries about his dad’s ability to care for himself, but rather than getting him Meals on Wheels or enrolling him in a senior center program, he buys him a walking, talking robot. (Remember this is in the near future.) This ultimate household appliance can cook, clean his messy house, go on walks with him, and generally get Frank engaged in activities that Hunter thinks will improve his memory.

Frank despises the robot and wants Hunter to get rid of it.   Then one day he realizes he can use it to get back into the cat burglar business with little fear of being caught. Suddenly the robot is his best buddy.

unter worries about his daHu

The plot continues along this comedic course until — well I can’t tell you more without ruining the movie for you.  Maybe some astute filmgoers smelled out the surprise ending, but Mrs McD and I sure didn’t.  It’s a clever film that cons you into thinking it’s about one thing, but turns out to be about something altogether different and more meaningful.

“Have you noticed?” Mrs. McD said as we drove away from the theater after the movie.  “They’re making more movies about us these days.”

“Us?” I said.

“Geezers,” she replied.  “Remember Marigold?”  She was referring to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a film we had seen several months ago, and which is Exhibit B.

In Marigold, seven British retirees decide, in the words of one reviewer, “to outsource their retirement.” Short of funds to sustain a retirement in their homeland, they travel to Jaipur, India,  attracted by a colorful brochure for the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which claims to be a luxurious destination “for the elderly and the beautiful.” When they arrive, however, they soon find out that the young hotel owner (Dev Patel) is apparently much better at Photoshop than at resort management.  The place bears only a faint and unfavorable resemblance to the pictures in the brochure.

When they complain, Patel tells them, “Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, then it’s not the end.”

The film is a number of intertwined ever-so-human stories. Its cast is populated with some of the finest actors in cinema— Judy Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and more. John Madden — the British director, not the American football coach — directed the film. (He also directed Judy Dench as Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love for which she won an Oscar even though she was on screen for only about eight minutes.)

We saw Marigold with a packed house at a senior matinee.  I don’t know what other age groups thought of it, but the people at our showing gave it rousing applause at the end.

I believe it’s only in one theater locally now, but next Tuesday, September 18, the DVD will be released.

Next on the Age Well Calendar

The Aging in Place Summit “Don’t just survive —Thrive!” presented by Age Well Senior Services and South Shores Church

Date: October 23 from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Featured Speakers & Topics: Details will be in the next blog the week of September 24.

Location: South Shores Church: 32712 Crown Valley Parkway, Monarch Beach.  Admission is free.

For more information: Call Danielle Dale at Age Well, (949) 855-8033, or email her at


23rd Annual Seniors Prom benefiting Meals on Wheels and Honoring our Veterans.

Date: November 4 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Includes Buffet Dinner and features music by Johnny Vana’s Big Band Alumni with special guests The 40’s Fly Girls. Tickets are $40 pre-sale and $45 at the door. Pre-Sale tickets available through Friday, October 26, 2012 at south Orange County Senior Centers and at Age Well Senior Services. 

At 51, Willie Wood Gets a Do-Over

Monday, August 27th, 2012
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

This is the story of a professional athlete and one of his more ardent fans.  The athlete is golf touring pro Willie Wood.   I am the fan.  I became aware of Willie back in the mid-1980’s when we lived in the Bay Area because Mrs. McD and I had a good friend, Diana,  who was somehow related to him. Or maybe to his wife Holly — I forget which.   (And yes, his wife’s name really was Holly Wood.)

We never met Willie, but we did meet Holly.  Diana introduced us one year at the Crosby Tournament at Pebble Beach in which Willie was playing.  I remember her as an attractive,  friendly young woman with a smile that would melt all of Alaska.

Willie turned pro after an outstanding amateur career and an even better college career at Oklahoma State. He earned his playing privileges on the pro tour by finishing first in the finals of the 1983 PGA Qualifying Tournament, a grueling, six-day competition that pros describe with terms like “gut wrenching,” “sadistic,” and “hell week.” If he had any problem as a rookie, it was his appearance. He was 5’7” and 135 pounds with boyish good looks that, when he first came on tour, caused him to be mistaken for a caddy.

The experts said he was headed for stardom, and he did have some notable success during the first few years of his career. But then the narrative turned.

Remember the episodes in the Peanuts comic strip where each September Lucy would hold the football so Charlie Brown could placekick it? Charlie would run towards the ball, but at the last minute Lucy would pull it out of the way, and Charlie would go flying on his derriere. The following September Lucy would promise not to pull it away, but of course she always did.

After a few years of following Willie on TV and in the sports pages, I felt like Charlie Brown futilely trying to kick the football.  Just when I thought Willie was going to make a breakthrough, he would disappoint.  Sometimes it was because of just plain rotten luck.  In 1990 he tied for first with Joey Sindelar at the Hardee’s Classic. When this happens the players who are tied go into a sudden death playoff.  On the first playoff hole, Willie hit a chip shot to the green that hit a metal lawn sprinkler head and went flying wildly away from the hole, costing him the playoff. In 1996 he won his only tournament on the regular tour, the Deposit Guaranty Classic in Madison, Mississippi.

Willie won around $3 million in prize money during the decade-plus he was on the tour, which isn’t much.  Golf pros are the ultimate independent contractors. Out of their winnings they have to pay for hotels, air fare, meals and caddy fees. Like all pros he did earn some income from sponsors including Titleist Golf. But by the late 1990’s he was off the regular tour and playing in golf’s minor leagues where the money isn’t great. He said some weeks he would play well enough to earn a check, and still not make expenses.

There was a reason for Willie’s descent.  In September of 1988 Holly was diagnosed with bone cancer. At the time the couple had two infant children.  Willie spent the off season with her in Houston where she was being treated in a clinic. The treatment was expensive, so in January Willie headed back to the tour to earn some money.  When he was out of town, Holly’s parents took care of the kids.

By the following June Willie knew Holly wasn’t going to make it. Chemo had robbed her of her lovely hair; now she wore a white towel around her head. In July she passed away. Professional golf is a game where you have to concentrate intensely without letup for five hours or more, but after Holly died, Willie just couldn’t do that.

For the past decade or so I wondered occasionally whatever happened to Willie. Two Sundays ago I turned on the TV to watch a PGA tournament, the Wyndham Classic, only to discover it had been rained out. Needing a golf fix, any fix, I switched to the Dick’s Sporting Goods Classic on the Champion’s Tour, formerly known as the Senior Tour.   That’s a professional tour for golfers after they turn 50. To most of us in the Age Well community, anybody who is 50 is just a kid, not a senior. I mean we know lots of people in their 70s and 80s who are still swimming laps, lifting weights,  running 10Ks and in their spare time delivering Meals on Wheels. 

But when athletes reach 50 they’ve lost some speed, strength and visual acuity.  So since 1980, guys who are 50-plus and whose PGA Tour days were over have had a place to earn a living and compete against golfers who are their physical peers. Still the senior tour is no place for softies.  The longer hitters can still pound the ball 300 yards or more off the tee.

Surprise, surprise! There in the last group of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Classic, only one stroke out of the lead, was a newly minted senior golfer, 51-year-old Willie Wood.  I was glued to that TV set. There were only a half-dozen holes left, and as they went by it seemed less and less likely that Willie could make up the one-stroke difference. Finally he reached the par-4 18th hole needing to finish it in three strokes to tie.

He got to the green in two but had to make a 35-foot putt for a three. I got this sinking feeling that Lucy was about to pull the football away again. But on Golf TV, former tour player Curt Byrum, who has known Willie for decades, had a different take. “He can really putt,” Byrum said. “If he hits a great one, don’t be surprised.”

At long last Willie putted, and the ball rolled agonizingly slowly across the green, then broke right towards the cup.  “Go!” I shouted.  “Go!” And it went.  Willie was tied for the lead, and about to go into a playoff with Michael Allen, who had already won two Champions events this year. Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, who played with Willie on the regular tour, said, “He’s been making putts like that all his life.”

The playoff was over almost before it started. On the first playoff hole, Willie put his drive in the fairway, but Allen hit one of the worst drives of his career.  It went sharply left behind a TV tower and into a hazard for a one-stroke penalty.  About fifteen minutes later Willie tapped in a six-inch putt for his first victory in sixteen years and a $270,000 first place check.

It was an emotional win. “I have a lot of people to thank,” he told interviewer David Marr, “but right now I can’t remember who they are.”

The story doesn’t end there. Many senior players have full playing privileges. They can enter any Champions tournament they wish.  But Willie hadn’t earned that status yet. He either had to get a sponsor’s exemption (i.e., beg his way in) or show up several days before the tournament and play in a qualifying tournament.

The win earned him fully exempt status for the next twelve months. But the following week Willie finished third, just a stroke out of first, and won $144,000. at the Boeing Classic in Snoqualmie, Washington.  That coupled with the $175,000 he had won before the Dick’s Classic, means he will very likely have full status on the tour and be able to play in any tournament he chooses for the rest of this year and throughout 2013.

“No more Monday qualifying,” Willie told David Marr.  “Now I have a place to play.”

“He’s a good guy, well respected by his peers, who has had tragedy in his life, but who had lots of people rooting for him today,” said Brandel Chamblee. “You want Willie Wood on the Champions Tour, trust me.  He is a fun guy to watch.”

Donors Honored, Directors Installed

Monday, August 20th, 2012
By Riley McDavid Riley McDavid

More than 200 people attended Age Well’s Annual Donor Recognition and Board Installation August 9 at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel. The event, formerly known as the Tea Dance, was hosted by First Bank, and Susan Montoya of First Bank performed flawlessly as emcee.

Dr. Marilyn Ditty prefaced her annual report by saying, “It will be short this year.” Short, but with some exciting news. Dr. Ditty said that the Weingart Foundation, which had given Age Well Senior Services a $150,000 unrestricted grant for programs and services, was also giving a $50,000 matching grant for Age Well’s operating reserve. For every dollar that Age Well donors give between now and January 31, 2013, the foundation will give a matching dollar up to a total of $50,000.

The news got better. When emcee Susan Montoya resumed her place at the podium she got the challenge off to an auspicious start by announcing she was pledging $1,000.

“We urge anybody and everybody who can to help us meet that $50,000 target,” said Becky Lomaka, Age Well’s Director of Development.  “Go to, click on Donate Now and fill in the blanks.” Or you can send a check to Age Well Senior Services, 24300 El Toro Road, Suite A-2000, Laguna Woods, CA 92637.

The event featured a surprise guest speaker — State Senator Mimi Walters who represents many of the communities served by Age Well.  She praised the efforts of Age Well, particularly in providing seniors with the services that enable them to stay in their homes rather than being forced into nursing homes.  She had been lobbied hard on that idea by one influential senior — her mom.

Orange County Superior Court Judge John Adams administered the oath to the 2012-2013 board members: Doug Zielasko (President), Guy Navarro (Vice President), Ted Sanders (Treasurer), Daniel Dubois (Secretary), Dr. Marilyn Ditty, Bob Bates, Howard Baumann,  Anna Boyce, Mark Burton, Jim Cherrie, Ray  Chicoine, Adam Darvish, Jolene Fuentes, Peter Gilkey, Patricia Kolstad, Kim Luu, Richard Morse, Steve Moyer, Tandy Sullivan, and Ron Widick.

Doug Zielasko expressed Age Well’s thanks to our major donors: The California Wellness Foundation, The Foundation of Laguna Woods Village, Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, and the Weingart Foundation;  and to our 2012 Community Partners: Monarch HealthCare. Wells Fargo, Memorial Care Medical Group, Bates/Lee Advertising, First Bank, Langlois Fancy Frozen Foods, Saddleback Memorial Medical Center, Attentive Home Care, and Coast Electric.

“We’d also like to thank the companies who helped make today’s event possible,” Doug said, “First Bank, J Lohr and Gallo Wines, La Tulipe Floral Designs and the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel.”

A highly talented ensemble of musicians, the Citrus College Jazz Quartet, entertained at the event.

William Staub: He Helped People Get Nowhere Fast

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

It’s been some time since we’ve given a McDee Award, but this week the late William Staub becomes the most recent recipient.  For readers who are new to this blog, or who have short memories, the qualifications for a McDee are simple. The person must be a senior and must have made a notable contribution to the lives of others.

William Staub passed away two weeks ago in Clifton, New Jersey, where he had lived for more than seventy years.  If you have never heard of William Staub, don’t feel that something is lacking in your education. In spite of the revolution he helped to create in the world of physical fitness, relatively few people know who he was.

Mr. Staub was born in Philadelphia in 1915.  He became a mechanical engineer and in the early 1940’s moved to nearby New Jersey where he worked in the propeller division of the aircraft manufacturer Curtiss-Wright.  He reportedly was a terrific engineer but he also had the DNA of an entrepreneur. So eventually he abandoned the role of employee and founded the aerospace company Besco Corporation. (Besco is an acronym for the Bill Edward Staub Corporation.)

Fast forward a couple of decades. Halfway across the country Dr. Kenneth Cooper, a medical doctor and former Air Force colonel, had been for years promoting a then revolutionary idea that today is taken as objective fact: the key to overall physical fitness is having a healthy heart.  Over the years Dr. Cooper published nearly two dozen books on the subject, popularized the term aerobics, and founded a number of companies in Texas dedicated to helping people get fit and stay that way.

In the late 1960’s, when Mr. Staub was in his early 50’s, Besco was thriving.  Mr. Staub, although a disciplined person in his own habits, nevertheless wasn’t much of a fitness buff.  That all changed when he picked up a book by Dr. Cooper entitled Aerobics.

“Dr. Cooper said if you ran a mile in eight minutes and did it four to five times a week, you would always be in a good fitness category,” Mr. Staub’s son Gerald said in the New York Times obituary about his father. “[Dad] said even I — no excuses — I can afford eight minutes. That’s what excited him about it.”

So Mr. Staub took up running, and pretty soon he could do his eight-minute miles. But the weather in Clifton, New Jersey, can be downright inhospitable. The average low temperature between November and March ranges from 19 degrees to 34 degrees, and most months of the year the average rainfall is over four inches.  Summer with its high temps and sweltering humidity is no bargain.  So Mr. Staub set his mind to creating a device, the treadmill, that would allow people to exercise without ever stepping foot outside their homes.

Treadmills were nothing new. In fact they go back 4,000 years, but not as a piece of exercise equipment. Originally they were used to carry water and later to create rotary grain mills, powered sometimes by humans and sometimes by animals. In the 1800’s the British penal system used treadmills to punish prisoners.  “Several prisoners stood side-by-side on a wheel, and had to work six or more hours a day, effectively climbing 5,000 to 14,000 vertical feet,” according to Wikipedia. “While the purpose was mainly punitive, the mill could grind grain, pump water, or ventilate.”

By the 1960’s exercise treadmills were common in doctor’s offices, but they were very costly. With much encouragement from Dr. Cooper, Mr. Staub set about making one that would be commercially viable, i.e., inexpensive enough for the average person to purchase.  He founded a company called Aerobics, and while his employees at Besco were making their company’s products, William Staub was in the other half of the facility trying to turn a collection of pulleys and belts and whatnot into a treadmill. His prototype consisted of 40 steel rollers covered by an orange belt, a gray cover over the motor, and orange dials to determine time and speed.  He called it the Pacemaster.

Mr. Staub and his son began marketing the device at trade shows and elsewhere, and eventually it caught on.  In the interval between then and now, one internet source estimates that 83 million of a number of different brands have been sold. “I don’t think he thought it was going to be quite as big as it was,” Gerald Staub said. Today’s treadmills are glitzier with a lot of bells and whistles that Mr. Staub’s plane Jane original didn’t have — heart rate monitors, gears for creating hills, flat panel TVs, and much more.

Barbara Bushman, a professor of kinesiology at Missouri State University, said William Staub changed the way people exercise. “From a public health standpoint, it’s so encouraging,” Bushman said. “He really took away the excuse of the weather’s not conducive to exercise today, or the neighborhood conditions are not safe or optimal, it’s early morning. All those excuses are really taken away with one piece of equipment.”

Mr. Staub’s passing was noted in daily papers large and small across the country, but it was also reported, with noticeable affection, in specialized publications that cater to the nation’s running and aerobics enthusiasts.

 “The gym rats in Phoenix were talking today,” Christine Colburn wrote in the Phoenix Mental Health Examiner on the occasion of Mr. Staub’s death. “Who could believe the man, William Staub who invented the treadmill we all love so much in the gym was really gone. William Staub took the treadmill — that ubiquitous piece of exercise equipment that is loved and loathed by millions — into homes and gyms. He was 96 and had been spied on a treadmill as recently as two months ago.”

 “Treadmill users everywhere take a moment to pay tribute to the life of William Staub,” Treadmill Review wrote, “for without him, you would still be pounding the pavement, missing your favorite TV shows, and dying without your air conditioners.”

It is impossible to calculate the enormous benefits that people worldwide have received from Mr. Staub’s creation.  Millions are living longer, healthier lives because he looked out the window before going off to jog one morning in the sleet and rain, and thought to himself, “There’s got to be a better way.”

Age Well Senior Services’ senior centers have long had exercise programs, but the new Dorothy Visser Senior Center in San Clemente took that to a new level recently when it opened its fitness center. Cathy Lee, site director at Visser, says the center not only has two treadmills, but two standing ellipticals and one seated elliptical, a recumbent bike, an upright bike, a weight trainer, and more.

“Helping seniors maintain their vitality is a key part of the mission of Age Well Senior Services,” says CEO Dr. Marilyn Ditty.

Coming up on the Age Well Calendar

August 9.  The Annual Donor Recognition and Board Installation at the Ritz Carlton, Dana Point, hosted by First Bank.  The event will be in the Pacific Promenade from 4 pm to 7 pm. Entertainment by the Citrus Collage Jazz Quartet. Tickets: $50 per person.  For more information, call (949) 855-8033.

Arnie Passes the Hat

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

Arnie, Mrs. McD and I were sitting in our backyard the day after the Fourth of July, sipping coffee and reading the morning newspaper. As is her occasional custom, Mrs. McD, who knows darn well that Arnie and I can read an English language newspaper, nevertheless was interrupting her reading to share tidbits of news with us.

“A fellow in San Francisco ran into a crowded supermarket yelling that the store was about to blow up,” she said after reading one article.  “Scared everybody right out of their flip-flops.”

“Why did he do it?” I asked.

“It says here, and I quote, ‘He is a disgruntled former employee.’”

“What got him so cornsarned disgruntled?” Arnie asked.

“The store fired him. Seems he was stealing money from the charity donation can at his checkout station.”

“The low-down varmint,” Arnie said.

 “I‘ve always wondered about something,” I said. “Since there’s a word disgruntled, is there also such a word as gruntled?”

Ever seeking an opportunity to show off her high tech prowess, Mrs. McD grabbed her 250,000-word electronic dictionary and keyed in g-r-u-n-t-l-e-d. After a moment she announced, “There is indeed such a word. It means pleased or happy.”

A few minutes later, she spoke up again.  “Since you’re into words today, Riley, here’s a new term for you: competitive eaters.”

“What in the name of pork belly futures is a competitive eater?” Arnie asked

“Someone who enters eating contests, like the annual Fourth of July hot dog eating competition at Coney Island. The women’s division was won by a lady who ate forty-five wieners. “

“That’s not healthy,” I said snidely. “I’ll bet she’s more than a few pounds overweight,”

“Actually, no.” Mrs. McD said.  “It says here she’s five-foot-five and weighs just a fraction over one-hundred pounds. She won ten-thousand dollars. “

“I know what she should do with that money,” Arnie said.  “Since she won it in a silly old eating contest she should donate it to the Next Meal Club.”

“The what?” Mrs. McD and I said in unison.

“Ain’t you two never heard of that old saying, ‘I don’t know where my next meal is coming from?” We nodded that we had. “Well there’s tons of seniors right here in this county who actually don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  So Age Well has created the Next Meal Club so its Meals on Wheels program can help feed people who are in that kind of pickle.”

A brief aside: There was a time when Arnie wanted nothing to do with Meals on Wheels.” “If I contribute, “ he once told me, “I’ll help to make some old people fatter.  We got enough old fat people as it is.”  But then he saw a video about some seniors who were saying what a lifesaver Meals on Wheels was for them, and it completely changed his attitude. He became a Meals driver, and now he’s a Meals evangelist 24/7.   You could be talking with him about the Mexican peso, the New York Yankees or the Higgs boson, but if the conversation lasted more than five minutes, he’d find a way to work Meals on Wheels into it.

“So here’s how the Next Meal Club works,” he said.  “You send a donation to Age Well Senior Services.  Since people have to eat every day, ideally the donation is a recurring one — so much every month, for example.”

“Can you give by credit card?” Mrs. McD asked.   (Talk about a setup line.)

“Yessirreebob,” Arnie replied.  “You go to,  click on Donate Now, and just fill in the blanks.  Do you know that every day in America, the world’s richest country, one in nine senior citizens faces the risk of hunger.”

“We’ll give,” I said.

“…and that Age Well provides half a million meals to seniors in a single year.  Half a cotton pickin’ million.”

“We’ll give,” I insisted. “Arnie’s the type who just won’t take yes for an answer.”

“If you didn’t have food to eat, you know what you’d be?” Arnie asked.

“Hungry,” Mrs. McD said. 

“That too,” Arnie said.  “But what I meant is that you’d be pretty doggoned disgruntled, that’s what.”

“Tell me the truth, Arnie,” Mrs. McD said.  “In your entire life, have you ever used that word in a sentence before?”

“Never,” he said, with a huge grin.  “But I like it.  I even like to say it: disgruntled, disgruntled, disgruntled. It’s cute. I like that other one too, that gruntled thing.  I’m gonna find a way to use it too.”

Arnie is a funny guy, but senior hunger is no laughing matter. Nearly nine million Americans fifty and older face the risk of hunger. You can help by donating today.  Visit and click on Donate Now.  Or send a check to Age Well Senior Services, Inc., 24300 El Toro Road, Laguna Woods, CA 92637.

Coming up on the Age Well Calendar

August 9.  The Annual Donor Recognition and Board Installation at the Ritz Carlton, Dana Point, hosted by First Bank.  The event will be in the Pacific Promenade from 4:00 pm to 7 pm. Entertainment by the Citrus Collage Jazz Quartet. Tickets: $50 per person.  For more information, call (949) 855-8033.

Opening Vistas to the Universe

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012


By Riley McDavid Riley McDavid

My first computer, which I purchased in about 1980, give or take a year, was a Morrow MD-II. George Morrow, the Silicon Valley Home Brew Club alumnus who designed it, had the right idea.  He wanted to produce a computer that would be user friendly for the ordinary person.  Unfortunately, the manuals for some of the accompanying software were not quite so user friendly.  For example, consider these instructions for the MD-II’s CP/M operating system:

“Any or all of the CP/M component subsystems can be overlaid by an executing program. That is, once a user’s program is loaded into the TPA, the CCP, BDOS, and BIOS areas can be used as the program’s data area. A bootstrap loader is programmatically accessible whenever the BIOS portion is not overlaid; thus, the user program need only branch to the bootstrap loader at the end of execution and the complete CP/M monitor is reloaded from disk.”

Ya got that?

Today’s PCs are considerably easier to use.  In the 1970’s, PARC, a Xerox entity in Palo Alto, developed (among other important PC innovations) the GUI — the graphical user interface.  It replaced written commands with visual icons.  Xerox never developed this commercially, but Apple did, and pretty soon computers became, in Apple’s word, “intuitive.”  You could look at a screen and figure out what to do next. Soon every personal computer brand had a graphical interface.

As personal computers became easier to use, more and more people began purchasing and using them.  One study way back in 2005 estimated that three out of four Americans owned one. There is a myth that older people are technology averse — they’re just plain scared of computers and the like.  But the reality is much different. According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, there are more seniors in the U.S. using computers than there are teens ages 13 to 17. A Nielsen survey said 22.8 million people 65 and over braved the web in September 2011, an increase of 4 million over the previous year.  So it was not surprising to see nine PC stations occupied earlier this week during a session in San Clemente at the Dorothy Visser Senior Center’s new computer lab.

Some of the users were new to computing while others had varying degrees of experience. But all wanted to learn more.

“It doesn’t matter how much you know about computers, you can’t know it all,” said Rick Palmer, a Marine Corps veteran who was in the session. “There’s always something more you can learn,” a comment that drew instant agreement from all the others.

There was a quiet intensity among the four men and five women in the room — eyes on the screen, fingers on the keyboard and relatively little talking. The session for the day was all about passwords and user names.  The leader was Nathaniel Christiansen, a young Saddleback College student and a volunteer at the center

“I’ll bet you’ve been using a computer since you were two years old,” I said to him.

“Just about,” he replied. Some computer teachers seem intent on making sure you know they are the smartest guys in the room.   Not Nathaniel.  He is so soft spoken that you think the person he is talking to is the only one who can hear him.  “I want this session to be really simple,” he said several times during my brief visit.

Cathy Lee, site director at Visser, said currently there are two sessions a week — she intentionally does not call them classes — plus individual meetings. Users pay no fees. Originally she had funding for three PCs, but a lady in an art class asked her how much more funding she needed. Cathy said, “About $6,000.” So the lady went home and told her partner who is an executive at UPS, and the company quickly came up with the additional money. It was not, by the way, the first time UPS had pitched in.  Earlier they had made substantial contributions to Meals on Wheels.

Computers aren’t like TVs.  You can’t just flip a switch and have them operate. These ten had to be wired to a system.  One Friday afternoon the week before the lab was to open, a fellow named Gregg Paris stopped by to pick up a volunteer application.  In the nonprofit world, as in so much of life, timing is everything.  This fellow Paris turned out to be a computer guru of sorts. 

The following Monday morning Cathy came to work in a bit of panic thinking, “Heavens I’ve got to get this system running.”  But there waiting for her was Gregg Paris.  “He beat me to work,” she said. He quickly shouldered the technical part of the task, and has kept the PCs humming ever since.

In computer lore, there is an oft-quoted comment attributed to IBM President Thomas J. Watson, Sr., in 1943. “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers,” he reportedly said. The problem is that there is virtually no evidence in IBM archives or anywhere else for that matter that he actually said this. Nevertheless the words live on in articles (like this one) as an example of how little early computing pioneers were able to foresee the impending explosion of computing around the world. Certainly none of them envisioned a day when nine seniors would be sitting in a room in San Clemente, California, at a device that, with a few mouse clicks, could open vistas for them anywhere in the known universe. 


Did You Know …

… that Age Well now has an Online Store? You can purchase any of nearly one thousand products which make great gifts for anyone in your life— bakery products, stuffed animals, wine, jewelry, a golf accessories gift basket, and many, many more items. A portion of each sale goes directly to Age Well.  (A notation by each item tells exactly how much Age Well receives.) Go to the Age Well home page and click on the store’s logo in the lower left column. Make someone happy with a nice gift and support Age Well, all with just a few mouse clicks.

Rolling the Dice

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

Casino Night is coming up next Saturday, June 23, and you really should be there.  Why?  The best way I can answer that is to reprint the blog I wrote after the first Casino Night I had ever attended back in 2010. Not only did Mrs. McD and I have tons of fun, but everybody else in the room seemed to as well. 

I don’t gamble.  It’s not a moral thing with me.  It’s an I-hate-to-lose-money thing. I know so little about gaming that until a few days ago, I thought Texas Hold ‘Em was an arrest procedure employed by the Dallas Police Department.

That all changed when Mrs. McDavid and I went to Florence Sylvester Memorial Senior Center’s 2010 Casino Night at Club House 5 in Laguna Woods Village. For $25 each, we got admission, $100 apiece in play money, a tasty buffet, and the opportunity to win some great raffle prizes.

I got initiated into the ways of craps thanks to an extremely patient croupier named James, a fellow who has been working casino parties for ten years.  James knew he wasn’t dealing with a Vegas regular when I first rolled the dice, missed the end of the table completely and totally stunned a nearby blackjack dealer.

My presence aside, there appeared to be plenty of people there who knew what gambling was all about. 

• Erma of Los Angeles, a summer resident of the Village. She says she goes to Laughlin (“I don’t like Vegas.”), won a blackjack tournament on one cruise and was a finalist on another.  On Casino Night she was the first up at one blackjack table and she never budged.  Three hours later she had turned her $100 in play money into $1,300, which she then cashed in for a long string of tickets for raffle prizes.

• Jeane, who said she is “not a big gambler.”  Jeane wasn’t nearly so lucky.   Within a relatively few minutes she had lost all $100 at a Texas Hold ‘Em table, but that didn’t diminish her enthusiasm,  “I like the whole idea of the event,” she said. “I had fun.”

• A fellow who won several fistfuls of chips even though he had never gambled for real money.  He said Casino Night is like Vegas on training wheels for people who are just learning.  “You’re playing with house money, so you can’t lose a dime. And it’s for a good cause.”

At nine p.m., the gaming stopped and for the next hour Florence Sylvester Director Shirley Witt had the pleasure of reading out the winning raffle ticket numbers for dozens of excellent prizes: a Magellan GPS, a 19-inch Vizio flat panel TV, a CD player, several $250 money trees, numerous restaurant gift certificates and much, much more.

The event is the biggest fundraiser for Florence Sylvester, and from the stage, Shirley thanked everyone who made it happen: her own staff and volunteers; Howard and Betty Baumann who spend many hours organizing the event and lining up donors; the merchants and other businesses and individuals who donate prizes; and Saddleback Kiwanis which supports the event.

Both Erma and Jeane said they’d be back next year, as did numerous others who obviously had a great evening.  And now that the McDavids had had a taste of gaming, would they be back?

“You can bet on it,” Mrs. McDavid said.

The details on Casino Night…

Saturday, June 23, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Clubhouse 5 in Laguna Woods Village. For $25, you get admission, $100 in play money, lots of snacks, 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. Special thanks to Dody Hohnstein, who once again is the event’s major sponsor. Tickets are available at the door.

Did You Know …

… that Age Well now has an Online Store? You can purchase any of nearly one thousand products which make great gifts for anyone in your life— bakery products, stuffed animals, wine, jewelry, a golf accessories gift basket, and many, many more items. A portion of each sale goes directly to Age Well.  (A notation by each item tells exactly how much Age Well receives.) Go to the Age Well home page  and click on the store’s logo in the lower left column. Make someone happy with a nice gift and support Age Well, all with just a few mouse clicks.

The Case of the Missing Roof Tiles

Thursday, June 7th, 2012
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

It was about a month ago that Mrs. McD and I were coming home from shopping and made the turn from Moulton Parkway onto westbound Santa Maria.

“What are they doing at Florence?” Mrs. McD asked. By “Florence” she meant the Florence Sylvester Memorial Senior Center, an institution with which Mrs. McD seems to think she is on a first-name basis.

I looked up and sure enough somebody was doing something — two workmen appeared to be removing tiles. “Maybe they’re repairing a leak,” I said.

“Get on the case,” Mrs. McD said, doing her best to sound like Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect. “I want to know what’s up.”

A few days later I drove by again, this time by myself, and no, there hadn’t been any leak. There on the roof in place of a goodly number of tiles was an array of solar panels. “Wonderful!” I thought. I was about to drive home and tell Mrs. McD the mystery was solved. But I knew that simply announcing that the senior center was going solar wouldn’t satisfy her. She’d want to know all the details. So I went to see Dan Palumbo, Chief Operating Officer at Age Well Senior Services.

Solar panels on the roof of the Florence Sylvester Memorial Senior facing Santa Maria at Moulton Parkway


“We were looking for a way to save money,” Dan told me. “So we applied to the city of Laguna Hills for a community development block grant.” The grant enabled Age Well to install the system. Dan estimates it will save about 15% of the center’s heating and cooling costs, or a little over $2,200. And, he pointed out, the cost of electricity is only going to go up, so each year down the road the savings will be even greater. Age Well is applying for an additional grant for the coming year to expand the array and save even more money,

How does it work? I’d like to tell you that I learned all this in a physics class, but no, I was an English major, so I went to the web site of Heritage Solar, which installed the system and watched a video entitled “Solar 101.”- ( Each solar panel in the array contains an assembly of many photovoltaic cells (or PV cells or simply solar cells), which capture the sun’s light and turn it into electrical current. It is direct current, or DC, as opposed to alternating current, or AC, which is what powers the lights and other electrical devices in our homes. So a device known as an inverter turns the captured direct current into alternating current. (And all this time you thought AC/DC was just a bunch of heavy metal rockers from Australia.) The resulting current combines with the flow of current that comes from the grid via Southern California Edison and thus works to reduce the facility’s energy costs.

Are you a solar nerd? If so, you’ll be happy to know that, according to the proposal from Heritage Solar, the 11.52 kW DC system consists of (48) Trina TSM 240 Watt Solar Modules and (48) Enphase 208V Micro Inverters, and is expected to produce17,738 kwH in year one. So there.

There are some solar installations — but not the one at Florence Sylvester — which collect more current than they need and which sell the surplus back to the utility company. If you were to look at the electrical meter of such places, you would see the dials actually running backwards as it sends excess current out.

Anybody who has spent a few summers in the Laguna Hills area knows it can get pretty hot at times. So Dennis Epps of Heritage Solar said he was surprised when a person in the city’s planning department told him that the Sylvester project was actually the first ever commercial solar installation in the city’s history.

The last step is for Edison to make a connection linking the captured power to its system at Sylvester, which should occur in the next week or two. “Just in time for the peak air conditioning season,” said Dan Palumbo.

Next on the Age Well Calendar
Saturday, June 23: 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. Special thanks to Dody Hohnstein, who once again is the event’s major sponsor. Tickets are available at the door.

And Did You Know …
… that Age Well now has an Online Store, and just in time for Father’s Day. You can purchase any of nearly one thousand products for Dad or anyone else — a golf accessories gift basket, bakery products, stuffed animals, wine, jewelry and many, many more items. A portion of each sale goes directly to Age Well. (A notation by each item tells exactly how much Age Well receives.) Go to the Age Well  home page and click on the store’s logo in the lower left column. Make someone happy with a nice gift and support Age Well, all with just a few mouse clicks.

Living to be 100

Friday, May 25th, 2012
By Riley McDavid Riley McDavid

‘Listen to this,” Mrs. McD said.  She was sitting at her computer reading what appeared to be news reports. “One in three babies born this year will live to the age of 100, official projections have concluded.”  The projections were from some official statistics office in Great Britain. 

“Amazing,” I replied.

“But wait! There’s more!” she said. “More than 95,000 people aged 65 in 2012 are expected to celebrate their 100th birthday in 2047.”

“Makes me wish I could go back to being 65 again so I could live longer,” I said.

“You don’t think you’ll make it to 100?”

I had to think about that.  Living to 100 had never been in my game plan. I mean we just didn’t think in those terms when I was growing up or even well into adulthood. “Maybe I will,” I said.

With that we dropped the subject although I mulled it over later that evening. The aging process, I thought to myself, goes ever so slowly when we’re young.  When we’re in the fourth grade we can’t wait to get to junior high.  When we’re in junior high we keep thinking, “If only I were in high school.” When we get to high school we ache to get to college. And by the time we get our degree we think we’ve lived a hundred years.

But for our parents, our first two decades or so didn’t drag along slowly, they raced by. Two weeks ago screenwriter Aaron Sorkin told the graduating class at his alma mater, Syracuse University. “[Your parents] think they took you home from the maternity ward last month,” Sorkin said.  “They think you learned to walk last week. They don’t understand how you could possibly be getting a degree in something today.”

But once we graduate, rehearsal, to use Sorkin’s term, is over, and “time shifts gears.” Years begin to zip by. Our own kids go from zero to eighteen long before we can set aside nearly enough money for college.  And we begin to age.  We hit the big four-oh, the big five-oh, and so on.

Well, hasn’t it been that way forever? Not really. In centuries past, people just didn’t live as long. King Tut died at 19. Keats at 25. Shelley at 29.  Emily Bronte at 30. At age 39, folksinger-mathematician Tom Lehrer lamented how little he had accomplished in his life by noting that “when he reached my age, Mozart had already been dead four years.”  Napoleon died at 51 and Shakespeare at 52. (Bach lived to be 65, and given the enormous outpouring of musical beauty he gave the world, thank heavens he did.)

How much longer do people live these days? The late Dr. Robert Butler, the founder of gerontology, spent the last several decades of his life trying to get people, particularly people in positions of power and influence, to realize a not well recognized fact: in the 20th century the average life span increased 30 years, which is greater than the increases in the last 5,000 years of human existence. 

For most people this is a cocktail party factoid, but for Dr. Butler and others in his field, it is a development with frightening implications.  The older people get, the less able many of them are to take care of themselves — the more likely they are to have infirmities like dementia and crippling physical ailments that force them out of their homes and require that they find facilities and caregivers who can meet their needs.  But there aren’t nearly enough facilities or caregivers to meet these needs, and even if there were, many seniors couldn’t afford them.

“One in six older Americans lives below the federal poverty line,” says the National Council on Aging (NCOA). That number, says NCOA, almost doubles the number of very poor seniors compared to the standard estimate.” The phenomenon is not new. As far back as 2009, USA Today, citing an AARP study, reported that more than 600,000 senior homeowners were delinquent or in foreclosure.

One of the newer catch phrases is that 90 (or 80 or 75 — take your pick) is the new 50.  That idea galled Dr. Butler, who said the ideal wasn’t just to help people live to 90, but, as he put it, “to make 90 a better 90. “ Age Well CEO Dr.  Marilyn Ditty, for whom Dr. Butler was a mentor, quotes him on this subject regularly in talks.  “‘Are we living 20 more years with purpose and joy,’ he was fond of saying, ‘or is it just taking us 20 more years to die?’”

Whoa! I forgot to mention that May is Older Americans Month!  If you want to celebrate that by making a donation that will help to feed or care for a senior who needs your help, go to, and click on “Donate Now.” No donation is too small. (Or for that matter, too large.)

If you want more on the subject of aging, Google the National Council on Aging or, locally, Council on Aging-Orange County.

Next on the Age Well Calendar

Saturday, June 23: 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.

The Forgotten 500

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012
By Riley McDavid   Riley  McDavid

“What did you do in the army, Grampy?” my grandson asked me last fall. At the time he was doing a writing assignment for school.

“I was a spy,” I replied.

He was incredulous. “Really!” Then after a few moments he said, “You’re teasing me.”

“Nope. For real.”

Well — sort of. I wore headphones and listened in on Russian military communications. The Russians had a sophisticated technology — sophisticated for its time, that is — for scrambling their voice messages, and they didn’t know that we and our British counterparts had cracked it. I worked in a shack in a West German beet field that was about as close to the East-West German border as our government dared put us. We were known as “spooks” because on paper, we didn’t exist. On the rare occasion when one of us passed away, that person was posthumously transferred to the Signal Corps or some other outfit, because our organization didn’t exist either.

So I didn’t chase people around Europe like Matt Damon in the Bourne movies, and I didn’t infiltrate any East German or Russian spy rings. But it was still fun, and it beat the heck out of a lot of other duties you could get in the army.

Over the years I have occasionally heard about some truly authentic spies, and sometimes I have been totally blown away by their daring and creativity. Such it was when I read two weeks ago of the death at age 96 of George Vujnovich (pronounced VOIN-ovich).

George was born in Pittsburgh of Serbian parents but as a young man moved to Belgrade to pursue university studies. It was there he met Mirjana Lazich and eventually they married. When the Germans overran the country the two of them fled. In 1944, George was overseas in the OSS, the forerunner to the CIA, and Mirjana was working in the Yugoslav embassy in Washington.

George’s is a spy story with a lot of moving parts — so many, in fact, that the possibilities of failure were enormous from the outset and success seemed hugely unlikely. For months allied bombers had been taking off from Italy and flying over portions of German-occupied Serbia on their way to bomb German oil refineries, particularly those in Romania.

By some estimates, nearly half of those planes never returned. Many were crippled by ground fire and others shot down by the Luftwaffe. Day after day, crews bailed out of their crippled aircraft. By the spring of 1944 more than 500 of them had been taken in and hidden from the Germans by Serbian partisans, known as Chetniks.

When Mirjana learned about all the allied airmen essentially trapped behind enemy lines, she told her husband. Can’t you find a way to save them, she wrote in a letter. So he devised a daring plan, known as Operation Halyard, to rescue the downed aviators: build a secret airfield and fly them out. It actually got a little more complicated — they eventually had to build three improvised airfields, pretty much by using shovels and ox-drawn carts; bulldozers were out of the question.

The allies needed some of their own people on site so just after midnight on August 2, 1944, according to several accounts, in the silent sky over central Serbia, three OSS operatives parachuted in to the headquarters of partisan General D r aza M i h a i l o v ic: Captain George Musulin, a Serbo-Croat speaker from Staten Island who had played college football at the University of Pittsburgh and later played professionally for the Steelers; Lieutenant Michael Ryachich, also a Serb-American who was educated at Belgrade University; and Sergeant Arthur Jibilian, a Fremont, Ohio, native who was the team’s radio operator.

Vujnovich taught the three-man team how to blend into the local population. “I had to show them how to tie their shoes and tuck the laces in, like the Serbs did, and how to eat like the Serbs, pushing the food onto their fork with a knife,” Vujnovich told The New York Times.

Vujnovich directed the operation from an O.S.S. station in Bari, Italy. On August 10, U.S. transport planes, supported by fighter aircraft, flew into the first base at Pranjani. Depending upon which account you read, there were either ten or fourteen C-47s. They loaded 237 downed aviators and flew them safely to Bari. Over the next week 210 more were airlifted to Bari. Between September and December, another 55 were rescued, including Musulin, Rayachich, Jibilian, and two other OSS operatives who parachuted in sometime after the original three.

In spite of the complexities and dangers, the operation went off flawlessly without a single allied casualty or the loss of a plane. Unnamed but not forgotten by the men of the mission were the Serb partisans who protected the aviators for months. It wasn’t as if they could buy extra food at a local supermarket or order Meals on Wheels. “Those people had it pretty doggoned rough,” said downed airman Carl Walpusk. “They didn’t have much to give, but they gave.” Several of them lost their lives in the process when they began a firefight with Germans to divert them from the hiding place of the crew of a downed U.S. plane.

Never heard of Operation Halyard? It’s not surprising. For sensitive diplomatic reasons, the shoals of which I would not attempt to navigate, it remained highly classified for decades after it was carried out. General D r aza M i h a i l o v ic, leader of the forces that saved the allied airmen, was eventually tried and executed by the Tito government for collaborating with the Germans, a charge which Jibilian and the other OSS operatives spent years vigorously disputing. A number of books explore this controversy. In 2007 Gregory Freeman published The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All For the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II. There is also an illuminating video that includes interviews with Jibilian and others at

Next on the Age Well Calendar
Saturday, June 23: 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.