We Love Volunteers!!!

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

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

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

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.

‘Growing Old Isn’t For Sissies’

February 6th, 2013
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

Back in the early 1960’s, before Mrs. McD and I were married, we were both employed at a large defense-oriented firm in Northern California. The staff was a well-educated crew that tended to be very young and had vibrant social lives.  They worked hard but they also partied, they enjoyed good food and good wine, they played golf, they skied, they traveled, and on autumn Saturdays they tailgated before (and sometimes during) home football games at nearby Stanford University where many of them had studied. 

After leaving the organization, Mrs. McD and I lost touch with all but a very few of them. Amanda Vaill once wrote a book about the lives of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s expatriate friends, Gerald and Sara Murphy, which she entitled “Everybody Was So Young.” And that title captures the visual memory I had over the years of our former colleagues.

Then, decades later, in the 1990’s, we attended the retirement party of one of them.  We walked in the door of the restaurant, full of excitement, and were stunned.  There were probably four dozen people there, all of whom we knew, but many we could not recognize.  Gone were the full heads of hair and polished facial features.  We noticed a few canes and walkers in the crowd, and Mrs. McD’s old boss, who was otherwise quite lucid and engaging, had had a stroke and couldn’t remember her.

Well what did we expect? That time would stand still for thirty years just so we could, for a few hours, relive our days as twenty-somethings?

This past weekend Mrs. McD and I saw “Quartet,” a thoroughly enjoyable British film about aging and the aged.  (Films about old people, particularly those starring Maggie Smith, seem to be a growth industry in Great Britain these days.) The main characters in “Quartet” — Wilf, Reggie, Jean, and Cissy — are all retired operatic vocalists, quite famous in their day, who live in the Beecham Home for Retired Musicians. Their attitudes towards aging differ sharply.

“I hate growing old,” Wilf says.  “Hate every bloody minute of it.”

“I’m not like you, Wilf.” Reggie says. “I positively liked getting old ,,, I’ve made the transition from opera star to old fogy with aplomb.”

Like Wilf, Jean, a retired world-famous diva and Reggie’s ex-wife, is being dragged kicking and screaming into her advanced years.  “I don’t like it all,” she complains.

But growing old is what people do, she is told. That fails to mollify her.

“You still have your future,” Cissy tells her.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of it — there just isn’t,” Jean replies.  “It’s all been.”

I know a very successful stage and film actor, now 70 years old and still quite active and in superb physical condition, who acknowledged he went through a period of denial about aging. “I went down and applied for Medicare today,” he told a group of us about five years ago.  “Me? Medicare? Awful.  Just awful.”

Another time he said he couldn’t understand why, some years earlier, his agent kept sending him up to L.A. for auditions and when he got there, he found himself competing for roles with, in his words, “a bunch of old guys.” Then at one of those auditions he went on a bathroom break, and while washing his hands he got a good look at his visage in the mirror. A sudden epiphany swept over him.  His agent was sending him there for these parts because in fact he had become one of the “old guys.”

It’s easy to tell if you have become old. Young female checkout clerks start calling you “Honey,” and asking if you need help getting that tube of toothpaste you just bought out to your car. You purchase wine and the guy behind the counter, thinking he is sooooo funny, says, “Are you sure you’re old enough to buy this?” Words like “cataract” and “prostate” enter your vocabulary. And, sadly, you begin to lose good friends. By the time you have experienced about a half dozen of these events, denial goes out the window, and you come to realize that you are, undeniably and unalterably, old. It’s as if you expect your official geezer decoder ring to arrive in the mail any day.

But as Reggie suggests to Wilf in “Quartet,” old age isn’t a terminus. It’s just a natural part of the journey that you can enjoy if you have some luck and play your cards right. We live among 18,000 retired people, and just as we weren’t all born with an equal amount of talents and abilities, neither do we all enter retirement with an equal amount of physical and mental tools.  Because of illness, injury or age, not all of our original equipment, including our minds, functions the way we’d like it to.

The more fortunate among us are able to create our own retirement regimen without the help of a recreation director for the superannuated. People write, they paint, they volunteer, they play golf and tennis, they act and sing and dance, they work as extras in movies and TV, they happily play the role of doting grandparent — the list goes on. But  some are able to do few of these things. They suffer from a variety of physical ailments or, Like Cissy in “Quartet,” they are in some stage of dementia.

Some, sadly, define themselves by what they can no longer do. But many more, including many with notable disabilities, define themselves not only by what they can still do, but by what new horizons they still plan to conquer. Their motto seems to be what Bette Davis once said: “Growing old isn’t for sissies.”

Several years ago when I first began this blog I interviewed a group of buddies who have lunch several times a week at Age Well’s congregate meal at the Sylvester Center. As they ate they made plans for a bunch of things they were going to do that week.

“You guys are pretty busy,” I said.

“Young man,” one of them replied (I was seventy-four at the time), “once you start sitting in your chair and staring out the window, it’s all over for you.”

Aging, journalist Regina Brett once said, is all a matter of perspective. “After having breast cancer at 41, “ she wrote when she turned fifty, “I’m thrilled to grow old.”

As that ubiquitous author Anonymous once wrote, “Growing old beats the alternative. Dying young only looks good in the movies.”

 

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 by February 15 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.

Dipity Do!

January 24th, 2013
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

“Serendipity,” Arnie said out of the blue with great enthusiasm.  At the time, he, Mrs. McD and I were sitting in our backyard reading the newspaper and sipping coffee, which we do several times a week.

Mrs. McD looked up, paused and finally asked, “Why did you say that?”

“It’s in this story.  I said it because I like saying it. Serendipity! Serendipity! Serendipity! Dipity! Dipity! Dipity do!”

“Arnie, sometimes you’re weird,” she said.

“Hang on,” I said.  “Don’t you like saying things just because they sound fun?”

“No,” she said.

“Well I do, so ignore her, Arnie.”

“Tell me one thing you like saying just for the fun of it,” Mrs. McD asked me.

I had to think about that for only about two seconds.  “I love the name of that Romanian gymnast, Oksana Baiul. Bye-oool Bye-oool. Bye-oool! Bye-oool sounds so cool!”

“You two are just classic cases of arrested development.  And anyway Bye-oool is Ukranian,  not Romanian, and she’s not a gymnast…”

“.… she’s an ice skater,” Arnie said with an abrupt interruption.

“Very good, Arnie!” Mrs. McD said with a sudden smile.

“Oh, don’t look so darned surprised. I got a few brain cells. I’m a very surreal person.”

“Surreal?” I said.

“I think he means cerebral,” Mrs. McD replied.

“And I do try to keep up on things.”

“How do you keep up, Arnie?” she asked.

“Well just for one itty bitty example, like this,” he said. 

He reached in his shirt pocket and pulled out a piece of paper, which he then unfolded.  At the top it said, “Don’t Miss The 6th Annual South County Senior Summit.”

“I’m gonna be there,” he proclaimed.

Mrs. McD and I looked at it. The sub-headline read Dignity, Safety, and Independence: Educating Older Adults and Honoring Veterans. “Look at who’s involved,” I said.  “Supervisor Pat Bates, Marilyn Ditty from Age Well, Tony Rackauckas, the District Attorney, and a bunch more.”

“Yeah, that last name bothers me,” Arnie said, with a dark look coming across his face.

“Tony Rackauckas? Why?”

“I don’t know if I should tell you, but last year I got called for jury duty, parked in the wrong place two days in a row and got two tickets. “

“And?”

“And I never paid them.  I’m afraid the DA will nab me.”

We both laughed.  “Get serious, Arnie,” Mrs. McD said.  Mr. Rackauckas doesn’t run around the county with a list of parking scofflaws in his pocket.”

“You sure?”

“Very sure.”

After a bit Arnie and Mrs. McD went back to their newspapers, but I kept reading the flyer. The variety of the speakers’ backgrounds was impressive. Then I got to the bottom.

“Aha!” I shouted.  

“Aha what?” Mrs. McD said.

“I know why Arnie is going.  Look here.  ‘Complimentary breakfast and lunch.’”

Arnie got a sheepish grin on his face.   “Okay, ya got me.   I figured I’d show up for breakfast, listen for a while to the first speaker or two, then sneak out for nine holes of golf, and get back in time for lunch.”

“You’ll do no such thing, Mr. Arnold,” Mrs. McD said.  “You’re going to sit between Riley and me, and if you get up to leave, I’ll scream, ‘Stop that man! He took my purse!’ With the DA in the room, you won’t get halfway to the door.”

Arnie looked at her in disbelief.  “Would she really do that?” he asked me.

“You bet your Buster Brown Big Boy Boots she would.”

Arnie was crushed. “Dang!” he said at last.
——————————————————————————————–

6th Annual Senior Summit
Hosted by Orange County Supervisor Patricia C. Bates
Orange County Office On Aging 
Age Well Senior Services
Laguna Woods Village
Dignity, Safety, and Independence: Educating Older Adults and Honoring Veterans

Who Attends:

Seniors attend the summit. Professionals in the field are there as vendors. During the breaks seniors can visit their booths.

What to Expect:
Quality information on hot senior issues and topics.
An update on the county’s involvement in senior issues from Supervisor Bates.
The opportunity to talk with professionals in the field.

When & Where: February 22, 2013 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Registration begins at 8 a.m.
Clubhouse 3 in Laguna Woods Village 23822 Avenida Sevilla
Enter Gate 3 Off Moulton Parkway between El Toro and Glenwood

Complimentary Breakfast & Lunch
Door prizes, free admission.
RSVP by 2/15/13
(800) 510-2020 or (714) 567-7500

How to Lose Weight Without the benefit of Causing Issues of health

January 8th, 2013

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Another most important portion of surgical procedures is section stop. You simply must have the ability limit the dimensions of your individual course selections grow to be skillful with both scheme. On occasion it could be you’re feasting an amazingly small amount of grocery and in case this is basically the occurrence you must eat the dish incredibly more slugishly and additionally stay hydrated because can offer you sense of volume consequentlymake you can feel happier. Just remember that you have minimum Main packed glasses of this type of water every day.

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When the Words Aren’t Exactly What You Mean

January 7th, 2013
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

Mrs. McD is a big fan of what is known as “found humor,” funny sayings that really aren’t intended to be funny. Such was the sign she read about that a college professor posted on his classroom door when he had to move his lecture to another location:  “Deviant Behavior will take place in room 215 today.”

Richard Benson is a Brit with a most engaging wit who appears to be making a career out of collecting found humor. He has published a number of small books (www.chroniclebooks.com) about answers students have given on tests — all of them clearly wrong answers.  His most recent collection is entitled F For Effort  —  More of the Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers.

Some of the answers, however wrong, appear to be the students’ attempts to give what they honestly believe is the right answer.  For example:

Q. What are lobsters, crabs and crayfish all classified as?

A. They are all crushed Asians.

Q. How cold is it at the North Pole?

A  So cold that the people that live there have to live somewhere else.

Q. Name two plays by Shakespeare.

A. Romeo and Juliet.

Then there are actually some really intelligent wrong answers. These are given by people who are certain they don’t know the correct answer so they might as well have a little fun with their response.  For example:

Q. Where is Chicago?

A. Right now they’re in fifth place.

Q. What was the age of Pericles?

A. I think he was about forty.

Q. What people live in the Po Valley?

A. Po’ people.

One can discover found humor on billboards, in newspapers and magazines — even in the spoken word.  Years ago we had a co-worker at a large organization in Northern California who, call after call, answered her phone by saying. “This is Sue James. Can I help you?” Every call that is until one day, when a bunch of us were standing around her desk distracting her, and she answered, “Sue James.  Can you help me?”

Such bloopers aren’t limited to mere amateurs. The Modesto (CA) Radio Museum has a wonderful collection of them from live TV and radio, such as:

At the opening of a show: “And now, Lawrence Welk and his shampoo music.”

Police dispatcher to all cars: “Suspect has blue hair and blonde eyes”.

Anonymous announcer: “Don’t forget, tonight at nine, our special guest… because it is.. .will be.. I forgot.”

The site ((http://www.modestoradiomuseum.org/flubs.html) also has some delightful audio of a dozen or so bloopers, including a hilarious new one of Anderson Cooper cracking up on the air.  Unfortunately it’s too long to repeat and, to be honest, probably not appropriate for a family-oriented blog.

One of the most famous radio bloopers of the 20th century was when the famous announcer, Harry Von Zell, announced, “The next voice you hear will be that of our new President, Hoobert Heever.” Funny, right?  Except that according to the famous myth-debunking web site, Snopes.com, it didn’t really happen.  Von Zell said the words alright, but not at a live broadcast of a Presidential speech. According to Snopes   , an enterprising fellow named Kermit Schafer recreated the verbiage on a record that became a hit, and has caused thousands of people to proclaim that not only did it happen, they heard it live.

Two of my favorites come from the days of live network TV commercials. So the story goes, an announcer who was proclaiming the virtues of a particular refrigerator reached for the handle to open it up so he could brag about its spacious interior. Only the darn thing wouldn’t open. He tugged more, eventually so hard that the entire unit moved.  Still no luck. In the background, a frantic voice could be heard screaming, “Fade to black! Fade to black!”

Then there was the announcer who was promoting a cigarette on live TV by inhaling slowly, and then exhaling with apparent pleasure. Finally, after one super ecstatic exhale, he looked at the cigarette in his hand, smiled, and said slowly, “Man that’s coffee.”

Finally, let me close with two of my favorites from F for Effort.

Q. Define germination.

A. To become a German citizen.

… and ,,,

Q. How do you keep wine from turning into vinegar?

A. Drink it.

Join the Next Meal Club Today!

Meals on Wheels from Age Well Senior Services provides seniors with three (3) nutritious meals per day. Thanks to volunteer delivery, central kitchen efficiencies and other subsidies, each dollar you donate provides one full meal.

It’s winter, and even in Southern California the livin’ isn’t easy for everyone. Donating to  Meals on Wheels is a piece of cake — pun fully intended.  Just go to http://www.myagewell.org/html/donate.html

Thank you!

Besse Cooper: 42,000 Sunrises

December 18th, 2012
By Riley McDavid Riley McDavid

A lot happened in 1896. After a hiatus of more than 1,500 years, the Olympics were reborn in Athens. Thousands of sourdoughs, their minds filled with dreams of riches, made their way to Alaska when gold was discovered in the Klondike. In Turin, Italy Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme, one of the most performed operas of all time, premiered at Teatro Regio.

But for Richard Brown and his wife Angeline of Sullivan County Tennessee, the big news was the birth of their daughter Besse Berry Brown on August 26.  She would go on to become the oldest known living person in the world in 2011 and the last known survivor among all of those born in 1896. On December 4 of this year, at the age of 116, Besse died quietly in her bed at a Monroe, Ga. nursing home about an hour’s drive from Atlanta.

I don’t think any of Besse’s survivors nor Besse herself, were she still alive, would object if I said she wasn’t just another sweet old lady. Sidney Cooper, 77, said his mother was a strong, determined woman who, like the school teacher she was, could be a disciplinarian. She was fair and honest, he said, but “when she said something needed to be done, you’d better do it…she was very intelligent,” Sidney Cooper said. “She loved to read.”

Besse graduated from East Tennessee State Normal School in Johnson City — now East Tennessee State University — in 1916. Soon after, she got a teaching job earning $35 a month. When she heard from a friend she could make more in Georgia, she headed off to Monroe for a salary twice what she had been making in Tennessee.

The Associated Press referred to her as “a retired Georgia school teacher with a passion for politics,” and that passion exhibited itself early. CNN reported she joined the suffrage movement when she was 24, speaking about the importance of having a voice in politics and registering women to vote. After the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote, she never missed a chance to cast her ballot — except twice, in 2012 and in 1948, when she and her husband believed Thomas Dewey would easily win.

In 1924 she married Luther Harris Cooper and over the years they had four children — Angeline, Luther H, Jr., Sidney and Nancy, all of whom are alive today. She outlived her husband, who died in 1963, by 49 years.

Besse Cooper’s life reads like a timeline of modern history. She was ten the great earthquake destroyed most of San Francisco, fourteen when World War I erupted, twenty-three when Tsar Nicholas was deposed, and thirty-one when The Jazz Singer, the first talkie, premiered.

When she was thirty-five engineers broke ground on construction of the Empire State Building, just fifty on D-Day when Allied troops landed on Normandy, sixty when  Bill Haley and the Comets introduced Rock Around the Clock.

At sixty-five she read in the newspapers that Richie Valens, Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper died in a plane crash. She was seventy-four when the Boeing 747 took its maiden flight, ninety-eight when apartheid ended in South Africa, one-hundred-one when Princess Diana died, and one-hundred-five when Katrina devastated New Orleans.

Somewhere in the last week I read or possibly heard on the airwaves that Besse for a time drove a Model T. She never had a driver’s license, however, because back in those days there was no such thing as a driver’s license.

Time NewsFeed quoted Sidney Cooper as saying that his mother cherished her 80s most out of the nearly twelve decades she lived. He said she loved to garden, watch the news on TV and read — despite her declining eyesight. When asked for her secret to a long life, Cooper told the Guinness website earlier this year: “I mind my own business. And I don’t eat junk food.”

Early in 2012, when Walton County began construction of a bridge on a main thoroughfare, there was a movement to name the finished span after Besse. On August 24, 2012, just two days before her 116th birthday, the bridge was dedicated before a gathering of elected officials, her children and citizens. A sign at either end reads: “In Honor of Besse Brown Cooper. The Oldest Person in the World.”

“Maybe we can do this again next year when she turns 117,” one of the officials said.

(You can see the dedication on YouTube, and although Besse herself is not present, three of her four children are. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vdp39FGU6mQ)j

Just a little over three months later, Besse Cooper died. “She looked real good when she passed away,” Sidney Cooper told Reuters, saying his mother died quietly and without suffering. “She got up this morning, had a big old breakfast and got her hair fixed,” he said. “It’s just like she got up planning to do it.”

Leaving a Paper Trail

December 3rd, 2012
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

Death.  Okay, I just lost half of the small audience I had.  The remainder are realists.

Some people are obsessed with the subject — like Woody Allen, for example, whose humor is peppered with references to dying. “It’s not that I’m afraid to die, “ he once said. “I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

I am not so obsessed, but I am writing about death for two reasons. One is that a good golfing buddy of mine died recently. We had played eighteen holes together almost every Friday for the past eight or nine years. His passing was nothing sudden; he and we all knew it was coming. And two weeks ago our foursome — he and we — were together for the last time at his memorial service.

I was never the most prompt member of the group, and at least once every eight or nine weeks my cell would ring as I was driving into the golf course parking lot, and it would be my friend saying, “Hey!  Where are you?  We’re ready to go.”  I wish he had left those words on my voicemail.  I would keep them there forever.

That’s why death has been on my mind.  But the reason for this entry is because of the recent troubling experience of a good friend of mine, Bernie, which is not his real name. About a month ago he went to visit his very sick brother who was a widower.

“Would you take care of my stuff after I go?” his ailing brother asked him. “Stuff” seemed a little too generic for Bernie, but the man was seriously ill so Bernie readily agreed. He told me that, as tactfully as he could, he asked his brother where all the information was that he would need.

“In the den,” he replied.  “In the roll top desk and the filing cabinet.”

“What about the, ah, burial?”

“Cremation,” his brother said.  “It’s all arranged and paid for.”

Just a week later the man was dead, and after a short interval, Bernie screwed up the courage to go through his brother’s papers.

“Riley,” he told me later, “it was a mess.  There were a dozen bank CDs, but some were outdated.  There were insurance policies but no indication of which were still in force.  There were passbooks and two credit union accounts whose last transactions were in 2006, and there were some stock certificates.   Riley, who in blazes keeps stock certificates anymore?” And no, there was no list of assets that he could find. There was a two-sentence handwritten will, which turned out to be quite legal.

Bernie is doing his best to sort all this out, but I doubt that everything will ever be resolved.  “I know Mrs. McD is clued in to your finances, Riley, but you have kids too.  For crying out loud, leave some organized records.”

Actually I had already done that.  About ten years ago, after reading a magazine article on the subject, I created what I called Riley’s Contingency File on our mutual computer.  It contains things to do (e.g., cancel my cell phone account), people to notify (our broker, Social Security, etc.), a list of all assets and liabilities, income sources, locations of pink slips, burial wishes, It contains things to do (e.g., cancel my cell phone account), people to notify (our broker, Social Security, etc.), a list of all assets and liabilities, income sources, locations of pink slips, burial wishes, planned giving to charitable organizations like Age Well, the info all the nation’s newspapers, wire services, and TV networks, not to mentions TMZ, will be clamoring for to use in my obit, and so on and so on. the info all the nation’s newspapers, wire services, and TV networks, not to mentions TMZ, will be clamoring for to use in my obit, and so on and so on.

Some of the info changes regularly — CDs roll over, amounts of banking accounts rise or fall, stocks are sold — so I update it regularly and print out a new copy for Mrs. McD every three or four months. If you don’t have such a file, you should make one quickly.

Fortunately you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.   Some years ago Sue Nunn, who gives five-part Fiscal Fitness workshops at senior centers, created a contingency file template for her two grandmothers. Today’s version of that template is on our web site.  Go to myagewell.org, click on Senior Info, then click on Contingency Notebook.  That will pull up a nineteen-page fill-in-the-blanks document that you can complete. And do it soon, because you don’t want to leave your family in the lurch.

A huge note of caution: This is NOT a set-it-and-forget-it exercise.  Just as the lawn needs regular mowing and the carpets need regular vacuuming, your contingency file needs regular tweaking.  Each time you incur a new debt or pay off an old one, or when a CD rolls over, or when the bank that holds your home mortgage sells it to another institution, you need to update the contingency file and put on it quite prominently the date of the latest revision.

Woody also said, “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work… I want to achieve it through not dying.” But everybody does of course, so make sure you’ve done what you can to spare your heirs the agony of trying to reconstruct the pieces of your life.