Every step differs from the one before

 Balance: That tricky commodity that we don’t know we have lost until it may be too late.

With each step we face a unique circumstance for integrating our senses, placing our feet, shifting our weight and adjusting to the outcome. If you have arthritis, diabetes, stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, incontinence or dementia the process is more problematic.

Balance is a complicated skill, subject to both intrinsic causes such as poor vision, dizziness and neuropathy and extrinsic factors such as a cluttered stairway, inadequate lighting and unstable furniture.

When thinking about your balance, consider what aspects of your life might be putting you most at risk. Your medications? Deconditioning and weakness? Pain? Slippery throw rugs? It can be challenging to take an objective view of your risks for falling. Many of us prefer to excuse the last fall as an anomaly. Yet, one of the greatest predictors of a future fall is a history of falling. It can be annoying, if not discouraging to have to admit that the world we inhabit as we grow older might be becoming more circumscribed. We may travel less, go to town less frequently, and subtly decrease the intensity and variability of our physical activities.

Fall risks increase as we age past 65 into the early 80s. Falls are the leading cause of injury related deaths for people over 65. However, an 85-year-old in excellent health has no greater risk of falling than someone 20 years younger.

ABOVE: Julie C. Smith, physical therapist and Feldenkrais practitioner, will discuss falls, fall prevention and improving one’s balance. She teaches Improving Your Balance and Feldenkrais classes at the Sebastopol Area Senior Center.

 Learn more about what you can do to improve your balance by attending Falls Trigger Fears on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, from 3-4 p.m. at the Sebastopol Area Senior Center.

A fall, an awkward step, or a loss of coordination can trigger fears of giving up some of the activities we love most. Julie C. Smith, physical therapist and Feldenkrais practitioner, will discuss falls, fall prevention and improving one’s balance. Per class cost is $8 for Wisdom Counts members or $10 for non-members.

Beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 2, Julie’s Feldenkrais Method Mat Class will begin again. In the class, she teaches awareness through movement and exercises to help minimize the process of height loss. Stay strong and tall while sitting and standing.

The class will take place each Wednesday from 3 to 4 p.m. Students must be able to get up and down from the floor with little or no assistance. Per class cost is $8 for Wisdom Counts members or $10 for non-members.

A four-week Balance Class will begin on Wednesday, Sept. 9 from 2 to 3 p.m. and will take place Sept. 9, 16, 23 and 30.

Pelvic Floor class will take place for three weeks, on Wednesdays from 4 to 5 p.m., Oct. 14, 21, and 28.

There will be no classes on Oct. 2.

Do you need help getting in, out of cars

ABOVE: Transportation Coordinator Dean Brittingham demonstrates the use of the Handybar, which was developed by a granddaughter to help her grandmother’s greatest mobility challenges.

Our volunteer drivers have given over 24,000 rides since we began our Volunteer Driver Transportation Program in 2008. The drivers are trained in how to assist riders in and out of vehicles safely. And still, some car seats are lower and a bit hard for seniors to get out of. To the rescue comes Handybar, developed by a granddaughter to help her grandmother’s greatest mobility challenges.

The Handybar slips into the U-shaped door latch on vehicle door frames, providing a handlebar as support enabling people to put their weight on the handle and rise safely from the seat to a standing position. If you have ever worried about where to put your weight as you’ve struggled to stand, this is a no-slip ergonomic grip and fits on all car door. Additionally, the end which slips into the U lock, may be used to break windows in the event you are unable to get out of your vehicle in a dangerous situation. Plus, it cuts the seat belt in the event you are trapped in your car.

With any great invention, there are now several versions of this gadget on the market and we encourage you to think about getting one for your vehicle. We purchased ours online through www. kerrmedical.com, which is a Sebastopol business. We are happy to pass on information for mobility safety and don’t forget to give Dean a call at 707-829-2440 if you need a ride or want to be a driver.

Senior Center to host preview of new Zumba Gold, belly dance classes

The Sebastopol Area Senior Center will host a preview of its new Zumba Gold and belly dance classes at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 10 in the Rotary Room. The presentation will be led by instructor TerriAnne Guiterrez of Sirens Studio at Subud Hall in Sebastopol.

TerriAnne Gutierrez is a well known Belly Dancer in the Bay Area, has been a featured dancer at some of the top Middle Eastern clubs in the San Francisco, and has performed for the local Arab community at their weddings, parties and special events. She is a popular teacher of dance, presenting workshops at, Tribal Fest,  Tribal Fusion Faire, Winter Moon, North Bay Belly Dance Bazaar,  Rakkasah and many more. She is also the director of award winning, international dance company, Troupe Joweh R.A.W. who has been voted, “Best Performing Dance Company” in Sonoma County for the last three years in a row.

For more information, contact Program Director David Abbott.

New writing instructor to teach life stories class starting in August

The Sebastopol Area Senior Center is happy to introduce a new writing instructor coming to us from Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC), Gordon Yaswen.

Yaswen has been a Sebastopol resident for 35 years, having grown up and been educated on the east coast. “There was no longer any reason not to,” he said of his move to California in 1975. “I came here for a better backdrop.”

Born in Queens, New York, Yaswen attended the University of Vermont and the University of Michigan. He currently teaches auto technology at SRJC and says he teaches “auto technology and autobiography. ” He started teaching life writing in 1985 and teaches through SRJC as well as through his own program.

“The course is really about life writing,” he said. “It incorporates ‘life lists’ and circumnavigates many of the problems people incur and avoids the problems that cause 90 percent to fail within the first few weeks. Many of those things are really quite simple.”

Yaswen said that many aspiring writers get bogged down with common misconceptions.

“One is starting at the beginning,” he said. “That’s not the way memory works. Another is they think they need to write in prose. That’s not necessary.”

The class will help participants learn the art of the memoir and exercise their memories.

“Anybody can make lists,” Yaswen said. “With my system, you will never wonder what to write about and never face a completely empty page. It will give you increased memory and you’ll know where to put what and how to find it. You’ll never have to worry about chronology and will build a stash of stories and create material for fiction.”

The class is about memoir, but it’s really about all types of writing. It is a flash course in writing through life lists and then sharing — learning how to read them aloud — with fellow class members.

And Yaswen teaches the course from his own personal experience.

“I’m the only person you will ever know who has written my whole life. It’s been a gift,” he said. “What has traditionally been for grandchildren (can be) so much more: it’s a wonderful way into writing and it may get a lot of people interested in writing fiction.”

He added that when elders get together, they often talk about things they can’t do as well as before. But as they age there is one thing they can do better: tell stories.

“The stories are a treasure,” Yaswen said. “It’s a gift and a healing process. It’s healing when you get to a certain age and have regrets that need to be addressed.

“I’ve heard some incredible stories. One student told me about black smoke rising from the city of San Francisco. We all know about the earthquake of ‘06, but until you hear a first-hand account.…”

Yaswen also has a program on Occidental’s KOWS radio called Word Art, that airs on the first Sunday of the month from 3 to 4 p.m. More information and streaming can be found online at kows107-3.org.

But for this class, “No writing skills are necessary and it’s a value to oneself, relations, friends and posterity,” Yaswen concluded. “Story telling: It’s what old people are good for.

The class will continue in its current slot every Tuesday from 1:30 to 4 p.m.

Writing From Life is a Santa Rosa Junior College program.

~ By David Abbott, Program Director, Sebastopol Area Senior Center


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Effective July 31, 2015, we will no longer be able to host the Safe Medicines disposal bin. The closest bins will be located at the Santa Rosa Police Department or the Rohnert Park Public Safety Building.


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