• What is our practice regarding medical emergencies? Being prepared for medical emergenciesWe take your health and safety very seriously at the Sebastopol Area Senior Center. In our effort to prepare ourselves for dealing with emergencies, we ...
    Posted Feb 13, 2018, 3:37 PM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Nominee takes on KKK with tennis racket Ralene HearnRalene Hearn who took on the KKK with a tennis racket is one of the 2018 nominees under consideration to be enshrined on the Sebastopol Living Peace Wall ...
    Posted Feb 9, 2018, 11:33 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Falling down leads to waking up How Falling Down Can Lead to Waking Up: Learning from Loss and Pain ~ By Shepherd Bliss Shepherd Bliss I have owned an organic farm for over two dozen years. It ...
    Posted Feb 8, 2018, 3:41 PM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Supervisor Hopkins attends In The News group Sonoma County Supervisor Linda Hopkins attended  In The News group at the Sebastopol Area Senior Center on Jan. 25, 2018. She discussed the various projects that Sonoma County and some ...
    Posted Feb 5, 2018, 3:39 PM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Senior Center to host Speaking of Death Third Fridays, 3:30 - 5:00 p.m.  Picture this: You’ve been invited to a dinner party. Friends and family sit around the table. The topic arises that a ...
    Posted Feb 15, 2018, 4:56 PM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Facing challenges, addressing needs Linda Civitello Executive Director Starting the YearStarting as the Executive Director a year ago, I knew we had many challenges ahead but also the resources to face those challenges ...
    Posted Feb 5, 2018, 3:40 PM by Wayne Wieseler
  • 2018 AARP Driver Safety Class Schedule
    Posted Dec 6, 2017, 1:28 PM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Falls, leading cause of fatal, non-fatal injuries Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans, according to the National Council on Aging. Falls threaten seniors' safety and independence and generate enormous ...
    Posted Sep 26, 2017, 11:26 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Seniors learn about affects, benefits of medical cannabis Seniors explore various forms of cannabis NOTE: The following essay is a distillation of author Laurel Dewey’s book “Betty’s (Little Basement) Garden.” During the nearly two years I ...
    Posted Nov 13, 2017, 11:00 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • LGBTQI seniors face extraordinary challenges Older population is growingAmerica's older population is growing, and so is the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex(LGBTQI) adults who are moving into their ...
    Posted Jul 31, 2017, 4:30 PM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Senior Center to help earn income, make planned gift We are pleased to announce that we now can arrange for you to purchase a Charitable Gift Annuity! Charitable Gift Annuities A charitable gift annuity is a great way to ...
    Posted Aug 28, 2017, 11:17 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Dine with seniors and guests Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.Dine with seniors and guests at Sebastopol Senior Center Fresh meals, made daily, to order. Visit with local seniors and ...
    Posted Dec 29, 2016, 10:41 AM by Wayne Wieseler
Showing posts 1 - 12 of 12. View more »

What is our practice regarding medical emergencies?

posted Feb 13, 2018, 3:35 PM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Feb 13, 2018, 3:37 PM ]

Being prepared for medical emergencies
We take your health and safety very seriously at the Sebastopol Area Senior Center. In our effort to prepare ourselves for dealing with emergencies, we have had staff trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Thanks to Mitch Savitsky, MD, we have a new defibrillator and training on how to use it.

Though being prepared as we can be, we also recognize that we are not qualified, medical professionals. In certain situations, we must call 911 and let the Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) decide if the person needing assistance should go to a hospital emergency room (ER).

We will call 911
We will call 911 if a participant:

  • Slides out of their chair or falls and cannot get up on their own
  • Any bleeding, significant bruises, or bumps from an accident
  • Lightheadedness and/or change of color
  • Sudden extreme perspiration
  • Significant change in behavior or awareness
  • Has vomiting, extreme pain, or other signs of being unwell.
Sometimes persons with one or more of the above symptoms, insist that they are fine and do not want us to call 911. Please understand that are required to call 911 in these situations and let the professionals decide if it is necessary.

What happens if you are in a class/group/lunch and someone requires a 911 call?
The person requiring emergency assistance cannot be moved. If we can move folks in a class to another room, we will make way for the EMTs' arrival. If your class or group cannot be moved, we will try to make space around the ill person. We appreciate everyone’s cooperation in these instances and ask for your understanding that we cannot move the ill person from the room. We have to move everyone else for everyone’s safety.

Please feel free to stop by my office if you have any further questions. The health and safety of our participants are crucial.

~ By Linda Civitello, Executive Director

Nominee takes on KKK with tennis racket

posted Feb 9, 2018, 11:28 AM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Feb 9, 2018, 11:33 AM ]

Ralene Hearn

Ralene Hearn who took on the KKK with a tennis racket is one of the 2018 nominees under consideration to be enshrined on the Sebastopol Living Peace Wall.

Ralene Hearn was born in 1949, the oldest of five siblings, in a segregated neighborhood of Jackson, Mississippi. After Hurricane Camille destroyed their home in 1969, Ralene and her husband, whom she met on the high school debate team, relocated to New Orleans, Louisiana, where she became deeply involved in the Civil Rights movement and battled the Ku Klux Klan.

Growing up when segregation was a part of everyday life, Ralene knew from an early age that something just was not right. After the devastating impacts of Hurricane Camille, it became clear to her that something needed to be done after she witnessed discriminatory practices among federal hurricane relief efforts. She and her husband testified in a Congressional Hearing in defense of many black people who did not receive the same federal aid and disaster relief loans that white people received.

The situation arose in 1979 when one of her black students, Willie, told her he wanted to play tennis on the whites-only court, as the “colored person” court was unfenced and riddled with potholes. Yes, there remained many segregated communities after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, especially in the Deep South. Ralene grabbed some tennis rackets and marched with Willie to the whites-only court and played tennis when a large crowd began gathering, mostly KKK members. They had their guns drawn and threatened to kill Ralene. They even called her husband at work to tell them they were going to kill her. Ralene and Willie thankfully survived, and Ralene and her family were under federal protection for some time afterward.

After that incident, Ralene began writing her state representatives to take action against her neighborhood’s KKK group. Her hard work finally paid off as civil rights lawyers were sent to a “city council” meeting that was actually a KKK meeting. This eventually led to arrest of some Klan members and disbandment of the group.
Of the situation, Ralene writes, “That was one tennis match the town would never forget.” Her memories of the incident live on forever, commemorated in song: “The sugar cane plantations bear the sadness of a nation, the pain of segregation for too many years. We cried and cried together as we tried to make things better. Louisiana is soaked in our tears”.

A true believer in education, Ralene went on to receive her bachelor’s degree in Media, and her Master’s Degree in Speech Communications. Ralene also spent many years as a traveling musician, the only female in an all-male band, opening for bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival and Doobie Brothers. After a debilitating car accident and the passing of her beloved husband, she made Sebastopol her home. She frequents the Sebastopol Area Senior Center, attends many of the classes, and volunteers at the Senior Center playing music.

Thank you Ralene for all you did and all you continue to do to bring love to your community.

~ By Katie Davis and Richard Ruge

Falling down leads to waking up

posted Feb 8, 2018, 3:32 PM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Feb 8, 2018, 3:41 PM ]

How Falling Down Can Lead to Waking Up: Learning from Loss and Pain

~ By Shepherd Bliss

Shepherd Bliss

I have owned an organic farm for over two dozen years. It has been my home as well as my work, identity, and love. Then, I fell into a grass-covered badger hole on Jan. 15 this year. I crawled painfully uphill to the house feeling like a baby. This unwelcome anniversary will remain in my now 73-year-old body and memory.

The fall plunged me into deep reflections and life-changing behavior. “You must change your life” is a poetry line that kept emerging as I spent hours each day in bed, no longer able to provide the farmer’s shadow with daily walks on the land so essential to good farming.

Growing up is not always easy even for elders. I’m closer to my death date than my birth date. Maturing can be sparked by a sudden, unexpected incident like falling. What to do other than feel sorry for one’s self? How can one turn a loss into a learning experience for oneself and others?

I began to lighten my load. I decided to give away hundreds of books, DVDs, records, furniture, luggage, dog things, etc., which I had been collecting for decades.

“I call that essentializing,” according to Alexandra Hart of Transition Sebastopol’s monthly Elders Salon, which has been meeting since 2010. “Aging makes one slower, so it means simplifying and letting go of stuff.”

“We’ve noticed in the Elders Salon that loss almost inevitably brings some kind of gain in its wake,” Hart said.

The smiles of friends and strangers as they load books and other things taking them on a journey into their lives delight me. I’m even asked to autograph some of the 24 books to which I have contributed reminding me that I can at least still write.

The fall became a blessing in disguise. Friends brought me chicken soup and other food, and helped lessen my isolation. I listened to their stories of having fallen, being sick, and experiencing excruciating pain. I appreciate living in small town Sebastopol with its caring community even more.“Loss can be conceptualized along three intersecting axes: loss of control, loss of identity, and loss of relationships,” Dr. Barbara Sourkes writes in her book The Deepening Shade: Psychological Aspects of Life-Threatening Illness.

My identity as a farmer is important. I farm most days of the year. After the fall, I have been unable to farm for weeks. Among my losses have been many basic body functions and control. I have also changed my self-image and body-image. Being more dependent on others is a stretch.

“When I’m physically drained, I often don’t feel like talking,” a client told Dr. Sourkes. I sometimes feel the same. Some friends have worn me down by their needs to talk, talk, talk. “I’m all talked out,” I say at times, which can make me feel like the bad guy.

I have been sharing my fears with friends some of whom report their own stories. “You strike a familiar chord of vulnerability that we all face,” Body-Worker Jeff Rooney said. “I work with many people for whom a big theme is falling and fear of falling. Falling is often a step away toward dying.”

Humans are so fragile, my brother Steve Bliss reminded me of our two-footed species. I am actually now three-footed since I walk with a cane, but that will eventually change. “Tomorrow’s a new day,” my brother reminded me as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote.

This learning experience evolves. So where do I go from here? I’m not sure. I feel suspended between the no-longer and the not-yet.

As the elder Doug von Koss recently quoted a Sufi saying, “We have three days to live and two of them are gone.”

~ By Dr. Shepherd Bliss {} is a retired college teacher, farmer, and writer.

Supervisor Hopkins attends In The News group

posted Jan 26, 2018, 8:53 AM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Feb 5, 2018, 3:39 PM ]


Senior Center to host Speaking of Death

posted Jan 9, 2018, 10:45 AM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Feb 15, 2018, 4:56 PM ]

Third Fridays, 3:30 - 5:00 p.m. 

Picture this: You’ve been invited to a dinner party. Friends and family sit around the table. The topic arises that a mutual friend has been diagnosed with advanced cancer. Where does the conversation go from there? It might orient to: “What kind of cancer does he/she have?” “What kinds of treatment are they getting?” Most likely it will end with, “It’s sad.”

Death Cafe was started in 2010 in London by John Underwood and his mother, Sue Barsky Ried, based on the ideas of Bernard Crettaz. The objective was to create a respectful environment for people to talk about death over tea and snacks. In an informal setting, we share our experiences and our questions. It’s not a venue for converting others in our beliefs about death and dying but a place to hear many perspectives and to honor our stories. Since its origination, Death Cafe’s have spread to over 51 countries and 5400 cafes. Death Café is considered a social franchise.

Speaking of Death will be facilitated by Tess Lorraine, who has been facilitating Death Café Sonoma in Santa Rosa monthly since 2014.

"Increasingly as we age, conversations will happen regarding degenerative and life-threatening diagnoses,” Lorraine said. “The choices we make will have implications about our own quality of life as well as for those who are close to us.

“The cost of denial is that we lose the opportunities for the wisdom, growth, and healing that can occur when we share authentically,” Lorraine said. “Our death is ultimately our final frontier and our lasting legacy."

Wisdom Counts Members, FREE: Non-Members: $5 Day Use Fee. Donations are accepted. Please bring a snack to share.

Facing challenges, addressing needs

posted Jan 8, 2018, 3:18 PM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Feb 5, 2018, 3:40 PM ]

Linda Civitello
Executive Director 

Starting the Year
Starting as the Executive Director a year ago, I knew we had many challenges ahead but also the resources to face those challenges. Thanks to the collective effort of so many, we are on the way to making the Sebastopol Area Senior Center sustainable.

This has been an incredible year for us, especially with the tragedies in the North Bay. I am simply awed by the outpouring of time, talent, and treasure both for our community and our Senior Center.

Volunteer Appreciation
In October, we celebrated the many donated talents by honoring our volunteers with a reception at Heron Hall. Legacy Manager Nick Vannucci coordinated a beautiful spread for nearly 100 volunteers. The volunteers who run The Legacy and Holiday stores, those who deliver meals or give rides, Board members, fundraisers, and those who volunteer at the Senior Center work together to make this place possible.

Day Trips
Besides making this place financially solvent, there are many issues that we have strived to address this year. Our elders wanted to have the opportunity to get out and about, especially since so many cannot drive. In response, we significantly increased the day trips we offer. Since October, we have hosted seven-day trips from the Fort Ross Festival to whale watching, to the Nutcracker Ballet in San Francisco all thanks to Katie Davis, our new program director.

Providing Rides for Homebound Seniors
Our transportation program continues to provide rides for our dedicated volunteer drivers. Dean Brittingham, the transportation coordinator, goes above and beyond in responding to requests. With incredible sensitivity, Dean listens as many who live in isolation and can no longer drive request a ride to their doctor, grocery shopping, or prescription filling. In 2017, she has arranged over 2,500 rides for 600 individuals.

Supporting LGBTQI Elders
Responding to the needs of isolated LGBTQI individuals, we initiated our LGBTQI Elder Resource Center, managed by Communications Director Wayne Wieseler. Along with hosting sensitivity training, providing meeting space for LGBTQI groups and hosting LGBTQI dances, we’ve offered Aging Gayfully, taught by Gary “Buz” Hermes here at the Senior Center.

Preventing Falls
Another issue we are working on is fall prevention. Since Sonoma County has a higher rate of falls than most of California, we recognized the need to address this public health challenge. In response, we are launching a new program, Stay Active and Independent for Life (SAIL), an evidence-based fall prevention program focusing on fitness. It is being taught by one of our renowned instructors, Julie Smith, physical therapist, and is under the direction of a Community Advisory Committee whose goal is to develop a coordinated response from emergency personnel, medical professionals, and eldercare providers to reduce the risks of fall injuries in the Sebastopol and West County area.

Reducing Health Risks, A Fresh Look
To reduce health risks right here at our Senior Center we replaced our old lumpy hazardous carpeting with beautiful laminate flooring and refurbished the dining and game rooms. All labor and materials were donated Thanks to DSB+ Flooring, Local 16 of the Floor Covering Union, the Sunrise and Sebastopol Rotaries, and Sebastopol Hardware. Their efforts look beautiful and our Senior Center is safer and cleaner for our seniors.

Addressing Critical Issues

Other critical issues we have addressed include – instruction on using one’s cell phone, fraud prevention, dealing with clutter, medical cannabis, driver safety, and so much more. Responding to the needs of individuals who require private sessions, we have been able to offer individual counseling on legal matters, health care insurance, case management, and personal services such as foot care. This year we will provide many new programs addressing significant issues for our community such as: Aging in Place at Home, Preparing to Take Care of a Parent, Housing Options for Seniors, and Managing the Challenges of Dementia.

And, Having Fun
And, we have fun while doing these activities– lots of music, good food, games, support groups, and especially great camaraderie. This is the place to be!

The Sebastopol Area Senior Center is an incredible resource to our community. I am honored to direct this organization, to work with a fantastic board, staff, and volunteers, and am humbled by the support provided by this community.

Together in 2018, we will continue to develop this organization and our ever-increasing relevance to the growing elder community.

2018 AARP Driver Safety Class Schedule

posted Dec 6, 2017, 1:26 PM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Dec 6, 2017, 1:28 PM ]

Falls, leading cause of fatal, non-fatal injuries

posted Sep 26, 2017, 10:42 AM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Sep 26, 2017, 11:26 AM ]

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans, according to the National Council on Aging. Falls threaten seniors' safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs.

However, falling is not an inevitable result of aging. Through practical lifestyle adjustments, evidence-based falls prevention programs, and clinical-community partnerships, the number of falls among seniors can be substantially reduced.

Falls are a challenge

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • One-fourth of Americans aged 65+ falls each year.
  • Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
  • Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
  • Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.

Because fall prevention is such a critical issue, the Sebastopol Area Senior Center has an ongoing Fall Prevention Advisory Committee to develop a community-wide intervention.

What is fall prevention?

Falls are the number one cause of injury, hospital visits due to trauma, and death from an injury among people age 65 and older. It is estimated that one in four older adults fall each year. Falls among older adults is a serious issue, but research has shown that many fall risks can be reduced.

There are many different factors that can increase the risk of falling. These include:

  • Past falls
  • Hazards in the home and community
  • Problems walking
  • Balance problems
  • Weakness
  • Improper footwear • Chronic diseases
  • Multiple medications
  • Poor vision
  • Depression
  • Memory problems
  • Behaviors like rushing

Because there are many different factors that contribute to falls, there are different recommendations for reducing fall risks. These include

Talking with a health professional 
Identify and treat medical problems that might lead to falls. This includes discussing any previous falls with the doctor, reviewing medications with a doctor or pharmacist, and getting vision checked at least once a year.

Getting Regular Physical Activity
Make a plan to have regular physical activity either in a class or at home. The most effective types of activities to reduce fall risk improve balance, strength, flexibility, and endurance.

Being Aware of Safety Hazards in the Home and Community 
This includes looking at the home to identify fall hazards and making changes for safety, also called home modifications. It is also important not to rush and to be aware of fall risks when outside.

Statistics show that:

  • More than 40% of people hospitalized with hip fractures do not return home and are not capable of living independently again;
  • 25% of those who have fallen pass away each year;
  • On average, two older adults die from fall-related injuries every day in California.
Falls can result in hip fractures, head injuries or even death. In many cases, those who have experienced a fall have a hard time recovering and their overall health deteriorates.

In California alone, 1.3 million older adults experience an injury due to falling. A person is more likely to fall if s/he is age 80 or older or if s/he has previously fallen. Over time people may feel unsteady when walking due to changes in physical abilities such as vision, hearing, sensation, and balance. People who become fearful of falling may reduce their involvement in activities. Also, the environment may be designed or arranged in a way that makes a person feel unsafe.

The good news is that with adequate knowledge, falls can be prevented.

How Can We Prevent Falls?

Researchers have identified that the most effective fall prevention programs have many components. First, a person needs to understand what may put them at risk for falling. Some risks can be reduced. Medical providers can help to identify risks and develop a plan. Specific physical activity can target reduce fall risk by increasing balance and mobility skills. Also, changes to the home and community environment can reduce hazards and help support a person in completing daily activities. While this is not a comprehensive list of fall prevention strategies, it’s a good place to start:

Medical Management (Risk Assessment and Follow-up)

The first step is to talk with a health professional about getting a risk assessment for falling. During routine doctor visits, ask the doctor about your risk of falling. Some of the health factors that can contribute to falls are osteoporosis, being over age 80, changes in balance and walking patterns, changes in vision and sensation, and taking multiple medications. Certain medications cause older adults to experience dizziness. Once you have an idea of some of the risks and how you might be affected, you can work with your doctor, other health professionals, and your family to determine what factors can be modified to reduce your risk.

Balance & Mobility (Physical Activity)

Studies show that balance, flexibility, and strength training not only improve and mobility but also reduce the risk of falling. Statistics show that most older adults do not exercise regularly, and 35% of people over the age of 65 do not participate in any leisure physical activity. This lack of exercise only makes it harder for individuals to recover from a fall. Many people are afraid of falling again and reduce their physical activity even more. There are many creative and low-impact forms of physical activity for fall prevention, such as tai chi.

Environmental Modification

The environment can present many hazards. At home older adults are commonly concerned about falling in the bathtub or on steps. In the community, there can be trip hazards such as uneven or cracked sidewalks. By making changes to the home and community environment a person can feel safer and less at risk of falling. For example, the bathroom can be modified by installing grab bars as in the shower or tub, having a place to sit, and having non-slip surfaces. Steps can have handrails, adequate lighting, and a contrast between steps. Community sidewalks in disrepair can be reported to city officials for repair.

Seniors learn about affects, benefits of medical cannabis

posted Jul 31, 2017, 4:36 PM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Nov 13, 2017, 11:00 AM ]

Seniors explore various forms of cannabis

NOTE: The following essay is a distillation of author Laurel Dewey’s book “Betty’s (Little Basement) Garden.”

During the nearly two years I spent researching my book, “Betty’s (Little Basement) Garden,” I met a lot of seniors who were intrigued with the idea of using marijuana to either replace their prescription medications or eliminate them completely. The problem was that most of these people had either never used marijuana or had bought hook, line, and sinker into the fervent propaganda campaigns against the herb. Many of the seniors I interviewed told me they’d be open to using the herb if they knew it was effective and safe. Based on my conversations with them, I compiled a list of the most common questions and concerns they had. In addition, some of the seniors shared their observations and reactions with me when they used marijuana for the first time.

Marijuana is SAFER than prescription medications.

This might be hard to believe if you’ve been trained to believe the propaganda campaigns but it’s absolutely true. According to the CDC, in 2008, 36,450 deaths were attributed to prescription drug overdose. How many people have died from using marijuana? NONE. Ever. If you look at the stats, acetaminophen is more dangerous than marijuana, leading to the death of over 450 people annually. And the “side effects” of marijuana are minor in comparison to the side effects of many prescription drugs. You will NEVER see a warning such as, “This drug may increase the likelihood of suicide or suicidal thoughts,” connected to marijuana. Sadly, the same cannot be said for other medications.

Marijuana is not addictive.

Ask any responsible individual who uses marijuana and they will tell you that the herb is not physically addictive. People can use marijuana daily and then stop it “cold turkey” and their body will not revolt with shakes, tremors or sweat-soaked withdrawal. Ask that same marijuana user and he/she will happily tell you that marijuana is “habitual” and “a pleasant respite” from pain, anxiety and stress. Looking forward to feeling that relief is more akin to looking forward to reconnecting with an old friend than the anxiousness that surrounds “getting your next fix.” As one woman told me, “I’m addicted to getting a good night’s sleep. Marijuana helps make that possible because it forces my mind to stop racing and I can finally relax.”

Marijuana can increase the uptake of certain pharmaceutical drugs, allowing one to reduce the daily dose of their medication.

Research shows that certain cannabinoids—especially the psychoactive cannabinoid THC—within the marijuana plant can and do increase the delivery of various classes of drugs. For example, marijuana naturally lowers blood pressure and often regulates it over time. Thus, if you are taking blood pressure medicine while also using marijuana, you need to be watchful and keep an eye on your blood pressure. Opiates are typically enhanced when marijuana is used concurrently. The bottom line is that marijuana has the potential for accentuating the effect(s) of many popular drugs because it has the capability of also replacing those drugs for some users. That brings us to #4…

Marijuana can and does replace multiple OTC and prescription medications.

One of the obvious complaints seniors have regarding their daily medications is that the first pill often causes side effects that the second one is supposed to fix. But that rarely happens and more drugs are typically prescribed until the patient doesn’t know whether their medicine is doing them more harm than good. Marijuana is a multiple dimensional healing plants that targets varied conditions such as inflamed joints, high blood pressure, chronic pain, digestive disorders, constipation, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, cognitive awareness and more. Thus, this herb could easily replace close to one hundred percent of what’s in senior’s medicine cabinet right now.

Marijuana does not cause brain damage or lower IQ.

“I don’t want to use anything that’ll make me dingier than I already am!” I heard this comment a lot from seniors. Some were genuinely convinced that if they took one puff of a marijuana cigarette, their mental capacity would sharply diminish and remain that way. While neophytes may need to learn how to “train their brains” when they use marijuana, there is absolutely no documentation that shows the herb reduces or “kills brain cells.” In fact, the opposite is possibly true. Studies with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients indicate that the herb gradually encourages new neural pathway development in the brain and could be a neuron protector, allowing those with impaired brain function to potentially halt further degeneration and even elicit enhanced cerebral function. Furthermore, marijuana actually encourages creative problem solving, with some users reporting being able to “figure out solutions to problems I’ve been struggling with for a long time.”

There are specific marijuana strains that have been bred to remove “the high.”

A certain percentage of the seniors I talked to were adamant when they told me, “If I could get the medical benefit from the plant without the high, I’d consider it.” That’s absolutely possible now, thanks to a cannabinoid called CBD (Cannabidiol). Plant breeders are working overtime to develop “high CBD strains” that either has no THC (the psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana) or have a small percentage of it. CBD is great for inflammation, eases the pain, stimulates bone growth, suppresses muscular spasms, reduces anxiety and increases mental focus.

You do NOT have to smoke marijuana to gain the benefits from it.

Understandably, a lot of seniors either can’t smoke due to health issues or choose not to smoke. And thanks to the “stoner persona,” they believe that the only other way to take the herb is via the ubiquitous “pot” brownie. The fact is that marijuana can be added to just about any regular recipe in the form of cannabis infused butters or oils. For example, you can replace your salad dressing oil with “canna-oil” (marijuana infused olive oil) and discreetly ingest it at mealtime. There are also liquid extracts, syrups, lozenges, candies, chocolates, etc. to choose from. Liquid extracts allow users to “titrate” or regulate their dose. In other words, one can literally take the extract drop by drop every ten minutes or so until they reach the point of physical or mental relief they’re after. For those who miss smoking and like inhaling marijuana, vaporizing is alternative to smoking. Vaporizing allows the user to inhale the heat sensitive essential oils while smoking the herb tends to burn those up.

Marijuana-infused products can be used topically for effective relief from cuts, burns and inflammatory pain.

Most people can’t believe the topical powers of this ancient herb until they see it in action for themselves. One woman suffered a moderate burn on her finger that was quite painful. Her niece applied a small amount of a concentrated marijuana salve and bandaged it. The woman reported that her finger stopped hurting almost immediately and within three days new skin had grown over the burn. A simple marijuana-infused salve can diminish arthritic joint pain and works quite well for low back discomfort. And there is NO cerebral psycho-activity from topical use of marijuana-infused products.

Marijuana use will not necessarily make you fat.

A lot of seniors may not know much about marijuana but they have heard about “the munchies” that the herb is purported to encourage. Yes, it’s true that this plant can stimulate the appetite but the distinction should be made that appetite “enhancement” is also likely. What this means is that if a senior is not interested in food, if they use marijuana and then take a bite of food, the taste and texture of that bite is often improved and the desire to experience that same taste sensation again is increased. The concern about “getting fat” when you use marijuana is not a fait accompli. If you need to put on extra weight, marijuana can help make that happen. But there are also those who use marijuana daily in their food and report either losing extra pounds or stabilizing at a weight that better suits them.

There are thousands of marijuana strains and they are good for different things.

One strain does not fit all. There are strains that are specific for anxiety and strains that are targeted for insomnia. You wouldn’t want to take a strain that is meant for deep and restful sleep when you needed to interact and function with friends and family. Likewise, ingesting a strain that is meant for social interaction and creative problem solving when you really just want to get some sleep would not be your best choice. Most of the seniors I talked to didn’t know the difference between an Indica strain and a Sativa strain. And Indica is more sedating to the body and mind while a Sativa is much more elevating and energizing. Even when one finds a marijuana strain that consistently works for them, it can be advantageous for seniors to try different strains because tolerance to the same strain has been known to build up.

Marijuana can be fun.

One thing I noticed with the seniors I talked to is that many of them feel like life has no excitement left. Then, after using marijuana, many of them gushed to me about they “haven’t laughed that hard in years,” or how they noticed something about their surroundings that they’d never seen before. “Life,” as one woman expressed it, “was enhanced.” Colors were more vivid, music was crisper, her morning coffee tasted better and overall, she felt “reacquainted” with the world around her. Others told me that they enjoyed better social interaction and were able to “forget” or “leave behind” their doldrums and grief and “breathe in life again.” For those seniors who have become stuck in their ways, marijuana can afford them the opportunity to be more creative and even experiment with ideas and concepts that are outside their scope of comfort.

What I took away from all these wonderful people was the realization that marijuana has the potential to improve seniors’ lives on multiple levels. For those who enjoyed it, it was their ally for physical maladies and a friend to them when sadness, anxiety or depression lurked closer. For those who were intrigued by it but were also nervous about what they’d been told, education—free from propaganda—was the key to unlocking their courage and giving a little plant the chance to change their life.

~ Laurel Dewey is the best selling author of the Jane Perry thriller series as well as the standalone novel, “Betty’s (Little Basement) Garden,” the first fiction novel featuring medical marijuana in Colorado. Laurel lives with her husband and two orange cats in rural Western Colorado.


LGBTQI seniors face extraordinary challenges

posted Jul 31, 2017, 4:29 PM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Jul 31, 2017, 4:30 PM ]

Older population is growing

America's older population is growing, and so is the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex(LGBTQI) adults who are moving into their later years. In the next several decades, LGBTQI adults age 65 and above is expected to double, reaching more than 3 million by 2030, according to Michael Adams, executive director of SAGE, the nation's largest and oldest organization working to improve life for LGBTQI older adults.

LGBTQI Elder Resource Program

To that end, Sonoma County Human Services Department Adult and Aging Division contracted with Sebastopol Area Senior Center to provide a countywide LGBTQI-specific information and assistance service that will encourage LGBTQI seniors to feel comfortable in identifying their needs and accessing services. We created a resource web page ( with local, regional, and national support services as well as an online information and assistance request form. LGBTQI elders are also welcome to call 707-829-2440 for live one-on-one support.

Preparing for diversity in aging populations

These are the five main challenges we need to address if we want our society to be prepared for the full diversity of its aging population:

Basic Health Care

In the United States, about 80 percent of long-term care for older people is provided by family members, such as spouses, children, and other relatives. But LGBTQI elders are only half as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to have close family to lean on for help. This means that they rely heavily on the services of professional health care providers — doctors, pharmacists, or hospital and nursing home staff — who might be uncomfortable with or even hostile toward LGBT elders and who are not trained to work with them. In SAGE's experience, even when these providers are supportive, fear of discrimination prevents many LGBT older people from seeking out the care they need.

Caregiving Issues

Can you imagine not being able to care for a longtime partner or spouse, or have any say in your loved one's medical care? It’s unthinkable for most of us. Because the support systems of LGBTQI elders — their partners and their families of choice — often are not recognized under the law, LGBTQI people frequently are not granted family or medical leave to take care of a sick or terminally ill partner. Furthermore, LGBTQI people can be excluded from decision-making on a partner's medical care and funeral plans, unless they have put specific legal arrangements in place. Unfortunately, many people don't make such arrangements, either because they can't afford the legal costs or because they, like so many Americans, think they can put them off for another day.

Financial Insecurity

LGBT older people are less financially secure than American elders as a whole. For example, poverty rates among elder lesbian and gay couples are 9.1 percent and 4.9 percent, respectively, compared with 4.6 percent among elder heterosexual couples. Several factors contribute to higher poverty rates, including employment discrimination and barriers in Social Security, Medicaid, and pension and retirement plans that deny same-sex couples key retirement benefits afforded to the broader population. In addition, state laws can shut LGBTQI partners out of an inheritance, or can require them to pay steep taxes on an estate that a surviving heterosexual spouse would inherit tax-free.

Social Isolation

Despite creating families of choice and other support networks, many LGBTQI older people still experience high rates of social isolation. They are twice as likely to be single and to live alone, and three to four times as likely to be childless. They are also less likely to feel welcome in the places where many older people socialize, such as senior centers, volunteer centers and places of worship.

Access to Aging Services

LGBT older people often do not access aging services out of fear of harassment or hostility. Few aging services providers plan for, or reach out to, the LGBTQI community — and few are prepared to address insensitivity or discrimination aimed at LGBTQI elders by staff or other older people.

Fortunately, such attitudes are changing. A recent survey of aging services providers shows that a growing number of respondents would welcome LGBTQI elders, but lack the proper training. Resources such as the federally funded National Resource Center on LGBT Aging ( have been created to provide training and tools to aging providers, LGBTQI organizations and LGBTQI older people themselves, ensuring that our community increasingly will be able to age with the dignity and respect we all deserve.

The source for much of the factual information in this news release is from a blog written by Michael Adams who executive director of SAGE, the nation's largest and oldest organization working to improve life for LGBT older adults.

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