By Deborah Vietor
We spoke with community members providing senior programming throughout the county about what’s new, and how they support the vibrant and diverse community of San Diego seniors.
Downtown: Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center
Paul Downey is the CEO of the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center, a program and location run by Serving Seniors, the leading provider of services to culturally diverse, low-income seniors in San Diego. He is also the chair of the California Commission on Aging, which provides a multitude of programs and services for seniors, including serving 600,000 nutritious meals annually. A new dental center on-site is the only dental center available for free through a senior service center. Anyone over the age of 60 can take advantage of the three dentists on staff, providing services including fillings, check ups, teeth cleanings, crowns, some root canals and bridges, including dentures.
Downey says this new resource provided through the Wellness Center is important for the senior community, because many illnesses begin in the mouth, and can later reach the brain or heart. Serving Seniors addresses housing, medical issues, socialization and activities for San Diego’s diverse senior population, partnering with Sharp Hospital to provide an outstation psychiatric nurse, and a psychiatrist one day per week at the Wellness Center. The organization works closely with Sharp’s doctors and nurses and are informed if seniors need assistance with housing or Social Security benefits.
The Center’s robust Civic Engagement Program provides meaningful volunteer opportunities, including a blanket drive for the homeless. Blankets, socks, sweatshirts and other clothing are collected and distributed for the homeless. Some volunteers are also recipients of senior services at the center.
The center’s program offerings include exercise classes like Tai Chi, walking groups, outings, a beach walk, arts and crafts classes, sewing, and knitting. A chef offers monthly cooking classes. An annual fundraising event for Serving Seniors, this year called “Experience of a Lifetime,” will be held on Thursday, April 27 at the Del Mar Country Club. There will be a full program with sponsors, an auction, wine tasting, and a multi-course dinner and music. Valet parking will be provided. Registration is now open. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (619) 235-6572 to volunteer, donate or attend the fundraiser.
North County: Carlsbad Senior Center
Valerie Fisheris the activity coordinator for the Carlsbad Senior Center, which serves seniors from across the North County area. According to Fisher, activities abound, include Qigong, Yoga, Tai Chi, balance and mobility, Hawaiian Dance, Zumba, Aerobic and Line Dance. There are writing groups, painting, ping pong, and many other enriching classes. Additional popular activities include workshops and presentations ranging from digital photography, iPad and tech classes. Morningstar Investment education lectures and other topics of interest are discussed by local professionals in their respective fields.
Professional services including Ask the Attorney, physical therapy and orthopedic surgery referral services are offered as well as monthly low-vision consultations and hearing screenings.
A popular lunch program includes hot meals served on weekdays, with home meal deliveries offered to homebound seniors. Transportation to and from doctor visits and weekly shopping trips are offered to those unable to drive.
“Being a City of Carlsbad facility, we do not require membership, and we are open to the public, not just Carlsbad residents.,” Fisher says. “I would estimate about 95% of the people who attend our activities and/or lunch program come from North County Coastal communities, including Carlsbad, Oceanside, Encinitas, San Marcos and Vista. Many of our classes and activities are free, others may require a fee, and we offer a 10% discount to City of Carlsbad residents.”
“The Center was dedicated December 7, 1989. It is an ages 50+ facility for classes, programs and workshops and 60+ for its lunch program, falling under federal grant guidelines.”
Fisher has worked for the center for over seven years as an activities coordinator. Prior to her formal employment, she volunteered in the dining room for a year, checking people in for lunch, and says that working there is never boring. “It’s been very enriching and I’m thankful my life’s path has brought me here,” She says of her time at the Center.
For more information regarding the Carlsbad Senior Center, visit: www.carlsbadca.gov, or contact Valerie Fisher, activities coordinator at email@example.com.
Special Programming: Yoga and Transcendental Meditation
Cynthia Collier is a Yoga Instructor at the Carlsbad Senior Center and has taught yoga consistently in North County for 15 years. She has taught in a variety of settings, including an art gallery, community center, yoga studio, country club, fitness center and privately.
When asked about her inspiration for yoga, Collier stated that she has been inspired by her personal experience of practicing yoga daily and integrating it into her life.
“I fell in love with yoga during the first class I took at UCSD many years ago, and I did it daily right away,” she says. “Every teacher I’ve taken a class with since then has been an inspiration to me as I love learning new things for my own good and to share with my students.”
When asked what she finds most gratifying about teaching yoga, Cynthia replied”, “I especially love teaching total beginners. It always reinvigorates my own enthusiasm to share the basics. It’s a palpable feeling of “‘wow'”, this person is really in for a treat!.””
Cynthia believes yoga has helped the seniors in a variety of ways, such as when a senior student shares how the practice has improved their life by reducing lower back pain, learning to balance with more confidence, strengthening their breathing, and releasing stress by learning how to breathe and relax. Some individuals address issues such as easing the pain of plantar fasciitis.
“Yoga invites one to create a positive life focus overall. You are usually welcomed into a loving family of fellow Yogis just by showing up to class,” said Cynthia.
L’CHAIM Magazine: What has Yoga taught you about life in general?
Cynthia Collier: Yoga has taught me to live in the present moment, to cooperate with what is and to keep a positive focus in general.
L’CHAIM: Why do you recommend Yoga and Chair Yoga?
CC: Yoga literally means union, a ‘yoking’ of mind, body and spirit. When you do yoga regularly, it helps you to integrate everything in your life in a holistic way. It wakes you up gently into the NOW and teaches you to accept and love every part of your life. Personally, I see it as the church of self loving. Yoga isn’t in conflict with anything; rather it’s a positive support system that welcomes diversity, so long as there is love present.
From her students:
“We highly recommend Yoga for anyone, but especially for seniors, (those of us over 55.) My husband is 82 and I am turning 85 this month. We have been doing gentle yoga for about 8 years now with Cynthia. Our ability to balance on one leg has significantly improved. Instead of leaning against something to put on clothing, we can now balance on one leg while dressing. My doctor is amazed at my flexibility and when I told him I was doing yoga, he stated emphatically to keep it up because he had never had a patient of my age be so flexible. My husband was in an auto accident in his youth and had multiple broken bones in his lower back and hips. Due to this and his bad knees from standing behind a barber chair for around 40 years, twisting and bending used to be extremely difficult as well as painful. He has gained much greater mobility in both his upper body, hips and legs. Both of us feel that the reason we are so active at our age is due to yoga.” — Audra
“I am 66 years old and have been taking Cynthia’s class for approximately five years. This all started when I realized that my balancing wasn’t where it should be. One of my fears was falling and possibly breaking a bone. Additionally, I had been dealing with chronic pain and weakness in my top left leg and neck pain. Since attending her class, all of these areas have greatly improved or disappeared. Her routine for this class is perfect. We start with doing poses in the chair, then stand for balancing poses and from there move on to the mat. The chair poses are excellent for me because it has taught me to work on my breathing exercises, posture and poses that you can do almost anywhere. As we moved onto the mat, I have benefitted from the balancing, coordination, strengthening, breathing exercise, and relaxation poses. Overall, my health has greatly improved from Cynthia’s Gentle Yoga Class. I feel better, my breathing has improved, my flexibility has increased and I have more energy.
I thoroughly enjoy and have learned so much. My body and mind are grateful!””– Ann
John and Gail Clessler joined Matt Dixon in the middle of 2016, teaching the Transcendental Meditation Program (TM), in greater San Diego. The Clesslers are originally from the Berkshires in New England. Dixon, 43, has been a steady fixture in the community for the last decade. More recently, he has been managing a multi-million-dollar grant from the Department Of Defense which studies the benefits of this technique, dramatically reducing PTSD in veterans.
The Clesslers are in their 60s and have been teaching TM for over 40 years globally.
“The TM program is a widely popular form of meditation throughout the world with roots to the oldest body of knowledge in the planet,” said John Clessler. “It is enjoyed by people of all walks of life and is of particular growing interest to many seniors due to its practical benefits and ease of practice,” When asked how Tm is different from other forms of meditation, John responded:
“Unlike other forms of meditation which engage the mind, concentration or analyzing thoughts and self-reflection, all of which keep the mind on the surface, TM allows the mind to naturally settle down to a deep, quiet level within. The brain ‘wakes up’ in ways only known from this effortless process of transcending. The body automatically gains a deep quality of rest, much deeper than sleep, allowing it to repair and rejuvenate itself on many levels.”
Regularly scheduled free introductory talks on the TM program are provided every week. Visit TM.org/SanDiego or call (760) 943-0551 for further details.
From TM students:
“My mind is back, I have greater calm ,focus and clarity, even memory. It’s a blessing to have.” — Susan
“I now have a renewed interest in life, and more energy to continue to achieve. I just love it.”– Anna