SENIOR POWER … Here's to The Ladies Who Lunch

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday October 19, 2012 - 02:56:00 PM

Here's to The Ladies Who Lunch. Everybody laugh. Off to the gym, Then to a fitting, Claiming they're fat. And looking grim,

And here's to the girls who play smart-- Aren't they a gas? Rushing to their classes In optical art, Wishing it would pass. Another long exhausting day, A matinee, a Pinter play,

And here's to the girls who just watch-- Aren't they the best? When they get depressed, It's a bottle of Scotch, Plus a little jest. Another chance to disapprove, Another brilliant zinger, Another reason not to move, Another vodka stinger.

So here's to the girls on the go-- Everybody tries. Look into their eyes, And you'll see what they know: Everybody dies. A toast to that invincible bunch, The dinosaurs surviving the crunch. Let's hear it for the ladies who lunch-- Everybody rise!

Stephen Sondheim, now eighty-two, drank to all that and more for Company, his brilliant 1970 musical comedy. Yes, I abridged it a bit. 


A recent National Public Radio’s On Point call-in program concerned senior hunger in America. It is insidious and growing, quietly because seniors are humiliated and don’t want to be a bother, and they want to stay in their homes. So they go hungry without making a fuss. Baby boomers who have not saved enough, given how long they are going to live, are facing a hungry retirement. The oldest Baby Boomers turned 66 this year. 

About 9 million people age 50+ are living at risk of going hungry every day. Food insecurity among seniors has risen sharply since 2001. A seventy-four year old Michigan senior citizen who lives in a trailer volunteers at the library, goes to the senior center for free yoga classes, and, after a lifetime of working and saving, relies on $140. in food stamps (SNAP) to get by. She is part of the group experts call "the hidden hungry.” In 2010, 8.3 million Americans age 60+ faced the threat of hunger -- up 78% from a decade earlier. Even as the hunger risk for the population as a whole declined slightly, the proportion of the seniors affected has grown from one in nine in 2005 to one in seven in 2010.  

Lunch at the senior center costs a $3.00 “suggested donation for seniors 60+.” Under age sixty? … It’s $5.00. Many of these ladies and gentlemen bring used-plastic bags and containers for a take-away evening meal of sorts, stashing a portion of their lunch trays’ contents. Not easy on soup-and-salad days.  

Attendance is required (in the sense that one signs in) at senior/disabled housing management’s town hall meetings. Refreshments follow. Someone wants to know, “Is the meeting over now?” There’s a dash to the table and caloric/sugary eats. No line-- just gulping, grabbing for the takeaway, and heading for the elevator. (For the crucial difference between town hall meetings and town meetings, see August 3, 2011’s Senior Power column.)  


With all of that in mind, let me now introduce the foodie, the gourmet, the farmer’s market, and SNAP-- the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. 

A foodie is a person with an enthusiastic interest in the preparation and consumption of good food. S/he is an informal member of a particular class of food and drink aficionados. Foodie was coined by Gael Greene in New York magazine and by Paul Levy and Ann Barr, authors of The Official Foodie Handbook (1984). It is often used by the media as a synonym for gourmet, although they are entirely different concepts. 

A gourmet is associated with culinary arts of fine food and drink, or haute cuisine characterized by refined, even elaborate, preparations and presentations of aesthetically balanced meals of several contrasting, often quite rich, courses. Julia Child, Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, M.F. K. Fisher, Jacques Pepin, Alice Waters, Chocolat (the motion picture,) Gourmet (the deceased magazine,) Gourmet Cooking for Dummies (the book)… fit in there somewhere. 

Gourmet Ghetto is colloquial for the North Shattuck business district of a Berkeley, California neighborhood. It runs along Shattuck Avenue, with some businesses on Walnut and Vine Streets, and is bordered by Rose Street to the north and Delaware Street to the south, creeping down to Hearst Street and over to MLK. This nickname is due to the concentration at one time or another of such eateries as Chez Panisse and the Cheese Board Collective, the first Peet’s Coffee location, and the beginning of Alice Medrich’s chain of Cocolat stores. 

A sometimes-grassy median divides the traffic lanes along part of Shattuck. Sitting and reclining there (“Keep Off Median”) are the overflow of sidewalk restaurants and fans of the North Berkeley Farmers’ Market, open Thursdays 3-7 P.M. The Ecology Center has operated certified farmers’ markets in Berkeley since 1987. It processes SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, successor to Food Stamps) benefits at all of its farmers’ markets.  

In an essay sprinkled with foody tidbits, gastronome M.F.K. Fisher contended that “A Is for Dining Alone.” She was talking around the subjects of being on her own, really – and of cooking for one-- two concerns of many senior citizens. As of July 10, 2012, nearly 3 million American seniors receive SNAP, and 80% of them live alone.  

About 32 million Americans live by themselves, a number that has increased for more than six decades. The largest jump is happening now, among seniors. About 10% of all households are people age 65+ living alone.  

Where do low-income senior citizens go for supermarket grocery shopping, and how do they get there? These are two of the important questions unanswered by candidates. Indeed, not broached by them.  



The search is on for a stealth way to cut Social Security benefits, by switching the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment to a new measure of inflation, the chained CPI. For several reasons, it would be a triple whammy to women. Because women live longer than men on average, they would face deeper cuts in their Social Security benefits; elderly women rely more on income from Social Security, so these cuts would represent a larger share of their total income in retirement; and because older women are already more economically vulnerable, these cuts would leave many of them unable to meet basic needs. 

One in four California nursing home residents receive powerful antipsychotic medications despite FDA warnings that they are dangerous and even fatal for the elderly with dementia and are outperformed by less expensive and more humane dementia care options. The drugs are often administered without consent to "chemically restrain" residents. Use of anti-psychotic drugs by people with dementia is under reported. Over-drugging costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars nationally, as more than half the prescriptions do not comply with federal reimbursement criteria. 

SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) is the country's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. SAGE is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older adults and their caregivers, advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT older people, and provides training for aging providers and LGBT organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. SAGE coordinates a growing network of 23 local SAGE affiliates in 16 states and the District of Columbia.  

An invitation. Candidates for election are welcome to share statements of their accomplishments and plans vis a vis senior citizens and elders. Please email them to 

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: October, November and December 2012. Be sure to confirm. Readers are welcome to share by email news of future events and deadlines 

that may interest boomers, seniors and elders. Daytime, free, and Bay Area eventspreferred.  

Saturday, Oct. 20. 2 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. Japanese American 

Internment Camp Panel Discussion. As part of the California Reads program, USF Professor and editor, Brian Dempster and four former Japanese American concentration camp internees will share their first-person accounts of this period during World War II. Dempster is the editor of Making Home From War: Sories of Japanese American Exile and From Our Side of the Fence: Growing up in America's Concentration Camps. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Saturday, Oct. 20. 10:30 A.M.-Noon. UC Botanical Garden. Natural Discourse Poetry Walk: Botanica Recognita: Signage to Facilitate a Greeting. Join poets Hazel White and Denise Newman for a guided experience of the 25 poem-signs featured in the Garden’s Natural Discourse exhibition that pay tribute to specific plants and trees in the collection. Along the way Hazel and Denise will discuss their process, read poems and tell stories that inspired their works. Free with Garden admission. UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley - 200 Centennial Drive.| 510-643-2755  

Monday Oct. 22. 7 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. . Book Club: The 

Warden by Anthony Trollope. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a 

member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always 

welcome. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Tuesdays, Oct. 23 and Nov. 27. 3-4 P.M. "Read & Share" Book Club (formerly "Tea and 

Cookies") Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510-981-6100. 

Until Wednesday, Oct. 24. 9 A.M.-4 P.M. UC Botanical Garden. Foods of the Americas Exhibit. From chocolate to quinoa, discover the cornucopia of food crops that originated in the Americas thousands of years ago. This exhibit highlights twelve modern edible plants first cultivated by the Mayan, Incan, and Aztec civilizations. Free with Garden Admission; Tours available. UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley - 200 Centennial Drive.| 510-643-2755. 

Wednesday, Oct. 24. 9 A.M. - 3 P.M. The 27 Annual Marin 2012 Senior Fair, Flights of Fancy, celebrates hope, desire, vision, imagination, contemplation, creativity, 

ingenuity, humor, wit, dreams, and fantastic ideas. Free. Marin Exhibit Hall, 10 Avenue of The Flags, San Rafael. Details at 

Wednesday, Oct. 24, 12:15-1P.M. UC,B noon concerts, Hertz Concert Hall. SONATA AND PASSACAGLIA Carla Moore, violin; Davitt Moroney, harpsichord, J. S. Bach: Two Sonatas for violin and harpsichord. Georg Muffat: Passacaglia in G minor. Free. 510-642-4864.  

Wednesday, Oct. 24. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Troth, by Gregorvon Rezzori. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Wednesday, Oct. 24. 1:30 P.M. Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers meeting. North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. Free. 510-548-9696 or 486-8010.  

Monday, Oct. 29. 5:20P.M. Poetry for Fun. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Wednesdays, Oct. 31, Nov. 7, 14, 21, 28. 12 noon-1P.M. Playreaders at Central Library, 

2090 Kittredge. Read aloud from great plays, changing parts frequently. Intended for adult participants. Free. 510-981-6100 

Wednesday, Oct. 31. 12:15-1 P.M. Hertz Concert Hall. UC BERKELEY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA. David Milnes, conductor. Adams: Shaker Loops. Debussy: La Mer. Free. 510-642-4864 

Monday, Nov. 5. 6:30 P.M. "Castoffs" - Knitting Group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesdays, Nov. 6 and Dec. 4. 5 P.M. 5366 College Ave. Oakland Public Library Rockridge Branch. Lawyers in the library. Free. 510-597-5017. 

Wednesdays, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours.  

Thursday, Nov. 8. 7-8:45 P.M. Café Literario at North branch Library. 1170 The Alameda, Berkeley. Facilitated book discussions in Spanish. November title: Marcela Serrano’s Diez Mujeres. Free. 510-981-6250 

Thursdays, Nov. 8 and 15. 6-7:30 P.M. Lawyers in the Library at Claremont Library. 

2940 Benvenue Ave., Berkeley. Free. 510-981-6280 

Saturday, Nov. 10. 10 A.M. – 4 P.M. Big Book Sale. Sponsored by the Friends of the 

Berkeley Public Library, at the Central Library, 2090 Kittredge. All items are priced at 

50 cents each. Such new categories as Sexuality, Humor, and Vintage books have been 

added. This year there will also be a retro media 'corral' with book trucks filled with 

vinyl phonograph records, cassettes, CDs, and DVDs. And, of course, there will also be 

the usual free stuff to take home with your purchases. BART or AC Transit. 510-524- 


Tuesday, Nov. 13. 6-7:30 P.M. Tenants’ Rights Workshop. Berkeley Rent Stabilizaiton Board. At Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. A crash course on tenants’ rights and covers topics from rent control and eviction protections to getting security deposits back, dealing with habitability problems, breaking leases, dealing with roommate problems, landlord/tenant mediation, and petitioning for rent reduction/refund through the Berkeley Rent Board. For more information, contact (510) 981-RENT. 

Saturdays, Nov. 17 and Dec. 15. 1 P.M. Oakland Public Library Rockridge Branch, 5366 College Ave. Free. Writers’ Support & Critique Group. 510-597-5017. 

Monday, Nov. 19. 7:00 P.M. Stress Relief Strategies for Busy Lives, with Holistic Health Coach, Jamie Duvnjak. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday, Nov. 26. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club. 61 Arlington Av. Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Wednesday, November 28. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Sunday Morning, by Wallace Stevens. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Wednesday, Dec. 5. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 MarinAv. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. 

Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. 6:30P.M. UC Botanical Garden. Gorgeous Gifts from the Garden Holiday Soiree.You’re invited to join the Garden for a special holiday shopping affair. From the sublimely simple to the ultra-chic there is sure to be a plant or Garden-inspired gift item to delight everyone on your holiday gift-giving list. Add tasty seasonal refreshments and extra discounts and the experience is complete! The Garden Shop and special local vendors will feature eco-friendly and handmade items. While you're here, don't forget to pick up a plant for yourself or a beautifully packaged gift membership for someone special. Free. UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley - 200 Centennial Drive.| 510-643-2755  

Wednesday, Dec. 19. 7:00 - 8:00 P. M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch, 1247 Marin Av. The Adult Evening Book Group will read Primary Colors; A Novel About Politics by Anonymous (Joe Klein) A behind-the scenes look at modern American politics with characters and events that might seem familiar. Rosalie Gonzales facilitates the discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Free. 510-526-3720 

Wednesday, Dec. 26. 1:30 - 2:30 P.M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch, 1247Marin Av. Great Books group meets for a Holiday Luncheon. 510- 526-3720. 

Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. 10 A.M.-4 P.M. UC Botanical Garden. Plants Illustrated Exhibition. The Garden is pleased to announce its fourth annual botanical art exhibition, Plants Illustrated. The exhibition, held in conjunction with the Northern California Society of Botanical Artists, invites viewers to explore the relationship between scientific study and fine art. The exhibit presents original artworks in watercolor, graphite, colored pencil and pen & ink and explores the many styles, forms and approaches unique to botanical art and illustration. Free with Garden admission. UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley - 200 Centennial Drive.| 510-643-2755.