SENIOR POWER… a balancing act

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday November 02, 2012 - 09:18:00 AM

When my uncle latched on to sweet Aunt Pearl, she was merely “hard of hearing.” She carried a black box hearing aid that I, as a child, thought was a Brownie camera. She was a skilled teletype operator, employed throughout the Depression, bringing home the rent money and the groceries. He made no bones about being irritated by her handicap. Half a century later at their sister’s funeral, my mother and uncle briefly conversed. Pearl had long since lost all her hearing. In December 1953, we sat next to each other in a limousine on the way to bury my aunt. It was a spring-like day as we drove through the bucolic Green-Wood Cemetery grounds with the windows open, and Pearl asked me, “Are there birds singing?”  

I had my annual mammogram at the same place I’ve gone for years. (A recent study claims that mammography's benefits outweigh harms for older women.) This time there was a new and unfamiliar document in my packet of things to review and forms to complete-- an “ADA Alert” for my signature. 

I should have asked for a copy of my complete “ADA Alert” but I was engrossed in reading one of its three sections-- the one that was “mine:” Hearing impairment. (The other two sections related to sight and physical handicaps.) 

Possible “Accommodations” for hearing impairment were listed. Presumably they were accommodations that landlords, developers, managers, employers, and mammographers could and should make or provide. I quickly copied them: 

Closed caption TV 

Sign language interpretation 

Communication board/photos 

Use of relay service (9-711) 

Volume control 

Visual alarm 

Assistive listening device (pocket talker)
Use speech to speech relay service (9-711) 

Simple language 

Written words 

Use of a service animal 

Other accommodation (specify) 


The U.S. Census News Bureau reports that 50% of adults age 65+ live with a disability.  

The Americans with Disabilities Act is wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability. The ADA defines disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity." Effective January 2009, the interpretations were broadened, and examples of "major life activities" were added. They include "caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working."  

Title II of the ADA of 1990 prohibits discrimination based on disability in programs, services, and activities provided or made available by public entities. HUD enforces Title II when it relates to state and local public housing, housing assistance and housing referrals. In addition to complying with the rules and requirements of all funding sources for a low-income senior/disabled housing building, including the HUD federal rules and regulations, the developer/landlord is required to comply with state, city and/or county landlord/tenant laws. 

Health, housing and transportation continue to be vital life aspects. Railings on both sides of public corridors throughout senior housing buildings are essential supports, and yet many buildings, even those recently rehabilitated, do not have railings on both sides of corridors on every floor to accommodate several disabilities.  

Balance disorders and hearing impairment contribute to seniors’ falling. The frequency of balance disorders increases with age. They are one of the most common reasons people age 70+ seek medical help. Dizziness may be related to ear and hearing problems because the balance center – the vestibular system – is directly connected to the inner ear. They share the same nerve leading to the brain. (Vertigo refers to a problem of the vestibular system-- feelings of spinning or turning rather than a sense of unsteadiness. )  

Falls are the leading cause of injury death for older Americans. Falls threaten seniors’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs. One third of Americans aged 65+ fall each year. Every 15 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 29 minutes, an older adult dies following a fall. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. 

With or without injury, falls also carry a heavy quality of life impact. A growing number of older adults fear falling and, as a result, self-limit activities and social engagements. This can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness. 

ADA does not require Medicare to provide hearing aids. Title IV of the ADA requires telecommunications companies to take steps to ensure functionally equivalent services for consumers with disabilities, notably those who are deaf or hard of hearing and those with speech impairments. It led to creation, in all 50 States and the District of Columbia, of what were called dual-party relay services, now known as Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS). 

California Telephone Access Program provides free amplified telephones. Contact the CTAP Berkeley Service Center, located inside the Ed Roberts Campus at 3075 Adeline, located directly above Ashby BART and accessible from within the BART Station.  

Many turn signals are difficult to hear over the sound of traffic, engine noise and the radio. Check your turn signal indicator occasionally to make sure it is not blinking needlessly and misleadingly.  


MARK YOUR CALENDAR: November 2012, December 2012, and January 2013. 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 events preferred.  

Monday, Nov. 5. 6:30 P.M. "Castoffs" - Knitting Group. Kensington Library, 61Arlington 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. 

Wednesday, Nov. 7, 12:15-1 P.M. UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. UNIVERSITY BAROQUE ENSEMBLE. Davitt Moroney, director. (note program change) Music by Bach, Telemann, Brade, Rameau. Free. 510- 642.4864 

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

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

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 

Friday, Nov. 9. 12:15-1 P.M. UC,B Hertz concert hall. CHAMBER MUSIC (note program change): 

W.A. Mozart: Duo for Bassoon and Cello in B flat Major K.292 (196c) Movements 1, 2, 3. Mosa Tsay, cello; Bryson Cwick, bassoon. Johannes Brahms: Piano Trio in B Major, op. 8 First movement. Casey Nosiglia, violin; Lukas Whaley-Mayda, cello; Andrea Wu, piano. Philip Glass: String Quartet No. 5 Movements 1, 2, and 5 Jason Wu, Michael Hwang, violins; Andre Garrett, viola; Melody Huang, cello. Free. 510-642-4864 

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. 

Wednesday, Nov. 21. 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging. North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. Free. 510-981- 5190. 

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, Nov. 28. 1:30 P.M. Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers meeting. North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. Free. 510-548-9696 or 486-8010.  

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, 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.10-643-2755  

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, 1247 Marin Av. Great Books group meets for a Holiday Luncheon. Call 510- 526-3720 for information. 

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.