The Library

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

Song BooksAh, books. The comfort, challenge, and glory of books is their ability to trigger our imaginations and thoughts. Novel or biography, science or sci-fi, realism or romance, books inform us and transport us into a wider world. And being transported from the everyday here and now has never felt more necessary.

I enjoy reading, but I also love books as objects. The weight, color, page texture, and even the smell of a book is part of the experience for me. Back in my college years I collected the works of now forgotten turn-of-the-century novelist George Barr McCutcheon. McCutcheon wrote light adventure and romance fiction - anyone remember the mythical kingdom Graustark? For me, a digital copy of a book – although handy to take traveling with you – just isn’t the same as holding the volume in your hands. McCutcheon himself was a book fan; his last book, published posthumously in 1931, was an essay on the joys of book collecting entitled “Books Once Were Men,” musing about how each unique volume is made special not only by the words printed in it, but by the hands it has passed through during its existence.

Which leads us to libraries, the ultimate repository for “used” books. Pretty much every book at a library has passed through many hands. Such a book might be hundreds (or even thousands) of years old at a research library like the Huntington or the Getty. Or it might be the latest best-seller with a wait-list of readers at the local public library.

The Pasadena Senior Center has always had a library. This postcard image from the early 1960s shows the Center’s library, looking for all the world like a room in a private home. It’s quite charming; the nicely arranged bouquet of roses matches the floral rose print on the comfy armchairs. A lady sits in a rocking chair, chatting with a gent who has a scrapbook open on his lap. Indicative of the era when this photo was taken, there is a writing desk in the room, set out neatly with paper, desk pad, ball point pen in a holder, and – it is the 1960s – an ashtray.

We have computer terminals in our library now instead of a writing desk, and smoking is most definitely not allowed. The chintz-covered chairs and decorative end-table have been replaced by a long table and straight-back chairs. There are more books in the library as well: three walls have bookshelves instead of just one. A constant stream of book donations ensures that the shelves are always full.

The library at the Center looks quite different than it did sixty years ago and will undoubtedly look different again sixty years into the future. But however much decorative taste and communication technology may change over the years, there are some things I hope never do: the idea of the library as a place where members find inspiration and quiet companionship, and where they are surrounded by delightfully non-virtual, turn-an-actual-page, don’t-judge-by-its-cover, books.

Interesting Times

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

Song Books“We are living in most interesting times,” as British statesman Sir Joseph Chamberlain said in a speech in 1898 (and many other people have said since).

The near total disruption of our lives due to the coronavirus pandemic has caused anxiety, panic, and tragedy; but it has also created moments of strange beauty, compassion, and introspection. Faced with social isolation, we’ve memorized the contents of every closet in the house and waged battles with dust bunnies, and we understand the power of friendship and community in a way we never did before.

Working from home for the past eight weeks, these blogs I write are letters to my friends from the Center. As I write I see the smiles and waves from folks gathered around the coffee bar, hear laughter from my classmates in Ballroom Dance, respond to jokes by co-workers, talk to friends from Master’s Series (yes, Alan Chapman WILL be with us this summer, albeit online), and, of course, party with everyone!

All of the things that each of us enjoy and depend on at the Center, is why it was created. Back in 1957 a task force on older adults convened by the City of Pasadena determined that a Center would best serve the needs of the large senior population in the city. The Pasadena Senior Center opened May 22, 1960, conceived as a home-style community clubhouse where there would be social interaction (parties, dances, clubs), intellectual stimulation (lectures, classes, activities), and support (social services, meals). Run with a small staff and a large number of volunteers, the Center was dependent on the generosity of donors for the majority of its funding. Sound familiar? Indeed, little has changed except we now have a much larger building and exponentially more programs and services.

The image on this postcard from the early 1960s shows Center members relaxing on the patio of the original building on a delightful spring day. I’m guessing it is spring and not summer, since no one, not even the brightly attired ladies in their cotton shirtwaist dresses, are wearing hats. The conversational groupings under the umbrellas, the foursomes at the tables in the shade along the side of the building, as well as other people milling about, all speak to the spirit of camaraderie at the heart of the Pasadena Senior Center.

We may have weeks or months to go before we can gather in the patio again, enjoying the lovely park setting like the members in the photo. However, the memory of it stays in our hearts while we are away, and friendships formed at the Center sustain us. Don’t let those spiteful dust bunnies get the best of you, and when we are all together again, we can share stories about how we lived through these “most interesting times.”

Party Like It's 1960

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

Song BooksThe Pasadena Senior Center turns 60 this month. The doors opened for the first time on May 22, 1960, and the newspapers reported that 2000 people attended the opening festivities. I’ve been spending time recently looking for information about those early years. Researching online, I found a set of color postcards of the Senior Center from the early 1960s (ah, the joys of the internet, and the amazing things available on Ebay!). ’ll be sharing a postcard each week in our Anniversary month.

I’m starting with the image closest to my heart: a dance party in the ballroom! I had seen a grainy black and white copy of this photo before, but color really brings out its character. I can’t resist the red polka-dot dress of the lady on the right (I want one just like it!), and a closer look reveals an amazing yellow-and-magenta print on the Hawaiian shirt of the man dancing nearby. The plain hall is dressed up with green and white floor-to-ceiling curtains and faux Chippendale chairs. The Center was significantly remodeled and expanded in the late 1990s, so this room as photographed doesn’t exist anymore. It was replaced by our Scott Pavilion; a larger and more elegant space, yet still sporting a room divider same as its predecessor.

It stands to reason that a Senior Center would have a tradition of ballroom dancing. Seniors attending the Center in the 1960s had danced their way through the 1920s, 30s and 40s and it was a way of life. We still dance to tunes from those eras at our parties today, courtesy of the Great American Swing Band. Actually, to tell the absolute truth, we aren’t dancing to them at the Center right now, due to the sad and necessary social distancing measures in place to combat the spread of our current pandemic. However, when you think of the date of this postcard, early 1960s, we know that every senior at that party was born before 1914: therefore each dancer had survived the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, as well as the trauma both World Wars. If they could dance again, so can we!

I’ve always loved dancing, but I became a ballroom dance addict two years ago, when I joined the class at the Senior Center. Before the world shut down in March, I was ballroom dancing two or three times a week and loving every minute. Since it is pretty impossible to foxtrot six feet away from your partner, dancing, like so many other things, suddenly stopped. Done. Dancing alone just isn’t the same as waltzing around the room with a partner. But one thing wasn’t cut off: the dance friendships I made at the Center. We still talk, commiserate the lack of dancing, and share tips to keep in shape for that time – soon, I hope, soon! – when we can all gather again and visit, listen to music, and dance. Just like in 1960.

Rearranging the Furniture

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

Song BooksIt’s a time-honored strategy to deal with boredom or stress - rearrange the furniture! There are lots of reason this is a good thing: 1) It takes your mind off of whatever you are, or are not, doing, 2) Engages the right and left sides of your brain as you calculate spatial relationships and contemplate aesthetics, 3) Gets you some physical exercise, 4) Gives you a new perspective on familiar things.

I’ve been doing a lot of furniture rearranging lately and can attest to the benefits. My first task was to carve out a home office in my room (our dining room was not going to work as a long-term solution if I wanted to stay on good terms with my dad). Figuring out how to craft a workable office area in a tiny space proved much more productive and fulfilling than worrying about Covid-19. For practical purposes, I needed enough room for a desk and a chair, but I also wanted it to be a space I would actually want to be in for eight hours a day.

The fun (yes, fun) of planning, along with the physical exertion of moving the furniture around, led to a really pleasant workspace. An added bonus is that I see the room from a new perspective, sitting for hours a day in a part of the room where I never had a chair before. Our house was built in 1929, and I have a very pretty room with a slanted beamed ceiling and casement windows which it is a pleasure to look at.

While I have been figuring out how to work from home, there is also work being done to my home. We’re having the entire house’s 91-year old electrical system rewired. It’s a lengthy project (4-6 weeks), and everything has to be moved to make room for the electrical work. Furniture is shifted and pictures taken down off the walls. Vases, curios, and tchotchkes are moved or stuffed into drawers. Clothes taken out of closets. It’s a mess, but it is also an opportunity. When all this is over, I won’t put everything back where it came from. I won’t even keep everything. Just as museums change their gallery shows and shops change their window displays, it’s a chance to change my perspective and shake things up a bit.

Last week, it was terribly hot. The electricians were still working in the house in the afternoon, and our backyard was covered with their stuff. It was 5:00pm on Friday, and time for a cocktail! Where to sit and relax? Nowhere comfortable inside or in the backyard. The only thing to do was to move the dining room chairs out to the front lawn, and have cocktail hour there. Lovely late afternoon breeze. Waving hello to the neighbors walking their dogs. Enjoying the neighborhood from a fresh perspective. Delightful. That’s the real benefit of rearranging furniture: when you change the physical, the mental follows.

Stop and Smell the Roses

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

Song BooksWe’re now on week six of the Safer at Home directive. Have you had your fill of Zoom gatherings yet? Followed enough links on the internet to form a chain a million miles long? Forwarded your share of toilet paper jokes? Cleaned out the garage? Figured out what to do with all the lemons on your backyard tree that you can’t give away anymore?

Along with the depression, frustration, boredom, and fear for the future that this pandemic has brought, there are some bright spots—literally. Flowers. Lots of them. Everywhere. One small piece of luck for us is that coronavirus hit Southern California just as spring was starting. A bunch of days of rain nourished the plants and the city burst into color: pink crepe myrtle trees like birthday cake icing, bright orange poppies taking over gardens and fields, and magenta ice plant turning hillsides into neon wonderlands. Not to mention all the birds and bees and butterflies that these flowers attract.

Spring is always beautiful here; what is remarkable about that? The difference is that we are experiencing it in a new way. With activities limited and movement restricted, many of us are walking in our neighborhoods more—much more—than we ever have before. Instead of walking once or twice a week, I’m walking three or four times a day. Short walks with my 92-year-old dad. Long walks with my next-street-over neighbor whom I met at the Pasadena Senior Games several years ago. Medium walks around the neighborhood while I talk to friends on my cell phone.

I would have thought I’d get bored covering the same ground over and over. But each day, and each time I go out, the flowers are different. They open full on sunny days, hang their heads on gray days. Poppies will appear overnight and be gone in a few days, whereas a particular rose, with a particularly fine scent, might be leaning over a fence for me to enjoy for what seems like weeks.

There is a house about six blocks away, which I often walk past now. The front yard is filled with fragrant herbs and flowering plants. Dad and I always stop there on our walks to watch the tiny iridescent hummingbirds flitting from tree to flower, dancing along with the butterflies. There is a wonderfully aromatic sage plant in that yard. The owner gave me a cutting from it, which I’m rooting now so I can have one in my own garden.

I always have my phone with me when I go out walking (who goes out without their phone these days?), which means I always have a camera handy. As a photography enthusiast, I’m now fascinated with the colors, shapes, and textures of plants I hardly paid attention to before. Years from now, when 2020 is known as the year the world stopped, I’ll have a scrapbook full of photos to show that when the world stopped, I stopped too—to smell the roses.

Something to Sing About

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

Song BooksYou know the routine: touch something, wash your hands. Touch something else, wash your hands again. We’ve been told to spend 20 seconds with soap and water each time. Somewhere along the line we were told that singing the Happy Birthday song twice was the right amount of time.

It was my birthday this past Sunday. As I washed my hands, I remembered to sing twice through Happy Birthday to myself. It then occurred to me, how many times have I washed my hands in the last five weeks and NOT sung Happy Birthday? Maybe I wasn’t washing my hands long enough? Was I leaving myself open to infection because I wasn’t singing? Oh no!

Singing is good for you. It fills your lungs, clears your head, and warms your heart. And now we know it also leads to better hygiene. Too few of us sing out loud anymore, mostly out of embarrassment. However, you’re stuck at home now. No one to hear you but your housemates, if you have any. Sing out!

However, a word of advice: if you stick with Happy Birthday (twice) each time you wash your hands, you will likely go insane. In the interests of mental health, for you and others in hearing range, find other 20 second songs. Mix it up. Challenge other people in your household to come up with creative ditties.

In the past few days, I’ve gone on a quest to discover which songs/verses fit into 20 seconds. I pulled song books off shelves. I looked up words on the internet. I had a delightful time singing tons of songs and timing them with the stop watch app on my smart phone (it’s under “clock.”)

I found that a maddening number of songs have verses or choruses that are just a few seconds too short or too long. Turns out that 20 seconds is hard to nail. You can get creative about extending a short song (“White Coral Bells” works if you repeat the last line, “and that will only happen when the fairies sing.”). You can also decide to wash your hands a little longer because “All of Me” (24 seconds) is worth it.

Here is Annie’s Short List of Recommended Hand Washing Songs that Clock in at 20 seconds: “This Land is Your Land” (one stanza or the chorus), “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Singing in the Rain” (first verse only), “Can’t Buy Me Love” (most Beatles songs clock in at closer to 26 seconds, but this one can be done in 20), “Take Me out to the Ball Game,” “Don’t Fence Me In,” “Amazing Grace,” and the traditional Irish “Molly Malone” and her cockles and mussels alive, alive-o.

What’s your list? What songs did you grow up with? What do you listen to now? As Sesame Street, and the Carpenters, put it: “Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear, just sing, sing a song!”

What the Dickens?!

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

Books 01Have you decided to catch up on all the reading you’ve been meaning to do now that you’re stuck at home? After all, you probably need a break from looking through old photos, sorting stuff in your cupboards and closets, and rearranging your sock drawer (or is that just me?). Most of all, you need to take a break from all the frightening news. My suggestion: get out the Dickens!

I love reading Charles Dickens. His works can be in turns wickedly funny, sentimental, and as exciting as a thriller. He is a keen observer of politics and the human condition, and the writing is often shockingly timely, proving that not much has changed in 150 years. The more I read, the more I love it. I even attend an annual week-long Dickens Conference at UC Santa Cruz each year. I know Dickens isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; but if you’ve been thinking that now is the time to finally dive in, here are some tips:

Start Small. If you are new to Dickens, you don’t have to start off with a 900-page monster. Try A Christmas Carol. You’ve probably seen one or two (or ten) movie or stage adaptations, but have you actually read it? I realized I had not, even with all the Dickens I have read, so this past week my dad and I sat down with A Christmas Carol. It’s fairly amazing how something so familiar can become new all over again. And it doesn’t need to be Christmas to read it!

Read out loud. Dickens’ phrases and descriptions are so marvelous, they are best savored word-by-word. Reading out loud doubles the fun (especially for the theatrically inclined among us). For one thing, it involves your body physically the way that reading to yourself doesn’t do. It also forces you to read every word instead of rushing through to get to the end. Many people routinely listen to audio books, usually while doing something else like driving or working out. Hearing and reading “live’ is a whole other experience. I’ve been enjoying reading Dickens out loud since the 1980s, when my mother cajoled the family and a few friends to meet weekly to read Nicholas Nickleby. It took us about 5 months to finish, but it was marvelous. We continued our little group for about five years, reading many novels that way.

Make yourself comfortable. Reading Dickens should be a pleasure, not a chore. Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t worry about a timeline. Settle down in a comfy place with a mug of something warm to drink. Tea, of course, is classic British, but so is hot punch. A great deal of eating and drinking goes on in Dickens’ works, so do likewise! If you’re so inclined, I recommend this simple hot toddy – in an 8 ounce mug, put one tablespoon sugar, a large slice of lemon, and an ounce or two of your preferred alcohol (whisky, brandy, rum, gin – anything goes!), fill to the top with boiling water and add a cinnamon stick. Stir, drink, and enjoy!

Coronavirus: Safety and Readiness Tips for You

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by American Red Cross

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The American Red Cross is closely monitoring the evolving outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), as well as following the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

According to the CDC, the immediate health risk for the U.S. public is believed to be low at this time. However, the Red Cross is highlighting some everyday health safety and preparedness steps that people in the U.S. can take now in response to coronavirus concerns.

LIMIT THE SPREAD OF GERMS AND PREVENT INFECTION

There are common sense steps we can all take to prevent the spread of any respiratory virus:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.
  • Disinfect doorknobs, switches, handles, computers, telephones, bedside tables, bathroom sinks, toilets, counters, toys and other surfaces that are commonly touched around the home or workplace.
  • Follow the CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are healthy wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who are ill to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.
    • The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

How to Stay Sane while You’re “Safer at Home”

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

How to Mark TimeIsolation can be very depressing, as those who are homebound know. Now nearly all of us are homebound due to the global health crisis, and it is hard. As members of the Pasadena Senior Center, we enjoy activities, socializing with friends, and learning new things. As the Events Director at PSC, my job is to throw parties, host concerts and lectures, run the Pasadena Senior Games, and program all sorts of interactive social, cultural, and educational events. None of that allowed in person now!

I am 56, so I am not in the high-risk category, but I live with my dad who turned 92 in January. He’s hale and hearty (and yes, still drives at night!), but I can’t risk bringing Covid19 home to him, so I’m working from home and practicing social isolation.

As I adjust to this new condition (no parties?! no ballroom dancing?! no high-fives at the Coffee Bar?!), I don’t want to go stir crazy, get too depressed, or annoy Dad so much he throws me out. I’m trying to be creative about coping. Here are 3 things I’m doing to try stay sane for the next 30 days.

1. Know which day it is. In 2009 I went to Turkey, visiting Istanbul and traveling the coast from Troy to Ephesus. At our hotel in Izmir, the elevators had rugs with the day of the week on them. When you got in the elevator and looked down at your feet (which is what we all do in elevators), you saw “Sunday” or “Monday.” Since I don’t have days-of-the-week rugs at home, I’ve decided to write the day and date on the chalkboard in the hallway by our phone. It is surprisingly comforting to me to pass by and know it is “Thursday, March 26.”

2. Use something you love to count the days. I’m a jewelry nut and have a huge collection of earrings. I’ve put 30 of them on a special earring rack and am going to wear a different pair each day. With luck, by the time I’ve worked through my rack of earrings, our informal lockdown will be (nearly) over. What do you have 30 of? If not earrings, maybe scarves? Shoes? Socks? Ties? Coffee cups? Salt & Pepper shakers (yes, I know people who collect those!)? Or maybe your pet has 30 different outfits. Be creative.

3. Dress for Dinner. Friends who have always worked from home and savvy retirees know the truth of this: put on “real” clothes at least once a day (ok, you can have weekends off to stay in your pajamas for 48 hours). I’ve always enjoyed dressing up, and so does Dad, but it does take something extra to go to that trouble when you aren’t going anywhere and aren’t having guests. However, it’s not only good for morale, but it’s also a great excuse to reacquaint yourself with your favorite special things.

Good luck everyone! Keep me posted on how you are doing, AnnieL@PasadenaSeniorCenter.org. I’ll be online – if I’m not dressing for dinner.

Every Bit of Celebration You Can Create is a Good Thing

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

How to Mark TimeYou’ve now been sheltering in place for two weeks now, maybe more. You’re following all the Covid-19 protocols: washing your hands, wiping down contaminated surfaces, staying 6 feet away from everyone, coughing into your sleeve. With luck, you’ve even scored that 24-pack of dearer-than-gold toilet paper. What now?

Have a Dinner Party!

Making a nice dinner with fancy trappings can be easier than you think. I gave a formal dinner last Friday, just Dad and I. Take it from a party planner forced into social isolation: every bit of celebration you can create is a good thing. Here are some tips on hosting your own private party.

1. Setting the Table. Have a tablecloth or linen napkins? Now is the time to use them. Got special china or crystal that you only get out for holidays? Get it out now! And most important: light the candles. Eating alone off paper plates on a card table can be elegant as long as you eat by candlelight. My mother hated to cook, so we seldom had fancy food. But we would routinely set the table and lit candles even if dinner was hot dogs.

2. Menu. I’ve always been a believer in looking for recipes to match what I’ve got on hand rather than shopping for ingredients I don’t have. Here’s my menu from Friday:

Starter: Soup. Basic recipe: sauté vegetables, add seasoning, simmer in liquid, puree, eat. I used Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin) and potato, seasoning with garlic, cinnamon, and ginger. We garnished our soup with a drizzle of Bourbon (a trick I learned dining at the Drake Hotel in Chicago). It adds instant festivity to winter squash soups.

Main course: Spaghetti with Canned Tuna. This has been a staple of mine for years – adapted from a recipe in a 1980s pasta cookbook. Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a frying pan. Add drained tuna (approximately one can per person served), along with chopped garlic, chili flakes or paprika, salt and pepper. Sauté on medium low heat so it warms but doesn’t brown. Just before serving, add juice of one lemon. Toss with spaghetti and a little olive oil or butter. Add sautéed chopped vegetables if you like.

Dessert: Pecan Pie. I chose that because it’s Dad’s favorite and I had all the ingredients. Really, anything from fruit to cheese to sweets works fine. Just something to round out the meal, along with a cup of coffee, tea, or dessert wine.

3. Dress and Drink. Someone once told me the secret of a successful party is that the invite lets the guests “know what they will be wearing, and what they will be drinking.” If you’re hosting a Hawaiian Luau, the guests know to dress tropical and that they will be drinking something with pineapple in it. For a formal dinner, tuxedos, long gowns, sparking jewelry and sparkling wine are traditional. Tux not back from the cleaners? No long gowns in the closet? Improvise. Just make sure you have real shoes on, and not just your fuzzy slippers.

Most of all – have fun!

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Single-Day-Tours

Spend an exciting day with us on one of our Single Day Tours, or select from one of our new Multi-Day Tours.

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PSC-Map

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Contact Us

Phone: (626) 795-4331
Fax: (626) 577-4235
Lunch Reservations: (626) 685-6751
Email: info@pasadenaseniorcenter.org

Pasadena Senior Center
85 East Holly Street
Pasadena, CA 91103