Blog

England's Ministry of Loneliness

by Johanna Leonard
April 2018

In January of this year, the British government created a new ministry – the Ministry of Loneliness. There were a few chuckles from this side of the Atlantic, and some late night hosts used it in their monologues. But before you snort at this seemingly silly notion, do you know what the experts are saying about how loneliness affects us both mentally and physically?

Britain’s Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness (2017) discovered that one third of all the older adults studied had not communicated with any people for at least 30 days or more. Many of these older adults were isolated in that they lived alone in their home and had little contact with the outside world for a variety of reasons, such as disability, general health, etc. Here in the U.S., The New York Times reported on “An Epidemic of Loneliness,” and the AARP’s (The American Association of Retired Persons) research found that loneliness was a “significant predictor of poor health.”

The British study found that “Loneliness affects people of all ages and from all backgrounds – from the school child who struggles to make friends, to the new parent coping alone, to the older person who has outlived her friends and immediate family. Feelings of loneliness affect us all at some point, but being lonely can become a serious problem when it becomes chronic – a day-to-day reality which, over time, can grind us down, affecting our health and well-being and damaging our ability to connect with others.”

As the Executive Director of a community of older adults, I was pleased to see this issue on loneliness take center stage. My staff and I have seen how social isolation can affect people, and how socialization can clearly and routinely improve the well-being of an individual.

Many of our residents have told me that as they aged, it began to get more difficult for them to get around the house – for example, going up and down stairs presented big challenges. A lack of mobility can result in less use of one’s home and perhaps fewer outings. A person’s social circle can become smaller and smaller until their circle consists mostly just of their family and perhaps those brought in to provide help with housekeeping or to address other caregiving needs.

Joining with others, whether it be living with family, or in a community, or engaging in community groups can result in improved health and overall well-being. Living in an older adult community can offer the benefits of regular meals and exercise programs, along with day-to-day socialization with members of the staff, the facilitators of classes and activities, and other residents.

A community for older adults is not the only solution to loneliness, but I believe that a community surrounds the person with consistent and multiple opportunities to interact. With more interaction, the potential for improved well-being vastly improves and body, mind and spirit can rebound.

 



 

Start an Album Club

by Ryan Wilcox, Programming Director
February 2018

Imagine the sharing of ideas, insights and fun of a book club, only with music – that’s what a group of us have started at The Lake Merritt - an Album Club. It’s a gathering of people who share a love of music and who enjoy a sense of adventure. The format can be just like a book club, with regular meetings. Our goal is to listen deeply and then to discuss an entire album together. An Album Club can build friendships and deepen the understanding of the music we hear.

For decades, the album was the primary vehicle for listeners looking to explore the music of a particular artist, place, time or theme. Whether you owned records or CDs, many of us grew accustomed to acquiring and consuming music in 30-to-75-minute chunks which were curated by artists and record labels. As streaming technology ascended, album sales declined, and a 2016 survey by consumer group LOOP found that more people in the U.S. listen to online “playlists” than they do albums.

For many of us who grew up listening to and making music in the album’s heydays, great albums elicited exciting feelings of discovery. An album is more than the sum of its parts; it has a life of its own, and it can take the listener on a potentially transformative journey.

I wanted to share musical “deep dives” into the album and has led the Album Club since its inception. Here’s how it works: each month, a club member selects an album. We announce the selection in a letter to the group that includes notes from that month’s picker and some historical background information. Then we hold a listening session on high-quality speakers, and a day or two later, we discuss the album in detail. So far, the club has explored albums by artists ranging from Kronos Quartet to Billie Holiday to Pink Floyd.

“What’s important about this group is we focus on the process and the product itself, and what went into it,” explained John, a Lake Merritt resident. “Instead of just being a piece of music, there’s a meaning and philosophy behind it.”

Another Club member, Peter, recently chose the “Floyd” album Dark Side of the Moon, partly because he thinks it speaks to the state of the world today. “I also thought this album would be really interesting, because many of the people who are club members have a more classical music background. I wanted to see their reaction to a different genre,” he said.

New club member, Pat, gushed about the Pink Floyd session and the club in general: “I think it’s a wonderful idea because it opens minds like mine. You’re never too old to have a new thought put into your head.”

John added, “For me, it’s finding out more about the people I live around. It’s all really about sharing a bit of ourselves – a piece of our history and our musical passions.”

You too can start an Album Club! The location can rotate with members hosting a listening and discussion session in their homes. Yet, even without a physical meeting location, you can share albums and ideas with friends by email or over the phone. While a wider musical world may now be available at our fingertips, album clubs can help us cultivate listening breadth without sacrificing listening depth.

 



 

HELP! My Parents Are Aging

by Johanna Leonard
January 2018

Don’t miss our Free Panel Presentation – Wednesday, January 31st at 6:30 p.m.

“What do we need to think about to help our parents or loved ones as they age? If you visited a loved one this past holiday season, or if a special loved one visited you, and you believe it is time to make plans for their future, mark your calendar to attend this free special workshop!

“Help! My Parents Are Aging!” is the second in a series of presentations The Lake Merritt is hosting on these and other relevant issues. Our panel of specialists will present important perspectives and a question and answer session will follow the speakers.

The workshop is designed to give you a heads up. You may need to begin preparing for the possibility for a greater involvement in your loved one’s life. If you are beginning to see struggles, you can start your research into options for help available in the community. These options may include a few hours of assistance at home each week, but you also might also begin researching ways to provide daily care. Perhaps it is the time to begin discussions about joining a retirement community. The workshop can help you and family and friends be prepared for any eventuality. If your parents or loved ones are so lucky as to never need care, this research can help give you peace of mind!

The five professionals who will present their perspectives have spent decades working with older adults and families in a variety of areas. Dana Arkinzadeh, of DMA Organizing is a Certified Professional Organizer and Senior Move Manager who helps those who are relocating or scaling back; Kelly Glazer, Licensed Clinical Social Worker specializes in geropsychology, major life transitions and living with illness; Helen Lindberg, is a Placement Specialist for CareQuest and she helps individuals find the environment in which older adults can thrive. Event coordinators are McGuire Real Estate’s Liz Rush, Realtor and Debbi Glosli, Associate Brokers. The duo has presented seminars for nearly two years that are designed to help people not only with selling their homes, but by providing information about the many issues surrounding a move. The Lake Merritt’s Program Director, Ryan Wilcox, will moderate.

Liz Rush, one of the coordinators told me that the one of the most popular topics in the discussion with the audience is “What do I do with all of this stuff I have?” This can be a hard question if children or family members don’t want or don’t have room for family heirlooms or personal items. Happily, one of our speakers has important tips that have worked for many.”

Those who came to our first workshop told me that the evening gave them a “heads up.” They said that it was helpful to learn that they may need to begin preparing for the possibility of a greater involvement in a loved one’s life. It is best to be prepared for any eventuality. If your parents or loved ones are so lucky as to never need care, this research can still give you a little peace of mind.

Our panel will present their perspectives for about an hour and then the floor will open for questions and answers from the audience. Admission is free, but reservations are suggested. Light refreshments will be served. To reserve a seat for the January 31st presentation, please RSVP to rsvp@thelakemerritt.com or call 510-903-3600.

 



 

What's NEW at The Terrace Room

by Johanna Leonard
November 2017

What’s NOT new at The Terrace Room Restaurant & Bar? That’s really the question to ask! Over the past several months, The Terrace Room has undergone a major transformation.

As you may know, The Terrace Room is a restaurant that is open to the general public, but it is also where the residents in our community dine on a regular basis. It has always been a delightful place to enjoy one of the most stunning views of Lake Merritt while dining in Oakland, but now we believe the experience is even more enjoyable.

Our unique, multi-leveled dining room has been freshly painted. We have a new herringbone-patterned oak wood floor on the lower level as well as custom carpeting on the upper level and in the bar area. Check out the large, drum-style ceiling light fixtures, new tables, new chairs, new draperies, and much more.

Our interior designers were inspired by the beautiful wrought-iron patterns throughout the restaurant. As you can see in the photographs, they replicated this pattern on the drum lights and the custom carpeting.  These elegant touches, tied together in distinctive patterns, unify the new design.

The designers also came up with an innovative lighting scheme to emphasize the historic murals, painted by noted artist Andre Boratko. These art works are a beautiful feature of our bar area. The murals are illuminated from all sides by soft, sophisticated gallery lighting showing the beauty of Lake Merritt in 1956.

The results of The Terrace Room’s renovation are simply dazzling. Much thought went into considering how to balance the appearance and atmosphere of the room for the general public with the needs of the residents in our community. For example, our new tables and chairs are sturdy, giving support to our residents, yet they are stylish and work with the new décor.

We are happy to report that both the residents and the public are enthusiastic about our new look. The Terrace Room’s floor-to-ceiling windows provide a magical reflection of the lighting each evening and enhance the expansiveness and beauty of the view both inside and out.

As the holidays approach, all are invited to join us for a cup of cheer in the bar or to invite a friend or two to enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner and experience our renovation in person!

 



 

Our lake view is complete with sailboats and picnics and you

by Johanna Leonard
October 2017

Everyone working at The Lake Merritt is surrounded by a lot of Oakland history.  The owners, Cheryl and Randall Berger have collected numerous images and artifacts of the history of Oakland with respect to Lake Merritt, The Lake Merritt Hotel, and its surrounding environs.  We have many photographs, drawings and original art throughout our building, and we even have a brief history of The Lake Merritt on our cocktail menu.  Join us as we celebrate our 90th anniversary by checking out some of their collection on display throughout the building. 

Although it is hard to choose my favorite artifact, I have chosen the “Boratko murals.”  Inside The Terrace Room Restaurant & Bar, we have a lovely area tucked away from the main room – it is affectionately called “the Mural Room,” as it features a series of murals reflecting the beauty of Lake Merritt. 

Acclaimed artist Andre Boratko painted these stunning, elegant murals depicting scenes of Lake Merritt in 1956.  The murals feature the beautiful sky-blue water of our urban lake, sail boats skimming along, residents relaxing on the grass and Oakland’s downtown skyline sparkling in the distance.  The murals are an actual reflection of the views from the restaurant.  You can even see as far as Holy Names College before the Kaiser Center was built.   In addition to painting murals, Boratko was a sculptor and an instructor at the renowned California College of Arts and Crafts 

Mr. Boratko was well known in the art world.  He was commissioned to create a 77-foot mural depicting the history of Hayward, a 160-ft frieze for the Huntington Hotel in San Francisco, and a mural for the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Richmond.  He was a long-time member of the Lake Merritt Breakfast Club.

The Terrace Room Restaurant & Bar and The Lake Merritt would not be the same without our period murals.  As part of our current redecorating of The Terrace Room, we are improving the lighting on these murals to better showcase their beauty.  Please come in and see them soon!

 



 

Your BBF (Best Friend Forever)

by Johanna Leonard
October 2017

They can help lower your blood pressure, they can help relieve stress and build social ties in your community. They can even give you a feeling of well-being and affection. Who are we talking about? Your BFF (Best Friend Forever)! It’s your companion animal! And in this case, it’s a dog.

The Lake Merritt is a pet friendly community and we believe in the healing power of companion pets for older adults. There have been many studies on this phenomena, and claims promoting the benefits of companion animals are many. Let us introduce a few of the canine friends we have come to know here at The Lake Merritt.

Here’s a snapshot of K.C., who is an adorable brown and white King Charles spaniel. His day starts out pretty early. He takes his owner for a walk outside and they both often admire the view of Lake Merritt.  On his way back, he stops by the Concierge desk for a special treat (he actually gets his treat twice per day). As he walks away, K.C. thanks the Concierge with a smile and a wagging tail. He has the most handsome brown eyes you have ever seen! K.C. cannot walk down a hallway without a resident (or staff member) stopping to pet and coo at him. Some of our residents even volunteer to walk K.C. in the afternoon. K.C. is one lucky pooch.

Then there are Rubia, Hudson and Harry. John, one of our newer residents, has a small blond-colored Chihuahua mix. named Rubia. He told me the other day that he feels that he is the side-kick, like Robin to Rubia's Batman. Hudson is Pam’s apricot-colored labradoodle, (a labrador retriever and poodle combination). He’s a young dog, still learning his way around, and he loves people. We all join together to reward his good behavior with treats and pets. Another resident Peter, walks his schnoodle Harry, (a schnauzer and poodle mix), several times a day. Peter says that Harry is great at making friends. The two have met numerous neighbors during their dog walks. In fact, Peter and Harry sometimes coordinate walk times with a neighbor who lives nearby. I often see them walking their dogs together many times a week and chatting and laughing it up.

Of course, we have a lot of purr-fectly pretty kitties in our community as well, and we don’t want to neglect their fluffy or sleek beauty and their importance to our residents. Yet there is one big extra benefit for our residents who live with dogs we can’t neglect.

As all of us strive to stay fit, and as we read seemingly every day about studies telling us that walking is the best exercise for older adults, it’s easy to see another benefit to canine companions. They get us out of our homes. So, I like to remind all the dog owners out there, and in our community too, that your dog probably would love a walk right now and you would love it too!

 

 



 

Our Residents Get Engaged with a Start-Up

by Johanna Leonard
September 2017

The history of start-ups in the Bay Area is awesome. Just think of all of the high-profile companies that simply didn’t exist a few decades ago. Many got their start right here in this area. It seems to me that everything is undergoing innovation. Even our business!

Our management team and residents volunteered to be part of a “beta test” of a new service organization that provides a unique kind of care to older adults. Founded by an Oakland resident and a former AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) executive, Jenny Gallagher, her new company “Help-Full” just finished being put through its paces at our community.

The Lake Merritt’s management helped by testing the company’s website for ease of use by older adults, we consulted on the design of forms, and provided feedback on our members’ overall assessment after using Help-Full. The company matches older adults with “Helpers,” based on compatible backgrounds, interests, preferences and traits. About 80% of Helpers are college and graduate students. They assist with simple non-medical and non-personal care* tasks around the house or on the go, as well as provide companionship and engage with our residents in mutually enjoyable activities like going to music performances and playing ping pong.

Our residents responded to the “beta test” individually. I know from their feedback that they were absolutely thrilled with the Help-Full providers’ personal service. As I write this, I see there is a Help-Full representative at the front desk who is here to help a resident with organizational tasks in her home. The company is insured and each Helper has gone through an interview, a background check and has up-to-date auto insurance coverage.

The company’s inspiration is something many can relate to. A few years ago, Jenny was living in Washington, DC and her mother lived in California. As her mother aged, she began to need more and more help. Although she had paid caregivers, her mother once said to Jenny over the phone “I’ve never felt so lonely surrounded by so many people.” Jenny felt helpless living so far away. Her sister, who lived closest to their mother, was beyond stressed. Jenny realized there are millions of other families who have it much worse off and need help. So, she moved back to California and started Help-Full.

There is a need for the company’s companionship and task-driven services. Now that beta testing is complete, Help-Full is getting ready to launch! We wish Help-Full good luck in their growth.

*Note – Help-Full is not a home-care agency and does not provide services related to ADL (Activities of Daily Living), which include eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, and others.

 



 

Our Chef Shares Secrets of His Flavors (and it’s not more Butter!)

by Johanna Leonard
July 2017

Most of us know that when we go out for dinner, or watch the cooking shows on TV, that some of the flavors we love are enhanced by the addition of extra pads of butter. Sometimes more pinches of salt than you can imagine are added to the dish! Yet, everyday we hear the warnings about high and low cholesterol, the hazards of salt on our cardiovascular system, and of course the cautions about that dreaded substance hidden in almost everything – white sugar! How are older adults to manage their health as we are told to cut back on those things we love: butter, salt and sugar?

This is exactly my question for The Terrace Room Executive Chef, Jack Andrews. He works everyday to create delicious and nutritious meals for our residents at The Lake Merritt – Independent Senior Living.

I found that Chef Jack, who began his career in the kitchen cooking for his family, has the experience and curiosity to address this question. His background helps. He traveled extensively in the Navy as a young man, and these journeys and the tastes he found around the world reinforced his love of the culinary arts. He has worked in kitchens in California, New York, New Jersey and Arizona. In the Bay Area he has gained expertise at Restaurant Lulu, Blue Plate, Mayfield Cafe, Franny’s, Arturos and Square SF. Most recently he was Regional Executive Chef for Guckenheimer.

So, how does Jack make foods taste great and yet put healthy meals for our residents on the table? He tells me that as a young chef he was “obsessed with old school French recipes.” He continued, “Now, that I am in my 40s, my own health and making healthy choices have emerged as a priority for me and others. As such, my cooking has changed. I’ve learned to achieve the same flavor profile of many dishes through other means,” Jack explained.

“For example, I love to think about a dish as a finished product and imagine the different ways to get the same result,” the chef said. “Take for instance the French classic ‘Vichy Carrots.’ The end goal is to have sweet carrots with that memorable salt, butter, and umami flavor. So, rather than adding salt, butter or cream, I boost the flavor of the carrots by reinforcing them...cooking carrots in carrot juice. To reduce the salt and add umami flavor, we can add Kombu seaweed. And instead of butter, I would use a nice light and fruity Sicilian olive oil. Here at The Terrace Room, I enjoy taking dishes from the residents’ past and reinventing them in a lighter, healthier way. It is a challenge, but a challenge that I enjoy! It keeps things fresh for me,” Jack explained.

The Terrace Room is open to the public and is acclaimed for its New American cuisine prepared with seasonal, often locally sourced, sustainable, organic ingredients. All of our residents have their meals in The Terrace Room along with our public customers. With its very popular Sunday brunch and imaginative lunch and dinner menus, patrons can experience Chef Jack’s fresh approaches to classic recipes everyday.

 



 

Parades and Celebrations At Our Front Door

by Johanna Leonard
July 2017

On June 15th, The Lake Merritt was once again the center of the universe! We have been spoiled this year. In January, 100,000 people participated in the Women’s March which passed right in front of our community to the applause and cheers of our residents. Now the second Golden State Warriors’ Victory Parade has passed right in front of The Lake Merritt with approximately 1.5 million happy fans witnessing their heroes! Believe me, our residents were first to see the team come down the street as they watched from the floor-to-ceiling windows of our restaurant, The Terrace Room, along with fans who came to join us for the festivities.

The parade route was the same as in 2015, except for some minor changes due to road construction along Lakeside Drive. The parade started at 10am at City Hall in the heart of Downtown Oakland, right at 12th and Broadway, and concluded with a rally near Lake Merritt’s new West end plaza and the Kaiser Convention Center.

Many of our residents enjoyed taking photos and videos out of the windows of the restaurant and many were able to view the parade from their own apartment homes. I heard that many of them wanted to send the photos and videos to their families in “real-time.” As so many of our community members have lake views, they had what they like to call the “best seats in the house!” At one point during the parade, I looked up at our building and saw at least one head peeping out of each window in the front, including the windows in our hallways. A few of the residents were also camped out on the fire escape.

I feel that the Warriors enjoyed this celebration more than the first one. Both Steph Curry and Draymond Green got out of their double-decker open-topped buses and walked along the route to greet their fans.

Although it seems impossible, this year’s Warriors’ celebration was even more fantastic than in 2015! We were lucky to have Steph Curry, who many feel is the greatest shooter in NBA history, walking and dancing right in front of our community with the Championship trophy!

We are ready for next year! And hey, Oakland A’s, we are now experts on how to have parade party, so you know.…….Bring It On!

 



 

Our Walk Score is 95% - “A Walker’s Paradise!”

by Johanna Leonard
June 2017

Ask the residents at The Lake Merritt, and they’ll agree that our location, with the lake directly across the street, is simply wonderful. Our building is situated in the heart of Oakland’s “Gold Coast,” the district that hugs the lake and is notable for its views, gardens and stunning period and modern architecture.

Now we have a big-time confirmation of our unique location! The National Walk Score (NWS), an organization that ranks the most walkable cities and neighborhoods in the United States, Canada, and Australia, has deemed our location as “a walker’s paradise.” The Lake Merritt area has been awarded a walk score of 95 out of 100 possible points. Plus, the NWS has hailed Oakland as “one of the best places to walk in the nation.”

Many of our residents are active walkers and the beneficiaries of the City of Oakland’s recent $198 million investment in the restoration of Lake Merritt. With the support of Oakland voters and Measure DD funding, the entire urban lakeside, encompassing 155 acres, has been reinvigorated. Among the benefits for everyone are new pathways, a beautiful pedestrian bridge over the tidal estuary, and a shoreline that has been restored.

I’ve learned that one of the most underrated activities that older adults can do to benefit their health is walking for exercise and enjoyment. Our country’s National Institute of Health tells us that we can do a lot for our health by simply walking. They state that “most inactive people get fewer than 5,000 steps a day, and some very inactive people get only 2,000 steps a day.”

Dr. Andrew Weil, who has gained recognition for his pro-active approach to health and wellness recommends a walking program for health. “Putting in 45 brisk minutes a day is quite simply the best practice I can imagine for a lifetime of health,” Weil said. “If you begin a daily walking program today, you can expect to enjoy longer life, lower weight and a better brain.”

It’s time for a walk! Now that Spring has sprung, I’m putting on my new walking shoes and heading out. Care to join me?