Hands Around Lake Merritt

by Johanna Leonard
November 2016

I am very proud of Oakland this week. On Sunday, November 13th, nearly 10,000 people from Oakland and other parts of the Bay Area came together to join hands around Lake Merritt to protest a feared increase in hate crimes associated with the recent election. This was a very impressive peaceful protest.

Residents Judy Moore and Laura Hunt with family and friendsThis project was the brainchild of Oaklander Allison White who invited people to join hands in a circle ALL the way around 3.4 miles of Lake Merritt to stand up against racism, sexism, homophobia, and Islamophobia! White explained, “This is a peaceful joining together to honor our community, the values we stand for, and our resilience as a nation.“

Thank you Allison for giving us the chance to show that Oakland can protest respectfully and peacefully!

I am also very proud that The Lake Merritt – Independent Senior Living, which is located directly across the street from the lake, was well represented by both residents and staff members. Some made signs that said “Don’t Mourn. Mobilize.” In several cases, residents and their families participated together. Our photo shows our residents Judy (Top row 2nd from the right) and Laura (Bottom row on the right) with family and friends. It was beautiful to see. One of the truly wonderful sights at this gathering was the range of ages of the participants, from babies in the arms of their parents to older adults in their 90s.

The residents at The Lake Merritt are proud to be engaged in our community, our state, and our nation. We’re showing them how it is done!!



Veterans Have Stories to Share!

by Johanna Leonard
November 2016

Today is Veterans Day, a day when we honor our military veterans who served in the United States Armed Services. Is someone in your family a veteran – a parent, auntie or grandfather? You might enjoy learning more about them if you ask some questions on Veterans Day.

As a community for older adults, you can imagine we definitely have a few veterans in our midst and I spoke to a few of them to learn more about their lives when they served our country.

One of our residents, John missed deployment to the war zones in World War II, but not by much. He did not want to join the Army. He did not want to go to war. Yet, he finished high school in 1945 and volunteered to join the Navy. Just before he arrived in boot camp the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. Six days later, the war in the Pacific was over and the Japanese surrendered, yet John’s Navy duty was just beginning. He tested well in mathematics and was accepted to train as a technician to repair aircraft radios and other equipment. He received certification as a “Radio Technician 3rd Class.” John told me that the training he received was excellent. He did very well, and was able to choose ground-based aircraft work. He trained in Corpus Christi, Texas, and was later transferred to Monterey, California. He served for 1 year and a day. After he left the Navy, his technical skills helped him get work with General Dynamics and Boeing and he built a 35-year career in the aircraft and defense industries.

Another one of our residents, Jim, volunteered for the Army, and served in the “Army of Occupation” in Heidelberg, Germany in
1954-1956. Jim was an Army Private First Class – Specialist #2, or as Jim says, he was a clerk typist. He worked for the Central Intelligence Headquarters in Europe and this office mostly handled issues in East Germany, which included defections to and from East Germany. During his service, Jim traveled about Europe. He went to Berlin, London, some areas of Italy, and parts of Scandinavia. He was glad to have volunteered. He attended college for 2 years before he joined the Army, and the Army paid for his last 2 years.

When I asked Jim to tell me a story about his service, he told me a funny story about a photo. A photograph came into their office. They thought it was a missile, but it
was not like any missile that they had ever seen. The consensus was it was a new missile perhaps built secretly by East Germany or the Soviet Union. It caused great dismay in the office until someone pointed out that it was a just part of a parade float for Fasching, which is carnival season in Germany.

Ask a veteran you know to tell you about their service this Veterans Day. Even those who stayed at home and kept a family together during wartime have stories to share. And then, thank them all for their selfless service to our country. The Lake Merritt thanks them all!



We're on KQED

by Johanna Leonard
October 2016

Are Gwen Ifell and Judy Woodruff your go-to gals at dinner time? Do you pay special attention when Jacques Pepin makes a quick sauce with butter, mushrooms and white wine? Or perhaps your family enjoys special evenings featuring Movie Classics or the American Masters Series? If so, then you're browsing on our local PBS TV channel!

If you watch KQED regularly you might see a little bit about The Lake Merritt! This fall and running through mid-December were experimenting with a sponsorship with KQED TV. It’s a pilot program and our goal is to let people throughout the nine county Bay Area, from Sonoma to Santa Clara ( which is the incredibly large geographic area covered by KQED's broadcast signal), know about our community at The Lake Merritt.

Click on our sponsorship spot. It's only 30 seconds and you’ll have a chance to view our new underwriting announcement and have a quick tour of our community. The spot showcases our location on beautiful Lake Merritt along with photos of our acclaimed landmark building and an invitation to take a tour.



Our Wellness Program features Yoga and Meditation

by Johanna Leonard
September 2016

In 2012 the Lake Merritt welcomed Bethany Hobbs who offers personalized yoga classes to our residents. Using primarily chair yoga, her classes help our residents with ways to focus on improving breath and balance, along with stretching and strengthening their bodies. Chair yoga offers practicioners a gentle mode of yoga practice and many feel is a great way to help keep both the mind and body fit and relaxed.

After the success of chair yoga, Bethany then further customized our program to address interests of the group, by adding time in each class for optional standing balance and alignment work. These movements help with posture, breath capacity, circulation and joint mobility.

Two years ago, Bethany began offering an additional class at the request of the residents. This new class was focused solely on Meditation.

“Bethany has really connected with our residents,” says Ryan Wilcox, Programming Coordinator. “Her regulars include many people who had never participated in yoga before living at The Lake Merritt. These residents were so intrigued with the meditation practice that Bethany did during yoga class that they requested another class to focus on mediation only.”

Our residents are on the right track with their interest in yoga and meditation! Researchers from UCLA completed a study recently to determine if yoga with its physical as well as meditative study could improve a person’s brain activity. The volunteers practiced yoga and meditation for 12 weeks and were then re-tested The volunteers showed a measurable improvement in Visio spatial memory (a type of remembering that is important for balance, depth perception and the ability to recognize objects and navigate the world). The study also found, more communication between parts of their brains involved in memory and language skills, and more communication between parts of the brain that control attention, suggesting a greater ability of the subjects to focus and multitask.

We spoke with one of our residents who never miss the class, and asked her why she went to Bethany Hobbs’ Meditation Class. She told us that she felt that she received both practical and mystical benefits. The mystical was personal to her, yet the practical benefit was that she was able to calm and clear her mind and concentrate on what was important to her.



What Are You Reading

by Stephanie Cox, Operations Manager
September 2016

The Lake Merritt strives to provide our residents with organized activities for every imaginable taste. From sewing circles to political discussions to bridge games, we hope to satisfy a wide range of individual preferences. This spring, we launched a book group. It’s not our first; over the years, we have offered our residents book groups that residents have managed themselves and another that was facilitated by an outside leader.

This time around, our Operations Manager Stephanie Cox is involved. The residents nominated several reading selections, and then winnowed them down by voting for their favorites. Stephanie keeps everything organized. All residents are informed about book selections and schedules. Stephanie sends out regular reminders and helps ensure that books are available for everyone. Almost any type of book is fair game; both fiction and non-fiction landed on this list this year and many biographies were nominated. Most of the participants have previous book club experience, including Stephanie, who attended the same book group in Chicago for five years.

In May the club members enjoyed reading and discussing an update of the old-fashioned murder mystery, The Girl on the Train by British author Paula Hawkins (coming soon to a theater near you, just in time for Halloween). In June, the discussion centered on Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ assessment of the current state of race relations in America. July’s selection was Blindness by Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago, another appraisal of humans and our propensity for bad behavior. The August selection was a bit of historical fiction, The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. It chronicles the lives of Japanese picture brides who arrived in San Francisco in the early 20th century and is written in a lyrical style. For September, our author is the prolific and ever popular Barbara Kingsolver. Her book is , traces a man’s epic 30-year journey from Mexico to Washington DC and back again. Frida Kahlo, Leon Trotsky, J. Edgar Hoover and many others play central roles in the life of the protagonist who struggles to find his authentic identity.

Under Stephanie’s coordination, the new book club is flourishing. With its lively discussions and compelling topics the club is once again a popular activity for our residents.



A Little Summer Poetry

by Johanna Leonard
July 2016

My residents and I wanted to share a wonderful poem that we discovered during our poetry discussion celebrating summer this past week.  This poem is "Consolation" by Billy Collins.  It made us all smile.


How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon's
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyes camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a café ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.

And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car

as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.


Bill Collins is  is an American poet, appointed as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003.  



Live Music Makes for A Lively Community

by Johanna Leonard
June 2016

We are celebrating the second year of our music program for weeknights and weekends at the Terrace Room, the restaurant which is the location for our resident’s meals. We are proud that the restaurant is open to the public, providing a unique intergenerational dining experience. Bar and dinner patrons from downtown businesses and the neighborhood, along with members of our community and other residents of Oakland and Piedmont,come together for meals, and now live music! It’s been a great experience.

Local musician and producer Ben Levine, who books the musicians for The Terrace Room, is known for bringing artists and audiences together. “It’s a unique venue for Oakland; a really classy place,” Ben explained. “The food at the Terrace Room is great and not an afterthought, which can be the case with some of the music black boxes around town. We have a stage that can hold an eight-piece band and also offer a dance floor.

During the weeknight musical performances, our residents, especially the ones who like to dance, are usually the first on the dance floor.One of our residents told me, “I love that we have live music. The musicians are wonderful, and it is great to hear some music from my era. It is also lots of fun to watch people dancing!”

The Terrace Room producer Levine has booked a number of groups that have become pretty regular monthly favorites including Medicine Ball Swing Ensemble, The Klipptones, Lavay Smith and the Red Hot Skillet Lickers, along with Steve Lucky and the Rumba Bums. Sonny Holland performs frequently with a lively set for the Sunday lunch crowd. Admission to musical events is free for residents and the public,, with no cover or minimum, but seating can be limited. Music is presented on selected weeknights from 7pm – 10pm, Sunday from 11am – 3pm. Learn more about the many local performers making music at The Terrace Room by visiting or call (510) 903-3771.


Picture of The Klipptones who are playing on July 8, 2016.



Just a Little Interaction Can Make A Huge Difference

by Johanna Leonard
April 2016

For the past several months, The Lake Merritt and Laney College have partnered to develop a new program we’ve called “Conversation Exchange.” Every Friday, students from Laney College who are learning English as a second language, come to The Lake Merritt to meet with our residents and converse on a range of topics. This program has been wildly successful and a win-win for both students and our residents.

The students from Laney College come from many different countries - Yemen, China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Sri Lanka and Sudan. They are divided into groups and paired with residents to discuss different topics each week. Some of the topics that have been discussed are about different holidays in different cultures, like Groundhog Day, how to interview for a new job, and giving and receiving directions to another locale. Our residents help Laney students with their English pronunciation and vocabulary choices in friendly conversations.

When I asked one of our residents, Warner, why he participated in our new Friday “Conversation Exchange “Program with ESL students, he said, "Human connection. Isn't that what it is all about?" He went on to tell me that he empathized with the students. “English was my second language as well and I immigrated to the United States from Germany before World War II. I lived and interacted with many refugees coming to this country. They weren't from the Sudan or Vietnam, but we were refugees all the same."

This new program has given students a chance to practice their new language skills, and our residents, most importantly, feel they have a real contribution to make to the lives of these young people. Volunteering has given them enjoyment and a sense of purpose. Most older adults want to make a difference in this world, just as younger adults do. Unfortunately, sometimes older adults have difficulty finding a satisfying role for themselves.

In 2008, a study examined the significance of autonomy and personal responsibility and how it affected the health of older adults in a senior community. In the study, researchers examined how autonomy or perceived autonomy affected 120 older adults from six Manhattan senior centers. The results showed that the ability to make freely self-directed choices in one's life is considered critical to an older person's quality of life.

A sense of purpose is important to everyone, no matter your age. A leader in geriatric medicine, Dr. Linda Fried said it best when she stated “Our negative attitudes towards aging blind us to the fact that millions of people in their '60s, '70s, '80s, and beyond are robust, active, functional, experienced, capable and talented—and that they want to remain engaged and contributing.“

Hats off to Laney College for recognizing our community of residents and their untapped talent. Many wonderful friendships have developed over the past few months.



4th Annual Bone Health Fair

by Johanna Leonard
March 2016

This month we partnered with American Bone Health to host our 4th Annual Bone Health Fair. This year, in addition to the individual testing that each attendee could participate in, we welcomed Dr. Lani Simpson as our keynote speaker.

Dr. Simpson is a Certified Clinical Densitometrist and Bone Health Expert (A Densitometrist interprets bone densitometry examinations. Densitometry is an enhanced form of x-ray technology that is used to measure bone loss or bone density scanning.). She has written a book Dr. Lani's No-Nonsense Bone Health Guide, and will soon be sharing her expertise on bone health with the PBS audience this June.

She was a great speaker. I personally appreciated her practicality and advice. The top three items that I took away from this event were:

     1. If it is recommended that you have a bone density test, make certain that you go to a location that has well trained staff to complete the testing. Errors in testing are more common than you think. Do your research. According to Dr. Simpson, American Bone Health has properly trained staff.

     2. If you are diagnosed with bone loss, have your doctor check your current medications to make certain that these medications are not affecting your bone density.

     3. Dr. Simpson recommends that in this situation you and your doctor should consider holding off on adding new medications until you rule out all secondary medical concerns, such as thyroid or kidney issues.

There was a lot more information in her talk, but the overall recommendation was to advocate for yourself with your medical professionals. Educate yourself and be persistent. If you want to learn more, you can contact Dr. Simpson directly.  She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.  You can also watch her on PBS in June.  Please also go to our Alliances & Association page.  

If you want to know more about future events at The Lake Merritt – Independent Senior Living, please sign-up for our e-newsletter on the Home Page.



New Program at The Lake Merritt Welcomes High School Volunteers

by Johanna Leonard
March 2016

I’m pleased to announce that The Lake Merritt has embarked on an exciting pilot program with students from Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd High School. I was touring the
school recently with a family member who will be attending high school next year and we discovered that Bishop O’Dowd students are required to complete 100 hours of volunteer service in the Oakland community.

I learned that volunteer requirements are not unique to this one high school, but what was a surprise to me is that each freshman is required to complete service hours by working in a senior community. When I heard that, I immediately thought “Hey, let’s invite them to volunteer at The Lake Merritt!”

Many months later, I am happy to report that our community will shortly have students volunteering with us at The Lake Merritt for the spring semester. This school-wide effort is part of a larger volunteer philosophy where freshman work with older adults, sophomores work with disadvantaged youth, and the juniors and seniors work with a combination of these populations, as they choose. This program has been in existence at the school for about a decade, and has been quite successful.

There are many young people who have little to no exposure to older adults, which results in our youth believing in many stereotypes about people who are getting older. It is wonderful to find a partner who is helping us battle ageism in our society and especially awesome that Bishop O’Dowd is starting this battle with young people of such an impressionable age. Stay tuned for an update on this program and how it is working at The Lake Merritt!