Assisting Aging Parents Class

Wow this sounds like a great class! Wish it was in person instead of online though. Sounds like what a lot of us baby boomers need. I am thinking of taking it. Let me know if anyone else is interested and maybe we could have a group to talk/email about the topics.

Are your parents in their golden years? Learning how to help parents or other loved ones through their transition can prepare us for our own. This compassionate and comprehensive class will give you the tools, techniques, and insights for this passage. Growing older is a part of life. Some aspects are joyful, some bittersweet, some frustrating, some frightening. You will learn what to expect, what to watch for, how to deal with physical and emotional challenges, and where to find resources to help. You’ll understand the impact of retirement, learn how to choose a nursing home, and be prepared to deal with death. You’ll learn about financial and legal considerations, health issues, and family interpersonal relationships. You’ll be introduced to special communication skills, observation methods, and coping mechanisms to ease the burden for everyone involved. You’ll learn to handle most of the challenges you will face while coming to appreciate and cherish the privilege of the journey.

Check it and sign up here. Classes start: September 17 | October 15 | November 12 | December 10

Kids and seniors create their own story

If the slideshow stops, click on the “x” in the circle in the upper right corner of the show.

Well what a fun and creative blast we had! I recently facilitated an Inter-generational Art class with Coastside Children’s Programs and Coastside Adult Day Health Center.

Why intergenerational art? I think it is important and therapeutic for different ages to have experiences together. In order for communities to be whole, they have to have respect and understanding of all its members, no matter what their age. And with our current lifestyles, many of us are miles away from our families and do not get a chance to be with our different generations. My parents are in Nevada and my mother has Alzheimer’s disease, so I have compassion and understanding for families in this situation. When my mother was living closer and at home, she and I did some art together and it allowed us to communicate in a whole new way and in the moment. I really wanted to bring this intergenerational experience out into the world.

The process – Like when you bring any kind of group together, everyone was a little shy at first, but once we got going the markers and pastels were scribbling with vigor. First we sat in a circle with interspersed seniors and kids, and did introductions. Everyone announced their favorite color and I think blue won as the most popular. Then we passed a special talking object, so when it was their turn, each person contributed to a story we made up together. I really wanted to create something together in the here and now. That way no one had to remember anything since we were making a new story. If anyone got stuck when it was their turn, some one helped out with an idea.

Communication was an issue we worked with. One of the centers assistants reminded me to speak loudly so all the seniors could hear and Emma from the children’s group did some translation into Spanish so everyone could understand and contribute.

After we finished with the story, I read it out loud to the group and then they started drawing. We made sure all the characters and activities in the story were in the drawing. The canvas was a large white paper which was taped on the round table. As the large communal art piece developed, it became a mandala of intergenerational creativity, a mutual story of their own.

The seniors asked the kids about some of their drawing and they responded with pride, explaining their art. Some of the seniors and kids worked together, each drawing their own versions of some of the characters and comparing them.

At the end of the hour, the Coastside Children sang “itsy bitsy spider” in English and Spanish, as a thank you to the Seniors.

To finish the story mandalas I added some stitching along the edges and wrote the stories in a spiral for the centers.

Here are the two stories created by the kids and seniors:

THE SNAKE, HER FRIEND, AND THE ELEPHANT – Once upon a time there was a big storm and it was very rainy. A little snake and her friend named John woke up in the morning and looked out the window. They saw an elephant in the front yard. The snake and John took the elephant to the hillside to eat some grass. The sun came out and so did the flowers. They were pink and purple. They picked some flowers and took them to grandma’s house. She opened the door and said, “Thanks for coming to see me!” Grandma cooked them up a bear. It was so salty; they had to drink a lot of water. Then of course they all had to use the potty. It was time to go, so they put on their raincoats again and ran outside. Next the snake and John and the elephant went to church to say some prayers. After a long day they all went home to see their mom and dad, who took them inside and put them to bed and everyone went to sleep.

PANCAKES AND MORE PANCAKES – Once upon a time there was a horse named Charlie and he had a pony friend named Michael. They woke up and had pancakes for breakfast and went out to have some fun. They played and played with a big green ball. After awhile they got hungry again and gobbled down some carrots. After their snack they went over to Adult Day Health Center to visit everybody. Charlie and Michael drew some flowers and some birds. Then they galloped over to see Dolly and she cooked them up some more pancakes, this time with yummy syrup and hot chocolate. Charlie and Michael heard a noise up in the sky and ran outside to see a butterfly. “Hi butterfly!” they neighed. Now it was time to go home and rest. “But, I don’t want to take a nap!” said Charlie. So Charlie and Michael played and played soccer till the sun went down. And now they were tired.

Here is the format I used for the storymaking:

Once upon a time there was a _________________named_________________ and he/she had a friend named_____________. They woke up in the morning and _________. They looked (up or out the window or where ever makes sense with the developing story and saw _______________ so they______________. ( Create the rest of the story and blanks to help develop the storyline.) Then they went to visit, etc ________________ and had a, or did  ______________. They ______________ and saw _____________. It started to get dark so they________________________. On the way back they ______________________. Why don’t we _____________said__________. So they _________.

Keep in mind you want everyone to get at least one turn to add to the story. While the story is developing write it down, so you can read it back to the participants so they can visually create the story.

Contact me, Judy Shintani, for more info on this project. I am available to facilitate Inter-generational art projects, children, and senior art classes in the SF Bay Area or can travel to your location.

“You are looking old today”

I’m reading a book right now called Healthy at 100” by John Robbins. He writes, “The advancing age wave is the most significant demographic event of our life time and is taking place in every industrialized nation in the world”.

Robbins talks about how so many Americans do not look forward to old age because the model here is sickness, helplessness, and loneliness. He talks about other cultures where old age is revered and the elders are not called “old” they are called the “long living ones”. That that makes such a difference in the mentality and health of the whole community. In Abkhasia it would be considered an insult to be told that you are “looking young”. They compliment each other by saying “you are looking old today”. They mean that the person is wise and beautiful in their maturity.

The other cultures he writes about are in: Vilcabamba, Hunza, Okinawa. I’ll report on what I find out about these place next.

Invite your favorite senior to our 5/8 performance and luncheon


Lisa Petrides and Judy Shintani are performing “Honoring Grandmothers from Far Lands” again, this time at the Ted Adcock Senior Center in Half Moon Bay at 12:20pm, May 8th. The performance is part of the Mother’s Day Luncheon which starts at noon. This event is organized by the Senior Coastsiders.

“It is interesting how much a woman emigrating from Greece has in common with a woman emigrating from Japan,” said Shintani. “For example, both of these women’s families arranged their marriages, which led to their journey to America. We explore how this shaped their experience in becoming “American”.”

While exploring the stories of their Greek and Japanese grandmothers often left them with more questions than answers, Petrides said, “the performance is really about bringing voice to their lives and celebrating the stories of the millions of women who came to this country with little knowledge about what they were about to embark upon.”

“Through our storytelling we hope to conjure up the audiences’ memories and questions about their own grandmothers. We want to honor our maternal forebears and remember we would not be here if not for the choices they made to lead the lives they did,” said Shintani.

To attend the luncheon and performance, make a reservation by calling the Senior Coastsider’s office at: 650-726-9056. Non-seniors must be accompanied by a senior and the suggested donation for the event is $3.50.

Founded in 1977, Senior Coastsiders has become the focal point for senior services on the coastside. They strive to create an atmosphere that acknowledges and affirms the value, dignity and self worth of seniors and adults with disabilities.

The agency also serves as a resource for the entire community for information on aging, support of caregivers, and development of innovative approaches to address issues of aging.

 They are located at: 535 Kelly Avenue, Half Moon Bay, California 94019. For more information go to their website at:

Memories and Reality

Recently I have been living in some old memories, before Alzheimer’s disease descended upon my mother and my family. I remember how she used to smile and chat while we discussed my job, my home, or my nieces. Sometimes we sat in our patio in shorts and zori and then we would stroll out to look at her orchids blooming in the shade of the mulberry tree. Other times we discussed what the menu was going to be for a family dinner and then chopped vegetables together in the family kitchen.

That was about six years ago though it seems much longer than that. Now she is living in a full service care facility in Reno, far from the family home in Lodi and my home in Half Moon Bay.

On my visit back in December she would not even open her eyes anymore or even really speak. My partner was shocked to see how much she had deteriorated since his last visit with her. I had been watching her progress over the years. She went downhill much faster after she broke her hip. Others had warned us that may be the case.

I so miss being able to connect with her. She has retreated into her own world. I think it is like a fog, but maybe that is not what it is like at all – I do not know. I so wish I were more evolved, so I could enter into her dimension, be able to communicate beyond the words and the physical. I try to just love her and hope she can feel that. I have sort of resigned to her condition. I feel myself hardening to feeling anything about it. This is just the reality.

Now I am back in Reno for a visit. My dad picked me up at the airport and we go directly to feed mom lunch. Today it is fish and green beans, hmmm pretty nice! Dad decides to ask if we can use the private dining room instead of being in the general one with about 30 other residents.

Today my mother’s eyes are open! She speaks. I am thrilled, even though it is in one word responses or short sentences that do not make sense to me. At least there is an attempt to communicate, to connect. She looks into my eyes and I am almost afraid to look back. Her gaze is so intense that it startles me.

I am so ecstatic to make a connection with her and yet this brings tears to my eyes and my feelings are overwhelming. I thought I was over this and now my heart is raw and painful again.

We go back for dinner with mom – a meal of corned beef and cabbage. Joe, another patient says it is left over from last night and is not excited. Again, mom is present and has a good appetite. Dad likes to mix in the little individual tubs of butter into her food and adds salt and pepper from the little paper packets. We cut up the food and take turns with spoonful of solid food and sips of milk. All seems well. Dad is happy she is eating.

I call out to her loudly, “Doris!” and she answers, “Yes!” If I call her “mom” she does not respond. She is no longer mom, but her own true self, just Doris. Earlier she names me “okasan”, mother in Japanese. It is all mixed up now. Oh well it doesn’t really matter, does it?

This morning we go back at 7:30am for breakfast. Mom is not so great today. She is very groggy. She is like she used to be – removed, eyes closed, not speaking. We barely get her to eat her French toast or cream of wheat. We leave and come back at lunch, pasta and zucchini and pudding. Again mom is too tired and we must really work to feed her. We ask if they have changed her medication and they say no. Did she sleep well? They say nothing unusual. Perhaps hospice came and gave her a bath – that could tire her out, says one of the nurses. I wonder if we should just let her sleep. It is very stressful today…I think I just want too sleep too.