Forum, Network and Resource for the Challenges of an Aging Society


AHWGO Interdisciplinary Learning Forums Fall 2010 to Fall 2016

Dwelling Until 100   Susanne Stadler talks about Architecture and Aging – how can design contribute to being at ‘home with growing old’.

Models of Supportive Care for Elders    Susan Poor talks about her work, research and book ‘There Is No Place Like Home: Models of Supportive Care for Elders’.

Caring for Older Parents: ‘The Savages’   Donna Schempp, former program director of Family Caregiver Alliances, comments on fiction versus reality in caring for elder parents.

Housing Options and What They Mean for Our Own Aging    Anne Burns Johnson taps into her vast experience as former director of  Aging Services for California.

Memories    Susan Rothenberg, a personal historian, talks about her experience with recording personal histories and what it means to her elderly clients.

Aging in Community    Raines Cohen, Co-Housing and Aging-in-Community Activist talks about his work and discusses models of ‘Aging in Community’.

Longevity – A Lifestyle Choice    Screening of talks by Dan Buettner, Dean Ornish and by Dr. Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin and their book, ‘The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study.’

Palliative Care    Judith Redwing Keyssar, author of ‘Last Acts of Kindness’, speaks about her experience in being a midwife to the dying.

Theatre and Community    A discussion with representatives from STAGEBRIDGE, a theatre company in Oakland that lets older adults discover their theatrical selves and bridges the generational divide through their multigenerational programs.

Ambient Independent Living – Technology and Aging The kick-off for our discussion is a TedTalk by Eric Dishman, a technology guru at Intel. Will technology open up new opportunities for living longer independently?

Design for Senior Living – A Professional and Personal Perspective    Susie Coliver, one of the principles of the San Francisco firm of Herman Coliver Locus Architecture discusses the firm’s senior housing projects and her personal experience with aging and her role as daughter of a 93-year-old parent.

The Myth of Independent Living – On the Meaning of Living Alone in Old Age    Elena Portacolone has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in the San Francisco Bay Area on adults and older adults living alone, the Gray Panthers, and deinstitutionalization. Portacolone holds a BA in Political Sciences from Turin University (Italy), MBA and MPA from UC Berkeley, and a PhD in Sociology from UCSF. She also has a blog ‘Living Alone and Aging’.

The Role of “Home” in the Life of Older Adults    ‘A Day In The Life’ is a video project about a group of older adults who self-documented their own homes with a simple handheld camera and commented on their day-to-day life. Presenters are Cathy Spensley, Senior Division Service Director at FSASF, Susanne Stadler, principal at Stadler Architecture and Jarmine Yeh, PhD candidate in medical sociology at UCSF.

Time to Let Yourself Go: A Report on My Retirement into a More Creative Life    Anita Kline reflects on retirement from her career as a social worker from San Francisco General where she worked with AIDS and cancer patients. She shares her original expectations for retirement, what has actually evolved and how retirement from her career has opened new paths into a more creative life.

Growing Old and Technology: How people can use technology despite physical limitations    Dmitri Belser, Executive Director of the Center for Accessible Technology, shares how disabilities do not have to be a barrier to using technology, and presents various technologies that are easily accessible by older adults, including those with vision and mobility impairments.

Reciprocity: Spiritual and Psychological Approaches to Giving and Receiving Care as We Age    Elizabeth McLeod in conversation with Rabbi Elliot Kukla. Elliot and Beth explore the many ways in which humans find aging, and especially receiving care, a critical and often unexpected challenge, and suggest pathways in both the spiritual and psychological realms to better prepare for this.

It Is Not Just About Food    Susan Edwards talks about the drama of the dining room in senior residences. Who to sit with or not to sit with is the question. As meal times become the main social “interface” in senior residences this is a subject which warrants an interdisciplinary discussion.

A Nurturing Home Instead of Nursing Home    Lynette Evans, former editor of SF Chronicle’s Home and Garden Section and her niece Monika Weiss have made it their mission to showcase products and designs that support people in their desire to age at home (

A Conversation about the Positive Side of Aging    Dr. Guy Micco is Clinical Professor in the UCB/UCSF Joint Medical Program and Director of the UC Berkeley Academic Geriatric Resource Center. He brings students into contact with elders in retirement communities to better understand aging in our time and culture. He is also a part-time hospice/palliative care physician. For more information see

An Unexpected Place of Healing    Ted Talk by Romana Pierson. This Ted Talk is about the unexpected resourcefulness of people in a Nursing Home. Coined “Radical Collaboration”, such “mismatches” can tap into the latent resourcefulness of elders. Should this be explored more systematically? How do we learn to look for opportunities?

Seven Principles of Life Enhancing Design    Gary Coates, Professor of Architecture at Kansas State talks about the qualities of the built environment, especially in healing and spiritually restorative environments that support human well-being. He has studied and written about these life enhancing principles in the work of the Swedish Architect Erik Asmussen (1913-1998) who is widely known for his humanly scaled and ecologically sustainable design and his roots in anthroposophy.

The Role of Adult Day Health in the Lives of Frail Seniors and How Budget Issues Have Affected the Work of Adult Day Health Care Centers    Sheila Hembury, Program Director, Bayview Hunters Point Multipurpose Senior Services.

‘Gero Technology’ – Can an Intelligent Home Support Aging in Place?    Doris Bersing, PhD, CEO of Living Well at Home is an early adopter of Gero Technology and is using it every day with her clients. She talks about how existing and new technology is being harnessed to support Aging in Place, where there is room for improvement and how technology affects caregiving and receiving and the design of homes. New pilot programs with OnLok and Satellite Homes show that Gero Technology is slowly moving into the mainstream.

‘Downsizing’ Home    Professor Jill Stoner, UC Berkeley, College of Environmental Design. Regrouping, paring down, moving to a smaller, more fitted home can be a source of renewal. We talk about how a compact space can be the essence of home, and what home means to us throughout life.

The Complex Ethics of Late Life Medical Decisions: Tips and Conundrums    As we live longer, it is getting trickier to maintain autonomy over one’s own body. It’s useful to discuss legal tools (that don’t require a lawyer) so we can help our clients, ourselves and our loved ones to plan ahead. Philip Batchelder is an attorney with a particular interest in medical decision-making and end-of-life matters. He is a volunteer community member of the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley.

The Recovery Model as used in Innovative Mental Health and its Potential Lessons for Empowering Elders    Cathy Spensley and Jon David Setell, Family Service Agency, San Francisco.

A Conversation With Wendy Peterson    Peterson is the director of the Senior Services Coalition of Alameda County and a veteran in the field of aging policies and services. She discusses how current policy changes will affect service providers and receivers and reflect on her professional history in the field of aging.

Lifelong Learning    Hope Klein Levy, MA, Lifelong Learning Specialist and Health Educator at Kaiser Permanente explores with us the rather novel field of lifelong learning.

‘Aging in Place’ – Practice, Policy, Training    Barrie Robinson, MSSW, Senior Lecturer and Field Work Consultant at the School of Social Welfare talks about her special interest and research in ‘Aging In Place’.

Therapeutic Landscapes    Professor Clare Cooper Marcus shares her upcoming book on the power of nature and landscape, especially in older age and for people with dementia. Her work and research that started in the 70s at UC Berkeley stood at the beginning of a then unknown discipline, ‘Environmental Psychology’.

Senior Volunteerism and Grassroots Movements    Roy Earnest is a program officer for CNCS (Corporation for National and Community Service), the government agency that encourages Americans of all ages to serve their country as volunteers. He oversees federal grants to organizations for senior volunteer programs. He is also well known for the documentary “Surfing for Life” that celebrates healthy aging and surfing!

How Not To Be Bamboozled In Making Life Affecting Decisions   Dr. Eileen Gambrill. UC Berkeley Professor Gambrill’s work as professor in the School of Social Welfare has focused on ethics and professional decision making and related sources of influence including pharmaceutical companies. This is especially important in older age when health issues often become overwhelming and crisis decisions are made that define a person’s quality of life.

Shorts from the Legacy Film Festival on Aging    Sheila Malkind presents short films exploring what it takes to be ‘at home’, bringing together the physical realm of home with living meaningful, purposeful lives despite everyday challenges.

Aging in Place and the Increased Demand on Family Caregivers    Donna Schempp, former Program Director at the Family Caregiver Alliance talks about how caregiving affects self care and family relationships for family caregivers.

There Is No Excuse For Elder Abuse    Mary Twomey, the Co-Director of the National Center on Elder Abuse talks about ongoing initiatives and the state of affairs.

Advertising Aging    Pete Halberstadt, CEO of West Advertising talks about how the image of ‘aging’ is shifting in the world of advertising. His firm West Advertising has worked with the assisted living clients for many years.

What Buildings And Space Can Do For Us    The relationship between our body and the physical environment is critical for our health and wellbeing yet we continue to build standardized environments that don’t honor the needs of persons of different abilities and ages. Wanda Lieberman, Doctor in Design from Harvard, talks about her research on this topic and the shortcomings of what we consider ‘accessibly designed’ environments.

Knocking on Heaven’s Door – A better path to death    Katy Butler, journalist and award winning author talks about the medical history of death and her own personal experience with her parents’ end of life.

Rituals and Celebration    Redwing Keyssar, RN, BA, Director of the Palliative Care Program at Seniors at Home, a division of Jewish Family and Children’s Services of the Bay Area offers a perspective on aging and dying that comes from 20 + years of experience as “midwife to the dying”.

Intergenerational Living – Architecture for Community    Susanne Sieple-Coates, architecture professor at Kansas State University presents examples of realized projects and ideas from her graduate students.

Towards A Universal City – A Community Effort    Report on efforts in San Francisco to make the city more age- and disability friendly by Cathy Spensley, co-chair of the Age- and Disability Friendly San Francisco Work Group and Senior Division Director of Family Service Agency of San. In her work she is promoting partnerships among services providers, researchers, and policymakers and is passionate about bringing youth into the discussion on aging.

Aging in Place for Low Income Seniors    Lamar Turner, MSW, founder of ElderFocus, advocate for low income seniors, developer, and serial entrepreneur is pursuing a new Aging in Place model for low income seniors. This model is about unlocking federal funds that will keep low income seniors out of nursing homes.

Falling – Not Just About Safety    Kathy Orsini, MSW, came from computer science to oncological social work; in 2004 she began learning about falls and the fear of falling among older adults and how some risks can be reduced by simple interventions.

Aging in the LGBT Community    Fairley Parson, MSW, ASW has over ten years of experience working with older adults, within the adult day health center system, as a political organizer and as a group facilitator and MSW-trainee. She shares the work of Openhouse and the financial challenge older people in the LGBT community face when transitioning from private disability to social security.

Intergenerational Connections    Natalie Greene, co-director of Dance Generators and Adjunct Professor at USF talks about Dance Generators West, an intergenerational, interdisciplinary performance company with members ranging in age from teens through eighties. Through dance, the company shatters commonly held stereotypes about aging and creates bridges between people of all ages.

Focus on the Creative Spirit – Aging Artfully    Amy Gorman worked as a medical social worker with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. She currently works with older adults in writing workshops, has written a book “Aging Artfully” which portrays 12 women artists from 85 to 105 and has collaborated on the movie “Still Kicking” by Greg Young, which is based on her book.

Embolden Bodies: Human Centered Design for Independent Living    Jennifer Carton Wade, Occupational Therapist and Rehabilitation Manager; Will Carey, Industrial Designer, IDEO; Tasneem Babul Rayani, Contributing Designer, AHWGO. A look at three approaches to embolden bodies: one is through commercial products with designs based on in-depth study of user experience, another is the individualized style of problem solving by occupational therapists, the third is the multi-disciplinary AHWGO approach of evaluating a person’s wellbeing in their home and encouraging solutions that are readily available and economically attainable.

Dementia-Enabling Spaces, Bodies, Networks, Environments    Dr. Mehrdad Ayati, clinical assistant professor of medicine at Stanford, Patricia Ris, founder and program director of the Memory Care Cafe, Clare Cooper Marcus, UCB professor emerita in Landscape Architecture. Millions of boomers will develop dementia; how can we collectively and creatively adapt and respond to this way of being?

Accordion Adventures – From Paris Café Music to Memory Care    Odile Lavault, CTRS, is a Recreation Therapist, Certified Validation Teacher, musician and educator who is passionate about communication with seniors with memory loss and sensory limitations. Originally from France, she has played all over the world, in cafes, at street theatres and carnivals and now plays for people with memory impairments.

Our Bodies Ourselves – Body Perception and Aging    Donna Schempp, LCSW. We hold two simultaneously different and irreconcilable images of aging: the vibrant senior who cruises and plays golf daily or the person who is sick, dependent, and helpless. Most seniors are neither of these stereotypes. This discussion explores how society sees aging and how elders see themselves.

Reflections of an Octogenarian    Written and directed by Jane Ross. In this monologue, Ross shares her ideas and tales about navigating the twilight years. She began her acting career following thirty years in business, culminating with retirement from CBS. She has performed Off Broadway, regionally, and in radio, television and film.

Sleeping Well to Live Well – The Role of Sleep in Normal and Abnormal Aging    Bryce Mander, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology at UCB. Dr Mander has studied the impact of aging on the neural and cognitive response to sleep loss. He currently studies the role of sleep in cognitive decline in normal and abnormal aging.

Aging at Home Gracefully – Home and Quality of Life    A presentation about the AHWGO model of aging in place, an interdisciplinary and integrated assessment tool that provides customized, low-intervention, human-centered solutions for aging at home.