Creature Comforts: The Human-Animal Bond in Healthy Aging
Saturday, June 17, 2023
from 10:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. at Ruth’s Table
About the 2023 agein
This year’s annual agein in collaboration with Ruth’s Table explored different modes of animal-human relations and how our society, our homes and cities can support them. Although this event focused on canine companions, the lessons transfer to other domesticated animals and those in the wild.
In our complicated modern world, animals have always come to our rescue both emotionally and physically. This is especially true in older age when staying socially connected becomes challenging. The human-animal friendship has proven health benefits in older age, from staving off depression to supporting daily exercise to guiding us when our eyesight diminishes. Our support of aging animals has become part of our aging experiences. We thank everyone who helped us celebrate this mutually beneficial relationship.
Follow us at @AHWGO to see more photos from the event!
We hope you enjoy this video interview with Alice Wingwall, who shares her insights & moving experiences from working with guide dogs over the years…
Listen to the Panel Discussion!
Additional details about our 4th annual agein:
- Event Program
- Venue: Ruth's Table
- Attendee Gift
- Our Lunch
- Opening Remarks: Alice Wingwall
- Moderator: Chris McCarthy
- Panelist: Evan Johnson
- Panelist: Sherri Franklin
- Panelist: Annelie Nilsson
- Panelist: Maddie Krasno
- Interactive Time: Muttville Senior Dogs
- Interactive Time: The Night Sky
- AHWGO Impact Award
Arrival, Connecting, Art Exhibit ………………………….. 9:30 to 10:00 a.m.
Welcome & Introductions (AHWGO & Ruth’s Table) ….. 10:00 to 10:15 a.m.
Setting the Tone (Alice Wingwall) …………………………. 10:15 to 10:30 a.m.
Panel Discussion (Chris McCarthy & Panelists) ………….. 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Interactive Time* ………………………………………………….. 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
*(Cuddle Time with Senior Dogs from Muttville & Art Making)
Lunch Conversations ………………………………………… 12:45 to 1:30 p.m.
Report-In and Wrap-Up …………………………………… 1:30 to 2:00 p.m.
agein Impact Award ………………………………………… 2:00 to 2:15 p.m.
Farewell & Gallery Visit ……………………………. 2:30 p.m.
Ruth’s Table is an arts nonprofit committed to increasing access to creative opportunities for older adults and adults with disabilities, providing an inclusive and inspiring environment for creative expression and intergenerational connections.
With older adults at the core of their mission, Ruth’s Table offers a dynamic combination of rotating gallery exhibitions, creative programming, and community initiatives.
Life on All Fours, by David Fredrickson
Guests of this year’s agein received a copy of Life on All Fours by David Fredrickson – a writer, advocate, and psychotherapist. In 2021, David was a guest presenter for one of our online ‘Play Dates’ during the week-long agein celebration.
About the Book:
Beau has never met anyone he doesn’t want to lick. Ben is wary of love. Beau finds opportunity around every corner. Ben hides in the shadows of shame.
Life on All Fours is a love story framed by loss and narrated by one whose four paws are firmly on the ground. Ben Walker lives in San Francisco. It’s 1997, and after nearly two decades of AIDS devastation, finally, there may be reasons to hope. Ben, his ex-wife, Judy, and their mutual best friend, Anthony, struggle in a complicated triangle of love and personal history to create family. Into the mix tumbles Beau, an eight-week-old Field Spaniel who bears witness to the human drama that swirls around him. From down here anything is possible.
Life on All Fours is two stories but one shared journey—a dog and a man, and the hearts they touch along the way.
About David Fredrickson:
Writer, advocate, and psychotherapist, David Fredrickson has dedicated his professional life to the psychosocial needs of underserved and marginalized communities including at-risk and traumatized children, adolescents, and families and those affected by HIV/AIDS.
He is the author of Life on All Fours, a novel about relationships during the HIV/AIDS pandemic and told from the perspective of a Field Spaniel puppy. His blog, “Daily Bites and Blessings,” are essays on the bittersweet moments of life where hearts break and break open.
David is a student and teacher of Mindful Self-Compassion, the powerful practice of turning towards suffering with the balm of self-compassion. In this time of collective and personal upheaval and pain, he is committed to building this compassion capacity to bear witness to ourselves and our experience with courage, honesty and self-kindness.
David grew up in the Midwest where faith, family, and food were the bedrock of his childhood. A long-time resident of San Francisco, David attends GLIDE Memorial Church and sings with its world-renowned GLIDE Ensemble. His family has multiplied into a village and they are often found in his kitchen consuming sweet and savory delights.
Over a delicious lunch at this year’s agein, participants shared pet stories with our learning community…
Pictured: The community room at Ruth’s Table transformed for lunch conversations. Dishes prepared by Rhoda Goldman Plaza
Our caterer, Rhoda Goldman Plaza, is well known for their delicious, home-made food. High quality fruits and vegetables are locally sourced and turned into scrumptious desserts, salads, and soups. They even make their own broth from scratch as the base of their soups! And their pastry chef is admired for her scones, macaroons, and irresistible pies.
Alice Wingwall, Photographer & Film Editor
Alice Wingwall is a photographer whose unique work is influenced through her creative engagement with her declining vision. She has continued to evolve her art work with the help of her guide dogs. Her images tell the story of this relationship. Alice introduced our day of exploration.
Pictured: Alice & Buttercup, her 4th guide dog
More About Alice:
Alice Wingwall works with the juxtaposition of images. In her photographs, photomurals, sculpture, site-specific installations and film, she brings together compositional elements, memories and associations. The spatial arrangements, evocative prints and words that she creates have a very distinctive presence.
Alice was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, studied art at Indiana University, architectural history and sculpture at the University of California, Berkeley, where she was awarded an MFA and served as a graduate student instructor. She also studied in Paris at the Ecole du Louvre, the Ecole Metiers d’Art (stained glass studio), and the Atelier del Debbio for stone carving. With a grant from the Danish government she studied architectural history at the Royal Academy of Art in Copenhagen.
Subsequently she taught in the University of Oregon Honors College and started the sculpture program at Wellesley College as an Assistant Professor. Her work is included on the campus and in the permanent collections of the University of Oregon, the Oakland Art Museum, the University of California College of Environmental Design, and in private collections in Massachusetts, Indiana, Texas, Oregon and California.
Her photographic work was featured in the exhibition Sight Unseen, mounted by the California Museum of Photography in Riverside and was touring various cities internationally, including Washington D.C. and Mexico City. She was in a show Blind at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.
The film “Miss Blindsight: the Wingwall Auditions,” which she and Wendy Snyder MacNeil co-edited, also showed in many places, including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where it was premiered as the Best Independent Film of the Year 2000 at the New England Film and Video Festival. The film provides insights into the changing life of an artist with degenerative retinal disease and is available to watch on her website.
Chris McCarthy, ILN Coaching & Consulting
Chris McCarthy is a change rebel and healthcare innovator. He founded ILN Coaching & Consulting, which focuses on improving “innovation systems.” He led innovation at Kaiser Permanente for 20 years and at Hopelab Foundation for five years. Pet companions have always been part of Chris’ life and mental health.
Chris moderated the panel and audience discussions.
Pictured: Chris & his dog Parker-Posey
More About Chris:
Chris is a change rebel and healthcare innovator. He founded ILN Coaching & Consulting, which focuses on improving “innovation systems.” He led innovation at Kaiser Permanente for 20 years and at Hopelab Foundation for five years, creating many award-winning solutions. His approach is a combination of human(ity)-centered design, system thinking, and the art of gathering.
His work has been featured with CNN (Dec 2017), Harvard Business Review (Sept 2010), Bisognano’s “Pursuing the Triple Aim” (2012), FastCompany, the New York Times, and many more. He collaborated with Lyle Berkowitz, MD, as an author, on their book “Innovation with Information Technologies in Healthcare” (2012).
Pet companions have always been part of Chris’ life and mental health. He was born into a family already populated with a cat, dog, and rabbit, and later adding mice, a guinea pig who lives a remarkable 14 years, and many fish. After his best friend Galen passed away from AIDS, Chris inherited Galen’s cat Rhonda, who created an additional 14 years of joyful connection to Galen’s memory. Chris and his partner Izac, currently share their Mission home with their full-time dog companion, Parker-Posey, and one part-time cat companion, Peter, who is “cat-shared” with his 80-year-old mom in Massachusetts. Yes, Peter has his own profile on United Airlines!
Chris has a master’s in business administration from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute / Copenhagen Business School and a master’s in public health in Health Policy from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In his spare time, he obsesses about fitness, musicals, his fur-babies, and skiing between the trees.
Evan Johnson, Theatre-Maker, Teaching Artist, Community Builder & Creative Producer
Evan Johnson shares, “During the pandemic, like many others, my partner Kyle and I adopted a rescue pup and named him Chonky. He’s a friendly, hypoallergenic poodle mix. He’s a registered emotional support dog. He provides comfort, entertainment, and makes certain that we all get our daily walks outside. He accompanies me to work at Elder Ashram, where he sits peacefully in the laps of elders, produces smiles, bringing welcome joy to the atmosphere.”
Pictured: Evan, his partner Kyle, and their dog Chonky
More About Evan:
Evan Johnson is an Oakland based theatre-maker, teaching artist, community builder, and creative producer. Since 2006, Evan has worked in the theatre; his drag character “Martha T. Lipton” has been featured in the SF Chronicle, Bay Guardian, and Bay Area Reporter. For over a decade, Evan worked with the City of San Francisco’s Cultural Arts Department, creating age-specific Drama engagements, including the Cosmic Elders Theatre Ensemble, who are still performing today! In the Fall of 2022, Evan began serving as full-time Prana Director at Elder Ashram, an arts and mindfulness-based assisted living and memory care community in Oakland’s Dimond District. At the ashram, Evan is responsible for hosting workshops, performances, resident activities, and community events. Since 2018, he has been a featured House Artist at CounterPulse in the Tenderloin, where Evan is currently performing in a new show titled How We Spend Our Days, premiering June 29-July 1, produced by KLANGHAUS— a local avant-garde performance collective.
Sherri Franklin, Founder & CEO of Muttville Senior Dog Rescue
Sherri Franklin is Founder & CEO of Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, dedicated to saving senior dogs from euthanasia, finding them homes, and spreading the word about the value of their lives. Muttville also offers a unique program, Seniors for Seniors, which connects senior dogs and senior humans.
Pictured: Sherri with one of her dog companions
More About Sherri:
Sherri Franklin, a long-time animal advocate and shelter volunteer, founded Muttville in 2007 to save the lives of the older dogs that were considered “unadoptable” and routinely euthanized in area shelters. Working from her house, she saved 27 dogs that first year. She said she “wanted to make senior dogs sexy,” and in fact, has turned the organization into a Bay Area favorite and a national model.
Sherri emerged as a leader in animal rescue when she was appointed to the San Francisco Commission of Animal Control and Welfare in 2000. She was elected Vice-chairman of the Commission in 2002. In 2003, she began work on an ordinance that both mandated minimum requirements for care for dogs and put some muscle into enforcement. The “backyard dog ordinance,” as it was known, went into effect in January 2005 and made headlines around the country. The ordinance continues to be an important tool for education and enforcement, and is being used as a model in other cities for similar legislation.
In 2010, Sherri received the Jefferson Award for Public Service, which recognizes those who “inspire others to service.” In 2016, CNN named Sherri a CNN Hero.
Sherri speaks at conferences around the country about Muttville’s innovative programs, about senior dogs, and about animal rescue.
Annelie Nilsson (RN, MS), Clinical Nurse Specialist, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital
Annelie Nilsson is working on making hospital stays more senior friendly with the Acute Care for Elderly team at ZSFG. Together, she and the team are using an innovative approach to improve mood and prevent loneliness by incorporating robotic cats and dogs into the care of patients with dementia.
Pictured: Annelie with a robotic dog
More About Annelie:
Annelie Nilsson (RN, MS) is a nurse at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFG). As a Clinical Nurse Specialist on the Acute Care for Elderly unit, she is working on making hospital stays more senior friendly. Together with the Acute Care for Elderly team, she is using an innovative approach to improve mood and prevent loneliness by incorporating robotic cats and dogs into the care of patients with dementia.
Her educational background includes a Master of Science in Nursing from University of California San Francisco School of Nursing and a Bachelor of Psychology from San Francisco State University.
Maddie Krasno, Grants & Foundations Specialist for Woodstock Farm Sanctuary
Passionate about primate conservation and eager to follow in the footsteps of Jane Goodall, Maddie took a job as an animal caretaker in a primate research lab during college. This experience led her to question the exploitation of animals in science, and beyond, and to pursue a career in animal protection. Following years of battling PTSD from the primate lab, Maddie came to know the life-altering benefit of sharing her life with an emotional support animal–her dog, Millie, whom she refers to as her life jacket, the one always keeping her afloat.
Pictured: Maddie with her emotional support animal, Millie
More About Maddie:
Maddie has spent the last decade working for animal sanctuary and wildlife rehabilitation nonprofits in a variety of capacities including animal care, outreach and education, curriculum development, and fundraising. Currently, Maddie is the Grants and Foundations Specialist for Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, a sanctuary for rescued farmed animals in High Falls, NY. Additionally, Maddie continues to advocate for humans and animals in labs through an organization she co-founded, JUSTIFY, which is a supportive space for animal lab workers that advocates for a world where science doesn’t harm humans or animals. Check out her recently published op-ed to learn more about her experience in the primate lab.
Maddie Krasno holds a master’s degree in Humane Education from the Institute for Humane Education and Valparaiso University and bachelor’s degrees in Zoology and Child Development from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Maddie lives in Oakland, California with her chosen family–Millie and two rescued cats, Calvin and Celia.
Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, San Francisco
We were pleased to welcome senior canine participants from Muttville at this year’s agein!
Participants cuddled and snuggled with some senior dogs and learned more about the Senior for Seniors Dog Adoption Program.
Senior dogs + senior humans = a perfect match.
Muttville is committed to making that happen!
Through Muttville’s Seniors 4 Seniors adoptions, they waive the adoption fee and provide a welcome kit that includes everything your new furry family member needs to feel right at home, from a cozy bed to essential supplies. They even offer home modifications, such as doggy gates and stairs, to ensure that your new companion is safe and comfortable in your home.
The Night Sky, with Teaching Artist, Alexandra
Teaching Artist, Alexandra, came up with an amazing project that ties together our relationship to animals with the night sky. This project allowed participants to contribute to a collaborative work and to create a nice take away for themselves.
As we move through our daily lives, we often forget about the night skies above and all of the mythical animals who live there in the form of constellations. Birds, horses, dogs and fish, among many other animals, are found among the stars above. For this project, workshop participants created a constellation honoring an animal that is meaningful to them. We created a swirling cosmic sky background on a card using tissue paper, and then participants drew the stars and connected lines of their constellations on top with paint markers. Participants were also able to contribute to a collaborative artwork by drawing their constellation on a larger, cosmic background. This collective drawing allowed participants to create a new night sky that connects everyone through the important animals in our lives.
agein Impact Award
Congratulations to the 2023 At Home With Growing Older Impact Award recipient:
Muttville Senior Dog Rescue!
The award honors individuals whose work has had a lasting positive impact on the experiences of later life through empowerment, education, advocacy and activism and who have supported the mission and work of AHWGO. The recipient is selected by AHWGO’s Board of Directors.
This year, we are honoring the work of Muttville and its Founder and CEO, Sherri Franklin, for helping senior dogs find a home and opening the doors to animal companionship for older adults.
Learn more about Muttville’s Cuddle Club and its Seniors for Seniors program: muttville.org/seniors_for_seniors
Thank You to Our Event Sponsor:
Thank You to Our Table Sponsor:
Adopt-a-Pet is all about getting homeless pets into homes. Their mission is to connect prospective pet parents with the pet that’s right for them. Through their sister branks like Kinship, they also provide useful information and a wealth of resources to help adopters succeed on their new pet parent journey.
If you couldn’t attend this year’s agein, please consider supporting AHWGO’s programs.
History of agein
2022 | Elder Wisdom: An Overlooked Resource in Trying Times
Held on Saturday, June 4, 2022
About Our 3rd Annual agein
Our current human and environmental challenges are daunting. These issues are complex, hard to navigate, and can’t be ‘Googled’. But we can tap into a valuable resource: our past, our experience. The 2022 agein featured lifelong change-makers who paved their own paths where no roads existed. Thank you so much to these guest speakers for sharing their collective wisdom with our mighty, intergenerational community.
This event took place at Destiny Arts Center in Oakland, California. Sarah Crowell provided the opening remarks. Sasha Shen Johfre was the panel moderator. Amy Meyer, Sandy Mori and Jennie Chin Hansen were the featured guest panelists.
Watch the Panel Discussion (showcased above)
2021 | Create, Connect, Contribute – A Celebration and FUNdraiser
Held October 18-23, 2021
About Our 2nd Annual agein
In 2021, we reconnected for our 2nd annual agein – a week-long celebration and fundraiser. Together, we celebrated the joy of creating, connecting and contributing at four online Play Dates and then finally at an in-person event at the Destiny Arts Center in Oakland, California. From dancing, drawing and acting to enjoying good company and food … this event was all about celebrating joy!
Watch the event highlights (showcased above)
2019 | Celebrating 10 Years of Our Diverse Learning Community
Held on Saturday, June 1, 2019
About Our 1st Annual agein
In June of 2019, AHWGO piloted a day-long super forum, an ‘agein’ in the style of the 1960s teach-ins. We aimed to include people of varied ages and backgrounds, and explore how the later stages of life are seen, felt and understood.
Motivated by its success we will take this annual event to key locations in California in order to:
- Reach new audiences
- Incentivize other communities to form AHWGO creative learning communities
- Identify more opportunities for AHWGO to bring aging consideration to a greater range of organizations and corporations
Watch the event highlights (showcased above)
First agein, June 2019, Ed Roberts Campus Berkeley.
“….there were some amazing people and creative brains in the room and so much potential to activate whole communities and created system-wide change!”