Holiday Music throughout Hayes/Laguna


On a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon, December 3, a small group of community members, staff, and volunteers walked to Patricia’s Green to enjoy the Hayes Valley chamber ensemble and bask in the sun.

Upon their return to the Forget-Me-Not Cafe, the group was joined by others to sing and dance along with 12-year old student volunteers and parent escort in holiday music with piano, flute, and voice.  While the cafe was alive with music and dance, across the street, a jazz duo entertained folk with guitar, cello, and song.

A half hour later, the Institute on Aging Cable Car Carolers showed up and filled the rafters of both Laguna and Hayes with more holiday music.  They were joined by the jazz duo in the Cafe. Elders followed the music from room to room, keeping up the beat.

Violin Dazzles Young Virtuoso and His Audience

img_0804AgeSong community members welcome back Timothy McClure, a young violin virtuoso, during the holiday season.  He performed in the Forget-Me-Not Cafe November 2.  Stay tuned for return visits.


Timothy began violin lessons for one reason: more time with Mom, who also happened to be his violin teacher. As wonderful as that time was, he continued his studies because the violin dazzled him. Timothy pursued his passion by traveling hundreds of miles to study with teachers along the Atlantic sea board, then a couple thousand more to study violin performance at Brigham Young University. He and his violin became proficient in classical, Celtic fiddle, and Bluegrass styles. They are happy to perform throughout the Bay Area and beyond, in symphonic, chamber music, and solo venues. Competitions Timothy has won include the First Stage Competition in West Virginia, the Wintergreen Music Festival Audience Favorite Award, and the NFMC Oscar Valentine Violin Competition. Summer music camp/festival appearances include Music in the Mountains Suzuki Institute, the Fry Street Quartet Chamber camp, the Wintergreen Music Festival, and the BYU Spring Opera.

Children and Nature-Deficit Disorder

Nature itself is the best physician. –Hippocrates


How to Protect Kids from Nature-Deficit Disorder

–by Jill Suttie, syndicated from, Nov 23, 2016

Today’s kids spend less and less time outdoors, and it’s taking a toll on their health and well-being. Research has shown that children do better physically and emotionally when they are in green spaces, benefiting from the positive feelings, stress reduction, and attention restoration nature engenders.

No one has brought attention to this issue more than Richard Louv, co-founder and chairman emeritus of the Children & Nature Network and author of Last Child in the WoodsThe Nature Principle, and, most recently, Vitamin N: 500 Ways to Enrich the Health & Happiness of Your Family & Community. Louv has written eloquently about the importance of nature for children and what they miss by spending too much time indoors. His books have inspired many parents and educators to more thoughtfully incorporate outdoor experiences into children’s daily lives.

Louv also warns about the consequences for the environment if we don’t raise children who truly have a personal relationship with nature. In our interview, he explains just how dire the problem is and how parents, educators, and urban planners can help kids reconnect with nature wherever they are.

Jill Suttie: You’ve written that today’s kids have “nature-deficit disorder.” What does that mean, and why is it important?

Richard Louv: “Nature-deficit disorder” is not a medical diagnosis, but a useful term—a metaphor—to describe what many of us believe are the human costs of alienation from nature: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses, a rising rate of myopia, child and adult obesity, Vitamin D deficiency, and other maladies.

Because researchers have turned to this topic relatively recently, most of the evidence is correlative, not causal. But it tends to point in one direction: Experiences in the natural world appear to offer great benefits to psychological and physical health and the ability to learn, for children and adults. The research strongly suggests that time in nature can help many children learn to build confidence in themselves, calm themselves, and focus.

Studies also indicate that direct exposure to nature can relieve the symptoms of attention-deficit disorders. By comparison, activities indoors—such as watching TV—or activities outdoors in paved, non-green areas leave these children functioning worse.

Today, children and adults who work and learn in a dominantly digital environment expend enormous energy blocking out many of the human senses in order to focus narrowly on the screen in front of the eyes. That’s the very definition of being less alive, and what parent wants his or her child to be less alive?

JS: How will this trend impact pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors in kids?

RL: If nature experiences continue to fade from the current generation of young people, and the next, and the ones to follow, where will future stewards of the earth come from?

Past research has shown that adults who identify themselves as environmentalists or conservationists almost always had some transcendent experiences in the natural world. What happens if that personal experience virtually disappears?

There will always be conservationists and environmentalists, but if we don’t turn this trend around, they’ll increasingly carry nature in their briefcases, not in their hearts. And that’s a very different relationship.

JS: Are there particular kinds of experiences in nature that seem to have the most impact on kids?

RL: The quality of the nature experience depends on how direct the experience with nature is. Are kids getting their hands wet and their feet muddy? These types of activities can help kids learn to have confidence in themselves and power to make independent decisions.

One reason for this is the risk-taking inherent in outdoor play, which plays an important role in child development. Without independent play, the critical cognitive skill called executive function is at risk. Executive function is a complex process, but at its core is the ability to exert self-control, to control and direct emotion and behavior. Children develop executive function in large part through make-believe play. The function is aptly named: When you make up your own world, you’re the executive. A child’s executive function, as it turns out, is a better predictor of success in school than IQ.

JS: What can parents do to help increase caring for nature in their kids?

RL: If children are given the opportunity to experience nature, even in simple ways, interaction and engagement follow quite naturally. But parents can sometimes push too hard. Nature time should never be seen by kids as a punishment for, say, spending too much time in the electronic world.

Perhaps the best way to do this is by example. When parents rediscover their sense of wonder, so do most kids. Many parents tell me that the same kids who complained on the way to the camping trip often, when they’re young adults, recall that camping trip as one of their fondest memories—which (as you might guess) causes mixed emotions in the parents! One thing to keep in mind: People seldom look back on their childhoods and recall the best day they ever spent watching TV.

JS: How can parents help kids care about nature when they live in urban environments without ready access to wild spaces?

RL: Any green space will provide some benefit to mental and physical well-being. In urban areas, more natural landscapes can be found in a park, a quiet corner with a tree, several pots with vegetables growing outside, or even a peaceful place with a view of the sky and clouds.

Connection to nature should be an everyday occurrence, and if we design our cities—including our homes, apartments, workplaces, and schools—to work in harmony with nature and biodiversity, this could become a commonplace pattern.

Individually, we can help bring back the food chain and improve biodiversity by transitioning our yards or other properties to native species. Schools, workplaces, and city policymakers can do the same thing. We do know that the greater the biodiversity in an urban park, the greater the psychological benefits to people. Why not think of cities as incubators of biodiversity and engines of human health?

JS: What can parents do if their kids are afraid of nature or if they themselves are disconnected from nature?

RL: Many children and young adults simply don’t know what they’re missing. It’s never too early or too late to teach children or adults to appreciate and connect with the outdoors.

Rachel Carson often said that a child’s positive connection to nature depends on two things: special places and special people. As parents and educators, we can spend more time with children in nature. We can go there with them. Taking time to do that can be quite a challenge. Getting kids outside needs to be a conscious act on the part of parents or caregivers. We need to schedule nature time. This proactive approach is simply part of today’s reality.

My new book, Vitamin N, includes 500 actions that people can take to enrich the health and happiness of their families and communities—and to help create a future that we’ll all want to go to.

Richard Louv’s new book is <a  data-cke-saved-href=“” href=“”><em>Vitamin N: 500 Ways to Enrich the Health & Happiness of Your Family & Community</em></a> (Algonquin Books, 2016, 304 pages)Richard Louv’s new book is Vitamin N: 500 Ways to Enrich the Health & Happiness of Your Family & Community (Algonquin Books, 2016, 304 pages)

JS: What can schools do better to help kids develop an affinity for nature? 

RL: While many school districts in the U.S. are going in the opposite direction—toward less physical movement and more testing, more hours at desks or in the classroom—a counter trend is growing, toward school gardens, natural play areas, getting kids out of the classroom. We’re beginning to see the true greening of American education. In education, for every dollar we spend on the virtual, we should spend at least another dollar on the real, especially on creating more learning environments in natural settings.

Ultimately, we need to accomplish deep cultural change. We need to incorporate nature education and knowledge of its positive benefits into the training that every teacher receives. We need to credit the many teachers who have insisted on exposing their students directly to nature, despite trends in the opposite direction. Teachers and schools can’t go it alone—parents, policymakers, and whole communities must pitch in.

Recently, I visited a nature-based elementary school in a lower-income region of a county in Georgia. The school is showing more academic improvement than any other school in that county. The kids are generally healthier, as well.

We need, and I believe we see already growing, a cultural movement– what I call a New Nature Movement—that includes but goes beyond great programs that directly connect kids to nature: a movement that includes but goes beyond traditional environmentalism and sustainability, a movement that can touch every part of society. The object is to give children the gifts of nature they deserve, and for all of us to find kinship with the lives around us, and wholeness in the lives we live.

JS: What kinds of environmental education programs make the most difference in increasing a child’s connection to nature and their willingness to protect it?

RL: Programs that infuse education with direct experience, especially in nature, have the greatest impact. For many, the natural environment has been intellectualized or removed. Young people certainly need to know about threats to the environment, but they also need direct experience in nature just for the joy of it. Unless we achieve that balance, many children will associate nature with fear and destruction for the rest of their lives.

Too many students learn about climate change in windowless schools. While including environmental education in the curriculum, many school districts in the U.S. have banished live animals from classrooms, dropped outdoor playtime and field trips, and overloaded classrooms with computers.

Connecting our children directly to nature is a way to both deal with the impact of loss of nature and to plant the seeds, sometimes literally, of a nature-rich future.

JS: What are some more positive trends that you’ve observed?

RL: We’re seeing new appreciation for these issues among parents, educators, pediatricians, mayors, and others.

The National League of Cities (which represents 19,000 municipalities and 218 million Americans) and the Children & Nature Network announced a three-year partnership, the Cities Promoting Access to Nature initiative, to explore how municipalities can connect people with the natural world where they live, work, learn, and play.

We also see the emergence of biophilic design of our homes and workplaces, reconciliation ecology and human-nature social capital, restorative homes and businesses, eco-psychology and other forms of nature therapy. We see more citizen naturalists, nature-based schools, the Slow Food and simplicity movements, organic gardening, urban agriculture, vanguard ranching, and other forms of the new agrarianism.

As these currents join, they’ll lead us to a different view of the future—a nature-rich future. The barriers are still there, but I do believe there’s more hope in the air, if you look for it.

Who is the Smartest Bird?

One of my responsibilities at AgeSong is to train staff on all floors to engage with community members.  Most of the staff members are young enough to be the elders’ grandchildren. The challenge in training staff members to engage with elders is to break through the age gap. How do you relate to someone three times your age when most of the time you are bathing them or freshening them up?


It was the end of the day (around 4 pm) and folks were sitting around watching the sports on tv.  I asked if they minded if I turned off the tv.  Every was okay with that.


“This is a teaching moment,” I said to myself and asked a nearby care partner to join us.  I read the story below to a group of elders. The title of the article is “Who is the Smartest Bird?”.  The  article was published in the newest edition (November/December) of the AgeSong at WoodPark newsletter.


Then I asked elders and the care partner who had joined us, What did they learn from the article?  A flow of additional questions emerged; such as the following:

  • What did the storyteller do well?
  • What could be approved?
  • What is the meaning of the word “smart”?
  • What does “smart” mean to you?

I’m looking forward to the next “teaching moment” so I can learn from Hayes/Laguna elders.


We all learned that speaking clearly and slowly in a normal tone of voice helps aging ears hear what is being said, that an open seated position (arms and legs uncrossed) is more inviting to the listener, and that listening to elders’ stories is the most fun of all.  Reading the article was just a jumping off point to conversation.  All contributors received lots of positive reinforcement.

Thank you HVC2 community members, for participating in this teaching/learning moment!

Sally Gelardin,


From Assisted to Community LivingSally D. Gelardin, Ed.D.
Regional Engagement & Education Director
AgeSong, Inc.
415.312.4294 Mobile





Did you Visit the Dodecahedron at Patricia’s Green?



Eager to catch the last sunny days of November, AgeSong elders saw the installation of a 12-sided structure,  based in mathematics and geometry. The artist was inspired by nature,

Aleta Arts Commission works with Supervisor jill Mansion to bring art installations to Patricia’s Green.

A few days later, again on a sunny day, AgeSong elders connected with a new friend.


Dental Hygienist Conducts House Calls at Hayes/Laguna Elder Communities



No matter how old we are, we all need to have our teeth cleaned.  I discovered Michelle Bernardo, a registered Dental Hygienist, who does house calls! She’s been a hygienist for over twenty years.

In my case, my 91 year-old father, who resides at AgeSong Hayes Valley, reached a point that his dentist and I agreed that visiting the dentist was no longer beneficial. But he still needed regular teeth cleanings. It was getting harder and harder to pick him up and take him to an appointment. Luckily, I found Ms. Bernardo who performs the cleanings at a client’s residence anywhere in San Francisco or the East Bay. She schedules his appointments and coordinates with the front desk.  I’ve found her extremely professional and communicative in the almost two years that she has been seeing my father. I’m so delighted with her service; I wanted to make sure everyone knows this option is an available.

Good oral health is an important part of maintaining overall health. We all know how painful teeth problems can be, and we certainly want to avoid that for our loved ones, especially those that can’t verbalize the pain they may face.

This article was written  by the daughter of an AgeSong community member.


Michelle R. Bernardo has been a Registered Dental Hygienist since 1994 when she graduated from New York University School of Dentistry. That same year, she returned to the Bay Area and passed the California dental boards to become a practicing Registered Dental Hygienist.Recognizing that there was a significant need for home service to treat the elderly and homebound, Michelle completed a special program at the University of the Pacific in 2004, and passed the boards to become a Registered Dental Hygienist in Alternative Practice. She now divides her time between this office and visiting homebound and elderly patients throughout the Bay Area (

Volunteer Groups Bring Joy to Hayes/Laguna Elders





Starting off with a group walk to the park on a sunny November afternoon, elders and San Francisco College of Arts visual design students paraded up Hayes Street to the Laguna Terrace.

They were joined by community members from all floors of AgeSong’s Hayes and Laguna elder communities, family members, friends, staff, and about 23 students of  Clara McAllister’s Music Studio, a SF-based music class, who performed a recital.

In all, about 50 folk from 1 to almost 100 years old performed and listened attentively to the delightful recital.

What Role Does Technology Play in Communication?

Erving Polster, PhD, 90+ year old master therapist, presenter, and author, opened the Existential Humanistic Institute 2017 Conference with an audience discussion via Skype.

Though he doesn’t see or hear very well, and no longer facilitates in-person therapeutic groups, the keynote speaker had an insightful distance conversation with conference attendees. Combining human interaction with distance delivery, the speaker and members of the audience came up with several realizations, including the following:

Erving:  The computer cannot be a good substitute for the group experience, but it can be a good intermediary.

Kirk:  The computer is difference from letter writing because it has a lot of advertisements.

Marlene:  If you were with us personally, what would be your theme for us today?


Erving: Existence (experience) comes before essence (meaning). However, the experience is not sufficient, also need meaning.  Human beings need meaning and belonging. The medium is the message is confusing.  To me it means there is an inseparability between the communicator and what he is communicating.

Sonya: Facebook is the medium, it’s not the guilty party…There’s hardly anything so good that it can’t be overdone. (i.e., reading or the computer).

Erving: How wondrous that I can be talking to you in San Francisco this way…Things can happen in communities that are stimulated by the computer.

AgeSong’s elder communities throughout the San Francisco Bay area are alive with in-person impromptu and planned groups that demonstrate the value of meaningful intergenerational  group interactions.

Through distance delivery,  the AgeSong Today blog shares this documentation with the world.