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Dad Was Right and Ahead of His Time-May 20, 2015

Dad Was Right and Ahead of His Time-May 20, 2015
By Marty Orgel

Right now, I’m thinking about the years my father spent in a nursing home. And even decades after he died I have fond memories because I always knew my dad was in a good place. His time there still resonates with me, mostly for one reason. Read more…

There was a senior woman, who lived in a shoe… – July 19, 2015

There was a senior woman, who lived in a shoe... - July 19, 2015
George Russell – Special to Marin Independent Journal

After a public “listening period,” the Whistlestop senior center has formally submitted to the city of San Rafael revised plans for a five-story affordable housing complex and service center as the site of its downtown depot headquarters.

Whistlestop in San Rafael delivers holiday greetings to homebound seniors

Whistlestop in San Rafael delivers holiday greetings to homebound seniors

Erika Vaughn, right, Whistlestop’s Meals on Wheels program supervisor, delivers food, Christmas cards and gifts to Rita Jones, 75, of San Rafael on Friday. Robert Tong — Marin Independent Journal

By Stephanie Weldy, Marin Independent Journal

POSTED: 12/18/15, 6:17 PM PST 

Seventy-five-year-old Rita Jones opened the front door of her San Rafael apartment Friday afternoon for her routine Meals on Wheels visit.

Not only did she get fruit, milk and a plate of braised turkey with seared kale during the call, but she also got a bundle of holiday greeting cards from community members she’s never met.

One card wished her peace and happiness. Another, from a local Girl Scouts participant, featured a handcrafted winter scene with a snowman made of cotton balls.

Jones, who is paralyzed on the left side of her body and uses a wheelchair to get around, said the cards let her know she’s not forgotten.

“It’s nice knowing someone cares about you like this,” she said.

This is the fourth year San Rafael-based Whistlestop has collected greeting cards from members of the public to give to home-bound seniors they serve through the meal delivery service, Meals on Wheels. The cards are a way to bring a little bit of joy to clients, Whistlestop officials said.

“They’re home by themselves, a lot of time maybe no one is coming to bring them cards,” said Erika Vaughn, Whistlestop’s Meals on Wheels program supervisor. “It’s just the happiness and the joy that someone would care enough to bring them Christmas cards.”

The senior center put out the call to the community seeking signed cards for 250 senior clients they serve through Meals on Wheels. Thirty disabled Marin residents, under the age of 60, are also served through the program through Nourish. This year, the senior center received more cards than last year, with roughly 2,800 cards coming in from local Girl Scouts troops, and students from San Rafael High School and Marin Country Day School. Each senior is to receive 10 cards. Home Instead Senior Care also donated 50 gifts, ranging from throws, scarves and more, to be given to the seniors.

As Vaughn distributed cards, along with meals, she was greeted with a tight embrace, and a kiss on the cheek by one client. After handing two bags to the senior, she was handed a gift in exchange. The cards the client received will be placed around her San Rafael home to make it a bit more festive for the holidays, she said.

Jones said she’s been receiving the cards through the program for a few years. With cards from last Christmas, she has them displayed throughout her residence.

“I put some on my coffee table and I like to sit down and look at them,” Jones said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephanie Weldy covers San Rafael and Novato news for the Marin IJ. Follow Stephanie on Twitter: @StephanieWeldy1.

Sausalito’s New Senior Ride Program Could Serve as Pioneer for Programs in Marin-June 21, 2015

Sausalito’s New Senior Ride Program Could Serve as Pioneer for Programs in Marin-June 21, 2015
By Mark Prado, Marin Independent Journal

The steep, winding hills of Sausalito are not easy for anyone to drive, and for seniors they can be downright frightening.

But a program started last month provides free, on-demand rides for senior residents in the community — a program that could be replicated throughout Marin. Read more…

The Whistlestop Mission Plaza project has been proposed at an ideal time. – July 19, 2015

The Whistlestop Mission Plaza project has been proposed at an ideal time. - July 19, 2015

The scarcity of affordable senior housing is not something to be ignored.

This countywide issue continues to be swept under the carpet, and now we have a truly viable project to finally help alleviate this issue. This project truly deserves our full community support.

As the cost of living continues to increase in Marin, the number of seniors who can afford to stay here continues to decrease, as the number of senior housing alternatives also continues to decrease. Our seniors deserve better care, support, assistance and affordable housing options.

It is imperative that the community stands behind projects like this, to improve the overall quality of life now, not later, as the number of future alternative sites is bound to decrease. There are significant changers occurring in Marin and let’s make sure this positive change is not an opportunity we let slip through our fingers.

I strongly encourage everyone’s support of Whistlestop’s effort to continue their amazing care for our seniors, and applaud them for creating such a worthwhile solution to an ongoing public issue.

– Matt McPhee, Greenbrae

Best Places to Work 2015

Whistlestop (Marin Senior Coordinating Council)

We just heard the good news! For the second year in a row, Whistlestop has been named one of the North Bay Business Journal’s Best Places to Work. Whistlestop is honored and humbled to receive this accolade for 2015.

By Gary Quackenbush, Special to the Business Journal

Best Places to Work 2015SAN RAFAEL — Whistlestop promotes active and independent lives for Marin County’s older adults, and people with disabilities and health challenges, by providing transportation to appointments and programs at extremely low cost.

“I’m filled with gratitude every day when I see the dedication, commitment and compassion our employees give to our clients,” said CEO Joe O’Hehir.

“Each team member enjoys his or her job, which is focused on ensuring that every adult in Marin has the opportunity to age with dignity, independence and grace. Thanks to our devoted employees, Whistlestop has become the surrogate family for thousands of older adults who face loneliness and isolation.”

An employee said, “Everyone is genuinely concerned about each others’ welfare and happiness. I was sick last week and my boss dropped off Gatorade at my house so I didn’t have to leave home!”

Another worker added, “Our friends and family members are always welcome to visit and eat at the Jackson Café, our on-site restaurant, where employees receive a discount. I can also bring my four-legged family member to work, which is a huge benefit.”

The company encourages and supports employee development and regularly promotes from within.

“We have a good team, and everyone is a team player. Management and staff are very polite — it’s hard to find a wonderful place like this.”

Reprinted from the Northbaybusinessjournal.com

I nearly burned down the house this morning-June 24, 2015

I nearly burned down the house this morning-June 24, 2015
By Marty Orgel

I woke up early Saturday morning, the first in the house to rise. It’s one of my favorite times of the day; the morning sun, and a pot of water on the stove for fresh coffee. Until the smoke alarm went off. Then a second, and a third, and as I remember, at least five smoke alarms blaring all at once. Read more…

Whistlestop address an important need – July 19, 2015

Whistlestop address an important need - July 19, 2015
I have been volunteering at Whistlestop for over two years. I deliver food for the Meals on Wheels program and also distribute food for its Brown Bag program.

I’ve had a firsthand view of the needs of many of the seniors in Marin County.

Not only do I support Whistlestop and its plans to redevelop its building at the existing location, this project is helping make a better future for our seniors, their families and those that will soon become senior citizens.

I truly hope the local elected officials see the benefits this project will bring to downtown San Rafael and surrounding communities.

Marin is facing some serious issues when it comes to providing housing that is affordable, in a great location and available.

For the sake of future generations, I hope our local officials will support organizations that are trying to address some of our most serious issues – now.

– Phil Dito, Greenbrae

Ways to Get Around for Marin Seniors-June 25, 2015

Ways to Get Around for Marin Seniors-June 25, 2015

Marin IJ Readers’ Forum for June 25

Thank you for shining a spotlight on the critical transportation needs of Marin’s senior population in your front-page story on Monday, “Ride program for seniors could be model for county.”

Whistlestop is following this great example with the launch of CarePool, a new volunteer driver program serving seniors from Sausalito to Novato with funding support from Marin Transit and Marin General Hospital. Read more…

Tooting our Horn!

Tooting our Horn!For the second year in a row, Whistlestop has been named one of the North Bay Business Journal’s Best Places to Work.

Whistlestop is honored and humbled to receive this accolade.

“I’m filled with gratitude every day when I see the dedication, commitment and compassion our employees give to our clients,” said CEO Joe O’Hehir Read More…

Winners are selected by the magazine’s editorial staff. Recipients were judged on diversity, employee benefits and perks, family-friendly workplace, and community involvement.

Joe O’Hehir radio interview with KEAR Radio-June 26, 2015

Joe O’Hehir radio interview with KEAR Radio-June 26, 2015

Study: Thousands of Marin seniors among state’s hidden poor

Study: Thousands of Marin seniors among state’s hidden poor

Whistlestop pantry volunteer Josefina Perez helps a client Thursday at the center’s Brown Bag Pantry in San Rafael. The program helps provide low-income Marin seniors with nutritional food. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)


By Richard Halstead, Marin Independent Journal

More than three-quarters of a million California seniors, including more than 7,700 older Marin residents, are among the nation’s hidden poor, according to a new study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. Read More…


Study: Thousands of Marin seniors among state’s hidden poor

A Whistlestop client selects fruit at the Brown Bag Pantry in San Rafael. The nonprofit operates the food program at senior centers and homes around Marin. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

Movers & Shakers: San Rafael woman hired as director of program innovation at Whistlestop-July 2, 2015

Movers & Shakers: San Rafael woman hired as director of program innovation at Whistlestop-July 2, 2015
By Adrian Rodriguez, Marin Independent Journal

Anita Renzetti of San Rafael has been hired as the director of program innovation at Whistlestop in San Rafael.

Renzetti has been senior director of educational programs for six years at the American Society on Aging. Prior to that, Renzetti served as director of academic affairs for the University of Phoenix and activities director for Atria Senior Living Group. Read more…

Memory Screening a Valuable Tool – August 28, 2015

Memory Screening a Valuable Tool - August 28, 2015
Marty Orgel is the Marketing and Communications Specialist at Whistlestop in San Rafael. Email him at morgel@whistlestop.org.

A lawyer, a writer and an accountant walk into a bar… This is not the start of a joke, but a story that illustrates how we can get more and more forgetful as we age.

Catching up with friends the other night, one casually mentioned he had run a red light. Not a big deal he thought. Especially, he said, because he was at the tail end of a stream of cars, and the opposing traffic signal had not turned green. But the lawyer was worried.

He stressed how running a red light should be taken very, very seriously. And not just from a safety angle. There’s no question we all start to forget things as we age, and the lawyer suggested our red light runner get both a medical and mental checkup to make sure everything was alright.

Just having the conversation made me worry. I forget things all the time and usually think my memory is getting worse. So I signed up for a comprehensive, free memory screening at Whistlestop, administered by Senior Access of Marin.

A Senior Access specialist gave me the test, called a Montreal Cognitive Assessment. It took half an hour and the first part featured a visuospatial exam, which the dictionary defines as my “ability to comprehend and conceptualize visual representations and spatial relationships in learning and performing a task.”

The easiest part of the test was when I was asked to name as many words as I could that began with the letter F. I was still blurting them out when I was told the time for this task was over. The hardest part was when I was asked to remember five words that I would be asked to repeat in about ten minutes. After hearing the words, we moved on to other activities. At the end of the ten minutes I remembered four of the words, but not the fifth. The examiner had to give me a hint before I remembered that fifth word. Hints aren’t good in a memory test. And I lost one point!

I did well enough to pass. My specialist explained how we all forget things over time. We are all overworked and multitasking. There’s no real cause for concern about forgetting where you left your keys, or even running a red light. Running a light is a bad practice all around, but it doesn’t mean you’re losing your memory. It’s more like you are distracted and need to concentrate more on driving when you get behind the wheel. A bigger concern, the specialist said, would be forgetting where you were going while driving.

After getting a clean bill of health on my memory screening, I turned to the medical community. I called Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer. He was the keynote speaker at the recent Aging Healthy Symposium in San Rafael.

“It’s normal to forget things like where you put your keys,” Willis said. “It’s also important that people not rush to get an MRI when you find yourself losing those keys.”

Memory lapses in aging adults are normal, he said. Willis stressed the take-away here is to bring your concerns about memory loss to your healthcare providers, and let them partner with you about your future medical plans.

“Patients do not always bring their concerns to their doctor,” Willis acknowledged, “Memory loss among elders is a major concern in the medical community.”

Willis cited a Centers for Disease Control study of adults 60 and older, which found that only one in five people discuss memory loss with their doctor. Willis called that a “missed opportunity” in relationships between doctors and patients.

Two opportunities not to be missed are an upcoming memory screening and a memory wellness event at Whistlestop. They’re listed below. Put them on your calendar now.

So you don’t forget!

  • Brain Fitness Workshop – Fun and Games, Whistlestop and Senior Access, Thursday, Sept. 10, 9:30-10:30 a.m.
  • Memory Screenings – Whistlestop and Senior Access, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

For more information, call (415) 456-9063.

Whistlestop Files Pared Back Plan for Downtown Housing Complex-July 12, 2015

Whistlestop Files Pared Back Plan for Downtown Housing Complex-July 12, 2015
By Stephanie Weldy, Marin Independent Journal

After a public “listening period,” the Whistlestop senior center has formally submitted to the city of San Rafael revised plans for a five-story affordable housing complex and service center at the site of its downtown depot headquarters.

City planning officials and some community members had expressed concerns earlier this year about Whistlestop’s original design proposal, saying it was too massive, its contemporary motif didn’t meld with San Rafael’s design style and that it posed parking issues. Read more…

Whistlestop treats change as opportunity-January 22, 2015

Whistlestop treats change as opportunity-January 22, 2015
By Derek Wilson
Whistlestop is planning a face lift with the hope of better serving Marin County’s aging population, but initial reviews are mixed after the community was invited to examine designs for the nonprofit’s new downtown facility.

The initial proposal is much taller than the current building. The new building would have five floors, with the ground floor occupied by the lobby and Jackson Café. Plans for the second floor offer space for activities, classes and counseling. Eden Housing would operate 47 low-income senior housing units on the top three floors.

Read More…

Whistlestop Submits Plans to City-July 15, 2015

Whistlestop Submits Plans to City-July 15, 2015

Contact Derek Wilson at dwilson@marinscope.com.

San Rafael is getting its first look at what could be an active hub for senior residents and officials say the initial reaction has been positive.

Whistlestop and Eden Housing representatives filed a formal application for the new Mission Plaza project with the City of San Rafael on July 9. The goal of the project is to create a new, larger Whistlestop center, including 41 senior apartments, on the site of the current Whistlestop building on Tamalpais Avenue, between Third and Fourth streets. Read more…

7,400 Reasons Why I Love My Job

7,400 Reasons Why I Love My JobSubmitted by Joe O’Hehir, CEO Whistlestop

When it comes to seniors aging in Marin, it is important to support activities and events that allow older adults to thrive during the later stages of their lives. When it comes to loving my job, I always find listening to seniors’ stories is both inspiring and encouraging. i am completing my seventh year as CEO for Whistlestop, and like our members, I too am thriving and loving my job.

What’s not to love? I get to work with an incredible staff of over 175 dedicated people who day in and day out provide valuable human needs and services to Marin’s older adults and individuals with disabilities. Whether someone needs a rids, a meal, social connection, or in formation and assistance, our caring staff is there for them. I admire our staff’s patience and compassion for each and every member we serve; they are all truly inspirational. I’m fortunate to be able to call them my co-workers.

Whistlestop is blessed to have over 1990 active volunteers who support our efforts to ensure that every adult in Marin has the opportunity to age with dignity, independence, and grace.

The majority of our volunteers are themselves older adults helping their fellow older adults thrive in our community. Whether it is serving a lunch at Jackson CAfe, delivering meals to home-bound individuals, driving someone to their doctor’s appointment, handing out food at our brown bag pantry, teaching a class, leading a group activity, or manning the Information and Assistance desk, Whistlestop’s volunteers are always there for our clients with a helping hand and a smile on their face. We would not be able to help the 7,500 members we serve without the over 16,000 donated volunteer hours from this very special group of individuals.

One of the best things I love about my job is having the opportunity to personally thank the thousands of donors who support Whistlestop’s mission.

The ranks of Whistlestop donors have grown significantly during the past five years. Without the generous financial support from the community we would not be able to manage the growth in demand for Whistlestop’s services. An increasing number of older adults are able to thrive in our community thanks to the generosity and support of our donors.

Most importantly, I love my job because I get to interact with some amazing and inspirational older adults who are Whistlestop participants. When I’m having a particularly challenging day at the office, I can walk around our Active Aging Center and experience the thriving environment.

I may observe a lively Zumba class and feel the energy. Then I’ll drop by the computer lab and watch a young adult helping an older adult learn how to use an iPad. I also Like to eaves drop on one of our many multicultural group activities and listen to the many languages spoken. There is laughter and engagement throughout the center and it is invigorating.

Love my job? You bet I do. I can count 7,400 reasons every day.

Whistlestop addresses an important need-July 15, 2015

Whistlestop addresses an important need-July 15, 2015

I have been volunteering at Whistlestop for over two years. I deliver food for the Meals on Wheels program and also distribute food for its Brown Bag program.

I’ve had a firsthand view of the needs of many of the seniors in Marin County.

Not only do I support Whistlestop and its plans to redevelop its building at the existing location, this project is helping making a better future for our seniors, their families and those that will soon become senior citizens.

I truly hope the local elected officials see the benefits this project will bring to downtown San Rafael and surrounding communities.

Marin is facing some serious issues when it comes to providing housing that is affordable, in a great location and available.

For the sake of future generations, I hope our local officials will support organizations that are trying to address some of our most serious issues — now.

— Phil Dito, Greenbrae

KCBS Joe O’Hehir and Jeffrey Schaub on Taxi Company Closure-May 4, 2015

KCBS Joe O'Hehir and Jeffrey Schaub on Taxi Company Closure-May 4, 2015