Senior events in full bloom

Portland’s Jewish community provides a wide array of activities and programs to engage the growing population of robust and active seniors.

When Mittleman Jewish Community Center underwent a major overhaul in 2005, many of the senior programs it had hosted were dispersed to sites such as Cedar Sinai Park and synagogues.

“A number of programs got scooped up by other organizations in the community,” says Jordana Levenick, MJCC operations manager. “That has allowed us to come up with new ideas and fresh offerings at times that seniors have let us know they want to be using this space and in ways they want to be using it.”

For instance, bridge and mah jongg groups now meet at the center regularly.

Many of the free fitness classes for members – such as Tai Chi for Better Balance, Gentle Yoga and Gentle Pilates – attract seniors. The Arthritis Exercise and Ai-Chi classes in the warm water therapy pool also are popular with the senior set.

“One of our foundations is intergenerational opportunities that attract grandparents, parents and children in any combination,” says Levenick, pointing to Friday Night Light Shabbat celebrations.

Recognizing seniors’ natural attraction to plants and gardening, she also expects seniors to join the audience at the May 6 program “Garden Gems,” a 2 pm talk by horticulture expert Dan Heims.

Children of aging parents might want to attend the 7 pm, May 8 lecture, “Unexpected Caregiver: How to Keep Mom and Dad Active, Safe and Independent.” A national speaker on aging, Kari Berit will share her insights into ways to ensure healthy aging. Sponsored by Cedar Sinai Park, the lecture will be at the MJCC.

Each quarter, CSP’s Rose Schnitzer Manor offers a themed lecture series to provide lifelong learning opportunities for residents and the greater community. Past series have explored alternative wellness therapies, consumer fraud, choices about end-of-life care, maintaining healthy brain function, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, ethical wills, and sexuality and aging.

This quarter’s series, “From Glaciers to Gardens: Our Changing Planet,” explores the earth’s ecology and the impact humans have on the changing conditions of our planet. Lectures begin at 6:45 pm, Tuesdays in May, in RSM’s Zidell Hall:

• May 1, Creating Communities of Opportunity in the Portland Region: Mara Gross, policy director for the Coalition for a Livable Future, will discuss promoting an equitable and sustainable Portland for all residents.

• May 8, Global Warming 101: The Scientific Basis for Understanding Climate Change in the 20th and 21st Centuries: Dr. Christina Hulbe, professor of geology at Portland State University, will discuss global climate change.

• May 22, The Growing Problem of Cyanobacteria in Lakes: Arick “Kit” Rouhe, a PhD student at PSU, will discuss his research into lake conditions that may keep cyanobacteria from growing too rapidly and destroying the natural ecology of a lake.

• May 29, Reduce Your Waste, Reduce Your Impact: Betty Shelley, an operator with the Metro Recycling Program Hotline, will give tips on how each of us can leave a smaller footprint on the Earth.

RSM’s next series is in August and will be the second annual series focusing on “Epicurean Delights.”

While much synagogue programming focuses on youth education and young adult engagement, many large congregations across the country have found their membership demographic skews heavily to the baby boomer population and up, according to Congregation Neveh Shalom Program Director Jennifer Greenberg.

In response to the national recognition of the need for synagogues to better engage adults in this age group, Salon Hazak was born at Neveh Shalom.

With a film group and travel-log group and many adult study options already in place, Salon Hazak planners decided to add programs around cultural activities and outdoor pursuits. They’ve hosted a successful Port of Portland Tour and a presentation on Lithuania’s Jewish history. Visits to dance and theater performances, as well as outdoor activities, are in the works.

Salon Hazak also opened doors for a group of writers who wanted to come together and support each other’s work. Professor of Literature Sherryll Mleynek facilitates a writing group that meets every few weeks to discuss writing issues and to read and critique each other’s work.

At Congregation Beth Israel, Friends Over Fifty plans events for empty nesters ages 50-70, many of whom live in the Pearl or other close-in areas. Most programs are arts-based, but the group also has hosted onegs in conjunction with adult education speakers or presentations.

Congregation Shaarie Torah also has an empty nester group of “very active and wonderful seniors.” They have built a group that supports each other as they go through the different milestones in their lives, creating a community within a community.

To contact organizations about programs in this story:

Mittleman Jewish Community Center: 503-244-0111
Rose Schnitzer Manor: 503-535-4004
Congregation Neveh Shalom: 503-246-8831
Congregation Beth Israel: 503-222-1069
Congregation Shaarie Torah: 503-226-6131


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