OLLI’s Fearless Field Trip Facilitators

When you look in the inside back page of the OLLI learning group schedule to see what trips or events are available; do you ever wonder who those field trip facilitators are? Well, wonder no more. We are Peg Boyce, Louise Schloss, Tina Leydon, Jerry Burress, Joe Rafti, Clark Engle and other members who have organized field trips on occasion. We love traveling and we are an adventurous group, stimulated by our curiosity. While our combined travel experiences have probably touched nearly every continent, we also have a great interest in the natural and cultural beauty of Arizona and our neighboring states.

Some of the field trips we have facilitated have been to the Phoenix Art Museum to see The “Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Masters” and other shows, the Challenger Space Center in Peoria, several Broadway musical plays including “The Phantom of the Opera” at the Gammage Auditorium in Tempe, Basha’s magnificent Western and Native American Art Museum, live opera beamed from the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York to Scottsdale, the Riordan Mansion and the Arboretum in Flagstaff, and Prescott area events and museums.

We are constantly checking the newspapers and other media to keep up on what events are coming to the Phoenix area and other parts of Arizona. While we are satisfying our own curiosity we hope to discover events and places that will educate and entertain our OLLI members and friends.

Should you have a suggestion for a day trip please notify the OLLI office, and if you would care to become a field trip facilitator, we say, “Welcome Aboard!”

Submitted by Jerry Burress

Tina Leydon

Tina Leydon

Jerry Burress and Joe Rafti

Jerry Burress and Joe Rafti

Peg Boyce

Peg Boyce

Clark Engle

Clark Engle


Japanese Gardens and Wrigley Mansion

Japanese Garden and Wrigley Mansion

Photo by Chris Shovel

On March 18, with two big Masters Touch buses and a truly beautiful day, approximately 90 OLLI members and friends left from the YC campus for a long-anticipated trip to the Japanese Gardens and the Wrigley Mansion in Phoenix. Thanks to all the recent moisture to Arizona, the roadside wildflowers were beginning to appear and the ground itself looked as if it had just been transported from the Emerald Isles.

We arrived at the Japanese Gardens, and were promptly divided into four groups, each with a knowledgeable tour guide. Our guide, Diane, explained the Ro Ho En engraved on the lovely entrance gate and the purpose of Japanese gardens for people everywhere as a place of peace, tranquility, beauty and centering of the mind, away from their hectic lives and schedules. While the gardens are only 3 acres in size, they represent all world zones as one slowly progresses through them. The pond in the center has marvelous schools of Koi fish in pinks, yellows, silvers, and some even with blue markings, all hoping to be fed by us. These are both donated and ‘home-grown’, in all sizes, and beautifully exotic. As we walked, the art of bonzai was explained, and the wide variety of trees pointed out. There is an authentic teahouse, and the elaborate tea ceremonies and traditions were described. With several delightful bridges, lovely waterfalls, and tranquil areas, this truly is a quiet haven in the midst of Phoenix busyness. And we actually drove under the gardens when going through a tunnel on the way to the Wrigley Mansion – amazing!

With beautiful floral landscaping and a view to die for, the Wrigley Mansion overlooks the Biltmore Hotel and the homes within the Biltmore grounds. This was the smallest of the five Wrigley homes (at 16,850 sq. feet!) and a 50th wedding anniversary present in 1932 from William Wrigley, Jr. to his wife Ada. In 1992, it was purchased by Geordie Hormel. Originally, he only wanted to buy the priceless oak Steinway player piano (one of only two) in the living room, but found that Mr. Wrigley had willed that all furniture must stay with the Mansion – so he bought it all! The tour included various rooms, with intricate ceilings in Art Deco patterns and colors, Catalina tiles (from Wrigley’s own Catalina Island factory), and verandas with wonderful views, including Camelback Mountain. After the tour, our group had a delicious lunch in an upper dining area overlooking the main dining hall and with panoramic views of Phoenix.

After lunch, we boarded our buses and headed back to Prescott. This was a very enjoyable trip, and our thanks to the OLLI people who scheduled and worked on it.

Submitted by Pat Beaugrand

You can find out more about the Japanese Gardens by following this link:  http://www.japanesefriendshipgarden.org/

You can find out more about the Wrigley Mansion by following this link: http://www.wrigleymansionclub.com/

The iPad and Seniors

Maybe you’ve already heard about the new iPad that Apple is currently selling and maybe you haven’t, but it is a great new tool you might want to try out. It’s basically a tablet-sized computer, with a nice 9.7 inch LCD screen for awesome viewing. You can use the iPad to browse the web, watch videos, read books, look at pictures, and much more. A lot of what was included on the iPhone can be found in the iPad, and there are even great accessibility features built right in out of the box.

The iPad contains:

  • a built-in screen reader that supports closed-caption playback
  • a gesture-based screen reader that reads a description of whatever your finger is touching at the moment
  • mono audio conversion for those who have trouble hearing out of one ear
  • zoom in on anything on the screen up to five times it’s normal size
  • high contrast screen that allows you to view anything in white on black mode

But don’t take my word for it, let Virginia, a 100 year-old woman from Oregon, show you how it’s done.

If you would like to learn more about the iPad you can go to Apple’s website at:


An OLLI with an Orchestra


The OLLI at Sierra College will be putting on an orchestral concert on April 21st. The concert will be free to the public, but they will also accept donations during the performance. The musical selections will be the Overture to the Italian Girl in Algiers by Rossini, the Matinees Musicales by Benjamin Britten, the Spanish Dances by Granados, and the First Symphony of Beethoven. Stephen Miller, a Sierra College music professor, will be the conductor.

This piece of news made me think of our OLLI and all the talented musicians we probably have here. I know that we have a great group of guitarists who can lay down some riffs, but do we have enough players to for a band or orchestra? I’m sure a lot of members have played some form of musical instrument in the past. Let’s hear your experiences with playing music, and who knows, maybe we can start an OLLI band in the future.

Microsoft’s Virtual Senior Center

Microsoft is reaching out to seniors no longer able to leave the home with the introduction of the Virtual Senior Center. The center is a partnership between Microsoft, the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA) and Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), and Selfhelp Community Services, an organization dedicated to enabling the elderly and other at-risk populations to live in their own homes, independently and with dignity.

The purpose of the Virtual Senior Center is to enhance home-bound seniors lives through the use of computers and internet technology. Seniors are connected with their local adult center using video conferencing software that creates an interactive experience  reducing social isolation, promoting wellness, and providing better access to community services. Users can have two-way interactions with live classes at a senior center asking questions and seeing what other members of the class see. For seniors with low vision or dexterity issues, the Virtual Center has screen readers and track balls included to increase accessibility.

The Virtual Senior Center also has the added functionality of  health monitoring software and devices. This feature can be very useful for seniors who have a difficult time making it to the doctor’s office. For example, someone with diabetes can use a device to monitor their blood glucose levels, upload the data to their personal HealthVault account, and share the data with their local physician. The whole process can save numerous, time-consuming trips to the doctor’s office, and allow the doctor more frequent and comprehensive data with which to make informed health care decisions.

With more than 2 million home-bound seniors, according to a 2008 report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, broadband technology is a useful and inexpensive way to connect the growing number seniors who aren’t able to leave the home and feel socially isolated. Social isolation and loneliness have been proven to increase the risk and severity of such diseases as dementia and depression, and this is why virtual participation through the use of online technology is such a crucial area that needs to be expanded throughout the country’s senior centers. Becky Bigio, director of the Selfhelp Senior Source Geriatric Care Management Program, conducted psychometric tests on all the participants in the Virtual Senior Center, and she found that they showed a marked improvement in areas like anxiety, depression, memory loss and their capacity for activities of daily living.

You can view some video logs of Virtual Senior participants by following this link:


The Internet May Be Good for Your Brain

Brain scan while reading a book

Brain scan while reading a book

In an era where watching television and surfing the internet has replaced reading a good old-fashioned book, some may wonder whether this switch has changed brain functioning. It seems to reason that passively watching TV would be less beneficial than reading a book, but what about surfing the internet? It’s definitely not a passive act, and searching requires thought for sifting through all the links and deciding what’s useful information.

Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles found that internet use increased brain functioning in a sample consisting of 24 individuals ranging from 55 to 76 years old. Each participant had a brain scan while reading books and performing web searches. Initially, web searching activated more regions of the brain than while reading including areas that

Brain scan while searching the internet

Brain scan while searching the internet

control decision-making and complex reasoning, but this change was only noted in participants who were experienced web users.

However, after the inexperienced web users had practiced searching on the internet for only a week, their brain functioning was similar to the experienced internet users group. This finding suggests that even a brief period of internet use can improve brain functioning and may help to ward off some of the aging effects on the brain.