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Greenwood seniors 'live and learn' through books


What do returning to work after retirement, home improvements and last year's Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have in common? They're all discussion topics that can be sparked by the same book - at least when that book is taken up by the Living & Learning group at the Greenwood Senior Center.

Living & Learning is a discussion group that meets at the center every Wednesday at 11 a.m. Rather than discussing a new book in its entirety at each meeting, the group usually focuses on a few chapters of a book at a time.

Featured books cover topics such as self-help tips, philosophy and/or spirituality. The meetings typically draw between 10 and 15 people. Many are regulars who have been participating for years. Of course, newcomers are always welcomed.

At a recent meeting of the group, moderator Carin Mack greeted first-timer Tom Collins of Ballard. "Al's glad to have another man here," joked Mack, referring to the only other male out of the dozen who turned out for the gathering.

The group proceeded to read aloud and discuss several chapters from the book "On the Way Over the Hill" by Seattle author Grace Lee. The book is a compilation of essays on Lee's experiences as a senior.

While the group's free-form discussions would usually start off with comments regarding the chapter they just read, they would often veer off on to other subjects.

For example, just as the ball got rolling on the chapter about seniors returning to the work place, the group took a break to read out a few jokes from a local newsletter.

"We don't always stay on topic," Living & Learning regular Norma Darrah whispered. The conversation then shifted to where to find reliable help for light household chores. Suggestions abounded.

Mack started Living & Learning over four years ago as a way to spark conversation among members at the Greenwood Senior Center. She is a social worker who specializes in geriatrics and has worked part-time at the Greenwood center since 1995. She also works at Tallmadge Hamilton House, a senior center in the University District.

"There are many people who are not able to discuss a lot of issues of concern," Mack said.

"Providing the opportunity to continue to grow really is an important part of what I do." The conversation during Living & Learning gatherings doesn't always stay light. As the hour-long meeting progressed, some participants talked about the difficulties of spending holidays alone, coping with family members who have cancer, and fears about terrorist attacks.

In leading the group's meetings, Mack tries to keep the conversation, for the most part, out of dangerous territory such as religion and politics.

While she usually comes up with the book selections herself, Mack said she welcomes suggestions from members.

At Living & Learning meetings, the featured book of the week isn't always the main attraction for participants. "The books give food for thought and really keep the conversation going," said Mack.

Greenwood Senior Center is located at 525 N. 85th St. For details, call 297-0875.