Thursday, May 21, 2009

Drumming in the Neighborhood

Perhaps you feel like you march to the beat of a different drummer than others drumming away in your neighborhood?

Yesterday The Front Porch had the privilege to host the first of three drumming circles led by Mamadou Diop, renowned West African musician who joined us once last year as well. This program is supported in part by a grant from the Lynn Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

Mamadou had us all beating our drums to the same rhythm for a while, a task requiring close listening and concentration. Not surprisingly, research is showing that drumming and other music-making benefit overall mental health and can help to decrease stress and pain. Afterwards each of us had a turn to lead the group with a rhythm of our own creation.

Mamadou also began to share with us his wealth of knowledge about how drumming is used in Africa as a means of communication among villages. Different patterns can convey danger, news of a celebration and other messages which can be sent from village to village without the need for email or internet access! He amazed us all when he said that such a message could travel all the way from Boston to Seattle, Washington in 24 hours--with no Internet fees!

More profoundly, Mamadou began to tell us of the lessons that drumming holds for how we live our lives and respond to people around us. For instance, by learning to focus on and maintain our own beat, despite the cacophony of sounds around us, we can be calmer when we're confronted with life's stresses and the tensions of those around us--We can choose what to respond to and absorb--or not. So try it!

Monday, April 6, 2009

The chatter and laughter subside as a sense of calm and quiet settles upon the group. Instructor Kelley Annese encourages everyone to relax and breathe deeply. Another weekly Front Porch yoga class in Lynn has begun.

Kelley has been teaching yoga at both Front Porch sites since last fall. Those who have dared to try the classes, despite yoga's youthful image, have learned that one doesn't have to twist oneself up like a pretzel to be able to benefit from yoga. Kelley is a master at adapting poses so that everyone can participate, and encourages each of her students to "listen to your body". She obtains health information from each student prior to their start in the class so she can be aware of any health concerns that could impact upon their participation.
Kelley is also integrating more Russian words into her instructons, as she learns them from her students, the majority of whom are from the Former Soviet Union. She also provides education about yoga's benefits such as increased concentration and memory, increased strength and improved posture. Smiles and looks of intense concentration as well as relaxation are visible as everyone follows the instructions.
Soon after the chime signals the end of the class, the smiles and laughter and chatter in English and Russian resume.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Front Porch Reaches Out

Radio plays

Mental aerobics

Computer stress relief

Movie trivia discussions...

What do they all have in common? They are a samplying of what's being planned for a new program that we're calling: Beyond The Front Porch . There was a time when one had to speak with an operator in order to make a call and rumor has it that in small towns that operator knew more than anyone else about what was going on in the neighborhood. Phone technology has come a long way since then!

Imagine being able to attend workshops and participate in group programs without having to leave your home...Many of us have become accustomed to webinars or long distance conference calls that are often now taking the place of in-person meetings. But recreational and educational options may be limited if a person doesn't have a computer or doesn't have a computer with a webcam.

Many people aren't able to get to our programs either because of transportation difficulties, health issues and/or because they are caring for someone who they don't want to leave. This month we will start offering some programs over the phone using a conference calling service so that more people can get involved even if they can't leave their homes to join us in person.

We've been inspired to start this program after learning about several successful programs located in other parts of the country such as Senior Center Without Walls which is located in California and DOROT's University Without Walls, located in New York. Both programs offer a varied and broad selection of interesting classes and activities--all by phone. Not only are people learning new things and having a good time, but friendships have developed among participants that sometimes extend to outside of the program. My thanks go out to Terry Englehart, Director of Senior Center Without Walls, who has so generously shared her experience and program materials as we begin this new endeavor.

We will begin piloting the program later on in March with two sessions of Mental Aerobics and will be offering a broader array of sessions in April. While initially sessions will be open to Front Porch participants, we will be opening the program quickly to other North Shore seniors who have difficulty getting out.

In the meantime, we are seeking proposals from individuals willing to volunteer to facilitate a single or multiple session class or activity. Share your talents with others without leaving your own home! Please contact Susan for more information.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What is a Moroccan Dresser?

A recent perusal of a 1917 list of residents of Lynn, MA yielded a startling number of people whose profession was listed as "Moroccan Dresser". A quick Internet search found an opinion that the person might have been someone who prepared Moroccan leather for manufacture into shoes, given the large number of shoe factories at the time in Lynn.

We are in the process of gathering questions for a North Shore trivia game. Discussions about the game have been filled with laughter and reminiscing about the old days, the many movie theaters of Lynn and the days when movie theaters gave out dishes as gifts to movie-goers. If you have some questions you'd like to contribute, please send them along, with their answers please, to


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dreaming of Sunny Italy

While the winter cold has been brutal the last few weeks, we kept warm in our thoughts and stomachs at the January cooking class. The theme of the class was Dreaming of Sunny Italy. Led by La Rabinessa Liora Kelman, the group prepared some delicious food, including minestrone soup, salad, and pizza! For entertainment the North Shore Songsters choir, decked out in hats resembling the Italian flag, performed Italian songs. They were all beautiful singers and we were thrilled to have them at the event! To see what the class was like and hear some of the choir’s performance check out the video posted below. It was lots of fun, so be sure to join us the 10th of February for our next class: Cooking with fruits.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Senior surfers

While surfers have been known to brave the cold Atlantic waters in the area when storms create big waves, even in winter, this post is about surfing the net, which goes on at The Front Porch computer classes every week.

Classes are held at both sites on a weekly basis and are small to allow for individualized instruction. Many people have learned to use a computer for the first time during the classes and some have gone on to purchase their own computers once they've gotten more comfortable with the technology. While most are interested in learning to use email and to "surf the net", others have recently been seeking a peek at the stock market, or have had instant message conversations with grandchildren. Others play games on-line. One woman stopped by recently to learn how to use Skype so she could talk with friends and relatives in Russia and India! The possibilities are endless.

The Front Porch Gives to the Community

Though not many people are aware of it, without a lot of fanfare, participants in The Front Porch have been reaching out to help other people right here on the North Shore and around the world, almost since the program's inception. And much of their work is done right from their own homes.

The trend began several years ago when the Summit Estates knitting group heard about a group that donates hand-knit hats and scarves to children awaiting adoption in Russia. Since that time Knitting for Angels has expanded their reach and now the knitting group's donations are sent worldwide to children who need them. While they continue to knit up many hats to give to Knitting for Angles, over the summer they participated in a project to donate hand-knit dolls for chidlren. More recently they've been making donations to local shelters and churches as well.

The spirit of giving recently gave rise to a hugely successful food drive spearheaded by the Thursday afternoon discussion group at the complex which took place last week. It took nearly three hours to sort through the food donated by the residents, which will go to feed people who frequent three local food pantries. Though it was heavy, tedious work at times, there were a lot of laughs and group shoulder massages to help everyone get through the afternoon! We've already received a thank you from one of the food pantries, so in need of food as the number of people turning to them rises on an almost daily basis.

Dear Summit Group

Thank you so much for your collection and donation to the JfSNS food pantry. We function solely on donations and it is because of the generosity of groups like yours, who go the extra mile so our program can continue to exist and operate. Again on behalf of all of the families we help and you have helped I thank you.
Alyse Barbash
Food Pantry Coordinator
Jewish Family Service