Events for seniors this fall at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center include lectures by authors, doctors, historians and some Argentine tango.
The JCC throws open its doors to the broader community with its Community Tuesdays series that features exercise classes, a weekly lecture and even a once-a-month musical performance combined with lunch. Participants can pay at the door and do not have to be a JCC member.
"It's open to anyone with time during the day," said Michelle Rosengaus, the JCC's adult program manager. "It can be newly retired people, caregivers, people in transition between jobs, parents whose kids are in school and we do get a lot of seniors."
Lecturers in the coming month include Stanford University geriatrician Mehrdad Ayati on graceful aging, theater educator Bonnie Weiss on Gene Kelly and businessman-turned-author Alan Fleishman on Jewish forgiveness in post-Nazi Germany.
Tangonero, a San Francisco-based ensemble dedicated to preserving the tradition of Argentine tango, will perform arrangements covering a broad scope of tango history on Nov. 17.
Rosengaus, a transportation consultant and 30-year resident of Palo Alto, switched careers to join the JCC's staff eight years ago, when the agency was still located at Cubberley Community Center. Working at that time in an office trailer, she was asked to create older-adult programming for the soon-to-be-opened new campus.
"We started using our imaginations to see what we could create in this space while it was being built," she recalled.
"We held focus groups with different groups of seniors older seniors, baby boomers, males, couples, women. Men were very open in saying they didn't have enough social activities, ways of interacting with each other. They're not like women who form committees and are very involved.
"So they came up with the idea of forming a men's breakfast club, and they've been a huge success. It's open to everyone and it's free and they meet in our cafe every Tuesday morning from 8-9:30," she said.
Rosengaus developed the Community Tuesday program as a way to encourage older adults to stay and socialize on the JCC campus after a class. Drop-in prices at the door are $15 for lectures and $20 for concerts, for both members and nonmembers. Punch cards, which are good for 10 activities, cost $115 for nonmembers and $95 for JCC members.
"The idea of Community Tuesdays is to have people stay around," said JCC volunteer Hilda Korner, who runs a free weekly Mah Jongg group on Tuesday afternoons. "They don't just walk in for an hour and then leave the site. It's a way of keeping community for more than just one event."
In addition to the weekly lectures and monthly concerts, Rosengaus runs regular bus outings for adults 65-plus to art or nature venues of interest, including the Carmel Bach Festival, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the elephant seals at Ano Nuevo. In September, a bus group visited "Disney and Dali: Architects of the Imagination" at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. In November, seniors can invite family members along for the bus trip to the traditional Irish music and dance show Riverdance in San Jose.
Rosengaus is constantly scouting for program ideas, typically securing tickets far in advance. She already has summer 2016 tickets for the San Francisco Opera performance of Leos Janacek's "Jenufa."
In organizing the monthly concerts, she makes an effort to feature Bay Area groups, sometimes including her own daughter, mezzo soprano Deborah Rosengaus.
The Tuesday lecturers in the past have featured speakers such as Computer History Museum board chair Len Shustek, art historian Brigid Barton and Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosen.
"People come and enjoy the lectures, but also people from the community ask me if they can lecture and share their expertise," Rosengaus said.
"We have a lot of retired people who are on their second career. Maybe they've started writing books, and when their novels are printed they come and talk. A retired lawyer will give a series on famous trials.
"People keep sending me ideas," she said. "It's really a heartwarming program."