Moldaw's Members Ponder Provocative Issues

What is the science behind having a healthy brain and memory? What ethical issues will medical providers face in the 21st century? What is new in the world of astronomy? How does an ancient wall fresco place the Israelites in Egypt in 1850 B.C.?

Moldaw Residences members ponder these and many other thought-provoking topics at their life plan community’s lively monthly lecture series, Personal Enrichment in Retirement, or PEIR.

The stated goal of PEIR is “to provide intellectual stimulation by sharing areas of personal expertise or interests, and enhancing cultural enrichment and personal growth in the context of a community of peers.” In other words, says Moldaw resident Al Kuhn, who initiated the program in 2011, “it’s information presented by residents for residents. It’s not a speaker’s bureau.”

Al Kuhn, PEIR pioneer.

The former aerospace engineer based PEIR on a group he attended in Long Island, N.Y., where he and his wife, Liliane, lived before moving to Palo Alto, Calif., and into Moldaw. “I discovered we have very interesting residents,” says Al. “I figured it would be one way to informally share our experiences and knowledge.”

Adina Gordon, Bob Rosenzweig, and Sam Kintzer – all who have given PEIR talks – agree.

“Moldaw is full of pretty educated people,” confirms Adina. “The presentations stretch our mind and give us a window, or an eye, into something we may not have understood before.”

Adds Bob, “Hearing people talk gives depth and dimension to our experience at Moldaw.”

PEIR presentations to date have covered literature, technology, economics, travel, and music – a rich range that Sam Kintzer endorses and appreciates. “The topics are unpredictable, highly variable, and highly interesting.”

Eighty-three-year-old Al Kuhn has been called “the soul and spirit” of PEIR. He and Liliane, 78, moved into the community in 2010, “in the second wave of Moldaw pioneers,” he quips. In his former life at Grumman Aerospace (“I was literally a rocket scientist there,” he says), he was involved in projects with space vehicles, such as the lunar module. It is therefore no surprise that his first PEIR talk was entitled The Apollo Program: Man Landing on the Moon.

Partners in life, Liliane and Al Kuhn have also given a joint PEIR presentation, Paris and Lyon: A Tale of Two Cities.

Liliane was born in Paris, grew up in Lyon, and was a hidden child in the four years France was occupied by the Nazis. Al and Liliane gave a joint, subject-matter related PEIR presentation, Paris and Lyon: A Tale of Two Cities. Recently, Al talked about the newest discoveries in astronomy. “Both my wife and I are fascinated by the field,” he says.

Researching and preparing the talks keep one’s mind sharp, Al believes. “My favorite part of a presentation is when residents ask questions,” he confesses. “It means they stayed awake and alert, and were interested.”

Sam Kintzer not only captures attention with his talks, he also captures images. These photographs are his own work.

Sam Kintzer has lived at Moldaw for four years. A Michigan-based clinical psychologist and professor before his move to California (“to get out of the snow”) Sam, 94, says two things in particular motivate him to be a PEIR presenter. First, he really enjoys teaching, and second, “In my study of the brain, it was very apparent from many research studies that, to keep your mind healthy, you have to challenge yourself.”

Explaining that he is especially interested in cognitive science, Sam gave his first delivery on the organization of the brain and memory loss. “Because of popular demand, this talk was repeated for those who hadn’t heard it previously,” he recalls.

Sam cites daily exercise, an active social life, following a Mediterranean diet, and challenging himself mentally for his own well-being. “People eating meals together, like they do at Moldaw, is one of the most beneficial activities,” he advocates. “You can’t predict the topic of conversation around the table, which means it’s a veritable challenge to your mind if you’re going to actively participate.”

Adina Gordon gave up a full life in Manhattan (“the best possible place to live”) because she felt it was time to be closer to her daughter. The 87-year-old art historian says she misses her connections in the field “almost more than anything.” However, in the three years since she moved into Moldaw, she has found “benefits and life on the campus, including the co-located Oshman Family Jewish Community Center. Jewish living is very important to me. My life is full again.”

Liliane Kuhn and Adina Gordon have connected beyond PEIR meetings. Their friendship flourishes during the regular walks they take together.

Adina’s first presentation for PEIR was based on a large tapestry that hangs on the wall outside her Moldaw apartment. Created by her late husband, Yitz Gordon, it is a copy of a painted wall fresco from a tomb in ancient Egypt. “As I’m a professional art historian, I gave my PEIR presentation as a fully illustrated PowerPoint lecture,” she says. The tapestry depicts Egyptians dressed in white linen garments and foreigners in multicolored robes, like the biblical Joseph. Scholars have determined that the foreigners were the early Israelites who came to Egypt to escape a famine in Canaan, she explains.

Adina plans to do more presentations, perhaps covering the places she has traveled, such as Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.

“My PEIR presentations are about whatever’s on my mind,” says 85-year-old Bob Rosenzweig. His diverse talks have dealt with ethics in the practice of medicine, presidential rhetoric, and controversy surrounding vaccinations. A former political science professor and vice president of Public Affairs at Stanford University, Bob and his wife moved to Moldaw five years ago. Although he admits it was a difficult decision initially, when they decided to make this lifestyle change, “Moldaw Residences fit our needs, both financially and because of the openness of the people here.”

Bob Rosenzweig favors talking about whatever is on his mind at the time. His presentations always provide food for thought, too.

For his talk on presidential rhetoric, Bob looked back on history. He quoted Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address “for its depth of thought and beauty of the language.” As for his next presentation, he is thinking about discussing CRISPR, the genome-editing technology recently in the news. “If changes to the genome of living cells can be done, it’ll be done,” he says. “The question is, can it be controlled? It’s a very interesting subject.”

It is that kind of ongoing interest and inquiry, and the myriad opportunities available at Moldaw, that keep the similarly fascinating residents stimulated, engaged, and connected.

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