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Brentwood Senior Class in Focus:

The "Oldies but Goodies" Arts and Crafts Program


Brentwood has a variety of options for activities and programs for seniors aged 55+, from the active adult crowd to the ones that are more fragile and elderly. These classes and activities run a whole range from recreational sports like bocce, to learning conversational Spanish, to country line dancing, yoga and taichi, cooking, arts and crafts, board games, book clubs and movie nights, and everything in between. Once every quarter, we at will feature one of these activities, to give our senior readers a chance to peek and hopefully encourage them to join in. There are so many great options around that if you really think about it, there really isn't much excuse to not take advantage!


When I met with Olivia Alvarez, Supervisor for Senior Activities at Brentwood's Parks and Recreation Department, one of the things she requested as a first feature on our website's "55 or Better" Senior Channel is the "Oldies but Goodies" Arts and Crafts Program. And it's easy to see why...


The "Oldies but Goodies" Arts and Crafts Program, now on its 24th year, is probably one of the longest-running programs of the City of Brentwood's Parks and Recreation Department. This program is specifically designed to offer fun and easy activities that are suitable for even the frail elderly who may otherwise find themselves homebound and isolated.


Likewise, the more active seniors can enjoy this program by honing into their craftsmanship skills and at the same time, helping the other seniors. Along with the weekly project, the program also offers music, occasional field trips, guest speakers, bingo, parties, and more.


Joanne Joaquin, the nice, bubbly, passionate class instructor, has been with the program since the beginning. Joanne has a very friendly personality, and knows everyone in her class by heart. She is passionate about arts and crafts, and has worked with seniors of all ages and ability levels on hundreds of projects. "It's great to be spending a lot of time with these seniors - this is probably the most constant thing in my life. It allows me to focus and give back, have fun doing what I like and sharing it with these wonderful people."


Joining Joanne is Bonnie Cosby, another dedicated instructor, who comes from the Liberty Adult Education and has been with the program for over 2 years.



The Oldies but Goodies program is a joint undertaking of the City of Brentwood Parks and Recreation Department and the Liberty Adult Education, and Joanne and Bonnie works perfectly together. "It's scary how well we work together.. we can almost finish each other's sentence", was how Joanne describes it. Spending some time in the class, it's easy to see how they each have their own specialty and passion within arts and crafts, so they rely on each other for these specialties.


The class usually consists of 25-35 seniors, aged anywhere from early-60s to mid-90s. Probably one of the best incentives of joining the class is the camaraderie that develops among the participants. Seniors chat, consult each other, help each other, joke with each other, and even fight with each other like kids. Joanne jokes that she makes it a rule to not allow the seniors to talk about politics. "Politics are not allowed in the conversation. They get into fights like kids and teenagers but they've all developed a bond. They have lasting friendships and they look out for each other."


The group is multi-cultural, and almost everyone takes pride in that - the instructors and quite a few seniors proudly told me, "We are like the United Nations here. We have folks who are originally from all over the US, and we have members from South America, Philippines, Indonesia, China, Africa, Russia, and Bosnia." That certainly makes for an enriching experience among its members. Folks bring some of their arts skills from their cultural heritage into the table.


I went around the class and had a great time chatting with the seniors - they are all fun and friendly and are so willing to indulge me with their opinions. Rita told me that the class provides her with time for herself. "What I like most about this class is that it gives me time. It gives me time to myself and away from the idiot box." She has been in the class for the past 2 years and has completed dozens of projects, which she admits she usually gives away to friends and relatives. "They make nice gifts, and I don't have an unlimited amount of space to keep them anyway." Rose agrees, "I like doing these projects. I'll come here on the weekends too if they have it! It keeps me busy." Homie is one of the younger ones in the group. She says she enjoys the knowledge and the camaraderie that the class provides. "I moved here just recently and I like going to the class because it keeps me busy and I get to meet other people. Everyone is nice."



The classes are held at the Brentwood Senior Activity Center on Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 1-4 p.m. and they run for about 10 weeks at a time. A minimal fee of $5 is charged per session and this includes an afternoon snack. Joanne and Bonnie mentioned that this is actually the first time in its 24 years that they are charging a fee, no thanks to budget cuts at Liberty Adult ducation.


The Brentwood Senior Citizen's Club gives them a lot of support, and this allows them to charge just the minimal fee, but donations are likewise appreciated and go a long way. Joanne mentioned that several years ago, a Brentwood crafts store donated a bunch of good materials to them, and the materials are still being used today. "We don't throw away good stuff. If you're a crafts person, almost anything can be useful at some point."


For more information or to enroll in this class, call the City of Brentwood's Parks and Recreation Department at 925.516.5444 or the Brentwood Senior Activity Center at 925.516.5380. The next 10-week session runs from March 16 - June 2, 2011. Reserve your space soon!



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This article was posted in February 2011 so it may be outdated after some time. Send us a message here if you want to use some of our content for your own site.