Chinese Exclusion, the Vintage Years and Cat Yoga

The hotel receptionist was correct when she said that San Francisco is ‘a city of four seasons in one day’. Yesterday, we had sunshine, rain, hail and a fresh breeze. A lot like home…although I’ve missed out on the snow that caused havoc and brought much of the UK and Ireland to a halt this week.

Chinese Exclusion Act 1882

In recent months, I’ve had opportunities to learn something of the complex and harrowing histories of African Americans and Native Americans. Visits to the San Francisco Jewish Community Center, across the road from the hotel, remind me of the atrocities committed against Jewish people and also offer cause for hope.

I knew nothing of the experience of Chinese labourers and the fact that, for 60 years, they were denied entry to the United States. Earlier this week I went to a showing of a documentary by Ric Burns and Li Shi Yu on the Chinese Exclusion Act which detailed discrimination, directed specifically at Chinese immigrants. In the discussion that followed the documentary, members of the local Chinese community shared family stories of the impact of the Act. One young man reminded the audience that discrimination exists today and we need to learn from the past (see https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/chinese.html).

[Sign on window of San Francisco café]

The Vintage Years

This week I’ve also been steeped in positive images of ageing in reading material such as ‘the Vintage Years; Finding your Inner Artist…’ and ‘The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Later Half of Life’. I came across the wonderful story of Matty Kahn, who learnt to play the cello at 89. I recommend you check this out (see http://www.virtuosodocufilm.com/). Perhaps it is never too late to learn new tricks?

I decided I have more of a liking for ‘vintage’ – like a fine wine – than for ‘veteran’, ‘aged’ or ‘elder’. What is your preference?

A visit to an octogenarian friend in the sumptuous Life Plan community of the San Francisco Towers (see https://www.jtm-esc.org/san-francisco-towers/ ) provided an insight into a high quality community which enables residents to transition in situ – from independent living with full engagement in a busy social and cultural calendar of events – to assisted living and full care provision.

James Johnson (Aging Today Jan-Feb 2018) distinguished between elders who ‘were rich and young at heart’ and those who were ‘poor and weak-of-limb’. Johnson said that too much innovation is focused on the first group and that ‘philanthro-capitalism’ should prioritise age-friendly homes for all. In the weeks to come, I will be visiting other care facilities and meeting people who have pioneered positive approaches to elder care provision, including one that originated in the Chinese community here.

Cat Yoga

So when is she going to get to the ‘cat yoga’? I hear cat lovers amongst you shout…

I was struck by the quirkiness and cleverness of a ‘special SPCA “pop-up” event’ in San Francisco which involved yoga with cats, as reported in a local newspaper. The yoga teacher allegedly said ‘Enjoy the kitties all around you. Take it all in. Try to stay centered’ (see https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Cats-and-yoga-It-s-a-stretch-but-it-works-12714402.php).

There was method in this seeming madness as the SPCA had an agenda: ‘to get the humans to fall in love with the critters and take them home’ (SPCA – https://www.sfspca.org/).

Could such a strategy work elsewhere? What do you think?

There seems less chance of the enthusiasm for yoga with goats, as expressed by one class participant, catching on beyond California.

Next week I will report on the ‘Ethics of Caring’ conference I am attending in Los Angeles.