When bacteriologist Lena Friedman approached retirement age at her job in a medical laboratory, she decided that if retiring meant doing nothing, she wanted no part of it.
"I was working at the lab and decided to prepare for retirement by going to UCLA to get an Adult Teaching Credential," recalled Friedman, 76, a Palms resident. "After the course work was finished and my retirement started, I went to senior centers in Culver City and Inglewood and started teaching health education. I had a ball. The people are terrific."
Friedman did that for a few years and then looked for something new. She found the Andrus Gerontology Center at USC, the first major center in the nation devoted entirely to the study of gerontology. After 25 years, USC continues to be the only institution with a separate faculty and school for the study of aging.
The multidisciplinary staff covers an extensive range of subjects related to aging, including such things as abilities, the work force, filial relationships and political behavior.
"When I found the Andrus Center I knew it was for me, because it was about people caring for each other," Friedman said. "There was an emphasis on the importance of listening. But most of all, it's about what it means to get older in this society."
Friedman is one of 50 volunteers at the Andrus Center who not only participate in research studies with faculty and students but continue to learn about the aging process through lectures, workshops, and classes.
"It's not enough to educate yourself, you must do, " Friedman said. "The Andrus Center supports us in publishing our research projects, but we give back to the community by being part of a speakers bureau. We're networking all the time."
Recently, Friedman headed a committee of older people who researched health care in foreign countries. The knowledge they have gathered, she says, has made the volunteers better advocates for health care.
Clearly, she greatly enjoys the work.
"It keeps you on your toes. You're using your head, and it's great fun," she said. "It's the inter-generational stuff of working with students and staff that I love."
Talking with Friedman is like being plugged into the reference section of a library. She interrupts the conversation several times and goes to another room to bring back a file overflowing with clippings or favorite poems.
Although the center occupies much of her time, Friedman is active in four senior organizations and takes a literature class.
But her mind is on future projects. "I'm very interested in the way the media presents older people. They don't seem to represent us as we really are--active and participating in society," she said.
She's planning a workshop with the working title, "New Wrinkles in an Aging Society."
What motivates her? Without hesitation, she replies: "What kind of society do I want to hand down to my grandchildren? Look what we're handing down now. It won't do. We need to get closer together as a people and learn more about ethics, justice and a peaceful society."
For more information, write to: Andrus Volunteers, University of Southern California, University Park MC 0191, Los Angeles, 90089-0191; or call Wendy Free at (213) 740-1632. Bulletin Board
Classes--The Freda Mohr Senior Center will present a variety of classes, from exercise to entertainment, for seniors; 330 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles; for classes, times and information: (213) 937-5900 (free).
Holiday Craft Sale--The Culver City Senior Center will sponsor a holiday arts and crafts sale; 4153 Overland Ave., Culver City; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today; information: (213) 202-5856 (free admission).
Retired Teachers--The Santa Monica Bay Division of California Retired Teachers will hold a luncheon meeting; First United Methodist Church, 1008 11th St., Santa Monica; 12:30 p.m. Tuesday; information: (310) 450-7808 ($7).
Legal Aid--Bet Tzedek Legal Services will offer legal advice; Felicia Mahood Senior Multipurpose Center, 11338 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles; Thursday; appointments, information: (310) 479-4119 (free).
Health Care--AARP/Vote will sponsor a forum on health care reform for senior citizens; Los Angeles Valley College, 5800 Fulton St., Van Nuys; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday; for transportation, reservations and information: (213) 293-5293 (free).
Information about events or services can be sent to Seniors Bulletin Board, The Times, 1717 4th St., Suite 200, Santa Monica 90401. Please mail three weeks in advance.