Sunday, October 25, 2015

Meet the New Director of WMSC's "Prime Time Players"

by Rosabelle Tifft

Jack Kuchta, husband of WMSC Board Chair Irene, is the new director of the former Senior College Players, which he has renamed the Prime Time Players.

Jack admits that his stage experience - until he joined the Players a few years ago - consisted of a chorus part in a high school musical. But he makes up for it with his passion to enjoy what he does and inspires others to do so as well. This is reflected in his leadership of the Players, many of whom have been with the troupe since it started nine years ago. “They are a great experienced group of actors and do all the work,” he said, “and everyone pitches in and enjoys it.”

Jack studied many plays during the summer and came up with four short comedies that he tagged “What goes ‘round, comes ‘round.” “They remind us that people aren’t always what they appear to be at first encounter,” he said.

Jack will perform as the announcer and sound technician in one of the plays, “The Bickersons,” an adaption of the Dec. 27, 1946 radio broadcast of The Bickersons. It features Jim McLean and Rosabelle Tifft as The Bickersons, who seem to be able to turn anything into a verbal war. Jack said it will be performed as it would have been in 1946, live and on the air.

Jim McLean, Jack Kuchta and Rosabelle Tifft rehearse "The Bickerson's"
Watch for the remaining three plays to be featured in future issues of the blog. The performance will take place at 7:00 pm on Nov. 20 and 21 at the Gould Academy McLaughlin Auditorium.

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Beating the Odds: Maintaining Heart and Brain Health

by Mary Haberman

“Healthier Habits for a Healthier You,” the latest To Your Health program, took place on October 22nd, sponsored by the Western Mountains Senior College, SAD 44 Adult Ed, the Bethel Family Health Center, and the Maine Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. This event was a follow-up to a previous Alzheimer’s program and was presented by Mark Pechenik, Director of  Outreach and Engagement for the Maine Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Mark Pechenik speaks with Iris Roberts.

With some 40 in attendance, Mr. Pechenik reviewed the risk factors for the development of dementia, the importance of maintaining heart and brain health, and ways to beat the odds. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s and no guarantees for prevention, the latest research suggests that there are ways to reduce the risk or at least improve quality of life.  One’s predisposition to Alzheimer’s Disease can be affected by genes, environment, lifestyle, and age, with age being the strongest determinant. Among the risk factors are high cholesterol, diabetes, stroke, head injuries, and depression.  

The one factor that we can change is lifestyle. Pechenik suggests that people Develop A Plan, which should include 1) cognitive activity (puzzles, learning a language); 2) physical activity (avoid TV); 3) sound eating habits (the Mediterranean Diet); and 4) social engagement. It is wise to start slowly, do things you enjoy, reward yourself, and enlist the aid of friends to stick with The Plan.

Mr. Pechenik gave anecdotal information about his ongoing work with early-stage Alzheimer’s groups and summarized by stressing the importance of getting information from professionals rather than some questionable website. The presentation was informative and well received.

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Age-Friendly Community Project Link

We have created a link to news of the important Age-Friendly Community Project that is being launched.  Just click on the tab at the top of the blog (it's the last one).  Please read entries from both last week and this week. If you have not completed and returned a survey, please pick one up and send it on.  We’d like to have them by November 6th – which is coming right up!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Rockin’ Seniors

by Kay Larson

Jim Mann identifies Andrew Peacock's (of Newry) specimen.  photo Kay Larson
A recent Senior College rock event involved neither music nor rocking chairs. Jim Mann, local artist, jeweler and owner of Mt. Mann Jewelers in Bethel, gave a Down Home Maine presentation on “Rock Hounding in Maine” to around 35 participants. He shared how he was drawn to study rocks as a pre-teen, fostered this interest in high school, and had a fairly “lucrative” business going before he graduated from Gould Academy.

Through show-and-tell sharing, he displayed the tools of rock hounds, spoke about the minerals of western Maine, passed around beautiful samples of gems and minerals, and welcomed the challenge of identifying a specimen brought in by an audience member. In western Maine, Jim said, a mineral collector with moderate skill can find 30-40 different species.

Western Maine has 60-100 mines, now mostly privatized. Generally, Jim shared, rock collectors work long and hard for their finds, and mining history doesn’t show a lot of reward for landowners. A lot can be learned from field collectors who are willing to share, and connecting with one of Maine’s seven mineral clubs can also be advantageous as one learns the skills.

Three days later, Jim took nine students on a field trip to Mt. Apatite near Auburn to demonstrate his techniques and encourage both newbies and experienced rock hounds at a “dig.” By his former experience at the site and knowing what minerals are found together, Jim was able to reveal “treasure” where an untrained hiker would only see boulders or piles of discarded rocks. 

Mt. Apatite field trip  photo Lee Smith
Intrepid rock hounds   photo Lee Smith

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Monday, October 5, 2015

Congratulations, Bonnie Pooley!

Bonnie Pooley at Step Falls.
Hearty congratulations to Bonnie Pooley, who will be honored this week by the Natural Resources Council of Maine; their People’s Choice Award notes “her outstanding success in engaging young people in the work of protecting Maine’s environment.” Bonnie is grateful for all who supported her in this selection and says that the award “means a lot to me. It validates all the work I have been doing over fifty years to make our community (and the world) a better, healthier place to live. I also see myself as a representative of the many, many others who are tirelessly contributing in our small, positive ways.”

Bonnie’s environmental experience began on the very first Earth Day (April, 1970), when she organized her young environmentalist students at Mount Pleasant High School in Delaware for a day of learning about environmental issues.

In 1973 she came to Gould Academy, partly because of Maine residents Scott and Helen Nearing, gurus of the Back to the Land movement, whom she later visited with a group of students. In her 35 years at Gould she organized Earth Day celebrations and started Gould Goes Green. Since her retirement, her passion has been directed toward protecting treasured lands from development through the Mahoosuc Land Trust and growing local food to encourage healthy eating in western Maine communities.

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at