Scoping out the senior scene
Why take Max Izenberg’s advice on what’s going on around town? Because the retired nutritionist knows what’s good for you.
Izenberg built her career on helping people and being well-informed, qualities she’s found useful in gathering and sharing information with an extended community of Los Angeles-area seniors through Suddenly 65, her weekly online newsletter.
“While there are many sites for seniors, nobody is doing what I do in terms of the different kinds of information offered,” Izenberg said. “Furthermore, the senior sites I came across were written for a national audience and often heavily consist of links to other senior-oriented sites. My newsletter differs in that it is custom-designed for the local L.A. audience, so the readers have specific, accessible resources and activities at their fingertips.”
The San Fernando Valley resident’s dose of events, health tips and consumer information (such as warnings against online scams directed at seniors) is sent every Thursday by subscription to nearly 6,000 people. New subscribers coming to Suddenly65.com are greeted with a video of the energetic 70-something explaining how to sign up for a subscription for access to the latest happenings for seniors, especially in the area between Burbank and Thousand Oaks.
“My mantra is that we cannot help getting older, but we don’t have to be ‘old,’ ” Izenberg said as she contemplated her second career, launched in February 2012 with her first online newsletter. It was an instant success, winning the Los Angeles Daily News’ Readers’ Choice award two years running for favorite boomer/senior newsletter.
“If you’re sitting at home doing nothing, you are going to get old,” Izenberg continued. “Without any social interaction, the experience of aging can be terrible. Boomers and seniors want to get out because they are vital, healthy and naturally curious about life. Sometimes, all they need to do is find out what’s happening in their backyard. What my newsletter does is help them do just that when planning ahead for the weekend or the following week.”
The New Jersey native raised four children in the Valley and spent a dozen years in Las Vegas with her husband of 58 years, Jerry, before returning to the area and finding her social landscape drastically changed. A number of old friends had died or moved away. Although it seemed like a simple Internet search should help the active couple connect with new friends and find enlightening activities, they found the Web remarkably lacking in “Meet Up”-type groups and social networking for people over 50.
“When I Googled ‘social resources for seniors,’ I found nursing homes,” Izenberg recalled, surprise still resonating in her voice. “When I had gotten in touch with friends still living in the area, they told me they were also having a hard time finding interesting things to do. As returning long-term Los Angeles residents, we knew there had to be things out there for us.”
After pondering the situation for two months, Izenberg came up with the idea of starting a newsletter for boomers and seniors filled with leads to events and useful information. Since then, she’s found that the process of putting the letter together, with support and feedback from Jerry and her readers, keeps her “feeling as if I’m still in my 20s.”
Although she regularly gets tips from readers, she also exhaustively researches everything going on in communities throughout Los Angeles, from music performances to free movie screenings, live theater, dancing clubs and classes, and various activities staged at libraries, community centers and other public venues. She also networks with neighborhood councils, chambers of commerce and fellow members of JNET, a Jewish professional networking organization, to uncover leads. Izenberg even does some in-the-field research.
“When I first started the newsletter, I got a tip about the San Fernando Valley Symphony Orchestra having something going on at Canoga Park Bowl [a bowling alley now known as Winnetka Bowl],” she said. “It sounded strange at first, so I told my husband we should check it out before putting it in the newsletter. It turned out to be one of the most fun evenings we ever had. James Domine, a music professor at Pierce College and San Fernando Valley Symphony Orchestra’s music director, had a band performing at Canoga Park Bowl. We went, and the entire audience was people our age. This is exactly the kind of thing my readers are looking for.”
Her other criteria for inclusion in Suddenly 65 are that events be open to the whole public — in other words, grandchildren — and have low or no cost of admission. She recently added a list of museums in greater Los Angeles with free admission; some theaters and venues even offer Suddenly 65 readers discounts on tickets and admission.
Izenberg’s goal is to help subscribers make the most of what’s going on in their community.
“My readers are learning, for example, that a library is more than just a place to [borrow] a book, through the wonderful activities scheduled, such as lectures, computer-education classes and live performances,” she said.
“Suddenly65.com is a valuable tool for our readers, not just for a better daily life, but also for situations like finding memorable places to take friends and family coming into town. The sky is the limit for my readers — all we need to do is put it in front of them.”