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Jun 142016

A great TED Talk companion to the SagePresence work we do in Evolve.

“Have you ever felt like you’re talking, but nobody is listening? Here’s Julian Treasure to help. In this useful talk, the sound expert demonstrates the how-to’s of powerful speaking — from some handy vocal exercises to tips on how to speak with empathy. A talk that might help the world sound more beautiful.”

Aug 032015

Wendy DankoWith age and experience comes wisdom . . . and plenty of grist for good advice.

Wendy Danko, a participant in the current Evolve class at Wilder Center, sees a huge opportunity for older adults to rediscover their creative selves and, at the same time, pass along something of value to future generations.

Wendy is owner of Wendy Danko Graphic Arts, Incorporated and, with the help of the Evolve class, has formed The Advice Project. The project helps people share their thought, insights and advice in visual form. According to Wendy, “putting ideas to art, like words to music, opens whole new frontiers and is a fun way to get people involved in conversation.”

Using a unique process that she created, Wendy guides participants in her workshops to make beautiful and expressive combinations of words and images. She starts by asking participants to ponder the question: “What advice would I give my younger self?” Participants walk away with art journaling skills that they can use in keeping a personal art journal long after the class.
Learn to play an instrument
—Pat, aged 54

Laugh. . .breath deeply, follow your
own path, use sunscreen, don’t
push the river, beware of the tide.

—Echo, aged 65

Many people find an increased interest in creativity as they age. This is often a time of fewer demands from family and career and greater opportunity for reflection. Being creative can be good for you too. According to Wendy’s research people who engage in creative activities are better problem solvers. Creativity also seems to strengthen the immune system and speed recovery of injuries and disease (Cohen, 2000). “More research is needed but the results so far are promising,” says Wendy.

Wendy is building a website for the project: www.TheAdviceProject.org, which will be up and running later this spring. She has schedule two pilot sessions in senior housing settings and the project will be in full swing by summer 2013. For more information contact Wendy at wendy@wendydanko.com.

Aug 032015

Salo concert photoWhat’s a summer without a concert in the park? That’s the question Jan Fillmore asked last fall when she started the Evolve class. She knew that music was an essential element of a good quality of life in a community.

St. Anthony Village has hosted the Salo Park Summer Concert Series for several years. Residents of the area run the series and this year, Jan was the chair of a small committee charged with planning it. Jan had ambitious goals: Increase the ethnic diversity of the music, increase publicity, increase attendance, and improve overall satisfaction with the concerts.

The series ended last Thursday on a high note with Ecuador Manta, an Andean band with traditional rhythms from south America and pan flutes echoing over the pond on a beautiful summer evening.

The series included community bands, smaller ensembles, and soloists, and represented a variety of musical genres: folk, country, rock, blues, pop, jazz and classical. “The Salo Park amphitheater is a favorite venue for many of these groups who want to return year after year; we have more groups who want to play here than we have space for with a 10-concert series,” says Jan.

“We increased the number of people at this year’s concerts compared to last year by 20 percent,” says Jan. “People loved the variety in the music. We received many very positive comments. By all measures it was a success. I was grateful for the support my Evolve classmates provided in keeping me on track in the planning process. Now on to next year!”

Aug 032015

“I am so excited about being a part of something that makes such a significant impact on kids,” says Judy Harvey, a retired IT professional and 2014 Evolve grad.

Judy’s Evolve project is to work with the Saint Paul Public Schools Foundation to support the Inspired Educator Grant Program. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports the students, teachers and schools in the St. Paul School District.

Connecting to Passions

When Judy approached them, the foundation had awarded twelve 2013 Inspired Educator grants, and wonderful work was underway. They were concerned because they did not have the resources to tell the stories about the exciting activities and the real outcomes the program was producing.

Judy offered her skills and talents as a project manager to collect the stories. She will interview and take photos of each grant recipient. She will package the info for each teacher, ready for the foundation to prepare communications for the public, school officials and funders and summarize results for future use in evaluating grant applications.

The project has be a resounding success both for Judy and for the Foundation. Judy has been invited to participate on the Foundation’s Grant-making Committee and assist with a new gallery space displaying student art.

Life Changing Experiences

“The Evolve class has changed me and changed my life,” says Judy. “I’ve made new friends and I have developed rewarding work around my life-long passion for reading.”

These are examples of the exceptional work being done under the Inspired Educator Grant program:

popular-books-2web_302AGAPE High School
AGAPE provides a supportive educational environment for pregnant teens and teen moms so they can complete high school and continue into post-secondary education. Inspired Teacher, Anna Maria Gaylord, planned to replace their old, tired collection of books with high interest books that appeal to students—both for themselves and their small children.

The goal was to create reading as a way of life. The project encourages students to increase the time spent reading, to have a book of interest always with them, to talk about books, and to read to their children.

According to Gaylord, “street lit” simply flies off the shelves. “Some stories are rather rough, but the girls are reading and are excited about reading.”

Central High School
The 10th grade English class is generally made up of students who struggle with being successful students. Some come into class as lower-level readers and writers, some have higher-skill levels but lack motivation, some are students of the English language and some come into the classroom with habits that make performing well academically difficult for them. Because of these factors, the tenth grade English class is generally thought of as very challenging.

English teacher, Anthony Jacob’s project is to have each student write every day and then publish a personally powerful piece of polished writing that they are proud to share with their community. He will compile the writings into a book that will be made available to the school and the local neighborhood library. The goal is that at least 75% will self-reflect and self-identify as authors. At the beginning of the year, only 10% did so.

phalenlake-stills-loadedweb_300Phalen Lake Elementary
Of the 730 students at Phalen Lake Elementary in grades pre-K-5, 94% qualify for free or reduced-fee lunch and 80% are English Language Learners. The focus at the school is teaching cross-cultural competency through studying Hmong culture and history.

Pang Kang’s and May Lee Xiong’s project is to integrate technology and culture by collecting folktales and presenting them in a movie format.  Four 5th grade classes with 100 participants will compete in the project. The school will host an Academy Awards at the end of the school year and the best film-makers will receive Oscars.

Aug 032015

Kris Gjerde, PT, MPH, kicked off a Parkinson Wellness Recovery (PWR!) class, http://www.pwr4life.org, in January 2015, at the St. Paul Parks & Recreation in Highland Park.

As a person with Parkinson’s, Kris had searched for a high level PWR! class in the East Metro area without success. As she considered project ideas for the Evolve class, she kept coming back to her desire to have PWR! classes accessible to St. Paul residents. Unable to let go of her passion, Kris decided to make an ongoing commitment to PWR!

Participants with and without Parkinson disease routinely attend her class, determined to actively invest in their health. A survey of participants conducted after week six, provide insights into the value of the program:

pwr_158“I like moving a lot and using my brain at the same time!”
“This class would be good for everyone!”
“I have more energy.”
“I sleep better.”

Kris Gjerde’s exercise classes apply the Basic 4 | PWR! Moves™, created by neuroscientist, Dr. Becky Farley. This class is designed to increase balance, flexibility and posture, improve gait and prevent falls. Research has proven that when implemented correctly, exercise can slow the progression of many key Parkinson’s related symptoms and greatly improve the quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease. All adults are welcome.

For more information, contact Kris Gjerde at kgjerde@gmail.com

Jul 132015

Mark Skeie and I, Julie Roles, had the pleasure of meeting Neil Baker, MD, today in a telephone conference. We were impressed with his thoughts on dealing with tensions that arise in community leadership. No matter where you are in your leadership journey, I think you will find this article interesting and informative.

Baker notes that conflict occurs frequently in public life. “One common trap in such situations is to assume that if we act rationally, fairly, without blame, and with calm emotions, then others will or should automatically follow our lead with their behavior. But, the stress of interpersonal difficulties causes everyone, at times, to fall into unproductive relational patterns. This can happen even when people have the best of intentions and skills. Starting with expectations that everyone will always act according to their best values puts us at substantial risk for disappointment or anger and then falling into our own problematic communication and behavior.”

Read the article.

Feb 152015

David Carr, The New York Times media columnist who died unexpectedly Thursday night, offered many lessons for life. Among them is this on developing your own voice: “Who you are and what you have been through should give you a prism on life that belongs to you only.”  Last fall he joined the faculty at Boston University and the syllabus for his class, “Press Play,” is available online. I am looking forward to digging into it. I think you will find it interesting, too.

Feb 012015

This is the second of a series of installments entitled: Fitting Exercise into Your Daily Routine

Twenty years ago, I took lessons in hip hop dancing, which employs muscles I was not accustomed to using. My dance instructor recognized this immediately and taught me dynamic stretches, which are slow and continuous movements unlike static stretches where you hold each pose for a while. One particular stretch seemed to loosen my back and chest in a way no other stretch has, so I have performed it ever since, most every day.

In Part 1 of this series, I suggested you not fret about the duration or intensity of your workouts as you begin; just start with a little something and do it several times a day. Work a few muscles in the morning while you swish mouthwash or get dressed and then maintain that exercise mindset by doing chair or office exercises during sedentary portions of your day.

Tips for Getting Started

Like me, you can learn exercises from fitness trainers, dance instructors, or exercise classes. Here are some other ideas to get you started:

  • Search online or at the library. Good online resources are youtube.com and www.amazon.com. Search on terms such as “chair exercise,” “office exercise,” or “workplace exercise” and you will find sources for a multitude of exercises.
  • Look for exercises using hand weights, ankle weights, and resistance bands once you feel ready to increase your strength.
  • Pick just a few exercises that appeal to you and seem feasible in the space you have.
  • Methodically practice each exercise while looking at the book or video until you have it correct and committed to muscle memory.
  • Add a couple new exercises every 2-3 weeks, gradually developing a repertoire that works a variety of muscle groups.
  • Discard exercises that lose their appeal. Retain only those that meet your needs.

Sources That I Recommend

I recently reviewed a number of books, DVDs, and videos under the subject headings mentioned above. Here are four that I recommend. The first two are YouTube videos you can click on and play. The last two are at the Hennepin County Library and can be obtained from your library, via inter-library loan if need be.

  • 5-5-5 Chair Workout with Lawrence Biscontini (YouTube video). This is a good 15-minute aerobic and strength workout in a chair. (Thanks to Mia Bremer, owner of Ablebodies and a Vital Aging Network board member, for this suggestion.)

  • Priority One – Getting Started – 106 by Alexis Mason (YouTube video). This video offers 27 minutes of good, beginning chair exercises.

  • Office Yoga: Moderate Exercises in Your Cubicle (DVD) by Danielle Scane.[1] In 20 minutes, this DVD demonstrates a remarkable repertoire of exercises, performed in a cramped office cubicle.
  • Stretching In The Office (Book) by Bob Anderson,2 a good source for stretching exercises designed to be done in an office setting.

A word of caution: Not all sources provide the guidance you need to avoid injury. Here’s one pointer: Do not ad lib with hand weights; do only the exercises shown to you by skilled trainers. It may be safest to avoid videos where the instructors mostly smile and groove to the music as they exercise. Good instructors may get into the music but you’ll see that their focus is really on instruction, and they offer frequent tips and precautions as they demonstrate their exercises.

New Office Workstations

Standing and height-adjustable workstations have been available for some time; treadmill, cycling, and elliptical workstations are now being developed. The research on these suggests improvement in mood, depression, overall fatigue, and musculoskeletal discomfort, but other results—on worker satisfaction, boredom, stress reduction, productivity, and ability to concentrate—are still preliminary.

Watch for Part 3 of this series next week, ”Time-Saving Workouts.”


John SandgrenJohn Sandgren is a recent Evolve grad and a member of the Vital Aging Network’s Wellness 50+ Design Team. We are pleased to have his contribution to our knowledge base about how to age well. Thanks to Marcia Robert, MPH, for editorial assistance on this article.





1 Scane D. Office Yoga: Moderate Exercises in Your Cubicle (DVD). Costa Mesa, CA: Danielle Scane, 2009.

[2] Anderson B. Stretching In The Office (Book). Bolinas, CA: Bob and Jean Anderson and Shelter Publishers, Inc, 2002.

Jan 162015
people working as a team

Olimpia Zagnoli

Thomas W. Malone and Christopher Chabris; The New York Times, January 16, 2015.

Are some groups, like some people, reliably smarter than others? The authors of this article set out to answer that question. They found three traits in the smartest team:

  1. Members contribute more equally.
  2. Members score higher on a test called “Reading the Mind in the Eyes.”
  3. The teams have more women.

Read the full article.

Dec 212014

Woman stretchingIt’s well-documented that people who were sedentary during their young or middle years of life are much more likely to remain sedentary as they age. Fitting exercise into a daily routine for the first time represents major change; conscious repetition is the key to establishing a new habit like this.

Chapters 4 and 5 of the HHS Guidelines offer some examples of how you might incorporate exercise into your daily schedule.[1] Also, my new series coming in a couple weeks will provide practical tips for adding exercise to a busy schedule.

Things to consider as you start each day:

  • When you choose to exercise outdoors, pick safe times of the day when lighting is good, ground conditions are acceptable, and temperatures are not extreme. For running or jumping, look for shock-absorbing surfaces like natural turf and playgrounds.
  • If you do exercise in hot temperatures, pay attention to rest, shade, and drinking enough fluids.
  • Find a safe place to exercise – places that are well-lighted and maintained (no litter, no broken windows, no holes in the ground), places where other people are present. Separate yourself from motor vehicles.
  • For those with serious medical conditions or disabilities, the safest place to exercise may be a supervised setting.
  • Allow some minutes for warm-up and cool-down. Most of us aren’t fit enough to count these minutes as aerobic exercise, so these minutes must be in addition to our aerobic minutes. However, a cool-down with stretches can meet the flexibility portion of your workout requirement (Part 6).

Remember, you are doing something important here, so important that The American Heart Association made this sweeping statement in its most recent exercise recommendation for older adults: “Given the breadth and strength of the evidence, physical activity should be one of the highest priorities for preventing and treating disease and disablement in older adults.”[2] (2) (Boldface emphasis is mine.)

A large study of 252,925 men and women, aged 50-71, who lived in 6 states across America in 1995, showed many of the benefits of exercise we’ve reviewed in this series. But one particularly striking benefit was, the people who watched more than 2 hours of television or video per day were observed to have a 50 percent reduction in mortality over 5 years if they self-reported at least 3 hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week plus at least 1 additional hour of vigorous-intensity exercise per week.[3] Now, self-reporting on questionnaires is a somewhat unreliable way of collecting data, because people tend to over-report how much they exercise. But the point remains, exercise clearly reduced mortality in TV and video watchers, so I suspect it will do the same for those of us who sit 2 or more hours a day at a computer.

Which begs the question . . . have you taken your exercise pill today?


Read other entries in this series. Download a pdf of the entire Exercise as a Pill series.

John SandgrenJohn Sandgren is a recent Evolve grad and a member of the Vital Aging Network’s Wellness 50+ Design Team. We are pleased to have his contribution to our knowledge base about how to age well.



1 Department of Health and Human Services, 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2008.

[2] Nelson M, Rejeski W, Blair S, et al. Physical Activity and Public Health in Older Adults, Recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Circulation 2007: 116:1094.

[3] Leitzmann M, Park Y, Blair A, et al. Physical Activity Recommendations and Decreased Risk of Mortality. Arch Intern Med 2007; 167:2453.

Dec 132014

A beautifully produced video about how we all have a role to play in addressing the inequities in our world. Produced by the Community Knowledge Project.

Oct 302014

This is the first of a series of eight installments related to physical fitness entitled: Think of Exercise as a Pill that Promotes Long Life and a Whole Lot More. New entries on this topic will appear weekly for next eight weeks.

Woman stretchingI’d like to make a point that may impress you. Think for a minute about the multitude of chronic diseases and the wonderful drugs that have been developed for them. When a drug company discovers a new drug that promises to cut flare-ups of a chronic disease by 30 percent, this is considered a drug worth pursuing, worth investing hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars to bring to market. Drugs don’t have to stamp out symptoms in 100 percent of sufferers to generate big profits. A 30 percent drop in the likelihood of suffering worsening disease draws rapt attention in the drug world.

Well, the risk of dying from any cause (“all-cause mortality”) among people who exercise regularly is also cut by 30 percent, actually more like 20-40 percent in most studies and by 50 percent in a few.1 In other words, free and simple exercise is just as potent, and sometimes more potent, than are many of these expensive medications.

Please understand that control of chronic diseases and prevention of death are two different things, so I’m not advocating you substitute exercise for any medications you may need. What I am saying is that if drug companies could bottle regular exercise, they’d be all over it, their television ads would be incessant, and they’d charge big bucks for it!

The studies that have demonstrated the potency of exercise are observational studies where researchers take groups of people (some who exercise a lot, some who exercise a little, and some who exercise not at all) and follow them over time. These studies go on for anywhere from 5 to 25 years and during that time, the researchers observe to see how many study subjects die, how many have strokes or heart attacks, how many get diabetes, how many get cancer, etc.

Observational studies are not as definitive as randomized, controlled trials; observational studies cannot prove that one thing causes another. Well-done randomized, controlled trials have the power to prove causation but observational studies do not; they can only observe that people who exercise regularly live longer. However, the observational data for exercise is so consistent over so many studies that it’s highly likely exercise plays a major role in preventing death.

Read other entries in this seriesDownload a pdf of the entire Exercise as a Pill series.


[1] Kodama S, Saito K, Tanaka S, et al. Cardiorespiratory Fitness as a Quantitative Predictor of All-Cause Mortality and Cardiovascular Events in Healthy Men and Women. JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) 2009; 301:2024.

Aug 052014

Unhealthy lifestyles have brought on a social epidemic of “diabesity,” says author Mark Hyman, and community-driven solutions may be the only way out. Hyman presented this TED Talk in 2012.

Thanks to Wellness 50+ Oakdale team member, Mark Rubbert, for bringing it to our attention. The goals of VAN’s Wellness 50+ program are similar to those of  The Daniel Plan described in the video. The program teaches self-care and encourages community support for health. Take a look at the video. Continue reading »

Jun 052014

A number of Evolve participants have brought excellent articles and talks to our attention over the past few weeks and we want to share them with you.

Living on Purpose

Paula Span in The New Old Age blog, The New York Times

It turns out that purpose is, on many counts, a good thing to have, long associated with satisfaction and happiness, better physical functioning, even better sleep. “It’s a very robust predictor of health and wellness in old age,” said Patricia Boyle, a neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago. One comment on the article notes, “In retirement, keeping busy is no problem, but feeling like my existence matters is a huge problem.” Recommended by Connie Bowen. Read the Article.

The Tribes We Lead

TED Talk by Seth Godin filmed February 2009

Seth Godin argues the Internet has ended mass marketing and revived a human social unit from the distant past: tribes. Founded on shared ideas and values, tribes give ordinary people the power to lead and make big change. He urges us to do so. Recommended by Heidi Ryan. Listen to the talk.

Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability

TED Talk by Brené Brown filmed June 2010

Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share. Recommended by Sheryl Furness.

Rethinking the Traditional Retirement Community

Stanley Luxenberg, May 30, 2014, The New York Times

People are exploring all sorts of living options as they move from full-time work to retirement. Recommended by Bill Read.  Read the article.

Apr 142014

John-Gardner_Marc-FreedmanMarc Freedman, CEO of Encore.org, wrote this tribute to John Gardner for the Wall Street Journal, published on April 4, 2014. Last year was the centennial of Gardner’s birth. As participants in the Evolve class know, the Vital Aging Network shares Freedman’s view that John Gardner was a visionary and remarkable role model for civic leadership throughout life.

According to Gardner: “All my feelings about the release of human possibilities, all of my convictions about renewal are offended by the widely shared cultural assumption that life levels off in one’s 40s and 50s and heads downhill, so that by 65 you are scrap heap material.” Read the Gardner article in the Wall Street Journal.

Jan 202014

Birds are a favorite subject of Chris Wilson, who's an Audubon Society member.  Note the bold, simple strokes of this art form.Great article about Evolve grad, Chris Wilson, in the Star News. According to the article: “Lifelong artist Chris Wilson of Otsego was in her 50′s when she discovered the ancient style of Sumi-e that she’s made her own for the past 15 years or so.” Her work is part of a show at the Sherburne County Government Center featuring Sumi-e artists (visit mingchiaosumie.org.) Read the article.

Continue reading »

Dec 312013

Article by Lulu Miller, December 31, 2013, NPR News.

Ticktock. Ticktock. Ticktock. The seconds left in 2013 are slipping away. And you know what else is slipping away? The seconds left in your life.

Luckily for you, there’s a new product called Tikker, a wristwatch that counts down your life, so you can watch on a large, dot-matrix display as the seconds you have left on Earth disappear down a black hole. . . .

And, it turns out, there is some evidence for [this] point of view. A 2009 study showed that thinking about death makes you savor life more. . . . But that’s not the whole story . . .”  Read the article.

Dec 082013

I have started this post as a place for Evolve participants and friends of Evolve to post recommendations for books, articles and videos.

To get us started, here is a recommendation from Kale Hedstrom, a member of the current Evolve for Wellness class in the Hamline Midway neighborhood of Saint Paul: Continue reading »

Dec 082013

The Atlantic, Eric Liu, May 11, 2012. Liu is a correspondent for The Atlantic and co-author of The Gardens of Democracy.

In this article, Liu implores individuals to exercise their “citizen muscles.” According to Liu, “The work of democratic life — solving shared problems, shaping plans, pushing for change, making grievances heard — has become ever more professionalized over the last generation. . . . [I] f we make the little shifts in mindset and habit to reclaim civic life, they will compound into contagion. We are the renewal of self-government we yearn for.”  Read the article.

Dec 082013

Continuing the conversation from the December 7, 2013, EvolvingConnections Salon on Re-imagining the Holidays. Thanks to Kathy Ramundt, Evolve grad and Vital Aging Network Leadership Group member, for leading the salon discussion.

Salon participants shared their experiences of past holidays and ideas for making holidays more fulfilling. Here is some of what they said:

  • One individual spoke about wanting to change her experience of family gatherings that lack authentic connection and feel soulless. She made a courageous decision this year to forego a gathering rather than participate in something that is sure to be painful, even though her husband and son will attend.

Continue reading »

Nov 092013

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work. the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handling it over to future generations.

–George Bernard Shaw
Brought to the Evolve class’s attention by Jan Fillmore

The Evolve Roseville class did an outstanding job of visualizing leadership at the November 8 class. After each drew his or her own image, they worked together in groups to create these composite images:

Leadership drawing 2013-1

Leadership drawing 2





Oct 122013


This year’s Evolve class is filled with impressive individuals with diverse experiences and tremendous potential.

We are looking forward to getting to know them and seeing the creative ways that they will find to engage with each other and the greater Vital Aging Network. We have already heard some of their initial ideas about how they might contribute in their communities and there is much more to come. Keep your eye out for stories and updates as the class progresses.

Plan to stop by at Axel’s Charhouse in Roseville for the EvolvingConnections Happy Hour on October 22, 5:00 to 7:00, to meet members of the new class. RSVP now.


Sep 232013

Thank you to Kathy Ahlers and Kathy Ramundt for releasing the first of several videos they are producing of Evolve grads talking about their experience. And thanks to Cathy Lue and Miriam Carter for sharing their stories. Visit evolveleaders.org to view the video. Share the videos with others who might be interested in Evolve and add your comments here.

Aug 182013

Have a point of view: MetacoolIn this post from the blog Metacool: thoughts on the art & science of bringing cool stuff to life, Diego Rodriguez writes that “if you don’t have a firm point of view about what matters, your changes of doing something remarkable drop to zero.”

Diego is a partner at IDEO, a founding professor at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University (the d.school), and an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Harvard Business School. He  is committed to helping grow future innovators. At the Stanford d.school, Diego created a new paradigm for active learning with his class Creating Infectious Action, in which business, engineering, and social science students use design thinking to prototype viral offerings and services. Read the blog.

Jul 252013

by Kirk Semple, New York Times, July 25, 2013.

Several Evolve grads have worked on or are interested in the difficulties that come with aging in a new world away from your familiar language and ways. This article addresses immigrants in New York but is equally applicable to immigrant communities such as the Hmong, Oromo and Somali in Minnesota.


Jul 132013

While homelessness has decreased nationwide since 2009, it has increased by 6 percent in Minnesota. The increase is particularly high in greater Minnesota. In this article, Ed Murphy, executive director of Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless, suggests a role for the philanthropic community, government and the private sector. He makes a strong case for retirees, particularly those with retirement homes in smaller Minnesota communities, to consider volunteering to help ensure safe shelter for all Minnesotans when they need it. Read the article: www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/215319091.html

Jun 152013

Evolve participants ask the questions who what where when howNine people attended the “Ongoing Evolve/ALVA Networking Group” meeting on June 14. (Plus Julie for a few moments–thank you so much for bringing the coffeepot and making the coffee!! oh, and for bringing the Evolve brochures, too…and thanks to Kathy Ramundt for assistance in cleaning up afterward, among other things.)

Despite the speaker not showing up (one person hoped aloud that he hadn’t died; I’m hopeful about that, too….e-mailed but haven’t heard yet what happened), we turned lemons to lemonade, getting an update on the group of four from our Evolve class who worked together on a project relating to how to have conversations with adult children about end-of-life choices. Had a lively and heart-felt discussion that involved all who attended. Also did a little resource sharing with the two new people who were there who have “social enterprise” business ideas and may be interested in Evolve; Julie did a quick promo about Evolve to them.

The group brainstormed themes for future meetings, settling on “Using Pinterest for your nonprofit project or business” for the July 12th meeting (9:30-11:30 am at Wilder Center). Note: Pinterest is now the third most popular social media site, after Facebook and Twitter. We each are going to make a basic Pinterest account before the next meeting so we have a little sense of what’s involved.

Kathy Ramundt also took some video that might be useful in an Evolve promo piece, and yes, we did get a model release from the person she recorded. This effort is ongoing.

If anyone would like to present at a meeting an overview and update on their Evolve project (if it’s an ongoing venture that you continue to be involved with), and/or to “use” this group for feedback and ideas on that or another topic or project potentially of interest to attendees, please let me know and we can talk about it and possibly schedule you for a particular date. The loose structure would allow a half hour to forty-five minutes for presentation plus Q&A.

Question: is there a brochure for that three-session discussion series that came from the Aging with Gusto pilot program? If any of us notice a place that might like to run that, we could be spreading the word, and it would be great to have something to hand them. I’m assuming there’s a fee to the sponsoring agency, or the attending people, which helps support VAN operations.

Thank you for your interest and support!
Kathy Ahlers

May 242013

Take a look at this great TED talk about using limitations to foster creativity. It is a great way to feed your creative mind as you kick off your holiday weekend. Phil is an artist but the his insights apply equally to creativity in any field.

Phil Hansen: Embrace the shake
In art school, Phil Hansen developed an unruly tremor in his hand that kept him from creating the pointillist drawings he loved. Hansen was devastated, floating without a sense of purpose. Until a neurologist made a simple suggestion: embrace this limitation … and transcend it.

Taking a cue from his own artistic journey, Phil Hansen challenges us to spark our creativity by thinking inside the box.


Mar 082013

Georgia Lane, Project Lead for the Saint Paul communities ACTing on Alzheimer’s, participated in a dialogue with the Evolve class meeting at Wilder Center on March 8. She described the collective impact the project is using and talked about opportunities and barriers to working in community.

View Georgia’s PowerPoint presentation or visit the ACTonAlz.org website for more information.


Feb 222013

This is a great video about boomers being involved in their communities and making positive change. The video is produced by Boomers Leading Change, an initiative of the Rose Community Foundation in Denver. The Vital Aging Network has collaborated with people from the Rose Community Foundation and others in the Denver area.

Feb 102013

Susan Hawkins and Nancy Nonini, Evolve grads, led an energizing discussion of The Abundant Community by Peter Block and John McKnight at the Book & Brew on February 5. The book examines ways that ordinary citizens can help make their communities the kind of places in which they and others want to live.

The image below shows the contributions of three participants in the collaborative reading process.


Click on the image below to view a larger version.


Jan 302013

“I have been struck again and again by how important
measurement is to improving the human condition.”
—Bill Gates

Each year, Bill Gates issues a letter from the Gates Foundation addressing how to make a difference in some of our most vexing problems. This year’s letter focuses on the importance of measurement. The letter provides examples from around the world of how measurement helps to produce real outcomes. The letter is timely as this year’s Evolve class plans how they will measure outcomes in their projects.  Read the Letter.

Jan 022013

EvolvingConnections is an association of Evolve alumni and friends that facilitates the ongoing leadership journeys of its members through social, networking, educational, and mentoring opportunities. Its activities support existing and future leadership projects as well as enhance the vitality and sustainability of the Evolve program and future classes.

Upcoming Events

Friday, June 14 – 9:30 to 11:30 AM
Do-It-Ourselves Workshop
Wilder Center, Room 2520
451 Lexington Avenue N.
Saint Paul, MN

Agenda for June 14:
9:30 to 10:00 – Convene – quick intros and check-ins
10:00 to 10:30 – Guest speaker: SCORE representative, Mort Harris, discussing Encore Entrepreneur Mentor Program
10:30 to 11:00 – 1st networking/case study
11:00 to 11:30 – 2nd networking/case study

Open to everyone. Bring a friend!  RSVPs appreciated but not necessary to Kathy at futurvue@gmail.com.
Comments? Questions? Speaker ideas? E-mail or call 763-789-0529.

Tuesday, June 18 – 5:00 to 7:30 PM
EvolvingConnections Social
Salut Bar Americain
917 Grand Avenue
Saint Paul, MN

Friday, July 12 – 9:30 to 11:30 AM
Do-It-Ourselves Workshop
Wilder Center, Room 2520
451 Lexington Avenue N.
Saint Paul, MN

Friday, August 9 – 9:30 to 11:30 AM
Do-It-Ourselves Workshop
Wilder Center, Room 2520
451 Lexington Avenue N.
Saint Paul, MN

Tuesday, August 20
VAN at the Guthrie
Pride and Prejudice
Mark your calendars now! Special ticket price of $35

October 22
EvolvingConnections Social
Location TBD

Watch for additional details as they are announced. For information about EvolvingConnections contact Bill Read at wtrbus@comcast.net.

Nov 102012

What does leadership look like? Who is involved? Who defines the problem? Who makes decisions? How do individuals relate to each other? Evolve participants at Wilder Center in Saint Paul drew their images of leadership and had a spirited discussion about their drawings at the November 9 class. Each individual drew an image of leadership and individuals worked together in groups to create a consensus drawing.

Here are the drawings they created:

Leaderrship drawing



Leadership drawing













Leadership drawingLeadership drawing

Oct 282012

Are you interested in participating in a think tank about respite care? Respite care provides needed breaks for caregivers.

This think tank will focus its efforts on the Roseville area. It will assess what is currently available in the area, identify projected needs, evaluate options, and make recommendations for changes. The organizers hope that what they learn in Roseville will help those who are looking to improve options for respite care in other areas.

Participation in the think tank is by invitation (you don’t have to be from the Roseville area). If you are interested, download the information sheet and contact Sara Barsel at sara.barsel@q.com or 651-647-9506.