In Memoriam: Liz Raymer
1930 - 2017
“Sometimes older people get kind of set in their ways—that’s not me!”
Liz passed away in November 2017 at the age of 87. She had a career as a marriage and family therapist and as a probation officer. In the spirit so typical of her, she continued to be involved in singing with her beloved Berkeley Community Chorus and in her work with Ashby Village right up until the end. A staunch liberal Democrat and political activist all her life, she was unfailingly open hearted and full of humor. Following are some of the thoughts about aging that she expressed during an interview in February 2017.
What sustains and excites me
I’m an extrovert. I get a lot out of being with people, and I can’t imagine not spending a lot of my time with people. It energizes me.
Music is really the most important thing for me these days. I sing in the Berkeley Community Chorus—I’ve been with them for twenty-seven years. Many of my friends are chorus people, so that’s who I hang out with. That’s my community.
I also like the challenge of learning new music. Because of my macular degeneration, I’ve memorized the music. I’m pretty good at doing that by ear. I also have a singing teacher who works with me every week. I’ve learned a lot. I can sing way higher now than I used to.
On staying active
I exercise regularly. I go to the gym for my physical therapy program. I go to the pool once a week and just paddle up and down, and I do strength exercises.
On new horizons
I like change, and I like new things, and hearing about new things. It helps make my life richer. I try to take the time to become familiar with innovations, like low vision goggles. My vision is very compromised. The goggles help me see the conductor in our chorus. They’re very high-tech; they work with a smartphone mounted in the goggles that’s specially programmed to enlarge your vision. I’ve been trained in how to use them, and I’ve been training other people. The inventor—a neuroscientist at UC Berkeley—sort of made me his field developer.
I’ve been an activist in small ways over the years. I’ve joined protests against nuclear weapons, and anti-war protests—against the Vietnam War, and later against the Iraq War.
The last time I was arrested, though, those tight plastic handcuffs hurt too much, so that’s not for me anymore. I did go to the women’s march in Oakland, the day after Trump’s inauguration. I took a walker so I could sit down.
On growing older
When you get older, there are a lot of things that come up that you have to deal with. When I had to stop driving—that was really hard for me, because I’m pretty independent.
I’ve learned all sorts of things about using different forms of transportation—buses, BART. I took a mobility class to learn how to cross a street safely, because I don’t see the lights. I have to go by the sound of the cars and trucks.
On Ashby Village
Ashby Village is huge for me right now. I’ve got some pretty big volunteer jobs there. Now that I'm volunteering so much, I wonder how I ever had time in my life when I worked! But whenever I say, “Let’s see, what shall I cut out?”—I just can’t do it.
I've started an Ashby Village group for people over eighty. It’s called, “Living with Uncertainty.” I feel it’s kind of obligatory to speak up on these issues—illness, death, and so forth.
It’s hard for me to ask for help. I like to do things for myself. But Ashby Village is teaching me how to do that.