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Sweetwood Offers Activities for Residents, Community
By Phyllis McGuire, Special to iBerkshires
03:17PM / Wednesday, February 22, 2012
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Holiday parties, like this one in December, are just one of many events Sweetwood hosts. The events range from sing-alongs to dance classes to lectures.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — With the list of activities posted on a chalkboard in the lobby, you know the residents of Sweetwood of Williamstown Retirement Living Community would have no reason to moan, "Gee, there's nothing to do today."

The activities, some of which are open to the public, range from sing-alongs, movies, water exercise in the heated pool, yoga classes, dance classes, memoir writing workshops and lectures on a wide variety of topics.
"We have a good turnout for activities," said activities director Edith "Deedee" Durham recently.

For example, musician and local music instructor Otha Day offers drumming and percussion playing to render "in the moment music." Dian Shucard, arts educator and therapeutic arts practitioner, also conducts a music program. 

"We enjoy and learn about music in varied ways," said Shucard in a telephone interview. "We listen to recordings, watch certain films of performances and about musicians, conductors, composers, instruments. I also have written program notes with background material available, and offer suggestions for further study or listening."
The group shares experiences and memories of music, and residents tell her they enjoy the time, said Shuchard. One resident tells her each time that "This is the highlight of my week."

"All the arts speak to our hearts," said Shucard. "Music reaches to a very deep place ... It has a power to move us in more ways than we know."
Sweetwood also has brought in local artisans from the Williamstown Farmers Market for regular craft fairs that are open to the public. 

"We are trying to become more a part of the local community," Durham said, adding that some crafters will return to Sweetwood to conduct jewelry workshops. "Including friends of the residents and people from the community in our activities creates a lively and engaging environment with lots of conversation and often a lot of laughs."
Anne De Gersdorff, a resident of Sweetwood since 2004, likes having people come to Sweetwood.

"John Krol is very instrumental in bringing things in from the community," she said. "And now an Irish group and a French group meet at Sweetwood every week."  
Gersdorff, a member of Literary and the Library committees, participates in as many programs as she can. She also likes to attend concerts at Williams College, to which Sweetwood provides transportation.

"A lot of people living here don't drive and those that do have cars don't like to drive at night. Sometimes a group goes to the Clark," De Gersdorff said.
Durham meets regularly with the Activities Committee and speaks with residents to organize activities. One of the newest activities an acoustic series, "Sweetwood Unplugged: Not Your Grandmother's Coffee." The next performance is on March 16 with Dave Winchester at the piano; on April 20, singer and ukulele-players the Gray Divas (Frances Blasque and Jeanette Muzima) will offer a mix of jazz standards to Hawaiian music.

The Friday series and the lecture series are open to the public; Sweetwood provides refreshments.
"Sweetwood of Williamstown Retirement Living Community is [a] real resource for Williamstown and the Berkshires," said Executive Director John Krol. "The more that we make Sweetwood a stage for the truly remarkable talent available in Williamstown and throughout the region, the richer we make the quality of life for our residents."
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