Possibilities of the Heart
Doris Hammond embodies the spirit of lifelong learning.
She hasn't merely pushed the envelope of scientific
study; she's done it as a woman during a conservative
era, and now as a senior citizen.
"You live this long and you experience this much, you know
there's a lot to learn," said Doris, who teaches at the Osher Lifelong
Learning Institute. "If you keep possibilities in your mind and
heart, you can go through your later years thinking that there's still
time left. I hope to go out of this world having things I want to do,
still believing it's possible to do more."
With a master's degree, a doctorate and a published book under
her belt, not to mention the experience of living in seven different
states, it's hard to believe that Doris was once a hometown girl from
the Midwest who was too afraid to go away to school. She stayed
in her native Cincinnati until age 30 and worked as an elementary
school teacher. By the time she began doing graduate work at 40,
she was consistently the oldest person in her classes. But if there's
one thing Doris preaches, it's that you're never too old.
When she began work on her dissertation, Doris had honed in
on a topic that was pretty obscure at the time: pet therapy. Though
ultimately discouraged by all the red tape that would prevent her
from actually working with real animals and people, Doris was
gratified to see that a short time later, the field exploded. It's a
line of study that she still holds close to her heart, and chances
are she will pick it up again when she teaches a Lifelong Learning
class about pet therapy.
What she ended up researching instead was equally compelling,
and led to the publication of her book. A few eyebrows may have
been raised when Doris chose to study older peoples' sexuality; but
her book, My Parents Never Had Sex: Myths and Facts About Sexual Aging (Prometheus Books), proved to be an insightful, sensitive and even
humorous treatment of the subject.
"Believe me, a woman of my generation would not be seeking out
a human sexuality class in the '70's because we were raised to think
it wasn't even proper to talk about," she said. "I felt like I was forging
ahead, grabbing an opportunity that wasn't necessarily there."
Doris again found herself on the cutting edge when she began to
investigate birth order and its impact on personality, at a time when
little material was available on the subject. With three daughters
of her own who seemed to be textbook cases of oldest-middle youngest
children, Doris became fascinated by the research. What
she found was that birth order (or being an only child, as she is)
greatly affects the way we go through our lives as adults; even
people who knew nothing about birth order instinctively felt that
there was something else influencing them.
No matter what the subject matter, Doris tries to treat it-
and the people involved-with sensitivity and non-judgment.
"I've always honored that we are all individuals with our own
differences and experiences that have led us to feel the way we
do," she said. "I respect that when it comes to sex or anything
else. But the more we know about ourselves, the better adjusted
we are. And the more we learn what we'd like to change, the
better person we can become."
Hobbies: singing, dogs, tennis, kayaking,
Qigong, watching American Idol and
Pet: dog Dirty Harry, rescued from a ditch
Current Read: Puppy Chow is Better Than Prozac by
Bruce Goldstein (Da Capo Press)
Why she came to live in Sun City: because its one of the
few places with a synchronized swimming group, which