Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Move it or lose it: How Sandy Weiss turned 80 wearing Lycra and a feather boa

Three times a week at 8:30 a.m., Dr. Sandy Weiss can be found moving to the beat of Beyonce, Devo, and One Direction in Karen Hogenauer's Jazzercise class. The Lagunan caught up with her to get the story of how an 80-year-old can look somehow so appropriately attired in snug black Lycra and, on this day, a tiara and purple feather boa.

As soon as she speaks, you know that Sandy was born and raised in Brooklyn, attending high school and college within a three-block radius. She earned her bachelor's degree in education from Brooklyn College, and at 33, her master's at Long Beach State and, at 59, her Ph.D. in psychology from California Graduate Institute. The gaps between college degrees can be attributed to her marriage at 18 to her first husband and subsequently raising four children who share the surname Cohn. Sons Bruce and Alan  are both doctors in northern California; daughter Susan, a licensed clinical social worker and marriage and family therapist, has an office in Laguna Beach, and Steve is an attorney who lives in Laguna Beach with wife Jacquie and two of Sandy's seven grandchildren, their daughters Molly and Abby.

Sandy works with cancer patients at Mission Hospital's Cancer Support Community twice a month, a change from the 20 hours a week she used to put in there. It is the largest psycho-social support network internationally. Shanti Orange County is another of Sandy's professional passions. Her therapist daughter had worked with a group there, and soon after she left, Sandy began facilitating support groups for HIV patients. In addition, Sandy can be found at the Laguna Beach Community Clinic holding a group session for men with AIDS/HIV every Wednesday evening at 6 p.m.

All that accumulated wisdom is also available to clients that Sandy sees in her home as part of her private clinical practice.

"I call it kitchen table therapy," she grins.

At age 65, Sandy had been separated from her first husband for two months when she met Leon Weiss, a dermatologist who is now a 77-year-old retiree. They married seven years later. Together they recently attended Leon's 50th medical school reunion at USC. Sandy jokes, "I had to marry a younger man who could keep up with me." 

How does Sandy do it? What's her secret to being such a vibrant, busy, strong, healthy person with enviable abs at age 80?

"Obviously diet and exercise are an important part of staying energetic and healthy," Sandy said, noting that she is mostly a vegetarian, uses 5-lb. weights in the Jazzercise class she takes three times a week, and faithfully attends Carl Brown's free outdoor yoga class in the park at Treasure Island. She swears by her qi gong class, a Chinese regimen of movement, sustained stretching, acupressure and meditation.

"Oh, and I have a group of friends I get together with to play mah-jongg," Sandy adds. "Most important is having an attitude of gratitude. When I start feeling down, I do what I teach other people to do – to tap into the left brain and think about one's blessings in order to stay on an even keel."
Jazzercise teacher Karen Hogenauer honored her star student, Dr. Sandy Weiss.

Positive thinking, staying physically and intellectually active, maintaining friendships and family ties, and involvement in her community have helped Sandy remain a vivacious, energetic person. The newly minted octogenarian moved to the beat and was celebrated by her adoring Jazzercise classmates and teacher early one recent Tuesday (video below).