Moldaws resident funster: Terry Sands humor, creative programs keep things perked up

Terry Sand brings her colossal sense of humor, her theatrical flair and maybe a few tricks to work each day — all in the name of entertaining seniors.

“Laughter is the best medicine,” Sand said, “and it is my mission to offer a wonderful lifestyle full of good humor and health.”

Sand is the lifestyle director at Moldaw Family Residences, an independent living, assisted living and memory care community on the Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life in Palo Alto.

Recent events at Moldaw designed by Sand included a ’50s sock hop — complete with an otherwise mild-mannered Elvis wanna-be — a canine fashion show and a modern dance class that took place entirely in chairs.

Sand lives in Redwood City with her husband, Norm Newhouse, and their daughter, Minda, a senior at Woodside High School. Sand declined to give her age. “My younger colleagues might take advantage of me if they knew my age,” she said in a stage whisper, laughing.

Terry Sand

If her boss knows Sand’s age, she isn’t telling, either. Marilyn Israel, executive director at Moldaw, said, “Terry has an amazing energy. She’s playful, and so creative. At that ’50s party, she had the residents boogying away —  and Terry was right out there with them.”

Beverly Bogart, 86, a Moldaw resident, reported that Sand’s strength definitely is her large parties, such as the Royal Wedding Celebration for Prince William and Kate Middleton in April — “We gave the couple a shower, but they forgot to come,” Sand quipped — and a fashion show in May in which 18 residents modeled clothes from a Stanford Shopping Center boutique.

“That ’50s party was great,” said Bogart, a former librarian who worked in the law library at Stanford University. “Terry goes all out with her themes and decorations.”

Home to 146 people, Moldaw opened two years ago. The average age of the residents is 80. Sand noted that some of the best programs are resident-driven.

Warren Weinstock, an artist who moved to Moldaw last April, served as inspiration for an art exhibit in September that featured painting, sculpture, pottery, crafts, needlework and photography — all created by residents. Sand said that prior to the exhibit, many of the residents had never shared their talents outside their families.

“Terry gets a lot of credit for that art exhibition,” said Alfred Kuhn, 77, a retired aeronautical engineer. Kuhn and his wife, Liliane, 72, moved to Moldaw 18 months ago from New York. “We have here a varied group of people with different interests, and Terry tries to accommodate all of us. My wife and I especially enjoyed participating in Terry’s Sukkot celebration.”

Warren Weinstock and Terry Sand at the Moldaw Family Residences’ art show in September.

Sand was born in Akron, Ohio, and grew up in Los Angeles. “I was raised Jewish. Culturally, I am very Jewish. Religiously — well, sometimes I’m looking for a Conservative temple and sometimes I am looking for one that shares religion through modern dance,” Sand said, laughing. She studied modern dance in college and has a master’s degree in choreography from UCLA.

Starting in 1982, Sand taught improvisational comedy at the JCC in San Francisco for 16 years. She worked at another senior residence for three years. And up until five years ago, Sand traveled frequently, speaking to companies about how to use humor in the workplace to improve communication skills and team building.

She said she still accepts the occasional gig, often booked through her website,

The tradition of Jewish comedians appeals to Sand. “I resonate with Allen Sherman because I love to write funny songs,” she said of the famous novelty song writer, author and singer of “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh.” “I also admire Gilda Radner and George Burns. I’m all about ‘Seinfeld’ and that kind of humor — and a little bit  Pee-wee Herman, because I am kind of goofy, like him.”

Sand teaches a weekly improvisational comedy class at the Oshman Family JCC, on the same Palo Alto campus as the Moldaw Family Residences. Fifteen people, ranging from age 25 to 70, take part, including her husband, a lawyer.

Terry Sand with resident Jan Rogoway at Moldaw’s Royal Wedding Celebration in April.

“In the class, I create an environment where adults can let go of self-criticism and get back to that sense of play they had as kids,” Sand said. “I encourage people to take this class. After all, I am a Jewish mother, and I want you to be happy.”

Sand said she has performed with Dana Carvey and Robin Williams, and that in 1982 she won the first Miss Haight-Ashbury Beauty Pageant.

 “Working at Moldaw is easier than doing stand-up,” Sand said. “In addition to the usual activities, I offer programs that allow them to have fun.”

Sand’s philosophy seems to be working. One resident arrived at a recent pumpkin-decorating party wearing a bathrobe. “Underneath, she had on a long T-shirt decorated to look like a bikini, and she went around flashing people,” Sand said. “It was hilarious.”

Then Sand turned serious. “I get a lot of hugs every day from people thanking me for creating a spirit of play.”

Patricia Corrigan

Patricia Corrigan is a longtime newspaper reporter, book author and freelance writer based in San Francisco.