Reimagining Celebrations During COVID-19

Category Archives: Active aging

Reimagining Celebrations During COVID-19

Are you down in the mouth because your plans to create the best 80th birthday bash ever for your mother have gone up in flames? If so, there are two reasons you shouldn’t let the temporary kibosh on gatherings, crowds, and parties, prevent you from honoring Mom on her special day. One: In a time of social distancing, your loved one may need a little festiveness to pick up her spirits. And two: Yes, it is quite possible to celebrate without risking the spread of the COVID-19 virus—it just takes a little inventiveness.

You may already have read about the countless drive-by birthday parades that are popping up across the continent– cars decked out in balloons and signs, with drivers joyously honking their horns to birthday boys and girls of all ages including nonagenarians. (In one drive-by parade, well-wishers used crutches and broomsticks to extend gifts to a California teen.) In some cases, friends park in front of their friend’s home and party from inside their vehicle. Then too, some folks stand outside the homes of their friends and neighbors—six feet apart, of course– singing happy birthday or holding up birthday signs and balloons, as they did earlier this spring for a 95-year-old.

A practical and fun way to celebrate

Still, stand-by or drive-by parties might not be realistic in your case. Luckily, Zoom can come to the rescue! (At Sunrise Retirement video chats are among the most popular ways for family members to connect. If your loved one is not comfortable with technology, ask our Life Enrichment Director to facilitate a video-call, and keep in mind that your loved one doesn’t need a smart device, as all our communities have iPads.)

If you chose to go with a video-call, keep in mind that a birthday chat is a little different than an everyday call. Before the video-chat, remember to do your hair and to choose a nice dress or shirt and pants instead of sweat pants and a T-shirt. Pay attention to the background as well. Hang some balloons and display some photos of your loved one as well as other family photos in the background. Make your virtual time together special by adding a creative activity. Perhaps you (or your kids) could compose and read a birthday poem, or create and display a watercolor or drawing, or, better yet, serenade Mom with favorite songs.

You can also go one step further and arrange to eat dinner together over Zoom. Ideally, organize it so that you are both are eating the same meal. Perhaps you could cook Mom’s favorite food (including special dessert) and drop it off to her community. Another alternative: Pay a local restaurant to deliver her a delicious meal and scrumptious dessert. Back at your place, make sure to do the meal in style—pull out the good china, nice napkins or tablecloth, and arrange a vase of flowers.

Create a virtual theme party

You could also bump up the celebration by organizing a Zoom birthday party, perhaps based on a theme, like your mother’s favorite era. Then, ask her best friends and family members to don their swing dresses or tie-dye skirts when they come on the call to pay tribute to her. Don’t forget to ask your loved one to sign on a few minutes later than others so the party-goers can sing happy birthday to her. Another reminder: make sure to ask invitees to bring their own cake!

Remember, on special days the most important thing is honoring and connecting with your parent. With a little bit of planning, coordination and creativity you just might be able to create a celebration your Mom will remember for years. Just because we’re in lockdown doesn’t mean we have to put a lid on festivities.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, April 2020.

Just Because Leaves Are Falling Doesn’t Mean You Have To

Unless you live in a banana belt surrounded by swaying palm trees, you’ve probably noticed a slight chill in the air and a hint of color on the trees outside. That’s because in the wee hours of last Monday morning, the autumnal equinox launched the official beginning of fall. One by one, the leaves on the deciduous trees will tumble to the ground.

This blog post marks the first installment in a series of safety topics an,d autumn seemed like an appropriate time of year to consider how seniors can avoid a fall of their own

According to a recent survey, one in every four Americans over the age of 65 will suffer a fall this year. As seniors reach their 70s, that number increases to one in three. Those are especially alarming statistics, when you consider that nearly 25% of those falls result in serious injuries, such as broken wrists, hips, ankles, and other bones, Fortunately, there are several precautions to help keep those bones, and self-esteem, intact.

Simple tips to prevent falls

As seniors get older, physical changes and health conditions — and sometimes the medications used to treat those conditions — can make falls more likely A growing number of older adults fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This social isolation can result in further physical decline, depression and feelings of helplessness.

Get back to enjoying your golden years and consider these simple fall-prevention strategies to keep the fear of falling at bay:

1. Keep moving

Physical activity can go a long way toward fall-prevention. With a doctor’s approval, consider adding activities into your routine such as walking, water workouts, yoga, tai chi or dancing. Such activities reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility.

“Chair Yoga is a great safe foundation of fitness for seniors,” says Tina Bertelle, Life Enrichment Director at The Clairmont in Austin, Texas. “I am certified as a Chair Yoga instructor, I teach Yoga Flow, and I’m a green belt in Taekwondo. So, I incorporate Tai Chi and different kinds of movements into almost every day of our lives. We segue from peaceful Japanese music for Tai Chi into some Country/Western music to stretch out and keep our bodies moving.

“Residents even have homework to practice their ‘CAT’ and ‘COW’ spell-out poses from the chair. It’s a running joke that I tell them to ‘have a Cow’ every Wednesday.”

The results of movement classes at The Clairmont and other communities have been overwhelmingly positive.

“We have seen residents with low oxygen stats get back to normal,” says Tina, “and people who were not able to move or stretch are now able to touch their toes without pain.”

For those seniors who avoid physical activity because they’re afraid it will make a fall more likely, Tina has just a few words of advice: “Move it or lose it!” she says.

2. Wear sensible shoes

Swapping out footwear can be a practical part of any fall-prevention plan. High heels, floppy slippers, and shoes with slick soles can cause slips, stumbles, and falls. Properly fitted, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles are best for preventing falls and can even reduce. joint pain when worn over time.

3. Remove hazards

Take a look around your living area and get rid of unnecessary hazards:

  • Remove boxes, electrical cords, and phone cords from walkways.
  • Move coffee tables, magazine racks, and plantstands from high-traffic areas.
  • Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape or a slip-resistant backing — or remove loose
    rugs entirely.
  • Store clothing, dishes, food, and other necessities within easy reach.
  • Immediately clean spilled liquids, grease, or food.

4. Light up your living space

Keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see. Also:

  • Place night lights in your bedroom, bathroom, and hallways.
  • Place a lamp within reach of your bed for those middle-of-the-night needs.
  • Make clear paths to light switches that aren’t near room entrances.
  • Replace traditional switches for glow-in-the-dark or illuminated switches.
  • Store flashlights in easy-to-find places in case of power outages.

5. Use assistive devices

If you feel dizzy or wobbly occasionally, consider using a cane or walker. Other assistive devices can help, too. For example:

  • Install grab bars and use nonslip mats in the shower or bathtub.
  • Use a bath seat and a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down.
  • Consider a raised toilet seat or one with armrests.

6. Consult the doctor

If you have serious concerns about falling, it’s a good idea to talk with your health care specialists and check on the following:

  • What medications are you taking? Make a list of your prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements, or bring them with you to the appointment. To help with fall prevention, your doctor may consider weaning you off medications that make you tired or affect your thinking.
  • Have you (almost) fallen before? Write down the details, including when, where and how
    you fell. Be prepared to discuss instances when you almost fell but were caught by someone or managed to grab hold of something just in time. Details such as these may help your doctor identify specific fall-prevention strategies.
  • Could your health conditions cause a fall? Certain eye and ear disorders may increase your
    risk of falls, including wearing bifocals. Be prepared to discuss your health conditions and how comfortable you are when you walk — for example, do you feel any dizziness, joint pain, shortness of breath, or numbness in your feet and legs when you walk?

Your doctor may recommend solutions or precautions that may require professional help
or a larger investment. If cost is a concern, remember that an investment in fall- prevention is an investment in independence.

Prevention is the best way to avoid the injuries and other problems related to falls. But
accidents happen despite the best laid plans. In our next installment, we’ll explore what to do if
you or a loved one experiences a serious fall. Until then, stay safe and let the leaves do all the

First published on Sunshine Retirement Living, September, 2019. Some content was provided by mayoclinic.org and aging.com

How Senior Living Residents in Dunwoody Utilize Our Travel Program

Sunshine Retirement Living offers residents of Dunwoody Pines – its Dunwoody retirement community – access to a unique travel program that includes free lodging, meals, and activities in thirteen beautiful cities across six states in the US. And what we’ve found in the years we’ve offered this program? That our residents are both imaginative and adventurous, taking advantage of this special offering in a myriad of creative ways. Here’s what they’re doing.

Visiting friends and family members

Many residents would love to spend some time near their children, grandchildren, or old friends without imposing on them or incurring excess expenses on lodging and meals. Additionally, once they’re accustomed to the privacy and peacefulness that accompanies retirement, they might even be looking for a great visit with a little alone time. The travel program allows them as much time as they’d like with loved ones near the community while still providing a quiet, private, non-intrusive place to rest and eat during their stay.

Meeting new people

Those seeking to expand their network in retirement have used the benefits of the travel program to immerse themselves in other communities of like-minded folks, sharing life experiences, laughs, and good food while they establish new friendships and experience new things. Because travel program guests have full access to each community’s activities, events, and wellness program, meeting new people away from the Chattahoochee is nearly effortless.

Exploring new places

For some, retirement is about settling into a comfortable recliner with a favorite book and a glass of wine…but for others, retirement is for excitement and adventure. When they aren’t enjoying local outdoor spaces like Brook Run Park, some of our residents are looking to serve themselves by expanding their horizons and making the United States their playground. The travel program supports that lifestyle perfectly by making travel easy and inexpensive – there are no extra costs for dining, lodging, or in-house entertainment when you stay in another Sunshine community.

Additionally, many communities are situated in some of the most beautiful and desirable cities in the US, giving residents easy access to national parks, local attractions, and great shopping.

Attending special events

Some residents have shared their tips and tricks for using the travel program to attend special events at little to no cost without imposing on family members or giving up their privacy during their time away. Weddings, memorial services, and graduations are just a few of the events our residents have attended, all while saving money and enjoying the serene, home-like setting of a sister community. Some have even made a few new friends along the way.

Seeing specialists

While Dunwoody offers a large selection of healthcare services, some doctors are a road trip away. Specialist appointments scheduled far from home can really make a dent on your plans and your budget. Many retirees find themselves traveling far and wide to see the doctors they need, paying for food and lodging and sacrificing some of their favorite daily routines, like a yoga class, lunch with friends, or happy hour. Many residents have chosen specialists in Sunshine communities to reduce their costs and make the trip just a little more enjoyable.

Breaking up a long journey

Cross-country travelers love to stop and spend a night in our communities along their route to ease the burden of long-distance travel, enjoy a nourishing meal, and perhaps partake in a good movie with like-minded folks.

To learn more about senior living in Dunwoody – or the myriad of luxuries, amenities, and services that accompany residency at Dunwoody Pines – schedule a visit today. Our friendly staff can’t wait to take you on a private tour, help you sample the cuisine, and introduce you to new friends and great memories.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, March, 2019.

Summerfield’s Therapy Thursdays Prove That Laughter Is Still the Best Medicine

The English word therapy comes from the Latin word therapīa, which literally means “curing” or “healing.”

As we get older, we’re bound to experience more physical aches and pains, and maybe a few mental maladies as well. Naturally, the more challenges we face, the more healing and therapy we need. While there’s only so much that Sunshine Retirement communities can do in terms of providing physical remedies to residents, there’s no limit to what we can offer when it comes to therapeutic activities that deliver mental stimulation and positive reinforcement

This month at Summerfield Estates in Tigard, Oregon, Life Enrichment Director Anthony Nosen has introduced Therapy Thursdays, an assortment of therapy sessions that have been popular at other Sunshine communities, along with a few new wrinkles.

Like many other Sunshine Retirement communities, the staff at Summerfield Estates found that Pet Therapy, Massage/Aroma Therapy, Garden Therapy, and Music Therapy sessions have helped residents stimulate physical and emotional bonds, relax tired muscles, and develop a strong sense of responsibility with ample rewards. But Anthony has taken things a few steps further by initiating Art Therapy and Theater & Laughter Therapy.

“ The Hand/Massage Aromatherapy is something I have been trained on through an essential oils program,” said Anthony. “The calming lavender type oils are used along with mineral oil, or a non-scented lotion while massaging the whole hand and wrist on both sides. This is huge for those with Contracture or Arthritis in their finger joints, allowing for better mobility and relief from pain.”

Garden Therapy is designed to benefit residents who enjoy getting their hands dirty while nurturing flowers and plants, as well as those who don’t.

“ For active gardeners, manipulating the soil and experiencing the feels, sights, and smells of the garden is a form of meditation,” says Anthony. “But we also have a group that simply enjoys the outdoors with a variety of breathing and meditation journeys.”
Music Therapy usually involves a certified therapist that brings in interactive music programs for small groups or individuals. It is especially helpful for Memory Care or bed-bound residents.

“ Art Therapy is always a fun, tactile event,” says Anthony. “It usually involves manipulating clay or finger-paints with meditative music playing in the background. We create art based more on feelings and emotions, rather than the sight of an object.”

By far the most unique of this month’s activities at Summerfield Estates has been the Theater & Laughter Therapy, which got rolling with a variety of improvisational games and skits. Then the group switched gears to a series of improv scenes and one-liners intended to make each participant laugh for as long as possible.

“ Laughter and acting, in general, have healing properties much like Music Therapy,” says Anthony.“It eases the mind along with re-firing the synapses in the brain for a variety of brain benefits.”

Whatever the physiological explanation, the activity left all who attended in great humor with big broad smiles on their faces. And we can’t think of any better evidence of healing than that.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, March, 2019.

Living in a Pet-Friendly Austin Retirement Community

Although the benefits pets can offer in retirement are undisputed, many retirees are under the impression that they have to choose between enjoying the benefits of Austin retirement community living or keeping the pets they love. However, more and more communities are recognizing the physical and emotional benefits pets provide and updating their policies on pets.

Let’s discuss some of the most notable benefits pets (and pet-friendly retirement communities) offer.

Pets make the perfect companion.

For many, retirement is a time of adventure and excitement, but for some, retirement can be lonely. Pets make great company by interacting with you and showing you love and affection when they need it most. Pets can be especially therapeutic for retirees who live alone or who have lost their spouse.

Pets can improve your health.

Pets have a direct and measurable impact on your physical health, making them an important part of your retirement plan. As a matter of fact, people who have pets have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, and lower triglyceride levels than people who don’t. Additionally, pet owners have a reason to stay active and get outside – which increases your strength, range of motion, and heart health and helps you maintain healthy vitamin D levels.

Pets help you get a better night’s sleep.

One study shows that pets can improve your sleep by helping you feel safe and secure. Pets ease anxiety and worry in two ways:

  • pet owners feel more confident that their pet will scare away an intruder or at least alert them of its presence, allowing them to sleep feeling safe and secure
  • pet owners who share a bed with their pet state that physical touch – like snuggling their pet or lying close to their pet – helps reduce anxiety and improve sleep.

Considering almost a third of adults have a tough time falling asleep and staying asleep even with the help of prescription medications, pets are a great solution with no side effects!

Pets give you purpose.

It’s easy to lose your sense of purpose as your identity changes over time. For many years, you may have been responsible for other people – your team at work, your parents, or your children, for example – and now you’re only responsible for yourself. This natural life change can leave you wondering about your purpose, but pets can help fill the void that time has created. Feeding, walking, and caring for pets can make every day feel meaningful.

Pets help you maintain independence.

Pets keep you physically active as you play with them, walk them, feed them, and care for them. This physical activity keeps your muscles, bones, and joints strong, helps you maintain a full range of motion and balance, and improves your chances of staying independent longer.

Pets improve your mental and emotional health.

Pets can reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve your mood, help you feel safe, and alleviate loneliness. They provide physical contact and encourage a predictable daily routine. Perhaps most importantly, pets can be integral in the healing process after you lose somebody you love.

About The Clairmont Retirement Community

If you’ve been looking for all-inclusive Austin senior apartments that welcome pets, consider scheduling a site visit with The Clairmont, during which time you can tour the campus, sample the gourmet menu, and evaluate whether The Clairmont is a fit for you and your four-legged friend. We offer 5 different floor plans starting at just $1,795 per month.

You can reach us at 512-879-1451 or visit us online today.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, January, 2019.

For Many Sunshine Residents, A Museum Is Where You See ‘Em

One thing that has been proven time and time again at Sunshine Retirement communities is that most seniors never lose their hunger for knowledge, culture and entertainment. And quite frequently, they’ll go to great lengths to satisfy it. Well, at least quite a few miles.

That’s been the case at several communities where Sunshine Life Enhancement Directors (LEDs) have arranged numerous outings to nearby museums.

“Museum outings are very educational and a great way for our residents to connect with things that they enjoy, whether it be art, music or history,” says Muzit Sebhatlab, LED at Waterford Terrace in La Mesa, California. “Living in the San Diego area, we are fortunate to have Balboa Park, which has over 15 different museums, and there are many others throughout the county. I get plenty of ideas and suggestions from our residents, their families and even staff.”

Muzit arranges for most museum visits to be guided by a docent, because it makes it easier for the residents to get the full understanding of what they are seeing. But inevitably, there are always a few residents who like to venture out on their own.

“One of our favorite trips was visiting the Museum of Music,” he said. “They truly enjoyed it because they got to experience the history and evolution of American music, and see instruments from the early 1900s until today. It brought them many memories of the good old days.”

Another favorite outing was to the USS Midway, a maritime museum on board an aircraft carrier at San Diego’s Navy Pier. The ship houses an extensive collection of aircraft, many of which were built in Southern California.

“It was a beauty,” said Waterford Terrace resident Vinny Freda. “The history and size of the ship was just fascinating!”

Next month’s outing will include a backstage tour of the world-famous Old Globe Theatre. And since Halloween is approaching, they will be visiting The Whaley House Museum, a historical haunted house in Old Town.

Farther north, residents at Creekside Oaks in Folsom, California have a similar array of museum opportunities in the Sacramento area, some related to the local gold mining history, as well as to arts and culture.

“September is the perfect month for museum trips here because the temperature usually hovers around a very comfortable 84 degrees,” says LED Curtis Ligon.

This Sunday, Curtis will be taking residents to one of their favorite destinations, the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. He agrees that docent-led tours are the way to go.

“We love to spoil the residents and I think guided tours are so much better. They learn more history about the art from the tour guide.”

The cooler days of early fall are also the ideal time for residents of Heritage Point in Mishawaka, Indiana to explore their local museums. LED Lillian Spice is planning a trip to the Hannah Lindahl’s Children’s Museum on October 11. No, the residents won’t be doing experiments with Kool-Aid or Pepsi. The museum actually has interesting historic and regional content for all ages, but is called “Children’s” Museum because it’s located in an elementary school.

A docent will guide Heritage Point residents through a vast display of inventions that have made life easier for several generations over the course of time. Former resident Arnold Anderson was a history teacher who loved visiting the museum and seeing the antique standing radio.

“My family used to gather around the radio every Sunday to listen to music,” exclaimed Arnold.

While nostalgia is definitely a popular reason for many residents to participate in museum outings, Merry Petroski, LED at Windsor Heights in Beachwood, Ohio, has found that any museum with a strong visual component appeals to their residents. They also tend to like natural history and botanical gardens.

Since Windsor Heights serves Assisted Living as well as Memory Care residents, it’s also important for Merry to make sure each off-site field trip has easily accessible parking, good restrooms and accommodating employees.

“Most staff have been very helpful, although some are unaware of our challenges,” she says. “We have to be very clear about our needs and expectations. In the past, we’ve had good success with Rockefeller Garden Greenhouse, the Shaker Nature Center, Western Reserve Historical Society, the Trinity Cathedral Concert Series and Lake Farm Park.”

In the near future, they hope to check out Wade Memorial Chapel, Soldiers & Sailors Monument and Garfield Monument. Not only have the residents enjoyed the outings, their family members have appreciated them too.

“Thank you for bringing my Mom [to the museums],” said Bev Miller, daughter of Windsor Heights resident Shirley Hummel. “It’s too tough for me to transport her on my own.”

But without a doubt, the community that has museum visiting down to a science is Dunwoody Pines in Dunwoody, Georgia. In just a little over three years, LED Ashley Hurd has guided residents on more than 75 museum trips. With several intriguing options nearby in the Atlanta area, they visit a museum pretty much every Thursday, taking advantage of senior discounts or free admission about 90% of the time.

“Museums are very appealing to the residents,” says Ashley. “We learn so much about the state we live in, as well as topics we’ve never even thought of.”

So far, some of the most popular outings have been:

  • The Gone with Wind Museum
  • Atlanta History Center
  • Dahlonega Gold Mining Museum
  • Federal Reserve Museum
  • Booth Western Art Museum
  • Michael C. Carlos Museum
  • Presidential Library Museum

On the docket for future trips are:

  • Heritage Park Veterans Museum
  • Alpharetta & Old Milton County History Museum
  • Army Aviation Heritage Museum
  • Civil and Human Rights Museum
  • Haunted Fox Theater Museum

“I love going on these trips because even though I’ve lived in Atlanta for over 30 years, I still learn so much,” said Dunwoody resident Bob Clement. “I had no idea Georgia produced natural pink marble that is in our State Capital Building.”

That’s what we like to hear, Bob. Stay hungry for knowledge. And we’ll keep on feeding you.

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, September, 2018.

August At Sunshine Is All Wellness And Goodness

Well•ness – noun, the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.

If you’ve been following us at Sunshine Retirement Communities for a while, you know that Wellness is more than just a health care buzzword. In fact, we’re so committed to helping our residents achieve an ongoing state of good health, we devote the entire month of August to the active pursuit of Wellness every year.

Sunshine’s 6th Annual Wellness Month began with a Kickoff Party on August 1 at most of our 26 communities. As usual, each community has provided opportunities throughout the month for residents to learn Wellness practices from local professionals based on four different categories – Get Informed, Get Fit, Get Restored and Give Back.

Get Informed

We live in a changing world where information about new ideas, policies, problems and solutions constantly arise. Getting informed and learning about these new things can help us live healthier lives. A few examples of opportunities to Get Informed this month include:

  • Seminars on Nutrition, Hydration, Exercise & Joints, Fall Prevention, Eye Care, High Cholesterol and Massage Therapy.
  • Blood Pressure Screenings and Hearing Checks.
  • Health & Wellness Fairs.

Get Fit

For those who have been watching life from the sidelines for a while, the thought of getting fit may seem daunting. But the payoffs of living a longer, healthier life are well worth it. The first step is to develop a good attitude and set achievable fitness goals. Then keep track of progress and get into a sustainable routine. To make things easier, residents are encouraged to buddy up with a friend to support and challenge each other, then switch things up and try new things together. Some of this month’s Get Fit offerings have included:

  • Line Dancing and Arthur Murray Dance School.
  • Bocce’ Ball Tournament.
  • Chair Yoga.
  • Healthy Happy Hours and Smoothie Socials.
  • Waterfall Hikes and Walking Challenges.
  • Senior Olympics featuring Balloon Volleyball, Bean Bag Baseball and Wii Bowling.

Complete with opening and closing ceremonies, the Senior Olympics is one of the perennial highlights of Wellness Month at both The Continental in Austin, Texas and at Deer Park in Novato, California. The Continental has hosted their friendly crosstown rivals from The Clairmont for the past five years. According to Life Enrichment Director (LED) Olga Rosalez, the competition breeds an amazingly warm and friendly camaraderie, while bringing a lot of enjoyment to their Wellness campaign.

Steven Cartacki, LED at Deer Park concurs: “It was fun! The residents like to be competitive once in a while and have something to play for. But ultimately, they enjoy laughing and being active with their peers.”

Get Restored

Getting physically and mentally restored is essential for your health. With our hectic lives, we are constantly on the move and over time this has caused damage to our quality of life. We need to reclaim balance and give ourselves some much needed peace of mind, body and soul. Some ways Sunshine residents have been Getting Restored this month include:

  • Spa Treatments (Massage, Pedicure, Aromatherapy, etc.).
  • Essential Oils and Foot Soaks.
  • Mary Kay Facials.

Give Back

Volunteering services or donating goods and money are not only beneficial for the recipients, but for the givers as well. Doing good for others and paying it forward does wonders for self-esteem, and having money to donate is not a requirement. This year, Sunshine’s Give Back activities feature:

  • Rock-A-Thon Fundraiser.
  • Cookie Decorating and Thank You cards for local Police and Fire Departments.
  • Rummage Sales.

At the beginning of the month, residents received a special Wellness Calendar and a Wellness Stamp Card. Since then, they have been rewarded with a stamp on their card every time they attend a Wellness event highlighted on the Calendar. As the month ends this Friday, most of the communities will be hosting a Wellness Awards Ceremony where every participant will be recognized and awarded. The resident who receives the most stamps on his or her card at each community will win a customized $50 Visa Gift Card for their efforts.

As you can see, August has been a very active month for Sunshine residents. In fact, Wellness Month has become so popular, many of them are celebrating it all year round.

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, August, 2018.

National Senior Citizens Day – When America’s Most Experienced Individuals Get The Recognition They Deserve

Like wine, cheese and a pair of jeans, everyone knows that men and women really do get better with age. But did you know America has an official day to celebrate that fact?

That’s right. Next Tuesday, August 21 is National Senior Citizens Day, a day President Ronald Reagan – a noted senior citizen himself – declared for all to observe in 1988. Today, countless senior citizens are still very active in their communities and the workforce. They contribute greatly to our society and shower their families with advice, generosity and love. For what they have achieved and continue to achieve, they deserve our thanks.

If you have an elderly person or persons in your life that you love, this is the day to let them know how much you care about them and understand the various issues that affect them. Reach out to a senior family member. Spend some time with a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle. If you can’t see them in person, give them a call and let them know how much you appreciate them.

If you have a chance, visit a nursing or retirement home. Chat, play games and participate in activities with residents. You can really make a difference in someone’s day. And guess what. You’ll find the experience fun and rewarding too.

If you are a senior citizen yourself, well, Senior Citizens Day is all about you. Live a little! Spend time with your favorite people. Treat yourself to an ice cream sundae. Knock something off your bucket list. Or just relax with friends and family. Do whatever floats your boat, because the day is dedicated to you! You’ve earned it!

Senior Citizens Day at Sunshine

If you’re a senior citizen who happens to live at a Sunshine Retirement Community, you just might be in luck. Because many of our communities are preparing extra special celebrations for residents on Senior Citizens Day.

They range from a Luau Lunch with a hula dancer at The Gardens at Brook Ridge in Pharr, Texas to full-blown, all-day hullabaloos like the one at Heritage Point in Mishawaka, Indiana. According to Heritage Point Life Enrichment Director (LED) Lillian Spice, they’ll be having:

  • Toasts of recognition for every resident and their contribution to our community.
  • Inspirational quotes designed to bolster self-esteem.
  • 5-minute interviews to open dialog and foster relationships among residents.
  • Hand massages using essential oils, lotion and classical relaxation music to relieve stress.
  • Hat decorating with feathers, ribbons and beads.
  • And a community group picture – hats and all – for social media.

At Dunwoody Pines in Dunwoody Georgia, managers will pass out hand-signed cards to each resident. After lunch they’ll have Balloon Volleyball and Bean Bag Baseball tournaments with the family members, friends and staff.

To help with summer hydration, Windsor Heights LED Merry Petroski has arranged for iced-tea making in the outdoor courtyard. Residents will be able to mix and sample several different tea flavors, including lemon, orange, ginger and mint. Then they’ll get out the songbooks for an afternoon Sing-along. Meanwhile, at Summerfield Estates in Tigard, Oregon, residents will enjoy spa treatments, including massages, nails, aromatherapy and make-overs.

Things get a little more athletic at Deer Park in Novato, California where LED Steven Cartacki will oversee the Senior Olympic Games, a spirited competition featuring Balloon Volleyball, Bean Bag Baseball, Ping Pong, Wii Bowling, Trivia Card Games and of course, the Olympic anthem during the opening ceremony.

Active is as active does

Goldie Hawn, one of America’s most effervescent and age-defying seniors, put senior citizenship into perspective when she said:

“What helps with aging is serious cognition – thinking and understanding. You have to truly grasp that everybody ages…There is no turning back the clock. So the question in life becomes: What are you going to do while you’re here?

Whether it’s National Senior Citizens Day or not, you can be sure Sunshine residents will be doing quite a lot while they’re here.

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, August, 2018. Some information provided by nationaltoday.com.

Sunshine Residents March To The Beat Of Their Own Drumming

After spending the last two weeks focusing on the signs and symptoms of dementia as well as what to look for in a Memory Care facility, we decided it was time to share what one of Sunshine’s communities is doing to help residents overcome their memory difficulties.

Studies show that music can have a powerful effect on people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, even those with advanced stages of the disease.

“There are certain areas of the brain that are still relatively intact even as a progressive disease like Alzheimer’s takes effect,” says Suzanne Hanser, PhD, department chair of music therapy at Berklee College of Music in Boston and former program director of San Francisco’s Alzheimer’s Association.

“In particular, the limbic system, and specifically, the hippocampus, which retains long-term memory and has retained emotional impact. Music triggers these long-term memories. So we see people who have not spoken in years begin to sing songs that they knew in their early teens and early adulthood.”

That is why music therapy has become an important element of treatment at most Memory Care facilities. It has proven to:

  • Reduce agitation.
  • Improve behavioral issues.
  • Create connections even after verbal communication has diminished.

But at the Clairmont, one of Sunshine’s communities in Austin, Texas, Life Enhancement Director Tina Bertelle has taken music therapy to a whole new level with what she calls “Drumstick Fitness.”

“I came up with the Drumstick Fitness idea in 1997 working with early-, mid- and late-stage Alzheimer’s patients,” said Tina. “I slowly began incorporating drumming into the Clairmont with seated exercises and getting residents in the habit of marching with their feet while their hands are doing different things. This causes the brain to literally rethink and learn new things no matter if your 9 or 99!”

Cardio drumming classes, like Drumstick Fitness, Drums Alive and Pound have been around for a few years. But the benefits you receive when you take this type of class are so much greater than those of your average aerobics class. In addition to being a cardio workout, here’s why drumming is so good for you:

  1. Makes you smarter. Drumming is a great workout for your brain, because it accesses your entire brain. Research shows that the physical transmission of rhythmic energy to the brain synchronizes the left and right hemispheres. So when the logical left hemisphere and the intuitive right hemisphere begin to pulsate together, your inner guidance system – or intuition – becomes stronger.

  2. Induces deep relaxation. In one study, blood samples from participants who participated in an hour-long drumming session revealed a reversal in stress hormones.

  3. Helps control chronic pain. Drumming can certainly serve as a distraction from pain. Better yet, it promotes the production of endorphins and endogenous opiates, which are the body’s own morphine-like painkillers.

  4. Boosts your immune system. Studies show that drumming circles boost the immune system and help the body combat cancer as well as other viruses, including AIDS.

  5. Creates a sense of connectedness. Drums have been used in every culture for many purposes from religious rituals to sporting events, and as a way to communicate or signal. Drumming circles and group drumming classes provide an opportunity for “synchronicity” with your own spirit at a deeper level, while also connecting with other like-minded people.

  6. Provides a way to access a higher power. Shamans often use drumming as a means to integrate mind, body and spirit. Also, the “medicine” drum is still used in many Native American ceremonies today for good reason.

  7. Releases negative feelings. The act of drumming can serve as a form of self-expression. You can literally drum out your feelings and remove negative emotions.

  8. Makes you happy. Drumming releases endorphins, enkephalins and Alpha waves in the brain, which are associated with general feelings of well-being and euphoria. Don’t believe us? Participate in a drum circle and see how happy it makes you feel.

Many Clairmont residents definitely concur about the happiness aspect.

“I like it a lot!” says Ann Hogarth. “It’s a really physically fun session. Before you know it, you’ve worked out your whole body.”

Betty McSpadden enjoys the challenge. “It’s difficult and it makes me think as well as proud when I get the rhythm right,” she says.

Resident Betty Ford agrees. “I’ve tried it and I love the way it’s totally different from anything I’d ever thought of trying.” Her experience convinced her best friend to try and see how fun it can be, which is exactly what Tina Bertelle loves to here.

“I’ve added a biweekly Drumming for Beginners intro class and Weekly Fitness to really make what they learn resonate deep in their soul,” said Tina. “Drumming has a proven Healing Frequency. It’s a powerful teaching tool we can all learn and use throughout Sunshine!”

All in all, it sounds like Drum Fitness is a form of therapy that, well, just can’t be beat.

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, August, 2018. Some information provided by drnorthrup.com and aplaceformom.com.

Experienced Or Beginner, Every Poet Is A Winner

About two weeks ago, we told you all about Sunshine’s Annual Poetry Contest spearheaded by Jerry Schmalenberger, a resident at Quail Lodge in Antioch, California. Well, to leave you hanging without sharing the results would be like reading one of Shakespeare’s sonnets without the final couplet. So here’s what went down, starting with Jerry’s assessment of the participation and competition:

“We had a really good turnout. The quality of the poems received showed there are very thoughtful people living in our facilities. No doubt this activity is therapeutic as well as interesting. I believe poetry is the music of the soul and we sang well.”

Jerry, his wife Carol and Sara Hallam, Life Enrichment Director at Quail Lodge reviewed 21 entries from Sunshine residents from across the country, 11 of which – not surprisingly – came from Jerry’s fellow poetry lovers at Quail Lodge. But the 1st Place winner was none other than Jean Kirkpatrick from Waterford Terrace, who had this to say about her inspiration:

“When you write any poem, you are inspired by something that happened in front of you. I was sitting on the bus looking out the window and noticed an older man flagging us down. He got on the bus and could’ve sat in any of the empty seats, yet he decided to sit next to me. The entire ride we didn’t speak. But once I got home, I kept seeing him in my head. So I sat and wrote about him.”

Here’s Jean’s lovely and thoughtful poem:

A Gentle Encounter

At the Palm Street stop
he flagged us down with a white
handkerchief above his white head.

Air brakes exhaled
in the dust
as the doors parted.

He dismissed the empty
forward seats
and shuffled along the aisle.

I met his eyes,
the same soft blue
as his sweater.

We sat side by side,
comfortable strangers
drawn by need.

He stroked his knees
with well-tended hands and chuckled
at some private thought.

In a string bag
at his feet
a chess board waited.

At the Senior Center
he left the bus, and I put my hand
on the vacant seat beside me.

And murmured a prayer,
somebody loved
this old man.

Taking 2nd Place was Quail Lodge resident Sasha Johnson, who chose to reflect on her childhood home.

Home on the Hill

The sun rises and sets on our little home on the hill.
We grow, we groan, we laugh and we love.
We gawk, we gasp, we learn and we live,
On our little home on the hill.

For here is where we shall stay when dawn turns to day,
On our little home on the hill,
Where our great grandchildren can come to play.

We greet, we grin, we listen and we lecture.
We graze, we gather, we lay and we linger,
On our little home on the hill.

The sun rises and sets on our little home on the hill,
Where we live with great company and enjoy each day.

Our 3rd Place winner also wrote a poem about home. But rather than reminisce about an old home, Quail Lodge resident, Phyllis Martin, was inspired to muse about finding her new one.

A New Home to Love

When my husband died and I was living alone
Most of my social life existed by phone.
My adult children were busy with their children and spouses
And working their jobs and keeping up houses.

So I said to myself that something had to be done
To put a little spice in my life and have some fun.
So I jumped in the car and away I flew
To look at retirement homes and found quite a few.

I came upon Quail Lodge and liked what I saw
So I returned home and gave them a call.
I had a tour and like it even more
So I gave them a deposit before going out the door.

They gave me the keys and a welcome mat
And I moved in with my dog and cat.
I settled in and got acquainted quite soon
And had new friends before noon.

The activities are so many to enjoy or play
And they keep us entertained every single day.
I like the management and employees, too
And the wait-persons are very helpful it’s true.

The menus are perfect with delicious food
To make us content and put in a good mood.
So to end my story of living in the slow land
I will repeat many times that I can’t complain.

I thank all the powers-that-be
For my new friends and family.
I thank the good Lord up above
For helping me find my new home to love.

As you can tell from Phyllis’s clever style, she knows a thing or two about telling a story in rhyme.

“I write poetry for fun and my entertainment,” she said. “I have been writing poetry on and off all my life, but this was the first contest that in which I entered my writings. I am thrilled that my poem was chosen!”

We too are thrilled that many residents like Phyllis truly love their Sunshine Retirement communities. And we’re delighted that they have a wonderful avenue to express it.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, May, 2018.