Category Archives: Senior living

Hang on to Your Hats (and Sombreros)! May Starts Out With a Bang at Sunshine Retirement Communities

Don’t look now, but the lusty month of May is busting out of the gate with two incredibly exciting, yet radically different events on its first weekend. On Saturday, May 4, a handful of Sunshine communities will be treated to A Day at the Races, as they celebrate the 145thAnnual Kentucky Derby from Churchill Downs in Louisville. And on Sunday, or in some cases, as early as today, several more communities will get their fiestas on with Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

As most everyone knows, the “Run for the Roses” kicks off the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred racing. And with favorite Omaha Beach having to scratch due to illness, the race between 20 other horses is wide open this year.

“Derby day is so exciting,” says Stephanie Hendrix, Executive Director at Creekside Pines in Dallas, Georgia. “What another sporting event has so much emphasis on the build-up with the hat contests, Mint Juleps, and everything, just to end with a race that lasts around two minutes.”

Also known as “The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports,” the Derby is just as much spectacle and ceremony as anything else, with ladies expected to show off their finest hats and springy dresses, while gentlemen outfit themselves in their dandiest suits and blazers; all to fulfill Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr.’s vision of making it the classiest race this side of Europe.

“Stephanie and George Kahl, our Director of Maintenance, are both big into this event so they like to be present and help out,” says Creekside Pines Life Enrichment Director (LED) Brandi Limbaugh.“Stephanie puts up print outs of all the horses outside our theater, so the residents can choose which ones they like before the race and George makes Mint Juleps (the real deal). We’ll have some pretzels and light refreshments to go with them.”

Some years the crew at Creekside Pines has had a local horse farm bring over ponies for the residents to pet, learn about and take pictures.

“The race never disappoints,” claims Stephanie. “The residents that come to watch get really creative with their hats and all cheer for their favorite horses.”

Likewise, at The Verandah in Lake Charles, Louisiana, residents are also way into the Derby.
Says LED Becky Dent:

Derby day

“We have a contest on for the best Kentucky Derby attire. I’m decorating up the Tavern and we will be serving Mint Juleps, cucumber sandwiches, pimento spread, and sweet tea.” While quite different, the culture and traditions of Cinco de Mayo are no less important. In fact, Olga Rosalez, LED at The Continental in Austin, Texas extends their celebration of Cinco de Mayo throughout the week. The menu includes Chicken and Beef Fajitas, Rice& Beans, Chips &Salsa, Tres leches cake and Margaritas.

“Since it has become more popular in the U.S., I share the history of the celebration,” says Olga. “Residents enjoy the foods, music, singing and dancing, the overall camaraderie. Mariachi del Alamo parades around the dining room, which everyone loves. After lunch, we play Mexican Loteria (Bingo). It’s a great fiesta!

Since Sundays at Country Club Village in Hot Springs, Arkansas is mostly devoted to church activities, LED Cindy Smith decided to move their Cinco de Mayo fiesta to today (Tre’s de Mayo).

“Celebrating Cinco de Mayo on Friday the 3rd made sense with this month’s calendar, as Happy Hour is held each Friday anyway,” said Cindy. “In addition to our regular beverages (beer, wine, and wine coolers) we’ll be serving chips &Salsa and listening to a playlist of traditional mariachi music. I’ve also incorporated a great supply of Cinco de Mayo decorations.”

Similarly, Brenda Olivarez, LED at Garden Way in Eugene, Oregon draws on her Hispanic heritage to provide an authentic experience for her residents.

“We are actually doing a social hour for the main part with ‘Mock-a-ritas,’” says Brenda. “Chef Martin will be having a yummy Mexican-based meal, along with Churros andChips & Salsa.”

Whether you choose to celebrate the weekend sipping a Mint Julep or a “Mock-a-rita,” singing along with “My Old Kentucky Home” or “DeColores,” we hope your Mayo starts off in grand style.

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

Don’t Discount These Serious Senior Discounts

Becoming a senior citizen in today’s world, definitely has its pros and cons. While it’s easy to gripe about all the aches and pains of aging, you’ll never hear anyone complain about the ever-growing list of senior discounts. They are almost too numerous to mention. But we’ll take a crack at it here.

If you don’t know by now, the #1 way for seniors to access discounts galore is by joining AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons). For a paltry $16/year, you can enjoy:

  • Deals on health care, including eye exams, glasses and contacts, as well as on prescriptions.
  • Discounted life, auto and pet insurance.
  • Significant savings on travel (flights, cruises, railways, hotels and car rentals).
  • Savings at no less than 28 national restaurants.

But whether you’re into AARP or not, there are many other discounts almost everywhere you look. For example, did you know that you can:

1. Save big on your cell phone bill

Many of the large phone companies offer special savings to senior citizens, and these discounts add up quick!

AT&T offers a special Senior Nation Plan for account holders 65 or older for just $29.99/mo. It has 200 Anytime Minutes, Mobile-to-Mobile Minutes, and Nights and Weekends, without roaming and long-distance charges.

Verizon Wireless offers a special 55-plus nationwide unlimited Talk & Text service plan to customers who are 55 or older, in most locations.

Consumer Cellular: Consumer Cellular offers AARP members over 50 exclusive savings on monthly service charges in addition to discounts on accessories.

2. Bumper-to-bumper auto service discounts

If you’re 55 or over and still own a car, you can save 10% at Pep Boys and Jiffy Lube.

3. Great Discounts on Groceries and Other Shopping

Any senior living on a fixed income should never shopping without being aware of these enticing discounts:

  • American Discount Stores – 10% off every Monday (62+).
  • Banana Republic – 10% off total purchase (50+).
  • Clark’s – 10% off shoes (62+).
  • Fred Meyer – 10-15% off on the first Tuesday of each month (55+).
  • New Seasons – 10% off every Wednesday on most items (65+).
  • Goodwill – 10% off on Tuesdays (60+).
  • Michaels – 10% off (55+).
  • Jo-Ann Fabrics – a senior discount day that included 20% off (55+).
  • Kohl’s – 15% discount on Wednesdays (60+).
  • Rite Aid – various discounts including 20% on the first Wednesday of each month (65+).
  • Habitat for Humanity Restore – 20% off on Thursdays at select locations (55+).

4. Trim your travel budget

If you’ve still got a travel bug, not only do you have the flexibility to go during the off-peak and shoulder seasons, you have the wherewithal to catch some nifty senior savings along the way:

  • Greyhound – 5% off (62+).
  • Amtrak – 10% off (65+).
  • National Parks Service – discounted senior pass for $80 (62+).
  • Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean (55+).
  • Hotels including Best Western Days Inn, Hyatt, Marriott, Ramada and Wyndham offer savings at various ages.
  • Hertz Car Rental – various “Baby Boomer” discounts (50+).
  • Southwest Airlines – various discounts (65+).
  • United Airlines – various discounts (65+).
  • Uber – two free trips on the first day of every month.

5. Make your restaurant tab easier to swallow

While a lot of restaurants offer specials and coupons now and then, here are several popular ones that always feature tasty senior discounts:

  • Applebees – 10% discount
  • Burger King – 10% discount and discounts on drink items.
  • Chick-fil-A – 20% off during breakfast hours and 10% off during lunch/dinner hours.
  • Denny’s – senior menu with discounted prices.
  • Golden Corral – discounted menu prices (60+).
  • IHOP – senior menu as well as 10% off.
  • Outback Steakhouse – 10% off for AARP members.
  • Sonic – 10% discount.
  • Subway – 10% discount.
  • Wendy’s – free drink (or 10% off at some locations).
  • White Castle – 10% off (55+).

6. Once-in-a-lifetime deals on Life Insurance?

The sad truth is, a shocking number of Americans do not own a life insurance policy. If you don’t have one, your family could end up inheriting any debts you might have.

Fortunately for seniors, there is a service called National Family that is now allowing users to get free life insurance quotes at surprisingly low rates from some of the top insurance companies out there. Life insurance rates are at a 20-year low and thanks to new program policies you could qualify for a great new policy at an extremely affordable price. It only takes about 60 seconds to get a free quote today. Once you’ve answered the simple questions, you will be presented with choices and rates. Enjoy your savings!

It’s no secret that the dollar doesn’t go as far as it once did. And it’s tougher than ever to make ends meet on a fixed income or limited retirement plan. But thankfully, being a senior has never offered more ways to save, if you know where to look.

And of course, you can never overlook the greatest senior benefit of all: the opportunity to live at a Sunshine Retirement community.

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, April, 2019. Some content was provided by aarp.com, Iloveretirement.com and thepennyhoarder.com.

Five Years of Giving Back Going Strong

The year 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of some pretty earth-shaking events – the landing of Apollo 11 and the first man on the moon; Woodstock, four days of peace and music that changed a generation; and something that received almost no hoopla at the time, but has grown into an incredible global phenomenon: the planting of the seeds of Earth Day.

Officially, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day will be celebrated around the globe on April 22, 2020. But the event and the movement might never have gotten off the ground without a proposal by peace activity John McConnell at a UNESCO Conference held in San Francisco in 1969. He suggested a day to honor the Earth on the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere – March 21, 1970. The day was sanctioned in a proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations

A month later, on April 22, 1970, a separate Earth Day was founded by the United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in. And a movement to help save the planet was born. Earth Day went international in 1970 and these days, it kicks off an entire week of environmental awareness and activism involving more than 200 million people in 141 countries.

For the past five years, Sunshine Retirement communities here in the United States have devoted the entire month of April to support the concept of Earth Day. All communities are celebrating our 5th Annual Go Green Give Back program, where every resident is given incentives and useful tips to help them practice sustainable, earth-friendly habits. Each resident has received a flyer listing numerous ways to reduce, reuse, recycle and give back.

Residents have also received a “Pledge to Go Green” card, which includes green footprints, that represent those four categories (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Give Back). When residents do something beneficial in one of the four categories – like carpooling, shopping with reusable bags, and properly disposing of used batteries and light bulbs – they get their card punched. When all four footprints are punched, they will be recognized and awarded a green prize.

Going Green All Year Round

But perhaps the most important thing result of Go Green Give Back is that it gives all of our Life Enrichment Directors (LEDs) and residents a kick start to make them think of different ways to do more to preserve the planet starting with their own community environment. In fact, many have already been inspired to initiate additional efforts to reduce waste and help their corner of the earth on an ongoing basis.

Case in point, starting this month, Quail Lodge in Antioch, California is focusing on reducing their use of Styrofoam cups, meal containers and other non-reusable items that end up in the landfill.

“To implement this switch, we have set out plastic reusable cups by our water station and we’ll offer ceramic mugs for our coffee functions (Coffee Klatch, Trivia & Donuts, etc.) with collection containers for the used cups,” said Sara Hallam, Life Enrichment Director(LED) at Quail Lodge. “Our meal deliveries will be on covered ceramic dining room plates.”

“Last year we switched our dining room from paper napkins and placemats to reusable cloth napkins and placemats,” added Sara. “Earlier in the year, the kitchen put in place a composting system for all food waste. This process is going well and has cut down on our outgoing waste.
It takes a team effort of both staff and residents, but we know that in this day and age, it’s important to preserve our environment as much as possible.”

At Garden Way in Eugene, Oregon, LED Brenda Olivarez is leading the charge to eliminate disposable containers and more.

“Many of our to-go containers are compostable, plus if residents bring clean Tupperware, we will use that for their to-go meal or their leftovers,” she says. “We also collect dead batteries from the residents and take them to a battery store where they can be disposed of properly. Plus, we have a tomato and herb garden that the kitchen staff maintains and uses in the meals and the salad bar.”

Brenda maintains that it’s important for residents to participate in Go Green/Give Back and beyond.

“Many of the residents here are already into recycling and doing their part to keep the earth green,” she says. “They want to help so that their grandchildren or great-grandchildren have a healthy earth to live in.”

Garden Way resident Evelyn Welker agrees:

“Seniors have the experience from living many years and learning what has really happened. Our generation has learned from the mistakes of the past and can guide future generations.”

Deep in the heart of Texas, Dorothy McCreary, a resident at The Continental in Austin shares a similar perspective.

“Any time we live in a community, we want to keep it healthy, comfortable and safe,” she states. “Each of us has a responsibility and should want to give back.”

LED Olga Rosalez makes sure that The Continental is doing their part to pitch in. For example:

“Our kitchen has greatly increased the collection of food scraps for compost. We give it to an organic company that repurposes it for local farmers,” she says.

Everret Williams, Executive Director at The Continental, loves seeing less waste and the reuse of items. The trash from the kitchen accounts for the largest portion of their community’s waste, so having the residents on board with this initiative makes for a greater impact.

“I thoroughly appreciate Olga’s year-round commitment to Go Green and how it has inspired many of the residents,” claims Everett.“Each year the long-time residents become more knowledgeable on the subject and in turn encourage our new residents to take part as well.”

Last year, Everett saw first-hand how one of his residents, Joan Pierce, took this initiative to the next level. She noticed how glasses and carafes of water were always left half full on the dining tables after lunch. Joan then asked Everett if she could collect the leftover water and use it to water the plants on the patio.

“’ I thought, ‘Wow, what a great idea!’” said Everet. “I immediately gave Joan my blessing and Olga fixed her up with a watering can and an old trash bin for collecting the wastewater. The results were especially noticeable in the hot summer months as our patio plants stayed nice and green, all from water that would have been poured down the drain.”

According to the calendar, Earth Day (or Earth Week) may only come once a year. But at Sunshine Retirement communities, our commitment to “Go Green” gives back to Mother Earth every day. And we think both founders of Earth Day would be over the moon about that.

In addition to a hearty and healthy Earth Day, we wish everyone a Happy Easter.

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, April, 2019. Some information was provided by Wikipedia.com.

“Gone” But Not Forgotten – Lessons Learned And Memories Treasured From a Classic Film

Frankly, my dear, people actually still give a damn about the classic movie, Gone with the Wind, even 80 years after it premiered in Atlanta, Georgia. This year, theaters across the country have been presenting special 80th anniversary screenings of the epic film, based on Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling saga of the Old South.

For those who somehow haven’t read the book or seen the film, Gone with the Wind follows the beautiful, but headstrong Southern Belle Scarlett O’Hara (played by Vivien Leigh) who will stop at nothing to win the heart of the man she loves, Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), and preserve her family’s Georgia plantation known as Tara. Complications ensue when she meets a handsome rogue named Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), who knows that he and Scarlett are truly meant for each other. Oh, and then the Civil War breaks out and turns their whole world upside down.

Despite predictions of its failure and complications in production, the film was an instant box office smash, winning eight Academy Award and two special achievement Oscars. With its iconic performances, lush backdrops, immaculate wardrobe, sweeping story and some unforgettably classic lines, Gone with the Wind remains one of the most beloved films of all time, raking in $1.8 billion over its 80-year history and its cultural influence has endured. In fact, film critic Roger Ebert wrote in 1998, “It is still a towering landmark of film, quite simply because it tells a good story, and tells it wonderfully well.”

Since the story took place in Georgia very close to Sunshine’s Creekside Pines community in Dallas, Georgia, Life Enrichment Director (LED) Brandi Limbaugh thought it would be fun to have an anniversary showing for residents. Though none of the residents attended the 1939 premier along with Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh at the Loew’s Grand Theatre in Atlanta, Brandi found that the vast majority of the 18 who came to opening night of the screening (a record crowd for movies at Creekside Pines) had seen GWTW before.

“The most interesting thing about watching this film with my residents is that many of them are not from the South,” said Brandi. “So, to see not just the Civil War, but the aftermath and Reconstruction of the South is what really gets to them. Most thought that the movie presented an accurate depiction of mid-19th Century life in the South, but did not show just how severe the war was and exactly how hard it was to rebuild afterward.”

Lily Parks, a Creekside Pines resident who grew up in California, said she knew only a moderate amount about the War from her school education. She commented:

“When I moved to Atlanta in the 1950s, I really learned a lot about the Civil War and tried to go to all of the museums and historic places. Raising my family here, I really tried to teach my children as much as I could about it as they grew up.”

Lily noted that unlike most war movies today, GWTW didn’t actually show any intense battle scenes, other than Rhett and Scarlett making a dramatic escape from Atlanta as it went up in flames.

“I’m sure the actual battle sites were much worse than we could imagine,” said Lilly. “Also, life at Tara probably was not the norm. I doubt most women walked around in fluffy dresses all day attending parties, while the men smoked cigars. The parties were few and far between, as living on a plantation required a lot of work, not just from the slaves.”

Brandi enjoyed a lively conversation with Lily about the film.

“Lily and I have discussions about all sorts of things,” said Brandi. “She loves to go to art and history museums, and I love that she still has a passion to learn new things.

“We both agree that slavery was the primary – though not the only – cause of the War. Lily pointed out that the South’s economy was based on agriculture that required many laborers, since there were no tractors or heavy equipment yet to do the work. While at the same time, the North’s economy was based on industry and factory production that required fewer workers.”

Lily also pointed out that when the slaves were emancipated, many of their old plantations failed during Reconstruction, because they did not have the labor to keep them up. Indeed, the film showed how Scarlett’s family had great difficulty trying to handle all of the work on their plantation. To complicate matters, the slaves that stayed with them did not know how to tend to the crops or the farm animals because they had been trained to work inside the house.

In addition to the serious discussions about the War and the film, all of the residents enjoyed the GWTW trivia that Brandi shared before the screening. Here are a few noteworthy items:

  • Not a single scene was shot in the state of Georgia. Everything was filmed in Hollywood studios and on location in Southern California.
  • While Clark Gable’s casting as Rhett was pretty much a foregone conclusion, there was a lengthy nationwide search for the role of Scarlett, including some 1,400 interviews, in part to build up publicity for the film. Joan Crawford, Tallulah Bankhead and Katherine Hepburn were among those who didn’t get the part. While Hepburn might’ve been great in the role, casting a Northern “Yankee” like her as Scarlett would’ve been an outrage. Ultimately, Vivien Leigh, a little-known English actress, landed the role, after filming had already begun and eventually won the Academy Award for Best Actress.
  • Olivia de Havilland, who played Scarlett’s faithful friend Melanie Wilkes, is the only GWTW actor still living (coming up on her 103rd birthday this summer). She was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, but was beaten Hattie McDaniel, who became the first person of color to win an Oscar.

Then of course, there’s the trivia question for the ages: How did Rhett’s famous last words, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!” get past the censors, which forbad swearing in G-rated 1939?

Unfortunately, our time is up and that will have to be answered tomorrow. For, as Scarlett would say, “tomorrow is another day.”

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, April, 2019. Some information was provided by Wikipedia.org, newsweek.com and tcm.com.

What Does All-Inclusive Living in Hot Springs Include?

Most retirees are drawn to Hot Springs senior living communities that advertise their rent as all-inclusive, but the term can be deceiving. Some communities use “all-inclusive” to describe rent plus light housekeeping while others use the same term to describe a retirement lifestyle that truly includes nearly every service and amenity available. To help you narrow down the search, we’ve compiled all of the services and amenities that are included in your monthly rent at Country Club Village.

Move-In Assistance

Whether you’re moving from Lonsdale, Lake Hamilton, or another local neighborhood, move-in assistance from Country Club Village is offered at no additional cost. This means that somebody is available to coordinate the moving process, and while you may have to pay the third parties that help move belongings or assist with other services, you won’t be charged for the coordination of services offered by Country Club Village.

24/7 Dining

A wide variety of dining options are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for residents who choose to take advantage of the gourmet-style menu. Whether you’re hungry when the sun comes up or you need a late night snack, you can count on the expert nutrition team to accommodate your request at no extra cost. Additionally, any special dietary needs, including allergies or doctor’s orders, are accommodated by the nutrition team.

Green Spaces

You’ll never pay extra to enjoy outdoor walking paths, green spaces, patios, and the breathtaking views of the Arkansas sunrise and sunset. Many residents invite friends and family members to take a stroll on the path or enjoy some time on the patio, too.

Local Transportation

If you aren’t comfortable commuting to and from your Hot Springs appointments and events, the cost of transportation can add up quickly. Country Club Village offers free transportation to local clinics, grocery stores, and other retailers as well as free transportation to local attractions like the Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo, Hot Springs National Park, or Garvan Woodland Gardens. You can save your budget for fun when transportation is free.

Wellness Program

You’ll never get charged an additional fee for using the on-site gym, attending exercise or nutrition classes, or getting your steps in on the grounds. Wellness opportunities are right at your fingertips and always included in your monthly rent.

Activity Program

Included in your rent is unlimited access to a robust activities program, which includes low-impact sports, spiritual activities, blackjack, bingo, happy hour, local adventures every week, and much more. The activities calendar changes every month to ensure there are always new and exciting things to do during your golden years at Country Club Village, and there’s never pressure to attend any activity that doesn’t speak to your interests.

Utilities & Maintenance

Those living on a fixed income in retirement often find that the fluctuating cost of utilities and home repair can quickly derail their budget and cut into their adventure fund. When you choose an all-inclusive retirement community, you never have to worry about utilities rising and falling like the changing tide or an appliance breaking down unexpectedly. Your monthly rent includes utilities and maintenance, which means the community absorbs the fluctuations so you can easily predict and plan for your expenses every month.

Weekly Housekeeping Services

Weekly housekeeping is included in your all-inclusive rent at Country Club Village so you can spend more time enjoying retirement and less time keeping up at home.

To learn more about all-inclusive independent living in Hot Springs Arkansas, schedule a visit today.

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.

Sunshine Residents Relish Opportunities to Uncover Their Craftiness

March is Craft Month at Sunshine Retirement communities. No, that doesn’t mean everyone sits around sipping trendy beers while discussing hand-made furniture, jewelry, soap or what have you. Craft Month is not necessarily about things that are made with a high level of skill or proficiency. It’s simply about getting together to work on projects with an intended purpose and outcome.

“I love crafts!” says Merry Beth Grant, Assisted Living Life Enrichment Director (LED) at The Verandah in Lake Charles, Louisiana. “We celebrate Craft Month every month. The goal is to get as many residents involved as possible in a project that gives them a sense of pride in what they have created.”

The Verandah has a whole room dedicated to crafts that is shared by Assisted Living and Independent Living residents. Merry Beth knows the importance of doing crafts goes a lot deeper than just making another cozy to keep the tea warm.

“Making crafts helps with hand and eye coordination, cognitive abilities and concentration,” she says. “It brings people together. We share stories, we laugh and we help each other. I also like to give residents responsibilities in helping me set up for our projects, which gives them a sense of purpose.”

Merry Beth credits her infectious approach with attracting residents who aren’t typically interested in craft making.

“I believe that if you’re enthusiastic about doing something, the enthusiasm catches on," she claims. “The other thing is, I try to come up with crafts that they’ll want to give as gifts. They love gifting their projects to friends and family members.”
Merry Petroski, LED at Windsor Heights Assisted Living & Memory Care in Beachwood, Ohio, also sees great benefits in making crafts with her memory-challenged residents.

“A person with dementia has lost the ability to order their day,” she says. “Going from task to task, taking time to relax, hydrate, eat and get activities of daily living accomplished gets increasingly difficult, if not possible for them.

Merry finds that joining in on craft projects keeps their minds focused, which may head off negative behaviors that are often the result of boredom and confusion. These creative endeavors can also help them to center themselves.

“Each project can orient them to time and place,” says Merry. “By making Christmas decorations or coloring Easter eggs, we offer gentle reminders to structure our residents’ days. People love familiar rituals, and most will also try new projects with a little prodding and lots of positive feedback.”

While clutter and complicated directions can create serious challenges for people with dementia, Merry finds that any craft project can be completed as long as it is broken down into enough simple steps. What might take an afternoon for the average person could take three or four afternoons for someone with dementia. They no longer have the ability to multi-task and remember long sets of instructions. So one session may be devoted to cutting things out, another to gluing, painting, etc., until the project is done. According to Merry:

“People who suffer from the effects of dementia are no different than the rest of us, in that they love to receive praise and feel pride in creating something with their own hands.” 

Positive reinforcement and a little common sense have also proved helpful in getting men to enjoy crafts as much as women.

“Men seem to enjoy tasks that involve building,” said Merry. “If a man seems reticent to participate in crafts, I ask for help in building a dollhouse for a child or offer him a painting job on a premade birdhouse.”

“Finding a craft that appeals to everyone is tricky,” concurs Cindy Smith, LED at Country Club Village in Hot Springs, Arkansas. “Wood-working crafts for men and projects that are fun and dramatic seem to go over well.”

Country Club Village has a space that is stocked with various tools and supplies, so residents can enjoy crafts and explore their own creativity at their leisure. But, of course, they’re also encouraged to participate in numerous organized craft projects. Like Cindy, most Sunshine LEDs have discovered that using the internet and social media are great ways to find fresh craft ideas for everyone to enjoy.

“I love having Pinterest!” says Brandi Limbaugh, LED at Creekside Pines in Dallas, Georgia.
“You can find things on there and on Facebook that you wouldn’t think of in a million years. I also turn to YouTube to find videos that help you figure out how to do something you didn’t know how to do.”

Lately, the internet helped Creekside Pines residents create St. Patrick’s Day wreaths that they will be able to hang on their doors for years to come. And currently, Sunshine’s own network of LEDs is inspiring each other with a variety of “green” crafts – the kind that will be perfect for Earth Day celebrations next month.

So, while the world continues to appreciate the special qualities of hand-crafted beverages, foods, soaps, etc., Sunshine residents will go right on enjoying the endless benefits of hand-crafting their own holiday wreaths, cell phone holders and birdhouses.

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

Dining That Boosts Your Heart, Brain and Social Health

Once upon a time, when bacon and eggs was a regular Sunday morning ritual, planning food seemed like a simple affair. Now, there are so many new diets flying around it’s hard to know what to put on your plate. Should you scrap your frying pan and dive into raw food eating? Or do you follow the Paleo diet philosophy and ditch grains and processed foods?

Then too, you may have heard about whole-food plant-based eating, which is getting is getting so much good press that it influenced the recent revision of Canada’s Canada Food Guide (a counterpart to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate). In this revision, meat and dairy were downplayed, in an attempt to reduce heart disease and other chronic diseases.

Evidence does seem to be mounting that following a healthy plant-based diet (we’re talking tofu and quinoa, not French fries and cookies) can reduce your risk of heart disease. A major study published in 2017, which examined the dietary data of about 209,000 adults over two decades, found that those who followed such a diet had a lower risk for heart disease than other participants.

Can’t let go of meat, chicken and fish?

If the thought of never again biting into a juicy hamburger makes you despondent, read on. According to Dr. Ambika Satija, who led the above study, you can reap heart-healthy benefits, simply by reducing animal foods. “A moderate change in your diet, such as lowering your animal food intake by one to two servings per day and replacing it with legumes or nuts as your protein source, can have a lasting positive impact on your health,” says Satija, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in this Harvard Medical School article.

The article emphasizes the importance of eating more of the right plants, getting rid of unhealthy foods, and moderating the intake of animal products. It also highlights the health benefits of three food plans: the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, and the MIND diet. All three of these diets– which are not completely meat and dairy-free–are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals .This helps lower blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduce the risk of diabetes.


What’s more, by eating a heart-healthy diet, you can also lower your risk for brain problems such as dementia. For instance, the MIND diet trial found that those who closely follow a MIND diet, may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 53 percent.

Sunshine Retirement Living was so impressed by the results of this study it decided to base meals at its memory care communities (and increasingly at its independent living communities) on the MIND diet. (If you pop by for lunch or dinner, you’ll likely find dishes based on MIND diet recommended foods like green leafy veggies, berries, nuts, whole grains, beans and poultry.)

But let’s get back to the Canada Food Guide, which espouses some of the same foods recommended by the MIND diet. An interesting side note about this food guide is that it also recommends that seniors eat meals with others as this “may encourage you to eat more of the foods that you need to stay healthy.”

At Sunshine communities, residents would indeed agree that the social aspect of dining is just as important as delicious and nutritious meals. If you’ve grown accustomed to eating a can of soup in front of a TV screen, you might just find that chatting with others over an after-dinner cup of tea can be as good for your spirit as it is for your body.

*This is Part 2 of this article: https://www.sunshineretirementliving.com/worried-about-your-loved-ones-aging-brain-brain-boosting-diet-may-delay-decline/

Seventy-two Valentines and counting. That’s a lot of cards and candy!

American author and journalist Mignon McLaughlin once said:

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”

If that’s the case, Allen and Christine McKean who live at The Continental in Austin, Texas may be close to breaking an all-time record for falling in love.

Last Saturday, February 2, the McKeans celebrated their 72nd anniversary with a family get-together at Crepe Crazy in South Austin, which is appropriate, because after nearly three-quarters of a century together, the couple is obviously still crazy in love.

“It’s been seven decades of true love, admiration and respect for one another,” says daughter Karen Rotzler of San Antonio. “Theirs is a timeless marriage made in heaven.”

The love affair started back in 1946 when Allen met Christine Boyce at a 4th of July parade in San Marcos, Texas. Allen was born and raised in his parents’ one-room farm house on the banks of the San Marcos River in Staples, Texas. Chris was born in Dallas. On that fateful Independence Day shortly after WWII, she was a college student and Allen had just been discharged from the Navy.

“He had brought several watermelons from his family’s farm to share with everyone,” said Karen. “Things blossomed from there and they were married on Ground Hog Day, February 2, 1947.”

Their first home was a four-room house on Allen’s family farm, which had no running water, electricity or gas. After a year of basically camping out, they decided to go back to school in order to find jobs with more income. With the help of the G.I. Bill, they both earned their degrees. But by that time, they had two children underfoot, and Allen was called back for a second tour of duty in Korea.

After that conflict was over, Allen returned and taught school for five years as their family increased to four children. He then got hired by the Internal Revenue Service and began a 25-year career with the government, which took the family to Washington D.C., Houston, San Antonio and later to the new IRS center in Austin. During that time, they added a fifth child and Chris taught school and swimming lessons when she wasn’t raising the children.

Since Allen was still a country boy at heart, they built their home in nearby rural Manchaca and lived there for 42 years, becoming heavily involved in high school, college and church groups — most centering around swimming and volleyball activities. Every year, Allen went deer hunting, which made venison a staple of family meals.

Together, Allen and Chris were members in both the chorale and hand bell choirs at the Manchaca United Methodist Church. They volunteered with school PTAs, and kept busy serving on many church groups and committees. For years, they never missed a game as their boys played football and the girls were cheerleaders and drill team members.

In addition, Allen coached Little League baseball while Chris was Girl Scout troop leader. Vacations were spent traveling and camping with the kids as they added state car stickers to their window collection. When the children moved out and began having their own families, they became avid Texas Longhorn fans and faithfully attended Lady Longhorn basketball games with friends.

Today, Chris and Allen’s relationship continues to grow around their family that has added ten grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Their move to the Continental Retirement Community in Austin has enriched their lives further with staff who serve many of their daily needs and provide activities for them to create new friendships with fellow residents. To this day, the two of them have managed to strike the perfect balance of pursuing their own passions and interests, yet still focusing their lives around each other, as well as their family and friends.

“At Crepe Crazy, we toasted their love, their laughter, and their happily ever after,” said Karen. “We love them so much and the pillars of support they are to our family.”

Far away from The Continental in Austin, there are a few couples at Quail Lodge in Antioch, California who aren’t far behind in their years of wedded bliss.

“We have eight married couples here at Quail Lodge,” says Life Enhancement Director Sara Hallam. “Three of them have been married over 50 years and have their own secrets to a long happy marriage.”

Vern and Shirley Hess will celebrate 68 years together this year, hot on the heels of Allen and Chris.

“We are just best friends, always have been,” says Shirley. “Since we were kids running around with each other, we were just always Vern & Shirley.”

“It’s important to always have good communication,” says Vern.

“As long as he remembers, what’s mine is mine and what’s his is mine too.” jokes Shirley.

Jerry and Carol Schmalenberge’s 63rd anniversary is just four months from now. Jerry claims that being faithful Christians and going to regular worship is a bond that has held them together over the years.

“My life’s slogan has been, ‘not perfect, but forgiven,’” says Jerry. “Adhering to this motto as the way to treat each other still holds us together.”

For Larry & Lily Stangl, who have been married 51 years, it comes down to remembering the three magic words. And not the ones you might think.

“I was wrong,” says Larry.

Lily concurs: “It helps to say, ‘I’m sorry’ a lot.”

It just goes to show, couples have been giving each other cards, candy and flowers for Valentine’s Day for almost two centuries, and more than 190 million cards are sent in the United States alone each year. But clearly what makes an enduring love story is what two people give each other every other day of the year.

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

Wellness Challenge 2019 – A healthy solution for countless resolutions.

This year, Audrey Pierce, a resident at The Landing at Behrman Place in New Orleans, plans to work out more often to help her right leg get better.

At Country Club Village in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Life Enrichment Director (LED) Cindy Smith reports that Carol Wilkins plans to improve her mobility by taking the stairs three times a week, Wilma Kuenzel is taking steps (literally) to be able to walk a mile by herself, Nancy Jordan will be eating healthier, and Sue Tucker intends to drink more water.

At The Verandah in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Gaye Viccellio promises to start exercising, Helen (Pug) Derbonne is going to do Sit & Fit every day, and Elaine Howerton says she’ll try not to eat so much ice cream.

And at Waterford Terrace in La Mesa, California, Doris Tillett says, “I want to be able to just keep going the way I am and do my best to live my life."

From California to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond, Sunshine Retirement residents have made dozens of different resolutions for the new year. Yet they all have one goal in common: to improve their level of wellness. And once again, Sunshine’s Wellness Director Lauren Dubay has a plan to help them.

“Every year, Sunshine’s 21-Day Wellness Challenge aims to inspire our residents to create goals to help them achieve a better quality of life,” says Dubay. “Whether they’re related to physical fitness, diet, relationships, greener living or whatever, those goals may be different for every resident and we certainly don’t try to dictate them. We simply provide the tools and the encouragement to make it easier for them to achieve.”

Studies show that it takes three weeks to form a new habit. With that in mind, this month’s Wellness Challenge gives all Sunshine residents who want to make a real change in their lives a clear 21-day support program. The program involves just three simple steps:

  1. Set a Goal – At the beginning of the Challenge, a workshop was provided to help residents pick something worthwhile as well as practical.
  2. Find a Friend – Everything is more fun with a friend to offer encouragement.
  3. Spread Cheer – Throughout the challenge, residents are expected to post their accomplishments (big or small) on a Goal Setting Worksheet or an accomplishment board. Then fellow residents can cheer them on by placing special “Thumbs-Up” stickers on it.

According to Dubay, some communities, like The Landing, do group fitness goals, where they have introduced a weekly 20-Minute Walking Club Challenge. For residents with individual goals, our dedicated LEDs help assist every step of the way.
“In the spirit of the new year, the 21-Day Wellness Challenge empowers our LEDs to try new things that can be added to the schedule throughout the year,” says Dubay. “Especially after the high stress of the holidays and the often chaotic schedules that came from those special events, January is a great time for our residents to refocus.”

Of course, it doesn’t hurt when the community provides extra incentives like prizes and recognition for people who participate in the group challenges and do at least one healthy thing for themselves every day. At many communities, the resident who accumulates the most points at the end of the 21 days will earn a special gift for being crowned “Wellness Champion.” But most residents find that the rewards of feeling better both physically and mentally are more than worth the effort to continue the Challenge, and they start looking for other ways to improve themselves.

“One of the added benefits of the 21-Day Challenge is that it motivates our residents to be more involved in all of our activity programs,” claims Dubay. “Throughout the month, we see an increase in participation across the board, not just in our daily fitness classes. And this invigorated spirit continues well after the Challenge is over!”

If that’s the case, it should be easy for John Vignes, a resident of The Landing at Behrman Place, to fulfill his New Year’s resolution, which is simply, “to be friendlier.”

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