Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Pass the Popcorn! New Resident Theater Debuts at Sunny View

The scent of hot buttered popcorn fills the air as residents relax in their large, overstuffed reclining bright red leather seats anxiously waiting for the lights to dim and the heavy leather wrapped studded door to close. It’s not only movie time at Sunny View but a theater experience like no other.

With its surround multi-speaker audio system, 145-inch HD screen and reflective acoustical panels, Sunny View’s new movie theater provides a state-of-the-art experience, yet harkens back to a time when ushers with red flashlights wore tuxedos and double features were the norm.

“I never dreamed Sunny View could build something like this,” said resident Gloria Burns. “This is a true theater experience in so many ways.”

The 21-seat theater was made possible due to the generosity of former resident Bruce Watts and current resident Mitch Wendell who financed the project through the Sunny View Foundation. Movie lovers, sports fans and music enthusiasts, Bruce and Mitch wanted to create an immersive experience where residents could enjoy the latest releases as well as classic films, sporting events and concerts.

“I’m most interested in classical music,” Mitch said, who hosts a regular classical concert series in the theater. “But this theater is perfect for all sorts of events including lectures and even guided meditation.”

The theater is able to stream the latest movies through Apple TV and Netflix and is
equipped with a DVD and Blue-Ray players to give residents choices ranging from classics like Casablanca and My Fair Lady to contemporary films like La La Land and The Shape of Water.

Future plans for the theater are to integrate voice first technology so residents can easily operate controls and make viewing choices. A theater lounge with a snack bar is scheduled to open in the fall.

“Enhancing resident life is one of the Sunny View Foundation’s goals,” said Sunny View Foundation Development Director Bill Penrod. “I’m pleased that our generous residents could make a project like this come to life.”


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Longevity of Kingsley Staff Reflects Culture of Community

Jeannie Weber
The year was 1984 and Los Angeles was in the middle of hosting the summer Olympics, when Jeannie Weber, who had just moved to town, took a part-time job as the Kingsley Manor Retirement Community receptionist on the night shift.

Thirty-five years later, Jeannie, who long ago migrated from the front desk, is the director of sales and marketing. “Kingsley has become my second home,” she smiles, looking over at the rose bushes outside her office. “Who could ask for a nicer place to work? And I just fell in love with the residents – they’re my extended family.”

But Jeannie is far from an anomaly among the Kingsley staff. As of this year, the community has 14 team members celebrating 25 years of employment or more.

“I don’t even think of it as work anymore,” said Emyrose Lacuesta, director of health 
Emyrose Lacuesta

“It’s where I live. It’s where I enjoy being.” Starting her career at Kingsley 31 years ago, Emyrose worked her way up from a part-time charge nurse to director.

“You really get to know the residents, and their families,” she said. “I love that part of it. I miss them when I go on vacation.”

Both Jeannie and Emyrose had a background in their chosen field when they arrived at Kingsley, but for 30-year veteran Angela Pineda, who was still in high school when she started, Kingsley was where she discovered her calling. “I started off working in the dining room part-time,” she said. Later, Angela received her CNA training and was hired in the Care Center. Now, as the life enrichment director for the Care Center she’s found her passion.

“I had no idea when I started here how much I would love coming up with fun, engaging experiences for residents,” Angela said. “I love that I’m contributing to a sense of community. I love the creativity involved.”

“I’m not surprised about the longevity of our employees,” said Executive Director Shaun Rushforth.

“Word gets out that Kingsley Manor is a great place to work and live. We’re a family here.”

Thursday, January 17, 2019

How Can You Pass On Your Passion?

 by Arlene Harder, resident at  Villa Gardens Retirement Community

If you have ever needed to leave an organization you started, did you do so with joy, or was there grief and regret? Let me tell you my experience.

Fifteen years ago, about one-hundred of us stood on a patio under sturdy canvas covering food stations contributed by several restaurants for the occasion. (It was the end of our first winter storm—one week after our record high of 113 degrees.) We were celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Wellness Community-Foothills, a non-profit cancer support program in Pasadena, California. As a cofounder, I was one of the honorees at the $75-a-person event.

Although I was no longer on the board or gave workshops, twenty years earlier I did whatever I could to support an organization that has served tens of thousands of cancer patients and their families.

What I said several years after I had left an organization of which I was proud

When I was given a lovely bouquet and a certificate of appreciation from the mayor and our county supervisor, I needed to say a few words. I repeat them here (approximately, since I didn’t write them down) because I think you may find them helpful if you are in the beginning, middle, or end of organizing some new venture.

Thank you for this honor. When I was asked to say a few words, I wasn’t sure what to say and decided to get my inspiration after I came here and saw all of you. That’s when I realized I knew hardly anyone! When I was involved in the first fund-raising events, I knew the names and faces of most of the participants. Tonight I recognize only a small handful.
When we began this organization, I wasn’t thinking about what it would look like in twenty years. All I knew was that the community needed a place where cancer patients and their families could get comprehensive social and psychological support.

I had a passion to make that happen. Looking around at all of you, I can see that an organization only continues through the effort of new people who catch the same passion that began it—and then expand it in their own way.

So I am glad to see all of you here, even though I don’t know who you are.

Later in the evening, a woman said that my comments reminded her of a speech she had heard on the stages of creating an organization. There was first the recognition of a need, a passion to make a change, a vision for how that could be achieved, the work involved in accomplishment, the need to do something else, and the grief of letting go.

She said, “I think you are in the stage of grief, seeing all these people you don’t know taking part in something that used to belong to you.”

“Good heavens, no,” I replied. “Far from it. I am absolutely thrilled that others also have a passion to make this organization successful.”

Then I told her that, “I believe one of the things that has prevented my grief in moving on is that I have other passions. For example, about thirteen years ago, I cofounded CancerOnline, a non-profit Internet program where I served as pro-bono executive director for five years. With that experience on the web, I later created LearningPlaceOnline, and then Support4Change and ChildhoodAffirmations. Along the way I wrote three books, am actively writing a fourth, and have ideas for two others.”

I continued, “So you see, if one stops an activity, for one reason or another, and there is nothing to fill the void, then I suppose grief is natural. But if you always have something to catch your interest and your passion, you don’t have to grieve. You can let go joyfully, celebrate the involvement of new people, and move on.”

Our ego gets in the way of letting go

I believe that one cause of grief in leaving an organization or activity is our ego’s attachment to what we’ve accomplished. The ego says, “If whatever you did was successful, you are successful. That organization or activity is you.”

Operating from the “true self,” however, you can create an identity that says something quite different. This central part of who you are says, “You are a person who has accomplished something that makes the world a better place. You are a person who saw a need and met it. You are a person who can see another need and, using the skills you have, can meet those needs with the same passion you gave to other projects.”

How to be successful in creating an organization, activity, or program and then letting go when you need to

Based on my experience, if I were to suggest the steps to creating a successful organization and then moving on, I think it would be this.

• Notice a need that has not been met by anyone else.

• Notice whether you have a passion to meet that need.

• Find others who can help you accomplish it

• Use the passion and skills of all of you to create the best possible solution to the need you are trying to meet.

• When you have given all you can give, or when there is something else in your life that needs your focused attention, notice all the people who are still involved in the project you’ve created.

• Give the new people attracted to your project your best wishes, celebrate their efforts, offer whatever advice you can, and let go, knowing they will each bring their best to this venture you helped create.

• Embrace your new passion or responsibility with enthusiasm, as you did for the one you have left.

You won’t always know what will happen to your old project
Over the years, The Wellness Community formed more than 25 separate facilities across the country and in several other countries. Another organization, Gilda’s Club, was also created to meet the needs of cancer patients. Then the two groups combined to create the international Cancer Support Community, the largest organization of its kind. This is an example of how you don’t know what will happen when you begin something new.
So my advice for you who see a need is just to go for it. Don’t try to imagine accolades you’ll receive for your success, for you may not be successful for any of a hundred different reasons. However, your intention to create something of value for the world will become like a snowball rolling down the hill, gathering more momentum as it rolls. The shape it takes will not be entirely in your hands.

Arlene Harder, MA, MFT is a resident at Villa Gardens Retirement Community in Pasadena, CA. As a licensed psychotherapist for thirty years, Arlene developed an interest in the use of guided imagery techniques to reinforce the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual qualities that arise from deep within each one of us. She co-founded The Wellness Community in Pasadena, CA, (now the Cancer Support Community), the largest professionally-led nonprofit network of cancer support worldwide. And she has written four books, Letting Go of Our Adult Children: When What We Do Is Never Enough, Healing Relationships in an Inside Job and How to Love a Perfectionist Without Going Crazy.

© Copyright 2010, Revised 2017, by Arlene F. Harder, MA, MFT

Thursday, January 10, 2019

World-Class Athletes Live Well at Casa de Mañana

Swimmer Betsy Jordan and Weightlifter Len Sandberg thrive at community that promotes wellbeing

Friendly and diverse, there’s an easy air of camaraderie among the residents. You’ll find them in the dining room, by the fountain, tending to the roses, on the hiking trail, in the pool and in the gym. Casa de Mañana is no stranger to interesting folks, some with extraordinary accomplishments, including world-class athletes Betsy Jordan and Len Sandberg.
Betsy is a record-breaking, award-winning, master-level swimmer, who, in her 40-plus years of masters swimming competition, has set more than 40 world records. Many are national and local records, including All-Star and All-American awards. In 2005 she was inducted into the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame.

Len is an amateur weightlifter who recently set a powerlifting record in the 148-pound-and-under Powerlifting Bench Press World Championship sanctioned by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).

Len took home the championship by lifting 110 pounds in the 90 and older age bracket.

 “I saw the current record and thought that I could beat it,” Len said with a smile. “It was that simple. It’s not that I’m so great. I just have lived a long time.”

Despite his recent accomplishment, Len describes himself not as an athlete but as a “gym rat” who began regular workouts in his early 40s.

 “I got involved in a fitness program designed for business professionals who did not have a lot of time to exercise,” said Len, who worked in the steel manufacturing business at the time.

“I needed to do something to keep in shape.”

While preparing for his record-setting performance, Len worked out at the Casa fitness center three days a week.

“There is no question that weightlifting has improved my life,” Len said, while enjoying the ocean view from his fourth-floor balcony. “I like to stay active and coming to Casa eight years ago gives me a marvelous atmosphere for healthy living.” 

 Betsy’s path to greatness began as a child growing up in the Midwest.

“When I was nine and little and scrawny, I wanted desperately to be like my big sister and join the Riviera Club swim team in Indianapolis, my home town,” Betsy remembers. “The coach, however, said no, and suggested I go home and grow a while. Incensed, I joined the rival and then fledgling Indianapolis Athletic Club team, where I trained and competed regularly in local, state, and national meets until I left for college. It was a golden era for swimming; no butterfly invention, no pace clocks, no time standards for entries to nationals, but great team spirit.”

In the 1950s, women didn’t compete much past high school, so while talented, instead, Betsy attended college on the East Coast and graduate school at UC San Diego. She received a master’s degree in art history and a Ph.D. in literature. She also taught humanities at UCSD in the 1980s.

“Raising four children became my major focus in the 1960s, but by 1971 I was back in the pool and the ocean, living in California,” Betsy said.

These days, the Casa resident enjoys swimming in La Jolla Cove. Her most recent accomplishments were winning two first place and one second place medals in the San Diego Senior Games this summer and being inducted into the Wellesley College Hall of Fame in October.

“Swimming is my passion,” Betsy said. “I like the feeling of being one with the water. That’s easy here at Casa with the ocean outside my door.”

Friday, December 21, 2018

A Christmas Letter from Ellin Ostler, resident at Vista del Monte

Merry Christmas. I have decided to send you a Christmas letter about "Service" this year instead of a card. Service has brought a lot of joy into my life and I hope it will for you. Below are words I wrote in the 1980s as I was pondering on the meaning of service. They still represent my beliefs today.

"Service given freely with no expectation of something in return is one of the greatest sources of true joy and happiness. However, service which is not given freely and unconditionally will bring resentment and unhappiness."

I have hired, trained, and supervised hundreds of employees during my life. During their training, I told them a story about how I learned to make a seemingly boring job fun. The story goes like this:

I had a part-time job as an usher at the BYU Marriot Center where the BYU basketball team play their games. I was assigned, the VIP entrance each year. Most of the people had season tickets and sat in the same seat each year. It was a boring job because everyone knew where his or her seats were and I did not have anything to do.

One year, I decided I was going to do something different. As people came to my entrance, I stood right in front of them as they came in, looked into their eyes, gave them a big smile, and said, "Hi, how are you tonight?" They were shocked and surprised. I am sure they thought I was a little weird. I continued to do it each game during the basketball season;

To my surprise, after a few games, many of the people tried to beat me to the punch by saying "Hi," and wishing me well first. After a few games, they began to treat me as if I was one of their good friends. Some of them even brought me food to eat during the game.

Sometimes, I would see these people downtown away from the Center, and they would come up to me and wanted to know how I was doing. They often had to remind me where I had met them. I was shocked about how something as simple as a smile and saying hi could make such a difference in my relationship with people. I learned from this experience that I could make a boring job fun just by smiling and saying hi. I also learned that it is impossible for me to give more than I receive when I freely give of myself.

I had another experience when I was working at UCSB. I supervised a group of students who were responsible for the student union building when it was open. The only time we could all meet for a weekly staff meeting was at 7:00am. Most of the students at UCSB stay up late and are not use to going to a meeting so early in the morning. I decided to show my appreciation to them by bringing them something to eat. At first, they were very appreciative of my gesture.

These students also worked with the student union catering manager. The manager decided to show his appreciation by fixing them a breakfast for .the meeting.

Before long, the students started to complain when they didn't get what they expected. What started out to be gift of appreciation turned out to be an obligation for me and the catering manager. We decided to stop giving them food because it had become an expectation. The students were disappointed, but I think they learned an important lesson about being grateful. I experienced the joy of giving until it became an obligation.

I have decided to experience the joy of giving as often as possible by freely giving of my time and talents. I have also decided that when giving becomes an obligation or an expectation, I will find another way to give. I hope you experience the joy of giving this Christmas.

May you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

-Ellin Ostler, Vista del Monte resident

Vista del Monte Retirement Community in Santa Barbara’s Hidden Valley serves seniors from all walks of life in Southern California.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Sunny View and Summer House Residents Make Connections Through Memory Bridge

Gennie Waters has a special moment with her friend Maxine.
Sunny View resident Gennie Waters remembers her longtime friend Maxine as a talkative, vibrant, funny person. But in the past several years, dementia has compromised Maxine’s ability to express those qualities, as she would have in the past. However, Gennie is still able to connect with her friend, a resident of Summer House, Sunny View’s memory care neighborhood, but in a different way using techniques she learned from Memory Bridge, an empathetic form of communication.

 “I am a Bridge!” Gennie exclaims, who learned how to “be with” Maxine and how vital being together is to her and Maxine’s lives, regardless of cognitive capacities.

“We may not communicate in the same way but our time together is just as special to me as always,” Gennie said. “Some days when I visit, Maxine does not recognize me and that’s OK. Other days I can see her light up as soon as she sees me. That’s the special part. At first, I thought I was helping her but then I realized she was helping me learn patience. This has changed my life.”

 Memory Bridge training at Sunny View is funded by resident Jean Eckert through Sunny View Foundation and spearheaded by Sunny View Chaplain Pastor Carol Been. About 15 staff members, residents, family members and volunteers participated in the initial training that teaches non-verbal ways of empathic communication, or ways of “being with” people with cognitive impairment. The techniques are meant to combat emotional isolation that often affects those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

 According to the training course, one of the biggest mistakes people can make is to stop communicating with those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia because of the erroneous belief that they are “gone.” This counter productive approach to communicating with people with Alzheimer’s and dementia not only negatively impacts the individual living with memory loss by making them feel lonely and depressed, but it also deprives those who have stopped communicating from learning valuable lessons from these individuals, like the importance of presence and patience.

 Chia-Liang Li visits his Memory Bridge “buddy” at Summer House at least once a week. “We are both Chinese and both Christian so we have that in common,” Chia-Liang said. “I just don’t want her to be lonely. I do the best I can to let her know I care about her and her son appreciates that.”

“A one-on-one approach is the focus,” said Sunny View Volunteer Coordinator Julia Earley, who participated in the training and visits her buddy Marie, regularly. “We learn to be in the moment and let our buddies guide us during our visit. Sometimes a simple touch is all that’s necessary to get a positive response.”

With additional funding from the Sunny View Foundation, Sunny View hopes to expand training to more volunteers.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Pioneering physician, veteran, family man, detective novel enthusiast, 60-year Santa Barbara resident and amateur astronomer all describe Vista del Monte resident Dr. Dean Vogel.

“I have a full life -- a somewhat exciting life -- and I’m looking forward to experiencing new things at Vista del Monte,” Dr. Vogel said.

Dr. Vogel was born in a small town in Indiana but moved to southern California when his brother received a basketball scholarship to play at USC. After graduating from medical school, he was an associate member of the Mayo Clinic before coming to Santa Barbara. He was instrumental in bringing coronary care to southern California in 1968 when the field was in its infancy.

Although the retired internist likes to keep up to date on the latest medical news, he spends most of his time enjoying the simple pleasures of life with his wife Mary at Vista del Monte.

“The last few years I’ve been the cook in the family so I’m glad I don’t have to do that anymore,” Dr. Vogel said with a smile. “The food here is excellent. And whenever we go to dinner here we end up sitting with someone with a PhD, or someone who performed on the New York stage or someone with an interesting hobby or story. The people here are just fantastic!”

He describes his wife Mary as a crossword puzzle expert. They both appreciate the newly landscaped grounds. “I don’t think there is another retirement community in the area that has such a wonderful garden as we have here.”

When Dr. Vogel wants some quiet time, he listens to detective novels using books on tape or gazes at the stars from his balcony through his telescope – lifelong hobbies that he has plenty of time to savor.

 “Living at a continuing care community was important to us at this time of life.” Dr. Vogel added. “We looked at several communities but Vista del Monte is by far the best choice for us.”