Thursday, December 22, 2016

For a Happier Holiday, Host a Family Sing-Along

5 great reasons to make music together this season
By Susan Darrow for Next Avenue

Credit: Thinkstock
This time of year, music often plays a big role in many people’s lives. School concerts,
religious choir performances, seasonal community events, holiday hits on the radio — all offer abundant opportunities to take advantage of the benefits of music for any age.

Since the magic of music is shining exceptionally bright now, this is a great time to encourage your family to use these opportunities as a springboard for making music throughout the year. Music can help families on many levels. It promotes development in babies and young children; bonds families across generations and stimulates areas of the brain involved with motivation, reward and emotion. Making, or listening to, music can actually result in increased levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates the brain’s reward system.

Here are five reasons to make music with your family this holiday season
1. Music-making is beneficial to development.

Music stimulates social, physical, cognitive and emotional development and promotes language and concentration skills, confidence and self-esteem. During the early years, active engagement with music promotes brain development and naturally supports growth essential to life and learning, as well as increasing the bond between children and their caregivers.

It’s easy to get started making music with children during the holidays: Sing your favorite carols in the car, dance to holiday songs or take children to a holiday concert or musical. A 2014 Harris Poll commissioned by the early-child music program Music Together (where I’m the CEO) revealed that only 17 percent of parents sing to their child daily. Music development is similar to language development. Imagine if parents only talked to their children once a day!

We teach children language by continuously talking and reading to them. Similarly, the best thing parents and grandparents can do to support musical growth is to sing and dance with their children and grandchildren as often as possible.

A growing body of research shows that participating in the arts promotes health and well being in older adults, too.

2. Music helps us create and recall powerful memories.

Music can spark the recall of lovely past experiences. It helps the past “come alive,” giving us access to deep feelings as we remember an event or moment. Singing while you decorate the tree, at a holiday party or at a religious celebration can help form memories and bonds with extended family and friends that will be recalled for years to come.

3. Music relieves stress.

The holidays, while joyful, can also be stressful. Singing can actually relieve stress. Studies show that singing has the ability to slow our pulse and heart rate, lower our blood pressure and decrease the levels of stress hormone in our bodies.

So, play music in the car while navigating the mall parking lot or sing along to a holiday recording while getting ready for company. It will help you stay calm and, most importantly, model for the children in your life a healthy way to deal with stress.

4. Music connects us.

The holidays can be lonely for some people. Singing, especially in groups, can relieve this loneliness by connecting us to others in ways that no other activity can. Recent research indicates that music-making as a shared experience can activate and synchronize similar neural connections in all those participating. This synchronization can result in feelings of empathy and shared intention that can promote positive social interaction and bonding.

When you sing with others this holiday season, whether during a religious service, at a community event or at a family gathering, everyone benefits.

5. Singing is intergenerational.

Music is an ageless way to connect with younger and older relatives and create ties between the youngest and oldest family members. Plus, music supports the aging processes. In later years, participating in music activities helps keep the brain active and engaged and supports us physically, socially and emotionally.

Sharing memories of holiday music-making and teaching those songs to younger generations can be joyous for both the older storytellers and the family members who are listening and forming new, pleasurable memories.

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2016. All rights reserved.


The Season of Giving at Claremont Manor

The holidays are here! During this special time of year at Claremont Manor we celebrate together in so many ways. We know how fortunate we are to live and work in a place as wonderful and welcoming as Claremont Manor.

It’s important to take time from the festivities to acknowledge the meaningful generosity and support of our donors. As a donor to the Pacific Homes Foundation you make it possible for eight of our current residents to remain in their homes at our community despite having outlived their assets. As the executive director of Claremont Manor I feel that it is important to acknowledge that kindness and support. These gifts to our fellow residents in need allows me to focus operational resources to enrich the lives of all residents. Your gift benefits everyone in the community! We have much to be grateful for indeed!

Right now, the foundation’s Claremont Manor Resident Assistance Program annual drive is in full swing. And I have great news! An anonymous family member of one of our residents has pledged to match every gift given this month up to $15,000. This is a great opportunity to make a tax-deductible donation before the end of the year, one that could positively affect the lives of your neighbors.

Donating is easy. Visit and click on the “Donate” button and type in “CM RAP” in the note box on the bottom of the page.

You can also send a check payable to Pacific Homes Foundation (include “CM RAP” in the memo line) and drop it off at the front desk at Claremont Manor or mail it to Pacific Homes Foundation, 800 N. Brand Blvd., 19th Floor, Glendale, CA 91203. You will receive a written acknowledgement of your gift for tax purposes.

Most of all you will be helping someone in need at your own community.

Thank you again for your generosity. I wish you the very best at the holidays and always.

Greg Hirst
Executive Director
Claremont Manor

Monday, December 19, 2016


By Pastor Joan Randall

I’ve never been able to stay up until midnight to see in the New Year.  No amount of pretzels or movies or board games has ever seemed able to keep me awake.  And the New Year has always still been there when I got around to getting up in the morning to welcome it.

If you see someone quietly blowing a noisemaker at seven AM on New Year’s morning, while walking a little white dog, that will be me.

Maybe I’ll celebrate the New Year by trying something new, 
        like marmalade on my morning toast.
Maybe I’ll make resolutions, realistic ones this year…
        not “work toward world peace,”
            but living a peace with those around me, 
        not “keep our house neat and clean,” 
            but doing the best I can, day by day 
            to keep the dishes washed and the laundry done, 
            while considering those who have no shelter, 
        not “keep in touch with family and friends on a regular basis,” 
            but reaching out as I am able 
            to the people God places in my days.

Maybe I’ll just keep walking that little white dog
                     and not-so-quietly blowing my noisemaker
                     in celebration of a life
       where there can be toast and marmalade
       where I can work toward peace in my little corner of the world
       where I have shelter from the storms of life and an awareness 
       of those who have no roofs

       where I am never alone in a New Year of friends I have yet to meet 
       and a God who loves me past my knowing.

Get out your noisemakers. The New Year is coming!

Pastor Joan, Chaplain at Sunny View Retirement Community, was a beautiful shining light to residents and staff and a gift to all who knew her. She passed away last March surrounded by friends and family and her faithful dog Benji .

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Happy Holidays!

By Bev Franco, Chaplain at Casa de Mañana Retirement Community

We all know about Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year 's Eve, but what other December holidays are celebrated around the world? Besides National Gazpacho Day, Japanese Emperor Day and Boxing Day in Canada, we also have:

South Africa's Day of Reconciliation (December 16th). This holiday began in 1944 to recognize the end of apartheid. Citizens celebrate with parades that honor Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa.

Mexicans celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th, which commemorates the appearance of the Virgin Mary to Juan Diego in Mexico City on December 9, 1531. At the Virgin's request, Juan gathered roses in his cloak and took them to the bishop. When the cloak was opened, the fabric bore a striking image of the Virgin. Nearly 500 years later, the cloak is still displayed in the church built upon the site of Juan Diego's vision.

The Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, will occur this year on December 21st. On that day, the sun shines directly over the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere. The word solstice comes from the latin solstitium, which means "the sun stands still," because of an optical illusion. Looking from the north, the sun seems to stop and reverse course!

Kwanzaa is a week-long holiday that begins on December 26th. Kwanzaa is the Swahili word for “first fruits,'' and was created in 1966 to honor the heritage of African Americans. Each night of the festival, a candle is lit to symbolize seven African principles, which include unity, self-determination, creativity and purpose.

And of course there is always Festivus on December 23rd "a holiday for the rest of us," invented on the television show Seinfeld. Festivus is commemorated by an unadorned aluminum pole (representing materialism), the airing of grievances, and comedic feats of strength.

Whatever your chosen way of celebration, may it be a joyful holiday!

5 Tips for Older Adults Navigating the Holiday Blues

Grief can get in the way, but don’t feel like you have to fake it

Credit: Thinkstock

By Emily Gurnon for Next Avenue

In the midst of frenetic advertising, pressure to shop for gifts and the ubiquitous seasonal music, the holidays can be an especially hard time if you’re depressed or missing a lost loved one.

The contrast between the “ideal” of the holiday and how we feel inside can be enormous, making the bad or painful feelings all the more pronounced.

“We feel guilty at this time of year if we personally cannot live up to the standard to be ever-cheerful and happy and joyful,” said Dr. Arthur Hayward, national clinical lead in elder care at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif.

Expectations for merriment and joy are high, Hayward said, as evidenced in holiday greeting cards.

“The wishes are not, ‘Have a pretty good Christmas’ or ‘Have an OK New Year,’ but ‘Have the best Christmas ever’ and ‘a very prosperous New Year,’” he said.

Different for Older Adults

For those who are still active, have children at home or have not yet retired, the holiday season can be a whirlwind of activity that feels draining.

Challenging in a different way may be the loneliness of older adults as friends die and family members move away. In a troubling new survey, a quarter of those 65 and older in England said they were not looking forward to Christmas this year, and many of those said it was because “the festive season brings back too many memories of loved ones who have passed away,” according to a poll for the British nonprofit Age UK released earlier this month.

Two-thirds of the 1,793 older adults surveyed reported that loneliness is exacerbated by the holiday season.

Recognizing that many feel a heavier burden of grief this time of year, some churches hold “Blue Christmas” or similar services. December is also the month in which Compassionate Friends, a group for people who have lost a child, holds candlelight ceremonies worldwide.

The Blues or Depression?

The shorter days during winter can contribute to Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. This malady is not just “the blues,” but a type of major depression, according to the Mayo Clinic. People who are depressed may feel sad, hopeless or worthless; lose interest in things they used to enjoy; sleep too much or too little; have trouble concentrating; have little energy; notice changes in their appetite or weight or have thoughts of dying or suicide, the Mayo Clinic says.

If you feel that you or a loved one are suffering from depression, it’s important to seek treatment, Hayward said.

As difficult as the holidays can be, Hayward offered some advice for coping:

Tips for Getting Through the Season 
  • Get plenty of rest. When you take care of your body, you will feel better. 
  • Try to keep your expectations of the holiday modest. That may help prevent feelings of disappointment or of being let down. 
  • Know that it is OK to feel sad or lonely. You don’t have to try to fake it to live up to the expectations of others. 
  • Spend time with friends and other people you enjoy. Do things you want to do, not just the things you have to do. 
  • It’s fine to say no sometimes. Wearing yourself out with too many activities will only make you feel worse. 
Tips for Family or Friends
  • Ask your depressed loved one to do things with you, such as go for a walk or to a movie. If he or she says no, that’s OK. But do ask again in the future. 
  • Ask how you can help in the person’s day-to-day life. You might do some housework, lawn care or errands. 
  • Get your loved one to talk about happy memories. This may help him or her feel more a part of the celebration. 
  • Listen when the person wants to talk. Don’t try to talk him or her out of sad feelings, but acknowledge them. 

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2016. All rights reserved.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Summer House at Villa Gardens: Making Connections

This is the final blog in a three-part series featuring Summer House at Villa Gardens. Visit our archives to read about the innovative care philosophy and life enrichment programming at this unique memory care neighborhood at Villa Gardens Retirement Community in Pasadena, California.

by Katherine Kennedy, MSG

As the manager of Summer House at Villa Gardens, every day I have the opportunity to witness smiles of joy on the faces of our residents as they experience and discover the many life enrichment opportunities we offer. It’s why I do what I do. Yet, many family members seem to miss out on this experience. For some, there is a feeling of weariness and being disconnected that often accompanies anticipatory grief, since some have been on the dementia care journey for close to 20 years. For others it’s due to the perception of memory care as strictly biomedical.

In the early days when Summer House at Villa Gardens first opened, in spite of everything we aspired to create, I felt something was missing. I soon came to realize it was that essential connection with family members; that a vital part of the care-equation should be to offer them support, education, and additional community resources. Positive connections between family and care partners were what could fuel the success of a resident-centered care philosophy. These important connections could encourage positive and possibly transformational engagement opportunities for our residents. We needed a way to make that happen.

Bringing in community leaders in dementia care as guest speakers and hosting quarterly care conferences are just a few of the ways we make connections with families and offer support. This month, for example, our guest speaker from the USC Family Caregiver Support Center will be discussing self-care for family caregivers. We also wanted the ability to share the positive aspects of daily life with our residents’ families. By introducing the The Memory Kit app to our family members we have been able to share precious moments captured throughout the day through photos stored privately within the app. This kind of sharing allows us to celebrate everyone as a group, while also highlighting residents as individuals.

In an effort to continue to grow our family connections, we’ll soon be inviting our family members to participate in activities using It’s Never 2 Late (iN2L), a 70-inch interactive smartboard. By creating personalized “My Pages” for each resident, families can use iN2L to upload photos and videos to their loved one’s page that can then be viewed on the smartboard. Family members will also be invited to use the smartboards alongside residents to engage in residents’ favorite iN2L programs and activities (see Part 2 of this blog series).

Through the use of these innovative tools and a holistic approach to memory care, we’ve found that we’re not only able to offer stimulating activities customized to our resident needs, but that we can begin to bridge the gap between residents and care partners, residents and families, and care partners with each other as we work together to create a supportive and nurturing environment at Summer House at Villa Gardens. 

In observance of National Alzheimer’s Awareness month in November, we are proud to highlight this three-part blog featuring Summer House at Villa Gardens, a memory care neighborhood. Read more about our care philosophy in Part 1 of this series and our innovative approach to Life Enrichment in Part 2.

Katherine Kennedy graduated with a master’s of science in gerontology from USC in 2015 and received a bachelor’s of science in psychology from Santa Clara University. While in graduate school, she worked at the USC Family Caregiver Support Center helping caregivers of adults with brain impairment and completed her graduate internship with Belmont Village Westwood as its operations intern and activities assistant with a focus on memory programs. After graduation, she worked at Alzheimer’s Orange County in the Outreach and Advocacy Department facilitating community outreach projects related to dementia education and advance care planning, as well as became involved as an advisor for The Memory Kit, an app that seeks to unite care partners in celebrating a loved one or a community group. Katherine is now the Summer House manager and administrator in training at Villa Gardens, a Front Porch retirement community where she manages and oversees the care of and therapeutic programming for 19 individuals with Alzheimer’s and related dementias and the care partners who work to accomplish the programs.

Summer House at Villa Gardens: A Unique Approach to Life Enrichment

This week’s Summer House at Villa Gardens blog will focus on innovative life enrichment programming as a distinctive component to memory care.

Art created by residents at Summer House at Villa Gardens

by Katherine Kennedy, MSG

Life enrichment programming is a vital component of our approach to memory care at Villa Gardens. Combined with a multi-faceted care philosophy, the success of life enrichment opportunities is achieved through focusing on individual needs, capabilities, and the interest level of each group participant. Cognitive status, diagnoses, general observations, and social behavior are all considerations when customizing activities for residents with dementia stages from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to late stage. When appropriate, groups are combined for certain programs such as live music entertainment and garden walks. To make sure we are matching a resident with the suitable environment and stimulation and thereby capitalizing on their strengths, we collaborate with a local psychologist to conduct neuropsychological assessments and therapy. 

Programs considered for Summer House must meet physical, emotional, cognitive, and social aspects of wellbeing to ensure a holistic approach to memory care. In October, we introduced iN2L or “It’s Never Too Late,” a 70-inch smartboard designed to allow users, regardless of physical or cognitive abilities, to engage with touch screen technology. With its customized content geared toward life enrichment and wellbeing, it has expanded the ways that our team connects and interacts with residents. To create a personalized experience for each resident and care partner, a ‘My Page’ platform is included in the iN2L system allowing favorite music, games, photos and videos, even websites to be easily accessed.

To engage residents physically, iN2L includes programs like “Conductorcise,” cycling and chair dancing that also activate physical activity for residents in a way that is interactive. In addition in-person classes are taught such as chair Yoga, art, “Ageless Grace” and a drum circle.

Emotional and spiritual needs can be met through activities such as pet therapy, “PARO,” “Music and Memory,” aromatherapy and ceremonies such as religious communion. iN2L programs available to meet those needs include “Reminiscence,” “Pastimes,” “Comedy,” and “Radio and Commercials.” 

To maintain cognitive status as long as possible, iN2L features programs such as “Trivia,” “Sing Along w/ Susie Q,” “Travelogue,” “Guided Tours with Rick Steves,” lectures and special events. These activities also create a point of engagement with residents and allow care partners to learn more about our residents.

Lastly, socialization is an extremely important aspect of wellbeing especially for residents with dementia. New residents who move in often times have problems socializing in larger environments and may isolate themselves and decline physically and mentally as a result. To address this need we create opportunities for socializing through activities outings, special events, cultural days, and birthday luncheons.

One of the greatest feelings about living in Summer House is that our residents are surrounded by people they know – whether at a meal, an outing, or a “Celebration of Life.” We are family here and we try our very best to create a genuine and thoughtful approach to all the aspects of wellbeing for all our residents.

Do you have a loved one living with dementia or Alzheimer’s, what activities have you found helpful?

In observance of National Alzheimer’s Awareness month in November, we are proud to highlight this three-part blog featuring Summer House at Villa Gardens, a memory care neighborhood. Read more about our care philosophy in Part 1 of this series and resources and support for family members in Part 3.

Visit the Front Porch Communities YouTube channel to find out more about the many life enrichment programs available at our Summer Houses:

KCBS Health Watch: A Special Robotic Pet Makes a Big Difference for People with Alzheimer's Disease

iN2L comes to Sunny View

Music and Memory

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Poem of Thanksgiving


It's that time of year.
Crisp and cold.  And almost Thanksgiving.

I remember Thanksgiving dinners at Grandpa and Grandma 
Grandpa at the head of the table,
carving the turkey with a ninja sword knife.
Grandma's carefully manicured hands,
offering us French cut green beans with
We little ones at the children's table, 
olives on our f ingers, all around.

Most of all at Thanksgiving, I remember hands, clasped around  the table,
heads bowed, words of thanks offered.

I'm thankful this year for hardworking hands
nurturing hands 
welcoming hands
loving hands
olive-adorned hands.
If we can just keep holding hands
with each other,
and with the One who created us all, we'll be okay.

Thanksgiving Blessings. 
-Pastor Joan

Pastor Joan, Chaplain at Sunny View Retirement Community, was a beautiful shining light to residents and staff and a gift to all who knew her. She passed away last March surrounded by friends and family and her faithful dog Benji .

Friday, November 18, 2016

Veteran Voices: Jerry Coe

In honor of Veterans Day, we are featuring stories of Front Porch residents who served in our armed forces. This is the story of Jerry Coe, a Sunny View resident, who served on the front line as a forward observer.

I was working at Sutherland Paper Company as a commercial artist and also building our first house when I got my "greeting" for induction on March 2, 1951. I was to report on March 29th. I wrote a letter asking for a deferment so I could get the house closed. They granted me a postponement until May 10, 1951. My uncle and brother-in-law served in World War II, and they both saw action.

My first camp was at Fort Custer, which was 20 miles from home, so my family was able to visit on the weekends. After basic training, I was sent to Camp Breckinridge in Morganfield, Kentucky. I used to hitch rides home whenever I could – all the way from Kentucky to Michigan! By the time I got home, I didn't have much time left, but we stayed in our new home that I had built, even though it wasn't done. 

I was on the front line as a forward observer with a scope calling fire and spotting the enemy. We lived in bunkers in the hill. We all wrote letters back and forth. In the beginning, I never got any letters, even though my mother and wife were writing to me every day! It finally dawned on me to ask if there was any mail under my given name of Merrill instead of my nickname of Jerry. They said, "Are you kidding? We’ve got a whole box here for Merrill!" They had only known me as "Jerry."

I was sent back to the States and discharged on February 11, 1953.

LifeBio is an engagement program that captures cherished memories and lasting legacies through storytelling. Since launching in 2000, LifeBio has helped 20,000 people tell their life stories through autobiographical tools and services for all levels of care. LifeBio uses technologies as mediums to help individual document their stories in an easy and unique way such as tablets, web cams, and audio and video equipment. LifeBio has been a partner with Front Porch since 2009. For more details, check out LifeBio’s Impact Story on the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing (FPCIW) website.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Summer House at Villa Gardens: A Unique Approach to Memory Care

In observance of National Alzheimer’s Awareness month in November, we are proud to highlight this three-part blog featuring Summer House at Villa Gardens, a memory care neighborhood.

Summer House at Villa Gardens Part 1 – Care Philosophy
by Katherine Kennedy, MSG

When Summer House at Villa Gardens opened in January 2016 we had a vision: a warm peaceful environment that felt like home for our residents with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. We wanted visiting family members, caregivers, and friends to feel welcomed and comfortable.

One of the things that makes Summer House a unique place for residents with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias is our care philosophy. Summer House is uniquely focused on the individual, through a lens of positivity rather than decline. Every resident has a private room personalized with treasures from his or her home: familiar and reassuring reminders to help facilitate a more comfortable transition. Equipped with an emergency response system and motion capture sensors, the resident’s safety within their accommodation is given top priority, without feeling intrusive. These technologies give our caregivers an advantage over at-home caregivers by freeing them to interact more with residents in engaging and meaningful ways. A family-style dining room and a patio with outdoor gardens encourage a sense of connectedness – an important aspect of wellbeing. Residents, accompanied by caregivers, also visit tranquil places and enjoy nature in the gardens on the Villa Gardens campus.

Summer House uses the concept of a ‘universal caregiver’ who is involved with activities of daily living (ADLs) like dressing and grooming, as well as meaningful activities such as experiencing music and art. By bringing in experts to train them in programming and end-of-life care, our team members are given the most essential and current tools in dementia care. With this approach we are able to focus on improving the wellbeing of our residents all the while engaging team members and residents’ families in the process.

Also at the top of our priorities in care philosophy is to discover innovations that engage residents in meaningful ways while maintaining dignity, encouraging autonomy, and meeting each individual at his or her stage of dementia. We seek out the potential for learning and growth, and honor the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs.

It is this multi-faceted philosophy that allows us the freedom to explore programs that do not involve medication. These programs include Ageless Grace, iN2L, PARO, the Joy for All Cat and Dog and Music and Memory. Innovations like these, combined with a commitment to continuous education, mean that the entire community is able to focus on the possibilities instead of inevitabilities.

Care philosophy at Summer House at Village Gardens is just one of the memory care advantages versus living at home with only caregiver support. In part two of Katherine Kennedy’s blog, we’ll explore life enrichment programming at Summer House and what that means for staff and residents.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Veteran Voices from LifeBio: Guy Peterson

In honor of Veterans Day, we are featuring stories of Front Porch residents who served in our armed forces. This is the story of Guy Petersen, a Vista del Monte resident,who served as a former Lieutenant Colonel for the U.S. Army Infantry during World War II.

I served in the U.S. Army Infantry as a Lieutenant Colonel. I was based in Europe during World War II, as well as the Philippines. I was in Company H of the 63rd Infantry Division. I had four years of military science at West Virginia University, and I wanted to serve my country, so I enlisted. I chose the Army due to my university training.

Life in the Army was strenuous, but interesting. We woke up at five in the morning and went all day long. I was with General Patton, so my quarters were pretty good. Once, I was shot through the shoulder of my combat jacket by a sniper in Germany. When I got back to my quarters, I thought I should see if the bullet broke the skin. It didn’t and because of that, I didn't get a Purple Heart. I did receive a Bronze Star and other medals: Rifle, Pistol, and Mortar.

One of the most memorable experiences I had while I was in the Army was when I met the Von Trapp family in the woods of Bavaria! We were on a hill above the forest and we heard some noise, so we decided to investigate. As we walked in, we saw two adults and 12 children. If you saw “The Sound of Music,” then you know that the family was fleeing the Germans! The wife didn't want to lose her husband to the Navy, and they were trying to escape. We checked them out, because sometimes the Germans put on civilian clothes and walked close to the American troops to catch them off guard. We took the family to our division headquarters. They were taken down south and finally to the United States.

The Army also sent me to the Philippines, where General MacArthur was my immediate commanding officer. I enjoyed working with him. I spent a lot of time with MacArthur and his troops. I even rode on tanks with him. He always wore his pearl-handled pistols and carried his fancy rifle. He was a good soldier.

The Army was good to me and I met a lot of interesting people, including some big Generals. I started in the Army as a Private. I took over a battalion in Louisiana and became a Lieutenant Colonel. During the Europe and Pacific wars, I lost just three men out of my entire company. I had a total of 23 years in the service. I enjoyed my time and was able to work with good leaders, such as General MacArthur.

LifeBio is an engagement program that captures cherished memories and lasting legacies through storytelling. Since launching in 2000, LifeBio has helped 20,000 people tell their life stories through autobiographical tools and services for all levels of care. LifeBio uses technologies as mediums to help individual document their stories in an easy and unique way such as tablets, web cams, and audio and video equipment. LifeBio has been a partner with Front Porch since 2009. For more details, check out LifeBio’s Impact Story on the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing (FPCIW) website.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Why I Took Off My POW/MIA Bracelet After 44 Years

By Joan M. Burda for Next Avenue

By the Numbers: POW/MIA Bracelets. 

In 1972, when I was a student at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, a small ad in the BG News offered the chance to buy a POW/MIA bracelet. The going price at the time: $4. I bought two.

The bracelets arrived in a small package. I sent one to my sister, Janet, and put the other on my right wrist. Mine was engraved with a name: Capt. Charles Bifolchi (later promoted to Major). And the date he went missing in Vietnam: 1-8-68. Thus began a 44-year relationship with a man I never met.

Bifolchi’s mom sent me a letter telling me about her son. He was from Quincy, Mass. He wasn’t married when his plane went down. She enclosed a newspaper clipping bearing a grainy photo of the young man she prayed for every day. I wrote back and promised I would wear the bracelet until he came home. 

Over time, I learned more about what happened to the person whose name I wore on my wrist. And I waited. 

Charles Bifolchi was on a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance mission — the navigator on a RF-4C Phantom reconnaissance jet with the 16th Tactical Recon Squadron at Than Son Nhut Airbase in South Vietnam — when the base lost radar and radio contact. The wreckage was located the next day but it was too dangerous to recover the crew. Bifolchi was 25.

Keeping an MIA Commitment

Capt. Bifolchi became part of my life. I wondered if he were still alive. I wondered if he would ever come home. From time to time, I would look at the bracelet and talk to him. 

I envied my sister when she watched the soldier whose name was on her bracelet walk off a plane of returning POWs. 

As decades passed, people would notice the bracelet and ask, “Are you ever going to take that off?” Others would ask if I knew him and then say, “Why do you still wear it?” The answers were always easy: I owed him that much. I promised his mother. I wanted to make sure that he was remembered, thought about.

During the mid-’70s, while I was in law school at Pepperdine University in California, I worked at Disneyland in security. The dress code limited jewelry to class and wedding rings and watches. My bracelet did not fall into an allowable category. But no one told me to take it off. 

Most of the people who worked in the department were former military or active duty military working part-time jobs. Some were in the reserves. They all understood the significance of that bracelet.

Fixing What’s Broken

The original bracelet broke in half in 1980. I carried it with me in my pocket until I could figure out a way to repair it.

A few years later, I was in Washington, D.C., visiting The Vietnam Memorial and found my answer. I walked along the remarkable slab of black granite looking for the panel with Bifolchi’s name among the 60,000. I found it and stood there touching the bracelet and tracing his engraved name.

At the end of the wall, a Vietnam vet sat behind a table displaying a variety of flyers, photos and information. One of the flyers caught my eye — it was about POW/MIA bracelets. There was an order form and instructions.

I filled out the form and mailed it with the information on my bracelet and explained what happened to it. Ten days later, a small package arrived — and with it my new metal bracelet. I took the original out of my pocket and placed the new one on my right wrist and silently renewed my promise to Capt. Bifolchi and his mother to wear it until he came home. Decades passed. 

Waiting and Hoping

There have been times when I removed the bracelet for medical procedures. Once, a TSA agent required me to remove it before going through security at the Akron airport. She did not know the significance of the bracelet; the other agents at the checkpoint knew, and their displeasure was apparent on their faces.

People continued to ask when I was going to take my bracelet off. My answer, as before, was always the same: when Capt. Bifolchi came home.

For many years, I scanned newspaper articles about the recovery of remains in Vietnam. But the names never matched the one on my bracelet. When the Internet arrived, finding information became easier. I found information — comments from people who knew him — but no news. I waited and hoped.

Found at Last

In March 2016, my spouse came home and handed me a sheet of paper. “They found him,” she said.

It was a press release dated Oct. 26, 2006. I had missed it. He had been home for 10 years.

Bifolchi’s remains were recovered sometime between 1993 and 2000. A positive identification was made after his Aunt Louise provided a DNA sample. She died in December 2005 without knowing the results. The military notified the family in June 2006.

His big brother, George Bifolchi, a retired Air Force officer and Vietnam veteran, traveled to Hawaii to escort him home.

On Oct. 27, 2006, Charles Bifolchi was interred at Arlington National Cemetery, with full military honors. It would have been his 63rd birthday.

It was time for me to say goodbye. 

Saying Goodbye to Capt. Bifolchi

It was a hot and humid day when I took a cab to Arlington. I walked along Eisenhower Boulevard looking for Section 66, Grave 6820-2. After a bit of searching, I found the white stone that bears his name.

I introduced myself and apologized for taking so long to come. I told him about the bracelet and the promise I made to his mother. It didn’t seem odd to stand there talking to him — I’d been doing it most of my life.

I knelt before his headstone, took the bracelet off my wrist, laid it to rest and said my final words to Charles Bifolchi. I know he heard me.

Read more Veterans Day stories from Next Avenue.

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2016. All rights reserved.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Veteran Voices from LifeBio: Richard Pool

In honor of Veterans Day, we are featuring stories of Front Porch residents who served in our armed forces. This is the story of Richard Pool, a Fredericka Manor resident who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War all while completing his study to become a nurse.

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, as of September 2016, there are now 6.9 million living Veterans of the 8.7 million Americans who served in the Vietnam War (1964-1975)

My name is Richard Pool. I was born on July 10, 1942, in Watson, Illinois. I served in the Vietnam War in the Air Force taking care of wounded GIs in the Air Force and I was based in Vietnam. I want to be remembered as someone who is a freedom fighter and loved freedom.

Before serving, I went to Southern Illinois University studying nursing. My aunt was a licensed nurse and worked at a hospital where I studied, and she really talked up nursing to me. She told me I should go to nursing school, so that's why I went. I became a nurse anesthetist and studied the anesthesia part of my nursing school in the Air Force at Lackland Air Force Base at San Antonio, Texas.

It’s kind of a long story how I joined the Air Force, but we were being drafted by the Army. My friend and I said, "Let's join the Air Force. We won't go to Vietnam." Vietnam was the first assignment I had.

When I left home, it was very scary, because I didn't know where Vietnam was, much less who the people were or what I was going to be doing. I was pretty scared. I traveled by airplane. I flew to some place in northern California and we flew out of there to Vietnam, which was a 17-hour flight.

We didn't actually go to boot camp. In those days, you didn't go to boot camp, instead we had orientation. They taught you how to salute, who to salute, and where you were going to live.

In Vietnam, there were plenty of surprises. The atmosphere there meant we had to be alert and ready to run to the nearest bomb shelter.

While I was away, my family was very much affected. I wrote to them and they sent me letters and cookies all the time. The letters from my family were mostly had news about what was going on back home and the football team.

When my service ended, I was overwhelmed. I was so thrilled to be out of Vietnam. I didn't do anything special when I got home. I wanted to eat some beans and corn bread.

My wartime experiences affected my life. I learned to be very thankful for what I have, fight for what you believe in, and always be true to yourself.

LifeBio is an engagement program that captures cherished memories and lasting legacies through storytelling. Since launching in 2000, LifeBio has helped 20,000 people tell their life stories through autobiographical tools and services for all levels of care. LifeBio uses technologies as mediums to help individual document their stories in an easy and unique way such as tablets, web cams, and audio and video equipment. LifeBio has been a partner with Front Porch since 2009. For more details, check out LifeBio’s Impact Story on the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing (FPCIW) website.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Veteran Voices from LifeBio: Paul Passi

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, as of September 2016, there are now 696,000 living veterans of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II

In honor of Veterans Day, we will feature stories of Front Porch residents who served in the armed forces. This is the story of Paul Passi, a Vista del Monte resident who served in Marine Corp after high school. This post is a snapshot, a summary of Mr. Passi’s times in the Marine Corp, created by LifeBio

Paul’s Platoon in the Marine Reserves.
Paul Passi was born on September 9th. He graduated high school and went straight into the Marine Corps, where he served on active duty for four years.

Going to boot camp was a shock for a few days, but Paul soon became accustomed to his new life. He definitely had to be on the ball all the time.

Paul enjoyed being part of a football team while he was serving in China. During his time in Tsingtao, he was on guard duty for some facilities.

Paul Passi played football during his time in the Marines.

After leaving active duty, Paul joined the Marine Reserves. He was stationed in Parris Island and was trained to be a drill instructor.

During his time in the reserves, Paul was called to duty while he was in school getting a Mechanical Engineering degree. Upon his return, he completed his degree!
LifeBio is an engagement program that captures cherished memories and lasting legacies through storytelling. Since launching in 2000, LifeBio has helped 20,000 people tell their life stories through autobiographical tools and services for all levels of care. LifeBio uses technologies as mediums to help individual document their stories in an easy and unique way such as tablets, web cams, and audio and video equipment. LifeBio has been a partner with Front Porch since 2009. For more details, check out LifeBio’s Impact Story on the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing (FPCIW) website.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

How to Keep Off Extra Pounds During the Holidays

Credit: Thinkstock
These seven practical steps can make a difference
By Rashelle Brown for Next Avenue

With the holidays right around the corner, your calendar is probably already filling up with friendly parties, formal dinners and family gatherings. All of that celebrating can take a toll on the body. Polls and scientific studies estimate that many Americans gain between one and five pounds during the holiday season.

This wouldn’t be so bad, except that most of us won’t lose that weight over the next year. By the time we reach our fifties and beyond, the accumulation of those holiday pounds can pose a significant health risk. To help you enjoy this holiday season without gaining extra weight, here are seven tips you and your family can use:

7 Practical, Everyday Tips

These seven tips are specific little things that are easy to implement throughout the holiday season and will help keep you from consuming more calories than you burn.

1. Eat before attending events. Knowing that you have a holiday party coming up in the evening, you might think it’s a good idea to eat less throughout the day, but that’s actually setting yourself up for an overindulgence disaster. By eating healthy meals and snacks throughout the day, you’ll ensure a constant supply of energy and reduce the likelihood of party-time cravings and the associated bingeing.

Your best buffer against consuming a ton of empty calories at a party is to eat a fiber- and nutrient-dense meal or substantial snack right before you head to the party. Some good options are a lightly dressed salad with plenty of veggies and legumes, a bowl of bean soup or a healthy whole grain pilaf.

2. Employ the every-other rule with alcohol. One of the biggest calorie culprits at holiday gatherings is that cup of cheer. Alcoholic drinks can contain 80 to 500+ calories per serving and, what’s worse, studies have shown that drinking alcohol makes it likely you’ll consume more food calories as well. One of the tactics I describe in my weight-loss book, Reboot Your Body: Unlocking the Genetic Secrets to Permanent Weight Loss, is what I call the “every-other” rule, which requires you to drink a full glass of water between every alcoholic beverage you consume. Doing this makes you feel fuller and keeps you hydrated, which can be important for regulating hunger signals.

3. Go green, and red and orange. Some holiday events are more formal affairs, involving sit-down dinners rather than roaming appetizer platters. In those instances, you can greatly reduce the number of calories you consume by opting for the plant-based entrée and by starting with a large salad free of meats, cheeses and creamy dressings. By filling up on fibrous vegetables, legumes and whole grains, you’ll be less likely to overeat when the dessert tray comes rolling by.

4. Double down on exercise. Another good way to fight holiday weight gain is by offsetting extra calories consumed with more calories burned. If you already exercise regularly, now is the time to ramp up your routine, either by adding more minutes or by upping the intensity.

If you don’t exercise, but are healthy enough to do so, then starting now — rather than waiting for Jan. 1 to roll around — is a good idea. If you can’t dedicate a big chunk of time to exercise every day, look for ways to work more activity into your normal daily routine. Breaking up a workout into two shorter sessions is one good strategy, but doing many short bouts of exercise throughout the day is just as effective in terms of the calorie burn. These short “activity snacks” can also be a good way to re-energize whenever you find yourself feeling sluggish.

5. Rethink your holiday traditions. There’s no doubt that food and drink are important elements of many holiday traditions, but I encourage you to ask yourself whether they should be the central elements of those traditions. Imagine a holiday season that places more emphasis on the gathering and fellowship among friends and family and less emphasis on the meals and treats.

At my family’s gatherings, many things change from year to year, but one thing remains the same: There is always too much of everything. By taking a more moderate approach and limiting your holiday smorgasbord to a very few delicious traditional dishes, you can actually create a greater sense of enjoyment. With less competition on the buffet table, guests can slow down and better appreciate what’s in front of them.

6. Start your day by setting your intentions. This is a quick and easy strategy to implement, and by doing it every day it becomes powerfully effective. When you first wake up, before you do anything else, take one or two minutes to set your healthy habit intentions for the day. Think about the events you’ll be attending and how you plan to navigate them. Remind yourself that the holiday season is about connecting with others and practicing gratitude and compassion, and that the overconsumption of food and drink doesn’t need to be a part of that.

7. Share your goals with family and friends.
One of the keys to behavior change I write about in my book is building a strong social network to support your healthy habits. By telling others about your healthy holiday goals you gain two advantages. First, you reduce or eliminate potential obstacles; once your friends and family know about your goals, they’ll be less likely to put you in tempting situations and more likely to offer emotional support. Second, by making your intentions known to others, you add an important accountability check against your actions. You won’t be as likely to grab another cookie or glass of champagne in front of a friend who’s part of your accountability circle.

By implementing these tips, you can create and participate in a holiday season that’s festive, full of enjoyment, and missing nothing but the extra pounds.

I don’t know about you, but this holiday season I’m looking forward to a Jan. 1 that doesn’t involve an emergency weight loss plan!

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2016. All rights reserved.