Friday, August 26, 2016

The Minute You Think You Want to Stop: Stop Thinking

By Helen N. Harris, resident at Wesley Palms Retirement Community

LET ME APOLOGIZE for dictating this story for you instead of writing it myself. A few years ago, when I was in my late 80s, I got run over on a ski slope by an out-of-control snowboarder. The injury to my right hand still impedes me from writing. But the story is the same however it is conveyed. 

When I was a school girl my first choice was to become a doctor, but the chances of being accepted into medical school was not possible for a girl born in 1922 who was not the daughter of a doctor. Math was easy for me, so it is hardly surprising that I gravitated in the direction of engineering. That was not a destination without obstacles, but it is one I am very glad I pursued.

I grew up in Massachusetts where both my father and my mother had emigrated from Poland. They met and married in the USA and had three children. I was the only girl, and the youngest, with two older brothers. As seems to have been the pattern of that era my Dad worked in the shipyards in Quincy during World War I, and later in Lawrence, Mass, and my mother worked as a weaver in the mills. They worked hard to make sure their children would have easier lives than they had experienced. They made certain that my two brothers were college graduates, but my father was unconvinced that a girl needed a higher education. That did not deter me from following my own course. Don't misunderstand, he never stood in my path. It was just that he didn't feel that education was as important for a girl as it was for his boys.

After graduating from the University of Massachusetts I was awarded a scholarship to participate in an Aeronautical Engineering study project at the Uptown Campus of New York University which was all-male. About twenty of those chosen for this program in the early days of World War II were women. We were segregated in separate classes from the men. We were not permitted in the laboratories. It was only after the men had graduated and left the campus that we were allowed to enter the lab and see the actual aircraft engine we had previously only viewed in photos in books.

After completing this course of study I was employed by Chance Vought Aircraft in Stratford, Connecticut, just across the Sound from New York. Apparently for security reasons a decision was made to move such facilities from the New York area. Since Texas-financiers owned a major portion of Chance Vought, the company was relocated in Grand Prairie near Dallas. Next I was recruited by General Dynamics in San Diego, where I spent the rest of my career.

Over the years women were gradually more accepted in the profession, and a female engineer is not such a curiosity, but those of us who pioneered in this field never had it easy. Nevertheless, I always enjoyed working with men. With men you could face off in serious arguments about the right way to approach a problem, and then quickly put all the disagreement behind and work together harmoniously. I found women with less education had more of a tendency to hold grudges. That would not be true today.

I also found, for many years, that I had a hard time getting an office stenographer to type up my reports. There seemed to be a quiet resentment about my position and a sense that, as a woman, I should be typing my own reports. None of the above, however, justifies the way women have been denied opportunity to follow their dreams and prove their abilities to achieve. 

My husband and I were both avid skiers. He was more skilled at the art than I, but his excellence spurred me on to get better year by year. I skied my entire adult life, becoming a master racer. That has somewhat been the story of my life. I gave up skiing after I broke my T-12 vertebra and was not permitted to have surgery for a right hip because I was over ninety years of age.

Never give up. Always persevere. Stay the course whatever the obstacles. Never let a challenge go unanswered. If there is any message I would like to leave to the generations that follow, that would be it. Keep smiling, and follow you dream.

The Minute You Think You Want to Stop: Stop Thinking is an excerpt from Aging As An Art Form: Through the Eyes Of Residents of Wesley Palms by Wesley Palms resident Don McEvoy. The book contains 50 stories, experiences and life lessons either self-written or told to Don through interviews.

Don McEvoy is storyteller, former pastor and civil rights activist. Aging as an Art Form is available from Outskirts Press and Proceeds from the book benefit the residents of Wesley Palms.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Bringing The Olympics Home to Sunny View

By Alicia Estrada, wellness coordinator for Sunny View Retirement Community

As the wellness coordinator for Sunny View Retirement Community, part of my job is to encourage residents to be as physically independent as possible. This means taking a creative and innovative approach to life enrichment planning that encourages residents with different levels of independence and lifestyle preferences.

The Olympics couldn’t have come at a better time! This was the perfect moment to introduce a fun program that would challenge both residents and staff, without feeling too much like “exercise.” It was perfect! Why not bring the Olympics to Sunny View?

The day of the Games started off with opening ceremonies, including an inspiring speech from resident and 1996 Olympics torch bearer Gloria Burns. And then the games began! Residents and staff participated in a variety of competitions including golf, bowling, shooting hoops, croquet, bean bag toss and ping pong.

What many people do not realize is that you don’t need to be in the gym every day to stay strong and healthy. Often activities that we love and enjoy doing are the best types of exercise because they are the easiest things to incorporate into our routine. 

The games also challenged our balance: a complicated function that forces us to involve different body systems including sensory, vestibular, and proprioceptors. One of the things that we try to address in our wellness program at Sunny View is “fall prevention,” so sports that use balance and stretching are particularly helpful.

Hosting a Senior Olympics at Sunny View was a great way to make our community aware of how important it is to stay physically active. Many residents approached me after the event and asked about starting a regular exercise program and both residents and staff have not stopped talking about how much fun they had.

A big thank you to all our Sunny View team members and volunteers from Hands On Bay Area (HOBA) and Walmart who helped to make this event a success. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Looking forward to the 2017 Games already!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Resident Voices: An Olympian Among Us!

2016 Senior Olympic Trials: Piece of Cake
By Kay Murphy, Resident at Claremont Manor Retirement Community 

So you think you were a swimmer ... back in the day? Well, good for you, but our own
John Abbe is currently swimming and cycling and winning awards in the process. On June 5th, John joined hundreds of senior athletes participating in the Pasadena Senior Games held at some 30 venues through-out LA County between June 4 through 26.

John competed at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, built as the official swimming venue for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and won three medals, first place in both the 25 yard and 50 yard freestyle and third place in the 50-meter freestyle. 2016 is a qualifying year for the National Senior Games which will be held in Birmingham, Alabama June 2- June 15, 2017. John does not plan to participate in Alabama - too far to cycle, no doubt.

John was accompanied by his own private cheering section, which consisted of 25 volunteers who were employees and family members from Front Porch Home Office and Front Porch residential communities (Kingsley Manor and Villa Gardens as well as from Front Porch partner CARING Housing Ministries). Front Porch has been a sponsor and volunteer staff participant in the California Senior Games for several years.

John keeps in shape by swimming at The Claremont Club and a daily round trip trek of almost a mile on his bicycle. He participated in many cycling events over the years and has actually cycled the route of the Tour de France, though not in competition. He worked for the State of California in a variety of management positions from San Diego to Sacramento where he and wife Carol eventually made their home for some 47 years before moving to Claremont Manor a year ago.

One final note includes the ages of the senior athletes. Most are 50-60 and 70 years old. They have a category for participants who are between 80-85, but they don't actually have a category for athletes above that age. This is unfortunate since our Olympian, John Abbe, topped off his 2016 Olympic achievements by celebrating his 89th birthday on June 29. Happy Birthday, John!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

3 Reasons Boomers Should Play Pokémon Go

Millennials have gravitated to this app, but it's not just for the Snapchat set

By Amy Knapp for Next Avenue


The Pokémon Go smartphone app was released in the U.S. less than a week ago, and — Millennial that I am — I’ve found myself immersed in the “Poké cult.” I have hunted, captured, evolved and battled with the rest of them. I have chosen a team and found myself walking in places at times that are out of the ordinary for me. I can also proudly claim that I have 54 Pokémon in my Pokédex. Although it may seem as though this new sensation is aimed at Millennials, I have some advice to boomers: Give it a shot.

What Is It?

But first, what is Pokémon Go?

It’s a location-based augmented reality game, developed by Niantic, that lets you explore your neighborhood and beyond — using your GPS and camera — to capture hundreds of different Pokémon. They can be pretty much anywhere — in your lakes, in the park or at your local gym, for example.

According to an article published by Forbes on July 11, market intelligence firm Sensor Tower estimates that the game has been downloaded more than 7.5 million times, and has earned Niantic $1.6 million daily revenue. That was two days ago. Not bad for an app that’s still poking around to find its legs.

The app’s makers, in fact, are still working out some kinks. Users have complained about problems such as a failure to fully upload the app and glitches that can cause the screen to freeze. Perhaps a bigger concern, Pokémon are showing up in places where they aren’t welcome and are sometimes wholly inappropriate.

The New York Times article reported that Pokémon have been showing up at the Auschwitz memorial in Poland, the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and the National September 11 Memorial in New York, for instance.

Not Just Nostalgia

For Millennials, Pokémon are nostalgic, a reminder of childhood days spent watching Ash Ketchum catch and battle various Pokémon in the animated television series Pokémon; the collectible trading card game and the Gameboy video games. And the sensation that hit in the ’90s is still going strong, and not just because of the new app. Today’s elementary schoolchildren still trade Pokémon cards and play video games — and the app has only increased interest.

So why should a boomer care about this craze?

Well, for starters, it’s free. So what have you got to lose?

But the first real reason is that it’s good exercise. One of the major benefits of this game is that you get lots of steps when you play. In order to “catch ’em all,” users have to get out and go exploring. Many articles, including this one from Minnesota Public Radio, have pointed out that this app is getting some people up off the couch. (For those of you who are already walking plenty, keep up the good work!)

The second reason is it’s a great way to meet and connect with people. Once you start playing, you’ll find yourself talking to others from all walks of life who are also hunting for Pokémon. You might even make a new friend.

And the third reason is it’s a great way to connect with grandchildren and other kids in your life. Ask them what level they are, how many Pokémon they have captured and if they would like to hunt for Pokémon with you. All you have to do is download the app on your smartphone.

How Do I Play?

The game is simple and easy for users of any age. The point is to collect various types of Pokémon by exploring your surroundings. Once you download the app on your mobile device, you sign in and create a character (the options are limited, so it takes only minutes to set up). Then you can begin the hunt.

Start walking and you will see your surroundings on the screen. As you move about, you will come across Pokémon that you can capture. To do so, click on the Pokémon, wait for a little red-and-white ball (a Pokéball) to appear. Catch the Pokémon by throwing the ball at it. To do this, you hold your finger on the ball, swipe up and release. If the ball hits the creature, it is caught and added to your Pokédex.

The Pokémon have various levels of strength. As you get more involved in the game, you may want to trade weaker Pokémon and evolve them into stronger ones.

The higher level they are, the better you will do in nearby PokéGyms, which are action-packed hubs for players superimposed on real-world landmarks. There are also Pokéstops, where you can pick up free items that will help you obtain more of the creatures. If you feel that battling in the PokéGyms isn’t quite your speed, fear not. You can continue evolving your characters by simply walking around.

And if the game still seems a little confusing, ask the nearest kid how to play.

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


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Skype Socials Offers New Opportunities to Individuals with Dementia

Every Friday, Kristy and Jayn get together for a Skype video chat. The conversation drifts easily from stories about their families to reflections on their very different upbringings, and then, always, to their mutual passion: cooking. But what makes this conversation somewhat unique is that Jayn has dementia and is living in a memory care neighborhood and Kristy is a 20-something graduate student.

Kristy connected with Jayn, who lives at Summer House at Wesley Palms, through “Skype Social,” a Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing video chat project that helps connect Front Porch employees and volunteers, like Kristy, with residents to create meaningful and engaging conversations.

“I have to admit, I had some preconceived notions of how a Skype chat would go,” Kristy said. “I didn’t have a lot of experiences with seniors other than my grandparents and I wasn’t sure how much we’d have to talk about because of our age difference.” But after almost six months of chatting, Jayn and Kristy haven’t come close to running out of things to say. “I’ve learned a lot from our friendship,” Kristy said. “It’s given me a deeper insight on my life. Her wisdom and experience gives me a different perspective than my peers.”

On a recent trip to San Diego, Kristy decided it was time to finally meet her Skype pal in person. She was nervous that Jayn, because of her condition, might not remember her, but when Jayn saw Kristy she recognized her friend immediately.

“I could see the thrill in Jayn’s eyes - it was a moment I’ll never forget,” Kristy said. “From my own experience of having a family member with dementia, I understand how precious this was.”

According to Julie Santos, project coordinator for Skype Social, the key to the video chat’s success lies in fostering two-sided relationships. “The volunteers have to be open and willing to answer personal questions,” Julie said. “This builds trust with the residents.” Prior to Skype Social a majority of resident participants had never used Skype or any form of video chat software. However, Julie explains, “Having this experience with volunteers not only helps nurture connections and relationships outside of the community, but it also opens up the conversation with family members about using video chat to connect with their love ones when they’re not able to be there in person.”

Recently, Jayn started Skyping with her son who lives in San Diego and the two are planning on setting up a session with family overseas.

Ndinda Spada, life enrichment specialist at Summer House, reflects on the success of the program. “Residents love the face-to-face interaction.” She and her team are now expanding their use of Skype to include group chats which focus around a series of story-prompting questions from LifeBio (a Front Porch partnership program) to initiate discussion.

For Kristy and Jayn the benefits are on-going as their friendship continues to grow and deepen. As Kristy explains, “Making connections shouldn’t be limited by age, otherwise we miss these opportunities to establish truly meaningful friendships. “

Kristy (Chun-Chi) Huang is an intern for the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing (FPCIW) and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Aging Services Management at the University of Southern California, Davis School of Gerontology. Interested in becoming a volunteer at FPCIW? Contact Julie Santos, FPCIW Project Coordinator at