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 MaƱana 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.