Thursday, August 16, 2018

Try Tai Chi for Balance and Fall Prevention

Villa Gardens Residents Practice Tai Chi
By Debbie L. Miller

Patricia Bethke Bing, 75, a retired community organizer in Knoxville, Tenn., has been practicing Tai chi for approximately 20 years. She practices three days a week, for 40 minutes, with a group of people around her age.

“I decided to do Tai chi for the health benefits, both mental and physical. I have no specific health issues, but I was looking to keep my good health and improve my leg strength,” said Bing. “Tai chi practice helps me to maintain my good balance, strength, and flexibility.”

Tai chi, also known as Tai chi chuan, is a Chinese martial art performed with slow, controlled postures and movements. Enthusiasts practice it for defense or health, or both.

Tai Chi Is Helpful for Balance

Recently, several studies have addressed the benefits of Tai chi for older adults. A 2014 analysis of research on Tai chi and balance, “Improvement of balance control and flexibility in the elderly Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) practitioners” in the Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics concluded that “TCC practice was beneficial to improve the balance control ability and flexibility of older adults, which may be the reason for preventing falls.”

Peter M. Wayne, associate professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, and director of research at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, has been studying the health effects of Tai chi for 18 years and practicing it for 40.

“Across multiple studies, Tai chi appears to reduce risk of falling by 20 to 45 percent and is considered one of the best exercises available for ambulatory older adults with balance concerns,” Wayne explained.

Falling: A Serious Risk for Older Adults

Falls are the leading cause of accidental death among people age 65 and older. “In an effort to find ways to prevent falls among older adults, researchers have been investigating specific exercises, like Tai chi, that target both the physical and cognitive fundamentals of mobility,” said Brad Manor, director of Mobility and Brain Function Lab at the Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew Senior Life and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Credit: Michael Miller
“We and others have shown that regular Tai chi practice aids the muscular system, movement coordination, balance, and even higher-level cognitive skills such as complex reaction time and problem solving,” Manor said, “which together enable us to move throughout our environment and complete our daily activities safely without falling.”

Many factors work together to prevent falling, including balance and stability. “Unfortunately, even falls that don’t result in injury or death often have a very real and significant negative impact on quality of life,” Manor said. The result? A cycle of fear and risk of future falls. “These falls often lead to fear of falling, reduced physical activity, depression and lack of social engagement — all of which, in turn, increase the risk of suffering another fall.”

Biomechanics (how we measure and control our movement, how it changes with age and how movement relates to balance) is an important factor in the balance/fall equation.

“Our balance control system is incredibly complex and, with aging, there is a decline in sensory and muscle function,” Manor said. Tai chi helps with the ability to maintain balance, especially when we’re doing more than one thing at the same time (dual tasking), a skill which also decreases as we age.

Research Confirms the Benefits of Tai Chi

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), part of the government’s National Institutes of Health, summarized the benefits of Tai chi and concluded that “Practicing tai chi may help to improve balance and stability in older people.”

At Beacon Hill, a residential living community in Lombard, Ill., one of the residents leads an hour-long Tai chi class two days a week. “During the class, residents, who are between 62 and 93 years of age, sit or stand, depending on what feels most comfortable,” said Marc H. Raben, director of lifestyle at Beacon Hill.

Tai chi’s benefits go beyond the physical. “It is highly spiritual and also helps with focusing and calming the mind, as well as with balance,” Raben added. Several studies have shown tai chi to be helpful for those suffering from depression, hypertension, arthritis and fibromyalgia.

“Tai chi helps me mentally, as one must concentrate on the moves and the sequence in order to get the full benefit,” Bing explained. “I find the practice calming and centering, and it helps me emotionally. Tai chi is a pause from daily stresses and a safe comfortable place to be quiet.”

© Next Avenue - 2018. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Can age be “just a number?” I’d say no.

by Ashton Applewhite, reposted with permission from ThisChairRocks 

The phrase has always made me uneasy, partly because it’s usually accompanied by a picture of an older person doing something considered “age-inappropriate,” like wearing a wacky outfit or doing something acrobatic. The bigger issue is that it trivializes something important. Age is indeed “only a number,” as long as that number reflects how many times we’ve circled the sun. Age is real. Age differences can’t be wished away, nor should they be.

Needless to say, it’s complicated, just like the discourse around telling people how old you are. It’s important to claim your age, and just as important to push back: to ask what difference the number makes in the questioner’s mind, and why? The longer we live, after all, the more different from one another we become. That makes chronological age an ever-less-reliable indicator of what a person is capable of or interested in, so it makes a certain sense to decline to identify with it. That’s one reason so many octogenarians maintain, truthfully, that they still feel fifty, forty, or even thirty inside—that “age is just a number.”

The other reason they feel that way is internalized ageism: the belief that younger = better and that their older selves have less value than their younger selves. That’s why fudging or disavowing our age is so problematic. It gives the number more power than it deserves. It distances us from our peers. And it reinforces ageist thinking, by implying that our years are something to be ashamed rather than proud of, and suggesting that capacities might erode or relationships founder if the number came to light.

People can be far apart in years and have plenty in common, as we realize the minute we bust out of age silos. That’s why I loved an article by Gina Pell called
Meet the Perennials—her witty proposal for what those of us who refuse to be constrained by generational moats start calling ourselves. “It’s time we chose our own category based on shared values and passions and break out of the faux constructs behind an age-based system of classification,” she writes. “We are ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages.” My people!

So what’s not to like? The article’s tired tagline: “age ain’t nothing but a number.” (This may well have been an editor’s handiwork, not Pell’s.) It’s the age-based version of “post-racial.” It’s happy talk, papering over the very real differences between being younger and older. It’s important to acknowledge those differences because it’s part of what makes relationships authentic. Because the differences are interesting. Because the exchange of skills and stories across generations is the natural order of things.

Those differences aren’t what stand between us and age equity. The obstacle is ageism—the age segregation that cuts us off from most of humanity and the prejudice that justifies it. As Pell writes, “Tolerance feels unattainable when there are hard lines drawn between decades, and terms like Boomers, GenX, and GenY keep us separate and at odds.”

 If we’re going to dismantle ageism, we’re going to have to collaborate across those artificial “generation gaps.” Gerontologist Jenny Sasser, whose
Gero-punk Manifesto ought to be required reading for all Perennials, describes this beautifully:

The revolution around dismantling ageism can’t happen unless we can create cross-generational coalitions, which can’t happen if we can’t meet each other in the middle across age difference and become friends. Not despite age differences, but across them—because we are both similar and different, because we are all traveling through the life course at the same time but are at different phases of the journey. We need to ask better questions about when age and generation differences matter, and when they don’t. And help each other develop a keener critical capacity for seeing through the socially constructed ideas and structures that keep us in conflict rather than in cooperation. 

Hold this in our heads and it’s far easier to reject young vs. old ways of thinking, to make friends of all ages, and to find common cause. Pitting the generations against each other is one of the major tactics used by the wealthy and powerful to divide those who might otherwise unite against them in pursuit of a fairer world for all. It’s like pitting groups of low-wage workers against each other, or the interests of stay-at-home moms against women in the paid workforce. The underlying issue is a living wage for all, and redress requires collective action. When issues are instead framed as zero-sum—more for “them” means less for “us”—it’s harder to see that the public good is at stake and the issue affects everyone. The objective, in the words of historian David Hackett Fischer, is to create a world “in which the deep eternal differences between age and youth are recognized and respected without being organized into a system of social inequality.” That social order has to work for all ages, and we Perennials and Gero-punks need to roll up our sleeves and help shape it.

Author and activist Ashton Applewhite is the author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism. In 2016, she joined PBS site Next Avenue’s annual list of 50 Influencers in Aging as their Influencer of the Year. She has been recognized by the New York Times, National Public Radio, and the American Society on Aging as an expert on ageism. Ashton blogs at This Chair Rocks and is the voice of Yo, Is This Ageist? She has written for Harper’s, Playboy, the New York Times, and many other publications, and speaks widely, at venues that have ranged from universities and community centers to the TED mainstage and the United Nations. Ageism is emerging as a pressing human rights and social justice issue, and Ashton has become a leading spokesperson for a movement to mobilize against it.  

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Classic Auto Show Returns to Fredericka Manor

Anniversary edition to feature cars and trucks from five decades

Rev up your engine, get your motor running and get ready to feast your eyes on sparkling electric blue and glossy lemon yellow exteriors, wood grain dashes and bright silver chrome shimmering in the sun. It’s time for the Fredericka Manor classic auto show and barbeque!

In conjunction with Fredericka Manor’s 110th anniversary celebration, the communitywill host the show from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on August 23. You are invited to join residents for this special anniversary event. RSVP by August 20 to 619-205-4116. About 15-20 autos including T-buckets, street rods, muscle cars, custom and classic cars and trucks representing five decades will roll into the Fredericka Manor parking lot courtesy of the South Bay Cruisers Car Club.

“There is a rich nostalgia that comes with classic cars,” said Fredericka Manor Executive Director Craig Sumner. “Many of our residents are hobbyists or made their living working on and driving many of these classic cars and trucks. The cars symbolize a proud era in American history.”

Among the cars and trucks scheduled to appear at the free event are … a ’37 Dodge coupe, various ’55 Chevys, a ’68 Mustang convertible and a ’55 Ford F-100 pickup, recently featured as a showcase truck at the San Diego Auto Museum. Darrell Rocke, an artist who specializes in intricate wood carvings of cars and trucks, will be a special guest.

Entertainment and a barbeque will highlight the event. Tours of the community will also be available. RSVP by August 20 to 619-205-4116.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Former Child Actor Dan Chang is Still Stealing Scenes at Wesley Palms

‘The talk of Hollywood’ appeared with Reagan, Gable, Wayne and Bogart in 1950s Hollywood Films

In the early 1950s, a Hollywood trade publication called Wesley Palms resident Dan Chang, a “four-year-old scene stealer” while another called him “the talk of Hollywood.”

“I guess a lot of people thought I was cute back then,” Dan says with a laugh. “The studio gave me some good publicity, that’s for sure.”
Between the ages of four and 11, Dan appeared in a little over a dozen movies and TV shows. His first role was that of a young Chinese refugee in the 1952 movie Hong Kong, a comedy-adventure-drama about a stolen golden idol, staring Ronald Reagan and Rhonda Fleming.

“There was a casting call for the movie and my father took me to the studio,” Dan said. “I got the part. I was only four years old and just remember following directions. I got to drive a car in the studio parking lot and remember learning to use chop sticks for one scene. I remember learning a lot of odd things on movie sets. In one film I was taught how to peel potatoes.”

He appeared with the likes of Clark Gable, Roy Rogers, Rhonda Fleming, John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart and June Allison, just to name a few of Hollywood’s biggest stars at the time.
“Many of my roles were small so I didn’t really get to know the actors except for Ronald Reagan,” Dan remembers. “Reagan was really nice both on and off the set. He treated me well. We took a lot of publicity shots for Hong Kong. The studio really played up our relationship. I also remember getting to sit on Roy Rogers’ horse Trigger.”

Although his acting career had been successful for almost a decade, just before his teen years his father asked Dan an important question.
“When I was about 11, my dad asked me if I wanted to continue acting or just go to school,” Dan said. “I’m not sure why he asked me but I said I just want to go to school. While making movies there is a lot of sitting around waiting and I would have rather been playing with my friends. I don’t regret quitting. It was fun while it lasted.”

Although he no longer acts, Dan jokes that his life and Ronald Reagan’s life will always be connected. “I was an engineering professor at UC Davis, a California public university, when Ronald Reagan was governor and I was in the Air Force when he was president and commander and chief, so technically he was my boss a few times since working with him on Hong Kong,” Dan said with a big grin.

Wesley Palms recently screened Hong Kong for residents. “Cute was the word everyone used when they saw me,” Dan said. “I got some good-natured ribbing.”

When Dan is not reminiscing about his acting career, he enjoys exercising and using the cycling equipment at the Wesley Palms fitness center. He and his wife enjoy their beautiful new patio home overlooking the Pacific.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Fredericka Manor Residents Follow Family Tradition

During Ardith Eaton’s residency at Fredericka Manor, her son, Rick, looked forward to their frequent visits. Rick not only enjoyed their mother son time together, but the two often reminisced about how Rick’s grandfather fell in love with Fredericka Manor decades earlier.

“Mom and I used to laugh about how during the 1970s my grandfather, who lived here for 10 years, used to always say … living at Fredericka Manor was like living like a millionaire,” Rick said. “My mom lived happily here for 15 years. That says a lot about this community. I consider it a true landmark in Chula Vista and the South Bay.”

Perhaps one of the biggest compliments to the quality of life at Fredericka can be attributed to several residents who followed in their parents or family member’s footsteps and chose to make Fredericka Manor their retirement destination.

Dr. Paul Erickson, another second-generation resident, fondly remembers visiting his mother in the 1970s and 80s. Most vivid is Paul’s recollection of the dining room etiquette. “It was a time and a place where gentlemen wore coats and ladies wore dresses to dinner,” says Paul with a grin. “I don’t think I could have gotten away with what I have on today,” pointing to his polo shirt and Bermuda shorts. “We’re much more casual now. I like that
Fredericka changes with the times.”

“My mother loved it here,” Paul continued. “When it comes to Fredericka Manor, mother and I had one thing in common – we love the people. The friendliness of the residents and the willingness of the staff to go out of their way has never changed. It’s the same when mother was here as it is now. It’s why I moved here!”

“Dad enjoyed living at Fredericka but he would have loved it more today,” said second-generation resident Mary Ellen Munyon, treasurer for the Fredericka Club, a member of the Fredericka Manor Hospitality Committee and whose father lived at the community in the early 2000s. “He would have loved the choices residents have now. Fredericka gets better with age.”

For Rick, now retirement age himself, following in his family’s footsteps is a possibility. “When I decide to move here, it will be like coming home.”

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Exes? No, Co-Grandparents

By Grace Birnstengel via Next Avenue

Divorces have a way of creating a snowball of effects beyond a fractured relationship. If the parties involved had children, things are often messier, and if those children also had children, the divorcees no longer face only the challenges of being exes and parents, but also of being grandparents.

Naturally, grandparents under these circumstances might have to interact and — depending on their locations — see each other at holidays or birthday parties. It could be many years since they last had to see one another or communicate. Jennifer Taitz, a clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, recently presented an interesting interpretation of how this conundrum could play out for some divorced grandparents: co-grandparenting.

One Family’s Story of Co-Grandparents

In a
column for The New York Times, Taitz told her own family’s story. Her parents divorced when she was in elementary school and didn’t exactly have the most amicable split.

 “For years, my parents’ contact was limited to kid-related events, like parent-teacher conferences,” Taitz wrote. “Yet their tension remained, my mother occasionally whispering damning words about my father within earshot, inevitably beginning with ‘He never…’ For his part, my father would more directly and angrily announce, ‘Your mother always…’”

But when Taitz’s first child Sylvie came into the world, she “became the first person to truly bring [Taitz’s] parents into a respectfully shared territory in decades.” Things changed between Taitz’s parents — slowly.

It wasn’t a seamless transition. At first there were glares, insults and passive-aggressiveness, but eventually to the author’s amazement, the article noted, “the tension between [her] parents began to abate, particularly when they both zoomed in on Sylvie, a magnet with her bright red hair and contagious giggle.”

Taitz eventually had a second child and moved from New York to Los Angeles where her parents lived.

The light that their grandchildren brought into the world seemed to minimize the disdain the former couple had toward one another. Jo and Emanuel began to coexist peacefully and even made kind gestures to one another. They cordially spent the same holiday together with the grandchildren, and Taitz’s father purchased her mother a ticket for a benefit at Sylvie’s school. They began to work together not as a couple, but as grandparents.

Exposure Therapy?

Non-traditional relationships like these are not realistic for everyone, but it’s a unique and thought-provoking concept that got Taitz thinking about how her parents were able to fall into a working co-grandparenting relationship.

“As a psychologist, I know about the profound therapeutic impact of exposure therapy — when a person chooses to repeatedly face an uncomfortable stimulus rather than avoid it,” she wrote. “For example, if someone hates public speaking, rather than dodging opportunities to grab a microphone, she would actively pursue chances to perform.”

Was exposure therapy at work here? Maybe. But it’s impossible to say for certain whether forced discomfort could ultimately turn positive for every divorced couple. What worked for Taitz’s parents is somewhat miraculous and definitely won’t bring every family together in the same way, but perhaps the moral is: If we all strive just a little more to meet each other halfway, there’s a lot to gain. Especially for those grandchildren.

© Next Avenue - 2018. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Resident Voices: My Father's Son

“My name is Herb Foerster. I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1928. I moved to Porterville, California in 1954, and I have lived in this area for 69 years.

My mother and father were both very important to me. As a matter of fact, they are the people whom I admire the most. They gave me my beginning, and encouraged me when I went off to college, a place that ultimately became my home away from home. This experience helped me gain knowledge in science and chemistry. In turn, I wrote and created my own chemistry textbooks for 30 years, and I developed a course where students could learn without anxiety or worry.

My father met my mother in Pittsburgh. My father was an intermittent laborer during the Industrial Revolution in the 1880s and 1890s working all over the west as a stone mason, building tall smoke stacks. Father had been married early on in life and they had a son, but Father’s first wife died on a homestead in Nebraska, and he eventually lost the homestead because he had put it in his wife's name. Father was of a very strict German descent, and he worked all the time prior to meeting my mother. 

Because of his earlier experience, my father abandoned his strictness, adopted a new attitude toward me, and consequently I was raised by a family who was very quiet. My father turned out to be a wonderful father. My mother was very religious, and I grew up to be a very quiet person due to her quietness. I had wonderful parents even though they were older – my mother was 47 when I was born in 1928, and my father was 61 years old.

I attended school on an island in the Ohio River, completing grades 1-9. When I was in the 10th grade, my father retired, and I finished school in Mercer County. Later, when I graduated from high school, my parents allowed me to choose what I would do with my life. About 1946, I served in a military band as a flute and piccolo player. I went to play in Montgomery, Alabama for three years, and, on the GI Bill, I applied to Pomona College. I went through graduate school, and I became a teacher. I taught chemistry and physics, and I also developed a lifelong interest in connections between science and religion.

Chemistry, physics, and connections between science and religion are some of the topics that have always interested me most. I also enjoy astronomy and space interface connections with religion. My goal is to write to people about what I have learned in my life.

All this thanks to a very special Father!"

By Herb Foerster, Claremont Manor Retirement Community 

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, June 6, 2018

Veteran Voices from LifeBio: George Goodall's Story

 By George Goodall, resident at Vista del Monte Retirement Community

After the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, I wondered what I should do. I had already decided not to transfer to UC Berkeley in Agricultural Engineering for my third year, because of the unsettled situation. I had completed two years of basic ROTC training at UCLA, so my first action was to apply for Advanced Corps ROTC, but the next class was filled. When I asked to be on a waiting list, they suggested I apply for Enlisted Reserve Corps, and I did. A new program opened up for meteorological training at UCLA with the Air Corps, but I was refused when I tested red-green color blind. So, I continued in school.

I received my call to active duty in the Enlisted Reserve Corps, along with hundreds of other students, on March 1, 1943. There was a big campus send-off for us on buses to Ft. MacArthur in San Pedro, California, for induction. We were tested and given uniforms. They didn't have boots large enough for my size 13 feet. I continued to wear my white and brown college saddle shoes with the rest of the Army uniform well through our basic training at Camp Roberts. I got lots of double-takes and kidding!

At Camp Roberts, near San Miguel, California, I was assigned to a company that specialized in Intelligence and Reconnaissance. I found this interesting and more to my liking than just basic infantry training. About midway through training, I developed a bad cold, which turned into pneumonia, and I went to the hospital. When they gave me the antibiotic, Sulfa, I broke out in a skin rash; this was the first time that I learned I was allergic to certain drugs. After about a week in the camp hospital, I returned to duty, where I learned to drive Jeeps. We finished the 13 weeks of basic infantry training and I qualified for further education in the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP).

I rode a train to my assignment in engineer training at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma. When we arrived, our dorm rooms were not ready, so we were put on cots in the football stadium building. We were given intensive physical training under the direction of the famous football coach, Williamson, and more refresher courses. Finally, we were assigned to former women's dorms across the street from sorority row. In early September, our classes began. I remember one class in which we had a professor that was an expert in American dialects. He had each of us talk and he would tell us where we were from. When he heard me talk, he said he didn't know. I guess that southern California doesn't have a distinct dialect. Each dorm was organized as a platoon and I was selected to be the Cadet Commander for our platoon. 

I was given two weeks leave at Christmastime to go home, and I rode the Greyhound bus both ways on US Route 66. What a glorious homecoming! Our classes continued through the spring and after I completed three quarters, I was an engineer in the Army's eyes, but would probably need another year to get a degree at a university. In early June, a group of us were shipped to a replacement center at Camp Howze in Texas, just south of the Oklahoma border. There on the banks of the Red River, our military exercises were in knee -deep mud with dust blowing in our faces. 

After a few weeks, I was sent to my new assignment as an enlisted cadre for a new unit, the 1012th Engineer Treadway Bridge Company, at Camp Bowie at Brownwood, Texas, in the hill country. This unit's job was to transport and install a floating pontoon bridge of steel treadways for military vehicles to drive over a river. The Captain selected me to be his radio operator and sent me to a three-week long radio school. The hardest part of that was learning Morse Code. Soon thereafter, our unit moved over 200 miles to Camp Swift, east of Austin, Texas, using its own trucks and equipment. On the day of the move, I drove the Captain's Jeep and communicated on the radio to keep the convoy of trucks and buses together. I was promoted to a Technical Corporal.

My assignment was changed to a Crew Chief's position in our motor pool, which would provide me opportunity for advancement. While working there, I realized that I really didn't like the grease and grime of maintaining the huge Brockway trucks that hauled the pontoons and bridge sections in the Texas summer heat. So one weekend, when I was serving as Charge of Quarters (CQ), I found and sent an application to Engineer Officer Candidate School (OCS). A few weeks later, when we were on blackout night training, one of our trucks broke down and I stayed to get it repaired.

It was late, so I put my bedroll on the ground beside the truck. In the morning, a buddy asked, "Did you know you were sleeping in a bed of poison ivy?" The next day, I went to the camp hospital with a severe reaction. After about a week, I received my orders to go to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to OCS. I had gotten over my poison ivy reaction just in time to be able to travel.

Fort Belvoir, Virginia, the famous, historical headquarters of the Corps of Engineers, was indeed an inspiring place. It's about 20 miles south of Washington, D.C., and across a bay of the Potomac River from historic Mt. Vernon. I arrived by train in July 1944. They called us the ‘90-day wonders,’ because some say, ‘It's a wonder you can survive 90 days of such intensive training!’ You remove any showing of rank on your uniform and sew on an OCS Cadet patch on your pocket. Our training involved classroom studies, work in shops, and examinations, as well as formations, marching, exercises, and field projects to construct bridges and build roads. We spent a final week at the AP Hill Military Reservation in southern Virginia in individual tents and on field maneuvers: it was a snowy October and freezing cold. A final test of our stamina and resolve!

We graduated and were commissioned in November 1944 in an impressive ceremony. Many of us had no close family or friends to pin on our new gold bars, so we pinned them on each other. We were given a three-day pass to New York City, where we saw some Broadway shows, ate very well, and I had my picture taken in my new uniform to send home. Next, I enrolled in a three-week training course in Heavy Engineer Equipment, which I enjoyed very much. I had no trouble operating the dozers and graders, since I had learned both on the ranch. I did have trouble slipping in the snow with the motor grader. I used this training in a few months when fighting in the Philippines. Just as I ended this course, I received orders to go overseas.

My orders called for me to take a transcontinental train to Ft. Lewis, near Olympia, Washington, for processing, including shots and uniforms, to go to the South Pacific Theater. So it was on to Oakland to board a new, fast troop ship bound for a replacement depot on New Guinea. This ship could presumably out-run any Japanese submarine. It did, fortunately, with some Navy airplane cover. From there, I was flown to Tacloban Airport on Leyte in the Philippines, where I joined the Rear Echelon of the 8th Engineer Squadron of the 1st Cavalry Division as a replacement for an officer killed in the Battle of Leyte. I was assigned as a Platoon Leader in Troop B. 

Our main body of the 1st Cavalry Division had already landed at Lingayen Gulf and had dashed into Manila, with the bulldozers of the 8th Engineers leading the way. Other units had replaced the Cavalry in the fight for Manila and the Cavalry had regrouped south of Manila for the drive to free southern Luzon. Through a series of several Navy ships and a Jeep ride, I was finally able to catch up to my new unit.

The 1st Cavalry Division and the 8th Engineer Squadron were both regular Army units stationed along the Texas border in peacetime. Those of us who were citizen soldiers were added as replacements. They were a very well-trained and equipped, hard fighting and drinking, rough and ready bunch, with one of the best fighting records in our military. It was organized on the old square division system with four of each squads, platoons, troops, squadrons, and regiments of about 50,000 men total.

A well-experienced Staff Sergeant was handling my platoon, so I was temporarily assigned as an Intelligence Officer, to seek out engineer materials, and to check roads and other paths for us to move south. This involved flying with the crazy Division Artillery observation pilots. They would zoom in and out, and up and down to allow me closer views of potential sites. Occasionally, we would be shot at by the bypassed Japanese; luckily, they missed. We found that most of the roads and bridges had been blown up by the Japanese. 

The Cavalry asked for Navy support and they moved the troops around the Japanese by using landing craft to a beach west of the town of Naga. For several weeks, I was located at that beachhead, where our Engineer troops were assisting the landings and moving the troops inland to Naga. Three bright spots in our lives there included the ability to go swimming to clean up from the tropical heat, using sticks of TNT to blow fish out of the water for fresh food, and befriending a teenage Chinese boy who sorted out the poisonous fish for us. This young boy had lost his family who had been cooks, so we let him travel with us to help with the Tagalog language and secure fresh food. We called him a ‘dog robber.’ He stayed with us until we left for occupation duty in Japan. 

We found that the railroad line south of Manila to Legaspi and its bridges were intact, so our mechanics made rims for our Jeeps and weapons carriers to ‘ride the rails.’ We even found several rail cars that we towed behind the weapons carriers to haul supplies, timber, and gravel. Several times, we had to use .50 caliber machine guns mounted on each vehicle to blast our way out of ambushes. One night on the beach, we were ambushed by mortar shells from the mountains above us. We tried to fire back, but we couldn't do much at night. The Cavalry went after them at daylight. Our camp site was damaged some, but none of our equipment. The shelling made a mess of our camp site, so we moved to another. I was hit by a piece of shrapnel, but it only grazed my lower leg, so I bandaged it and went on. We had no medics with us and there was no evacuation hospital near, so it never got reported, thus no Purple Heart. I still have a scar on my leg.

Our Troop B regrouped in the City of Naga and used it as a base of operations for several months. Here is where I was finally able to get acquainted with my platoon. As the junior officer, I got all the least desirable jobs among the officers: mainly cleaning up the debris, garbage, and trash throughout the town from the ravages of war to open the roads. We met with the priests at the Cathedral, who tried to get us drunk so we would agree to clean up the grounds and repair their walls. I was pressed into intelligence work again to search for engineer material. This time, I was introduced to the Huks (Filipino resistance fighters), who accompanied me overland to check out a large supply of lumber at a lumber mill site in a remote forested area. We traveled on foot at night and slept in Filipino villages during the day until we found the lumber. We came back to have it moved to the coast, where it was then hauled by landing craft to docks near Naga for use in rebuilding bridges.

Another interesting story is when we went back up the coast to pick up the lumber, I rode on the Navy Picket Boat that accompanied the landing craft hauling the lumber. On the way back, the ocean became very rough; so rough that the crew of the Picket Boat were all seasick. I was the only one not sick, so the Captain had me steer the boat while he sat in back and gave me instructions. I felt this was the acid test to say I'm not susceptible to seasickness.

I was unable to protect myself on this trek from mosquitoes, so in a few days I came down with a terrible case of malaria. I was evacuated to the field hospital set up at Lucena. I was in a coma for several days and missed hearing about the European war's ending. I lost a lot of weight, down to about 130 pounds, and lost energy from the terrible sweats and chills. By the way, I continued to have malaria episodes until I reached Japan's cooler weather that winter. During the summers back in California, when I would get hot and tired, I'd have new episodes for many years. 

While I was in the hospital, our unit moved from Naga into Lucena for a rest camp. The unit was housed in the subtropical fruit orchard of the former US Department of Agriculture Experiment Station. This was a wonderful opportunity for me, as a subtropical horticulturist, to get better acquainted with tropical fruits like mangoes, mangosteens, bananas, and papayas. The dog robber would have a collection of fruit for me to enjoy on the stand near my bed every evening when I would come in from work.

The largest task our platoon did there was to build a firing range for the Cavalry in a coconut palm grove. Fortunately, the trees were planted in rows, so the Troopers would shoot between the lines of trees. We needed to remove only a few trees along the line of targets to build the pits and a protective berm. The only photo of me in combat was taken when I was holding the guideon flag of Troop B of the 8th Engineers in the camp in the fruit orchard at Lucena. I was wearing a .45 caliber Colt pistol that I inherited from the officer I replaced. I liked it a lot better than the carbine rifle that I had been issued. I don't have more pictures in the Philippines, because the Leica 35 mm camera I had taken overseas with an ample supply of colored film was lost when our officers' quarters in Japan burnt down. I had procrastinated and not sent the film home.

While at Lucena, I attended Ship Quartermaster Training at the Naval Base at Subic Bay, up the coast north of Manila. This was in preparation for our over water move to Japan. The atomic bombs had been dropped and Japan had surrendered. We were scheduled to load all our men and equipment at Batangas Bay, south of Manila, for Tokyo Bay. I was trained to load all of our heavy equipment, trucks, bulldozers, cranes, etc. on the decks of cargo ships. After that training and frequent trips to Batangas, we finally got everything loaded on board and on time. This ends the seven months I spent on Luzon as a combat engineer officer.

It was a rough sea voyage to Japan. The Captain of our ship tried to out-run a typhoon, because we had our equipment on the deck. We finally arrived at the docks at Yokohama several days late. Several of us were put ashore in rubber boats to inspect the docks for safety. We worried that the Japanese might have set explosive boobytraps or other snares against us. After a tense day of investigation, we finally concluded that it was safe to dock. But the lack of anyone in sight, utter silence, and all the area and streets swept clean, was scary. We posted very heavy guards, still not trusting the armistice with the Japanese. We learned later that the Japanese people had all gone into the hills, because they had been told we would kill them on sight. 

The next few days were scary and tense as we unloaded our equipment and men and moved to Meiji Shrine Park, a large open space in the middle of Tokyo, to set up a tent city along with the rest of the Division. The 1st Cavalry Division was assigned to occupy the City of Tokyo. That meant, as engineers, we had the awesome responsibility for all the roads, bridges, utilities, etc. Gradually, we managed to handle the worst problems, get acquainted with the city, and move to our new permanent base at an old Japanese Army Camp on the northern edge of Tokyo, near the community of Osaka. The Cavalry renamed it Camp Drake. I was reassigned to be the S-2, Intelligence Officer, in the Squadron's Commanding Officer's Staff. 

One of my first duties was to work with the Japanese Home Office in Tokyo and 11th Army Corps Headquarters in Yokohama to secure interpreters to work with our units. I was very fortunate to be assigned Mr. Ito, a native Japanese man who had graduated from Stanford University with an Electrical Engineering degree and had represented Western Electric in Japan before the war. He was a wonderful man and was a great help to us. I asked him to head our interpreters' staff. As S-2, I secured maps of the city and its utilities, which were invaluable in getting to and from our many jobs. We learned in time to cooperate with the Tokyo City Home Office in finding Japanese contractors willing to do construction jobs for us.

The next job was to design and build stables for the Cavalry. Yes, I said stables. Although the 1st Cavalry had been converted to an infantry style fighting force in the 1930s, many of the old time Cavalrymen wanted to ride in their time off. I hadn't ridden for years, but I enjoyed riding with them. In addition, we built shops, warehouses, baseball diamonds, basketball courts, and a football field. We learned about an Army Hospital not too far away with a full complement of nurses for us to date. One night, while we were having dinner with the nurses, I accidentally tipped a bowl of very hot soup into my lap. I jumped and yelled and they tried to help. Life's most embarrassing moments! I traveled to see some of Japan's beautiful shrines and gardens and to a Rest and Relaxation week at the Mt. Fuji Hotel. So, we had some fun while on occupation duty.

That fall, most of our senior officers went home with enough overseas points. This left us with six 1st Lieutenants out of a usual complement of 26 officers. I had received my promotion to 1st Lieutenant when we arrived in Japan. Engineer officers were declared essential and not eligible to go home for a year, regardless of points. We had a full complement of 800 enlisted men, because we were receiving transfers from the European Theater. For a few weeks, I commanded B Troop and was still S-2.

Then for a month or so, I was both S-2 and S-3 Operations Officer. We had no Executive Officer. Finally, after the first of the year, we started receiving new officers and by spring, we were up to strength. I went back to S-2, but did a lot of special projects. 

One of our special projects was finding housing for dependent families moving to Japan that next fall. Our first task was to survey the few remaining Japanese homes in the Tokyo area that had, or could add, western-style toilet and bath facilities. You'll remember our Air Corps had fire-bombed most of Tokyo. We identified nearly 100 homes, and the Japanese Home Office negotiated to rent these for the dependent families coming later. A concurrent job was to design 400 new dependent housing units in a construction project to be built on some open land at Camp Drake. With the help of a Japanese architectural firm that Mr. Ito found for us, we completed the design, but it wasn't built until after I came home.

One night in the middle of these jobs, our offices and officers' quarters were burned by a holdout Japanese; he was never caught. We had used the ground floor of that building for offices and the second floor of that building for our officers' quarters. I had three roommates; two of them went down the hall and were burned to death, while the other roommate and I jumped out of the window. He hit a power line on the way down and broke his back, but recovered. I jumped into a pine tree and only got scratched and bruised. These were old Japanese buildings, and the wood was very dry and burnt very quickly. Obviously, this was a serious loss. On the lighter side, I jumped out of the window with my boots on, in my pajamas, and wearing my Army hat; regulations are that an Army officer is always covered (hat on). I was well trained!

Another job we had was to design and build a parade reviewing stand for the Cavalry to host a visit by General Dwight Eisenhower and other high-ranking officers on the parade grounds in front of the Imperial Palace in downtown Tokyo. We designed it in sections so we could build it at Camp Drake and haul it down on our flatbed trailer trucks. This worked very well. Our 8th Engineer Squadron was represented in the Review Parade as a troop.

In May 1946, I was notified that I would be eligible to return to the States in two months, unless I wanted to continue to serve in Japan. I didn't have to think twice to decide to return home! About August 1st, I received orders to return to the States on a new troop ship from Yokohama to San Francisco. One of my great thrills was to enter the Golden Gate in the early morning and to see the beauty of San Francisco behind it. Oh, to be back in the wonderful ol' USA! 

After being processed to leave the service at Camp Beale, above Sacramento, I took the train to Glendale, where my folks met me for a grand homecoming. They had moved to the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles while I was overseas, so it was a short ride home. I had been overseas a bit more than a year-and-a-half, and on active duty service with the Army for three-and-a-half years.

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, May 23, 2018

Veteran Voices from LifeBio: Walter Allsop's Story

By Walter Allsop, Claremont Manor Retirement Community

My name is Walter Allsop, and I was born in 1928. I served in the Navy as a Seaman 1st Class on the Aircraft Carrier USS Valley Forge CV-45.  

I had graduated high school mid-term, and I was working part-time in a machine shop and also delivering by motor scooter for a drug store. I chose to enlist because I wanted to be in the Navy, mainly because my father had been. Older friends from school felt the Navy had been the best choice for them, as well, so in April of 1946, I enlisted in Los Angeles. My parents took me to the “Enlistment Ceremony" at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, which had a large class. From there, we were bussed to the San Diego Naval Base for training.

Boot camp and training sure was a new way of life for me! Every day was different, but always regulated. We were tested for water safety, up early, and participated in military drilling. I had a short haircut, which led to sunburn on my nose and ears. I missed home and my girlfriend, Mary. I also missed my car, which I had given to my brother. The food was plain, and some days better than others, but we had little choice. The barracks and routines were preparing us for military life. There were no weekend passes until toward the end of training.

Finally, the long hours of basic training ended. We left by train for Rhode Island (by way of Mexico and Canada). There was no travel priority for a troop train, and it took almost a week. There were no showers or bunks, and the food was brought aboard on certain stops.

Everything was new to me on the East Coast. I felt the "Petty Officers" in the First Division were fair and reasonable, resulting in a "tight-knit" group, and I made lasting friends. We went to New York many times on "leave" from Philadelphia. We saw the Empire State Building, Ellis Island, and much more. Often at the movies, there would be entertainers on stage, such as Billie Holiday.

An amusing incident comes to mind. Several of our group were returning to the ship from a "Night on the town." One of our group wanted to bring liquor on board with him, which was strictly against the rules. Bradley was ordered to throw the bottle overboard. He quickly removed one of his new shoes and threw it over. The officer on duty didn't see the shoe go, but heard the splash. He took it to be the liquor.

While waiting for the Valley Forge CV-45 to be commissioned, I had three weeks of leave, and I sent for Mary to come to Philadelphia, where we were married. After our wedding, we stayed in Philadelphia. We often had friends from the ship visit us to play cards and join us for dinner. My friends were as anxious to start the cruise as I was.

Once underway, I was so impressed to be onboard this huge carrier as we went through the docks! I had been trained in firing the 5" cannons in the “Gun Tubs,” which needed to be removed for passage. We were on the way to San Diego. As soon as we got there, I was taken off the ship and sent to Balboa Naval Hospital where I had surgery on my knee. It wasn’t long until I was aboard the next ship leaving San Diego for Hawaii to rejoin my crew. Arriving in Hawaii, I could see ships that were sunk in the bay, and there was much destruction. From there, our ship was soon headed for the Panama Canal.

I wrote many letters home to my parents and Mary. I gave them much information about the Valley Forge maiden cruise: a good will cruise around the world. There have been three Valley Forge Aircraft Carriers. I have a "plank" from the flight deck of the original ship that I was on. 

I was discharged in February of 1948 at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Alameda, California. I flew home from Hawaii to San Francisco for it. Mary had found an apartment; and there was so much to do: start school, work, and family. After I left the service, I returned to work at the machine shop. I entered John Muir College, graduated, and applied to Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and was accepted. I applied to USC, using the GI Bill of Rights, and I stayed in college until I received my master's degree. 

Mary and I went on to have two daughters, and now we have eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren!

-Walter Allsop, Claremont Manor Retirement Community

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, May 16, 2018

Fresh Ideas: Innovation and Collaboration in Action

Fresh - new, additional, further, invigorating, newly created, harvested, bold, cool. These are powerful, inspiring words not to be taken lightly. This is why at Front Porch we call our annual program Humanly Possible® “Fresh Ideas.

The Humanly Possible® “Fresh Ideas” Action Projects begin by gathering each mind in each department throughout the entire organization to brainstorm how to improve our services to those we serve inside or outside our communities. Themes vary by year. The focus for 2017 action projects was to “inspire engagement to those we serve inside or outside our communities.”

From the Front Porch Humanly Possible® handbook …

“Today, more than ever, we need every mind, every discipline, every level of our company working together on what’s possible, what’s achievable, and what’s next. Because, no matter the job title or department, each person is a wellspring of experience, insight and possibility— and a crucial contributor to every challenge and opportunity we confront and embrace.”

“Fresh Ideas” empowers our greatest resource – our people – and builds upon the innovative spirit that has long existed through out Front Porch. When everyone has a voice in giving ideas and choosing an idea, support, buy-in and excitement occurs.

“Fresh Ideas' encourages us to come up with solutions,” said Paulina Zarzuela, an LVN at Kingsley Manor. “We come up with unique and different ideas to help residents and employees.”

After getting feedback from meaningful conversations with a sampling of those who may have a stake in or be affected by the project, each department’s project is put into action. In 2017, Front Porch departments created 53 “Fresh Ideas” action projects.

“Fresh Ideas” are more than just implementing a project. “Fresh Ideas” are about collaborating, sharing and learning from one another. “Fresh Ideas” projects have potential to bubble-up and expand by being replicated in another department or at other Front Porch communities.

Built into the process is providing multiple venues for the “Fresh Ideas” to be shared. Each community holds a “community share” where all staff and residents can see displays about each of the projects and makes inquiries. Department teams and residents learn what other teams worked on and what the motivation was for their “Fresh Idea.” At the Carlsbad By The Sea community share, residents learned how the housekeeping team began a creative and informative way to introduce new residents to each housekeeping team member. Each team member completes an information card with his or her name, where her or she is from, how long he or she has been at Carlsbad By The Sea and his or her “heartfelt why” they do what they do. All cards are displayed together like a family tree in the hallway by the housekeeping office. A new resident receives a copy of the card with his or her assigned housekeeper. 

At the Walnut Village “community share” residents learned how the dining room partnered with the church next door to help feed low-income families within the outside community. Staff at Walnut Village cook, transfer and serve lunch to 40-80 people at the church monthly.

At the Sunny View “community share” residents learned how the maintenance department, to improve work order communication, started using door hangers with “Work in Progress” on one side and a service log on the other side.

As a culmination, Front Porch hosts a “regional share” event where representatives from each Front Porch department gathers to share its “Fresh Ideas” with one another. Presenters and participants include team members from all parts of the organization, including cooks, directors, housekeepers, presidents, transportation coordinators and CNAs. Frequently the presenter is a team member who helped implement the “Fresh Idea” and may have even come up with it. That ownership, pride and enthusiasm emulates through them and becomes contagious. 

Some of the “Fresh Ideas” community team members learned about included …

The Claremont Manor dining room team hosting a food show for residents with 30 different items to sample from food vendors. “This proved such a success with our residents that we plan to have this as an annual event,” said Wayne Scott, dining services director at Claremont Manor.

The Front Porch Home Office finance team provided its services of free gift wrapping for the
residents for the holidays. One December afternoon, the team visited Kingsley Manor with all supplies for a wrapping station. Residents brought gifts to be wrapped, and the team also picked-up and delivered the wrapped items back to some residents’ accommodations. “Residents appreciated the gift wrapping assistance and continue to talk about the joy of interacting with the Home Office team members,” said Lexie Alexander, director of resident services at Kingsley Manor. The residents who didn’t receive wrapping assistance still enjoyed the cheerful visit during the holidays.

Bold, new and cool projects are all around but more importantly, presenters talked about how inspiring projects were and how much fun they had implementing them. High-fives literally all around at the “regional share.”

The “regional share” involves more than celebration and a notepad filled with inspiring ideas. At Front Porch, We Take Action!

The “regional share” concluded with each community gathering together to commit to bringing back a new “Fresh Idea” to its own community. Huddled together each team member shared his or her top three and why they could be a good match for his or her community. Debates, discussions and voting occurred to choose one “Fresh Idea” to commit to. Each community stood up to proclaim the “Fresh Idea” that it would take back to bloom at its community - as imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

Some of the “Fresh Ideas” chosen to imitate and bubble up through Front Porch included …

Carlsbad By The Sea’s “happy stairwell.” Ignited by residents’ requests to have more interesting stairwells, Carlsbad collected inspirational quotes from residents to enliven the stairwell. Ashley Parker, a driver at Carlsbad By The Sea, shared, “Implementing the ‘happy stairwell’ resulted in residents and staff using the stairwells more often. A nice bonus for getting some steps in.”

Walnut Village’s “non-contact boxing” was targeted for residents with Parkinson’s disease but open to all. Initiated by Emmanuel Solis, a Wellbeing Coach at Walnut Village and a boxer himself, boxing workouts improve balance, improve hand-eye coordination and decrease reaction time; a perfect fit and meaningful for residents with Parkinson’s disease. “All we had to do was purchase boxing gloves and hit mitts. Let’s just say it’s been a ‘hit’ with the residents,” said Ryan Fillingane, wellbeing director at Walnut Village.

Kingsley Manor Care Center’s “music in the shower” for care center residents who have anxiety when bathing. A “Fresh Idea” inspired by a CNA involving the life enrichment team, CNAs and residents collaborating to create individualized playlists for each resident in the Care Center. Using a digital music player and a waterproof carrier and speaker, residents can listen to their favorite songs while bathing. As Ripsime Janikyan, director of social
services, admissions and marketing at Kingsley Manor Care Center, shared, “The individualized music helps residents remain calm. We have seen a huge difference in our residents.” Ripsime continued, “A long-term resident who had high anxiety when bathing now talks about her childhood and how her mom used to always sing the song to her.” 

As per the Front Porch Humanly Possible® handbook, “The world today is filled with zillions of mindboggling examples of our collective ingenuity and perseverance. And almost every discovery, invention, development and advance began with a ‘what if’ moment—a glimpse into what could be … It is up to us to see these challenges as opportunities, and rise to the occasion.”  

“Fresh Ideas” brings a breath of fresh air to Front Porch. The possibilities, those “what-if” moments, are limitless. “Fresh Ideas” provide energy, excitement, vigor to team members, but the true gift is improving the daily lives of the remarkable people we are honored to serve.