Making communities friendlier for those with dementia

Making Communities Friendlier for Those With Dementia

That’s the goal for the ambitious Dementia Friendly America initiative

By Beth Baker for Next Avenue


Credit: Courtesy of Paynesville (MN) ACT on Alzheimer’s Caption: Volunteers pass out laminated bookmarks with the 10 signs of Alzheimer’s at the local supermarket

Can a strong community network help ease the challenges faced by people with dementia and their families? That’s the hope of a national volunteer-driven initiative known as Dementia Friendly America (DFA), announced at the White House Conference on Aging in July.

“Our goals are to foster dementia-friendly communities that will enable people who are living with dementia and their care partners to thrive and to be independent as long as possible,” says Olivia Mastry, who’s guiding the effort. “The side benefit is that it’s beginning to normalize [Alzheimer’s], to reduce the stigma. It’s created an environment that’s allowed people to talk about this disease.”

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A cure for senior loneliness is within our reach

We can solve the problem of social isolation by thinking differently about senior housing

By Tim Carpenter for Next Avenue


Credit: Getty Images

(Next Avenue invited all our 2016 Influencers in Aging to write essays about the one thing they would like to change about aging in America. This is one of the essays.)

The Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965 required that packages of cigarettes display the warning “Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health.” I wish the Surgeon General would issue this warning: “Caution: Loneliness and Social Isolation May Be Hazardous to Your Health.”

Yes, just like smoking, loneliness and social isolation are deadly. And just like smoking in the 1960s, our society is just beginning to understand the perils of loneliness and social isolation today. A 2015 study published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science shows that lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The New York Times recently ran a story with the headline “Social Isolation Is Killing Us.”

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Make every day Valentine’s Day

How to survive the holiday and keep romance alive 365 days a year — however long you’ve been together

By Terri Orbuch, Ph.D. for Next Avenue


I always look forward to February and especially Valentine’s Day, but I’m well aware that not everyone does. I love seeing all the red hearts in the stores and enjoy the romantic commercials on TV for diamonds, perfume and lingerie.

It’s hard not to feel a bit overwhelmed by the media barrage to buy cards, flowers and presents.

There’s another way to look at it, however. Valentine’s Day can serve as a useful reminder to practice simple acts of kindness and to show appreciation for the special people in our lives.

While it’s easy to say that every day should be as romantic as Valentine’s Day, we often wind up distracted by all the things we have to do and don’t make time for what I call “relationship upkeep.” Work, routines, kids and other obligations take precedence, and our attention gets deflected everywhere but toward our one and only.

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Want to age better? Join a choir

A groundbreaking study examines the health benefits of making music as we age

By Deborah Quilter for Next Avenue


Credit: Getty Images

Twenty years ago, when academic researcher Julene Johnson wanted to study how music might help the aging process, she couldn’t get funding. Johnson, a professor at the Institute for Health & Aging at the University of California, San Francisco, suspected that music might improve memory, mood and even physical function.

And, she thought, what could be more perfect than choral music? Your instrument is already in your body, and you are bathed in beautiful sound by fellow musicmakers. Singing in a group is fun, so there’s plenty of reason to come back week after week: You get to see your friends and exercise your vocal cords and brain all at once.

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Fighting ageism and unfair treatment in health care

Among the problems: doctors who view depression and anxiety in older adults as ‘normal’

By Terry Fulmer for Next Avenue


Credit: Getty Images

(Next Avenue invited all our 2016 Influencers in Aging to write essays about the one thing they would like to change about aging in America. This is one of the essays.)

Everyone deserves equal treatment — in the broader society and in our health care system. Today, older people are often not treated fairly and do not get the care they deserve, simply because of their age. While one of our great success stories in the 20th century was the stunning gain in human longevity, recent research from The Frameworks Institute, funded by my group, The John A. Hartford Foundation, and others, has found that the majority of us still don’t recognize ageism or its deleterious effects. They call it a “cognitive hole,” a mental blind spot.

As 10,000 of us turn 65 each day, it is critical that we shine a bright light on this insidious prejudice. It is a matter of simple fairness and justice. It is a way to honor the priceless and irreplaceable contributions that older adults make every day to enrich our society and culture. And for those of us at The John A. Hartford Foundation, it is critical to the broader effort to improve care for older people.

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Learning to swim at 80

Tackling a lifelong to-do can be really enjoyable

By Louise Jackson for Next Avenue

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

Every Thursday night, I drive to the gym, wriggle into a swimsuit that does nothing to hide my bulging belly or my wrinkled, sagging underarms, put on swim goggles that make me look a bit like someone from outer space, grab my cane to help keep my balance while walking from the dressing room into the pool area and slowly ease down the steps into water smelling of chlorine.

I’m 80 years old and taking a swim class for the first time in my life.

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Sterling College student reflects on service

shutterstock_561756772My name is Abby Reed, and I am a sophomore at Sterling College. I’m also an exercise science major and a member of the Sterling College cross-country and track team. I’m from Wichita, the “big city” in Kansas, so coming to the little town of Sterling was quite the change. But the great people here have made it feel like home, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

I started working here as a work study job in September, not exactly knowing what I was getting myself into, but I’m so glad I did. Each resident I get to know is a new friend whom I will cherish long after I’m done working here. Donna is a wonderful lady to work with, showing me how to do manicures and giving me the confidence to call bingo, reassuring me that I am doing fine when I’m convinced I’m talking too loud or going too fast.

Wii bowling, bingo, dominoes, card games–these are some of the activities that I help out with. I used to think I was pretty good at Wii bowling. Boy, was I wrong! Bingo is always one of my favorite parts of the week, having everyone get together, have fun and, often, get seriously competitive.

All of the residents and staff have been so welcoming, showing me around and making sure I know what to do. This past semester I have learned a lot about life, myself and others through the conversations that I have with the residents each week. I hope to be able to continue working here throughout the remainder of the year, as it has been a blessing to be a part of this wonderful community.

Baby, it’s cold outside!

Gerald and Twila Proffitt shared a long and happy marriage of nearly 76 years.

Gerald and Twila Proffitt shared a long and happy marriage of nearly 76 years.

It is the middle of winter and it is cold outside, but February is a month to celebrate love. So here are some love stories from the residents at Sterling Presbyterian Manor to warm your heart:

Gerald and Twila Proffitt
“I was 5 and she was 3 when we first met. We got separated going to high school; she went to Sterling and I went to Alden. Well, one day I went to her house and left her a note asking her on a date. She then responded with a note to tell me that she was going with another boy at the time that she was seeing on Sunday nights. She told me that I could come during the week though for a date. And so I did. It was a Wednesday, I believe, and the rest is history. We had four great kids, got nine grandkids and 19 great-grandkids, I think. Twila passed in 2013 just a few days before our 76th wedding anniversary.”

Gerald has a scrapbook in his room of all of the letters they wrote to each other throughout their marriage, including her very first reply. He invites anyone who is interested to come in, read them, and reminisce with him.

Betty and Phillip Wallace
We all know that life takes twists and turns, and it’s often in hindsight that we see the bigger picture unfolding. When Betty Wallace lost her boyfriend Jack in a tragic accident in 1955, she probably couldn’t imagine that she’d end up dating his best friend, Phillip.

“Phillip was a fine man. He drove airplanes. We were on our way to a bar one night in El Paso, Texas, and he opened the glove compartment and threw a bag at me and said ‘try that on for size,’ and there was my engagement ring. We had a daughter, Gwen, and he adopted my daughter I already had, Ruby. We were married 60 years.”

Their daughter Gwen adds a minor detail to their love story, though.

“She left out that part about their six weeks that they spent in Paris together when he was stationed over there. I was in school and stayed with my grandmother. I did not even recognize Mom when she got back because she had had such a good time going out every night.”

Now how’s that for a love story?

Dick and Susie Walker
“We both graduated from high schools in northeast Oklahoma. Then we went to the same junior college. I had heard about her, and then I saw a picture. She was on the drill team, and the photo was a promotional photo for the team, and she was in her uniform. Well, I asked her to the engineers dance. That must have been after Christmas. She had to ask around about me to lots of folks before she gave in. The dance was in March. We graduated and got engaged. And then we married in August and that’s it. Here we are 62 years later with two kids and two grandkids.”

Jean and Ralph Baker
“I grew up in Saxmon. He grew up at the edge of town, one of 13 kids. I was the only child and always wanted a family. I knew him a long time, even though he didn’t get to go to school like me, and one day he wanted to go with me. It had been a few months and I told him point blank, ‘If you are going to go with me, then you’re gonna dance.’ He did not dance, and I loved dancing; my dad taught me when I was 3. So, he let me teach him, because he wanted to go with me. And I must’ve done a good job, too, because later when we were out, people would stand around watching us. He was a good man with a good mind. We were married 68 years, I think. Three kids, seven grandkids, and great ones too. It’s not much of a love story I don’t think, but it’s my story.”

We think it’s a great love story!

Ruth and Dean Hoffman
“I was in the eighth grade, and he moved from Sterling to Alden and was a junior. Oh the girls all loved him because he had this dark black, wavy hair. Well, I said to myself ‘I’m going to marry him,’ and well, I did. He graduated at 17 and joined the navy. I finished school, and we wrote letters. Oh, he wrote these neat, romantic letters! I always kidded him that he just copied his buddies’ letters because he was not a romantic man. So when he came home we got married. We had 57 years of a wonderful marriage. Dean was a real good dad and husband. We had three kids, two girls and a boy. We have 10 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren and one great-great granddaughter who is 5.”


Chaplain: Pastor Ken Conner’s Corner

shutterstock_560656069By Ken Conner, Sterling Presbyterian Manor chaplain

The Apostle Paul ends his famous chapter with this verse in 1 Corinthians 13:13: “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three, but the greatest of these is love.”

Why would he say that? It would appear to us that all three are of equal value and importance, so why say love is the greatest? I believe he calls it the greatest because it is the foundation of the other two.

Just try to have faith in someone you do not love. Try to hold on to hope if you do not have love. See, without love you cannot have faith in someone. Without love there is no hope at all.

And true love that will have undying faith and unshakable hope must be grounded in a deep abiding love of God. Because when we have that kind of love for and in him, we can have faith in others, and hope in any situation.

Art is Ageless® call for entries underway

Basic RGBSterling Presbyterian Manor has issued a call for entries for the Art is Ageless juried exhibit to be held March 20-24. Entries of artistic works will be accepted from any area artist who is 65 years of age or older to exhibit and/or compete for an opportunity to be featured in the 2018 Art is Ageless calendar.

Artists may choose to enter the exhibit only. For the competition, works are to have been completed in the past five years (since January 2012). There are nine categories, as well as designations of amateur or professional. Works to be entered for judging need to be at Presbyterian Manor by March 17.

The Art is Ageless program encourages Presbyterian Manor residents and other area seniors to express their creativity through the annual competition, as well as art classes, musical and dramatic events, educational opportunities and current events discussions throughout the year.

Local competition winners will join winners from 16 other Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America communities to be judged at the systemwide level.

Entry forms and information can be picked up at Sterling Presbyterian Manor or by contacting Cindy Moore at or 620-278-3651. Or go online to to view rules, download an entry form or enter online.