Meet Richard Olafson

“Being active makes you more alert …”

A pioneer in health care in the northern plains, skilled neurosurgeon Richard (Dick) Olafson, MD, came to Touchmark for the Full Life of overall wellness in his retirement.

Dick, who was born in and raised in Drayton and raised in Bowesmont, Minto, and New England, North Dakota, went on to study medicine at the University of North Dakota and the University of Pennsylvania. His four decades in neurological medicine were sparked by a life-changing experience with a local surgeon when Dick was just a young man in college, and his father sought an expert in North Dakota for a cerebral aneurysm.

“It was that experience of my father being treated by Dr. Lee Christoferson that encouraged me to go into neurological surgery in the Fargo area,” says Dick.

As it would turn out, Lee would continue to play an important role in Dick’s career. Together they continued building the Neurologic Associates, a Fargo office group of physicians in neurosciences, and the Neuropsychiatric Institute at the University of North Dakota. Dick and Lee were among the first doctors to bring neuroscience to patients in the Upper Midwest.

“I was very busy in my career, very active!” In addition to his practice, Dick held positions as the Associate Dean for Veteran Affairs, Associate of Clinical Affairs, and the Assistant Dean of Southeast Area Health Education Center at the Fargo campus of the University of North Dakota.

When he officially retired in 1998, he knew the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle for his health.

A family fitness affair

Dick had been a member of the Touchmark Health & Fitness Club for at least three years before coming to the community as a resident, where he says he never gets tired of the variety of opportunities to be active.

“My wife Ann was very physically active. She helped organize tennis programs in the community. I still run into people, even at Touchmark, who knew her. They say, ‘You’re the Olafson from the Olafson tennis family!’”

Dick and his wife raised their children to love sports, too. While they no longer live in North Dakota, they maintain the family tradition and are raising Dick’s grandchildren as competitive athletes.

“All these things have encouraged me to stay active. I try to work out six to seven days a week using the treadmill, recumbent bike, and weights.” If he can’t make it to the Health & Fitness Club, he does “a fair amount of walking around Touchmark.”

A well-researched home

When he decided he was ready to move, he carefully considered his options. Though he already knew much about Touchmark, he knew the decision would be an important one, and it deserved some research.

“My mother lived at Waterford at Harwood Groves before it became Touchmark, and she had a very positive experience. Still, I looked at half a dozen places or more. I found Touchmark has the lightest, most airy, and best community feel of all the communities I could have moved into.”

Dick is taking advantage of the friendly atmosphere and frequent events to meet new neighbors. “Touchmark has excellent programs to keep one active and involved in the community!”

With many years of golf and tennis beginning to catch up with him, Dick says he has found the right combination of community and independence at Touchmark. “I was also having some slowdowns from athletic injuries, so having more people close to me to associate with was important to me.”

Exercise for health and happiness

Dick’s career in neuroscience has kept him seeking enriching experiences and creating fond memories. He says he can be impatient at times, a byproduct of his professional goals, but that keeps him focused on the Full Life.

“I find that if I don’t stay active, I don’t have the energy I need. Being active makes you more alert and focused on yourself and your surroundings. Exercise makes you a more active member of your community.”

Protecting your body’s largest organ

As is the case with many different parts of our health, our skin tends to change as we age. It may become thinner and may not appear as plump or smooth as it once did. Age spots and wrinkles appear, dry spots develop, and cuts and scratches may not heal as easily. While many of these changes seem mostly cosmetic, there are also potential health risks associated with aging skin.

Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the U.S. and Canada. The three most common types of skin cancer include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, which can spread to other organs and may be fatal. Skin cancer can present itself in many different ways—and the most effective way to treat it is to detect it as early as possible.

November is National Healthy Skin Month—the perfect time to pick up the phone and schedule an appointment with your dermatologist for an annual exam. Your doctor can help identify any new or changed spots or growths for signs of disease.

There are plenty of easy ways to keep your skin healthy at home, as well. Just like any other organ in the body, the skin has basic needs in order to stay healthy.

  • Limit time in the sun and always use sunscreen. Even in winter, the sun can damage your skin.
  • Avoid hot baths and frequent showers, which can aggravate dry skin.
  • Use a room humidifier during the winter or in dry climates.
  • Stay properly hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Perform regular self-exams to help detect changes in the size, shape, color, or feel of any birthmarks, moles, or spots.
  • Avoid smoking.

While certain skin changes are inevitable, skin damage doesn’t have to be a natural consequence of aging.

Meet Marge and Bob Willis!

Traveling without worries

Every winter, Bob and Marge Willis pack up and head for Florida. “But we don’t worry a bit while we’re gone, because Touchmark takes care of everything while we’re away,” says Marge.

Like many retired Wisconsin residents who fly south for the winter, they used to worry about their home in Kaukauna when they were on the Gulf. “When we were in our family home and went to Florida, no matter how the neighbors helped, we would always come home to dead car batteries, or the furnace didn’t kick in,” she says.

“Now, while we’re enjoying the warm weather, Touchmark takes care of all the details here. We go to Florida in January and come back in April. While we’re gone, Touchmark will start our car so the battery doesn’t die. They clean while we’re gone. They check the faucets, and when we walk in after Florida, everything is pristine.”

Their bright, colorful single-family home is on a neat cul-de-sac near the Touchmark main building and offers expansive views of trimmed lawns and trees gently swaying in the breeze. It’s a home that has the personal touches that make Marge happy and the support system that takes the burden of home maintenance off of Bob.

Choosing a new home

In 2015, the couple decided it was time to move from their large home on the banks of the Fox River in Kaukauna to a 1,640-square-foot home in Touchmark’s Fox Pointe neighborhood. Then they moved to a slightly larger home just down the street.

Bob is a retired sales executive for a paper-converting company, and Marge taught elementary school in Kaukauna. Now grown, their son and daughter were raised in the family home but attended college out of state and eventually started their families outside of Wisconsin. But Marge and Bob say the Fox River Valley was—and is—their home, so they knew their retirement years would be spent in the area they’d come to love.

Before moving to Touchmark, the couple had researched the community as a possible home for Bob’s mother. When they decided it was time for them to move, Touchmark was their first choice. “My mother passed, and three years later, we’re here. Instead of bringing her, we just moved in ourselves,” Bob says.

Adding personalized touches

A painter, Marge’s artistic talent is evident in every corner of their home. The living and dining areas are accented by walls painted soft teal and aqua. The master bedroom is painted a subdued lilac, and the kitchen is accented in gray neutrals. Family photos and treasured heirlooms accent the bright space. The couple worked with Touchmark to customize the home and give it a personalized palette and designer touches. “The environment is so happy,” Marge says. “I love the light! I love the colors, because I picked them. I walk in here, and it feels like home.”

“It’s more than I expected,” says Bob. “I knew we made a good choice, and with the help Touchmark gave us to do what we asked, the results speak for themselves.”

Marge and Bob's house

Beyond customized decorating and manicured landscaping, the couple quickly list the amenities they appreciate that are included with their single-family home at Touchmark. They leave all lawn care, snow removal, hedge trimming, and power-washing the outside of their home to Touchmark. Housecleaning is taken care of every other week and while they’re in Florida. Plus, Touchmark does an annual deep cleaning. Building Services staff take care of plumbing, electrical work—even changing a lightbulb. Bob laughs and says he doesn’t need to touch anything now. “Fix-it doesn’t go with my name anymore!”

Enjoying a community

Bob and Marge spent a lifetime traveling but stay closer to home since Bob’s diagnosis. That hasn’t diminished their zest for pursuing a rich life, though. Marge attends exercise classes and paints. Bob also likes attending Touchmark’s exercise classes. His other pastimes include managing their finances and reviewing his collection of Motown recordings and books. His favorites: Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, and The Temptations.

Marge and Bob eating out

They like the flexibility of cooking at home or taking advantage of 20 meals a month in the Grand. They frequent the neighborhood block parties for the single-family homeowners. Parties always include live entertainment and have featured a pig roast, pizza parties with outdoor pizza ovens, a Hawaiian party, and even a Door County fish boil put on by a popular restaurateur from the region. “It isn’t your mother’s weenie roast,” laughs Marge.

They appreciate how Touchmark encourages residents to choose what they want to pursue and how much they want to get involved. “Touchmark opens the doors, but they don’t push you through,” Marge says.

Bob agrees. “People here can be independent and not feel a pressure to do something or participate in something. But if they don’t participate, it’s their loss.”

The couple values the suburban lifestyle and the independence of their own home without the hassle. Marge explains when she added up the cost of home maintenance, utilities, repairs, appliance replacement, and even the cost for electricians and plumbers, the value was apparent.

The convenient location is also a plus. She cites ready access to the Fox River Mall, the regional airport, and the downtown Performing Arts Center. “I always say we are 10 minutes from anything, yet we feel like we’re in the country. And we don’t have to worry about the everyday stuff.”

Making sense of our world

Our five senses—hearing, vision, taste, smell, and touch—connect us to others and the world around us, allowing us to experience things in a number of ways. It’s easy to take our senses for granted, until one or more of them start to diminish.

A decline in senses is a natural effect of aging. Health and environmental factors can also facilitate sensory deterioration. Long-time smokers may experience reduced taste and smell sensitivities, while people living with diabetes may have issues with vision.

While sensory changes can be frustrating, acceptance and a positive attitude can help make the changes more manageable. With patience, you can often learn to compensate for the diminished sense with others, while adaptive devices can also provide assistance.

  • Hearing is often considered our most social sense—and can lead to withdrawal and isolation as people become more and more hesitant to interact with others. Misunderstanding others can also lead to paranoia and disagreements. Avoid shouting, speak face-to-face, and eliminate background noise when speaking with someone who has hearing loss.
  • Vision loss can lead to problems with mobility, poor orientation, and even hallucinations. It may keep people from moving around and getting outside, and also lead to isolation. Many low vision aids can help with adapting to this change. Regular eye exams ensure the most up-to-date assistance.
  • A diminished sense of touch affects both the ability to distinguish between different objects and textures, but also to detect pain. Older adults are less likely to be able to perceive internal pain or rising temperatures. They may also miss out on the therapeutic benefits of another person’s touch.
  • Changes in taste and smell often go hand in hand for those over the age of 50, and can cause food to become unappealing. A loss of smell can also create consequences with safety and personal hygiene. Find ways to enhance the flavor of foods without salt, add textures, and follow good oral hygiene to help retain smelling and tasting abilities.

If you notice changes in a loved one, bring it up in a tactful way. Avoid making someone feel inadequate and instead focus on finding ways to help them adapt and remain successful.

Breathing toward a better life

Breath is essential to life. Each person will take about half a billion breaths in their lifetime, most of which are taken without thinking. But focusing on the breath and bringing awareness to it can be a valuable tool in connecting the mind and body.

Our thoughts are connected to our breath, and can be used to influence the way the body behaves through simple exercises. A deep breath tells the body to calm down and encourages full oxygen exchange to keep the heartbeat steady.

For example, stressful thoughts trigger the release of “fight or flight” hormones that then increase blood pressure and heart rate and constrict blood vessels. Deep breathing can reverse this response by increasing blood flow and oxygenation to organs and muscles, thus reducing the damage caused by stress.

The benefits of a regular practice of deep breathing can include:

  • Reduce anxiety, depression, and stress
  • Lower/stabilize blood pressure
  • Increase energy levels
  • Relax muscles

Practicing deep breathing doesn’t have to be complicated. To try, find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down. Breathe in through the nose, slowly, allowing the chest and abdomen to expand. Then breathe out slowly through the nose or mouth.

You may find it comforting to close your eyes or even to focus on a word or phrase to help you relax. Many also combine deep breathing with practices that promote it, including meditation, yoga, tai chi, or repetitive prayer.

A daily practice of deep breathing is one of the most effective tools for enhancing your health and producing long-term benefits. Try to practice for 15 – 20 minutes each day. Over time, these techniques can become more natural for your body and breathing will be more effective.

Preparing for flu season

The seasonal flu is a viral infection affecting the nose, throat, and lungs, and with the change in seasons, it’s essential to take preventative steps to protect yourself and your loved ones.

For many, the flu is a serious nuisance—and for some, it can develop into a serious illness that can lead to hospitalization and even death. Those at the highest risk for serious flu complications include:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children under the age of 5
  • Adults age 65 and older
  • People with health conditions such as asthma or diabetes

The most effective way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine. Flu vaccines may be administered as a shot or a nasal spray and are available at many different locations, such as your doctor’s office, clinic, pharmacy, or employer. They are covered under the Affordable Care Act as well as Medicare Part B.

In addition to the flu vaccine, listed below are other steps you can take to help prevent the seasonal flu.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • If you do get sick, stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever has subsided.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Practice general good health habits, such as cleaning and disinfecting surfaces at home, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating a healthy and balanced diet.

Taking action to prevent the flu can help ensure you have the best season ever!

A message on massage

We often think of massage therapy as a spa-like indulgence to help us relax and relieve stress, but this ancient practice has plenty of health benefits. It can be a valuable form of treatment for a variety of conditions, while also helping us feel younger, healthier, and more balanced.

The benefits of massage therapy are vast! Depending on each individual, massage can help:

  • Relieve pain
  • Improve range of motion
  • Enhance immunity
  • Increase joint flexibility
  • Alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Relax injured, tired, and overused muscles
  • Release endorphins—the body’s natural painkillers

Different types of massage can help serve different purposes, each utilizing different types of movement and levels of pressure.

Massage for older adults tends to differ from traditional massage practices, and usually includes gentle stroking, kneading, and light pressure on specific points. Targeted pressure can help lubricate joints, which relieves the pain and stiffness of arthritis. And the relaxation and communication promoted during massage can even help people living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Unlike many medications, massage is a natural way to stimulate the nervous system and increase blood circulation. In fact, according to Massage Today, regular massage can often help reduce the need for medications.

Massage therapy can benefit most people; however, it may not be appropriate for those with bleeding disorders or who are taking blood-thinning medication; people with deep vein thrombosis; or when you have open or healing burns or wounds.

Speak to your doctor before scheduling your first massage.

This season, strive for wellness in every dimension

With changes in the weather often come changes in how we feel, whether that means feeling cold, feeling sadness, or simply feeling different than the previous week. Whatever we’re feeling, overall wellness is important for optimal health. The following tips can help us make sure our wellness is in top shape!

To improve your emotional wellness

Practice optimism. Read books that interest you, and spend time with family and friends. Manage stress by setting boundaries, laughing, smiling, and hugging.

To improve your environmental wellness

Respect resources by choosing green processes. Seek ways to spend time in natural settings through walking paths, meditation, gardening, and similar options

To improve your intellectual wellness

Read. Challenge your brain with games. Learn new skills, and share and discuss your interests with others.

To improve your occupational wellness

Pursue interests. Contribute your passion or hobby in a paid or volunteer role. Recognize the value of your contribution, and get involved in your community.

To improve your physical wellness

Engage in regular physical activity, get adequate sleep, and have regular health checkups. Get a massage, eat a variety of healthy foods, and ask your doctor which vitamins might benefit you. (These things will also help your emotional wellness!)

To improve your social wellness

Listen to and care for others. Touch, hug, and laugh. Develop and nurture close, warm friendships. Join a club or an organization.

To improve your spiritual wellness

Live with a sense of purpose, guided by personal values. Participate in group or individual faith-based activities, meditation, or mindful exercises (tai chi, Qigong, yoga).

Practice wellness every day for the healthiest you!

Focus on health all hours of the day (and night)

While being active, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet are often touted as the keys to a healthy lifestyle, the amount and quality of your sleep is just as important.

Getting enough sleep provides valuable benefits for both our minds and bodies, as it can affect our immune system, appetite, hormone levels, blood pressure, and more.

As people age, falling asleep and staying asleep can become more of a struggle, and the prevalence of insomnia rises, as well. This can be caused by changes in circadian rhythms, hormone levels, lifestyle habits, or effects from medications.

However, sleep needs remain the same throughout adulthood—seven to nine hours per night. A lack of quality sleep each night can lead to reduced productivity, daytime sleepiness, depression, increased risk of obesity, and other health concerns.

There are certain practices you can follow to help fall asleep faster and get quality sleep each night:

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Do not nap for longer than 20 minutes.
  • Use your bed only for sleeping. Do not read, snack, or watch television in bed.
  • Avoid nicotine and alcohol in the evenings.
  • Talk to your doctor about medications that may be keeping you awake at night, such as antidepressants, beta-blockers, and cardiovascular drugs.

Taking care of yourself at night can help your daytime hours be safer, healthier, and more enjoyable.

Is it time for a change?

Getting older and entering retirement age often means having more time to spend on activities we enjoy and having the free time to travel and spend time with friends and family. But it also means that we need to be aware of how our bodies are changing, and that our need for care will likely increase.

As the adult child of an older adult, it can be difficult knowing when it’s time step in and help a loved one increase their level of care. However, there are things to be aware of that can help you know when it may be time to intervene.

When visiting your loved one, try to be aware of these possible indicators:
    • Physical changes like sudden weight loss, bruises, or reduced personal grooming
    • Increased difficulty with everyday activities like cooking, bathing, and dressing
    • Risky behavior like poor medication management, keeping old/spoiled food in the refrigerator, inability to care for a pet, or hiding falls
    • Emotional changes such as unusual or unexplained depression, stress, or anxiety; a lack of enthusiasm for normal activities; and less contact with friends and family
    • Cognitive changes like forgetting names of familiar people; not paying bills; dents in the car; unopened mail or packages; and difficulty remembering to shop, cook, or eat

If you determine that extra help is needed, an inclusive care community can often be the best solution. With this type of care, only the level of help that is needed is provided, but as the need becomes greater over time, the level of care is also increased. This is the ideal solution for people wishing to “age in place.”

Being the healthiest we can and living happy, satisfied lives requires comfort and certainty in the health care we receive. By monitoring the health of our loved ones, we can make sure these concerns are provided for as early as possible!