A New Year for getting in shape

For many, the start of the new year means a new commitment to getting in shape. But even if exercising is already part of your life, there may be changes or adjustments you can make to take your workouts to the next level.

While any physical activity is beneficial, a varied exercise routine can provide a full and healthy lifestyle and even help prevent or delay certain health conditions. If you already have an exercise routine, now is as good a time as ever to evaluate your routine and find ways to diversify your workouts.

For those who do not work out regularly—and for those who do, as well—consider all the ways you can exercise your body and mind, from stretches, cardio, and strength training, to working on balance, brain activity, and more! In addition to different types of workouts, adding more weight, longer times, and more resistance can also help make you stronger and healthier.

  • Strength training can increase lean muscle mass and kick-start your metabolism.
  • Balance exercises can help improve the ability to control and maintain body position as well as reduce the risk of falls and fall-related injuries.
  • Stretching can make everyday activities such as getting dressed and reaching for items on a shelf much easier.
  • Cardio exercise builds up endurance and can help prevent heart disease and other serious conditions.
  • Brain exercises keep your mind sharp and can protect against Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

To find out which exercises are most appropriate for your goals and abilities, set up a fitness consultation or a personal training session. Or just check out a new class one day!

Maintaining healthy habits during the holidays

The holidays are a time of gathering with friends and family to show gratitude, share a meal, and spend quality time together. In the midst of celebrating, it’s easy to let healthy habits slip and find ourselves indulging in sweets, drinks, and heavy meals.

But there are easy ways to maintain healthy habits during this busy time and still enjoy all that the holidays have to offer. Here are some tips for continuing the diet and exercise routines established throughout the year at special meals or holiday parties:

Find balance. If you overindulge on one meal, eat lighter on the next. Consider following the 80/20 rule: eat healthier foods for 80 percent of the day and enjoy a special meal or dessert for 20 percent of the day.

Eat until satisfied, not full. By sticking with normal-sized portions, you can enjoy the delectable treats of the season without overeating. If you’re still feeling hungry after 20 minutes, it’s OK to go back for seconds.

Choose your favorite treats. If pie is your favorite dessert, have a slice! But avoid piling other types of desserts on your plate just because they’re available.

Stick to your exercise routines. Even with a busier schedule during the holidays, it’s especially important to continue with regular exercise schedules to balance out the extra calories.

Don’t get discouraged! If you overindulge, simply get back on track. Try to reduce your intake as the holidays wind down to get back into your normal routine. Add more exercise if possible to burn more calories.

Being mindful about your approach to eating during the holidays can help make it a happy and healthy season whose effects you won’t have to worry about in the new year!

Enhance wellness through lifelong learning

You’re never too old to learn something new. These days, learning a new skill and keeping the brain active has never been easier for older adults. A study by the Rush Memory and Aging Project showed that seniors who are cognitively active were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia than those who did not exercise their brains.

In addition to stimulating the brain and helping to enhance intellectual wellness, these pursuits are often social endeavors that can provide as sense of involvement and belonging in the community as well as helping to avoid feelings of isolation.

There are many excuses people use to keep themselves from learning new things, such as it’s not worth the effort, it’s too expensive, or it’s too hard. But educational opportunities are more abundant than you might realize, both in your community and in the digital world.

  • Libraries, senior centers, and local retirement communities likely offer courses or seminars—and often at no charge. These offerings may be held in partnership with local colleges and provide a more convenient way to access an in-depth look at a favorite or new subject.
  • Local colleges and universities may offer the opportunity for waived tuition or scholarships for older adults pursuing either credit or noncredit courses.
  • Auditing a course provides the social and intellectual benefits without the stress of exams, homework, and high costs.
  • Online courses are convenient for getting access to information without having to leave your home. And they can still provide the social benefits of an in-person class through online discussions.

Growing our minds and learning something new doesn’t have to end with retirement. Find what interests you and pursue greater knowledge!

Exercise for adapting needs

As we get older, certain conditions, injuries, or simply the effects of time may keep us from moving the way we once did.

Aging bodies have different needs. Some of the activities you may have once enjoyed as exercise may no longer be feasible. But learning to adapt to these changes can help keep exercise an important and effective part of your life.

Staying active is essential for maintaining or improving your well-being. In addition to reducing the risk of falls and cardiovascular conditions, physical activity helps release endorphins to relieve stress, boost self-esteem, and improve moods.

  • Focus on balance. Be sure to incorporate balance exercises like tai chi or Pilates into your routine for a low-impact workout with significant results.
  • Take a seat. Chair yoga and other seated exercises can still provide tremendous benefit and are ideal for those who are unable to stand for prolonged periods of time, or get down onto the floor.
  • Dive in! Aquatic exercise is easy on joints while helping to strengthen the core, legs, and back. Water-aerobics classes can also help enhance cardiovascular health.
  • Think outside the gym. It’s easy to incorporate walking and stretching into everyday life. A stroll through a mall or museum, a dance class, or spending time in the park with grandchildren are all ways to get moving without even feeling like you’re exercising.

No matter your abilities or strengths, the most effective type of exercise is one that you enjoy. To successfully incorporate workouts into your daily routine, consider which activities make you happy and which you’ll look forward to doing each day.

Keep tabs on your health using modern technology

Today’s technology has made many parts of our lives more convenient. In our phones and tablets, we can carry books, movies, games, notes, maps, and so much more. Some of these new innovations can even help us keep in tune with our bodies and minds by monitoring our health and stimulating different aspects of our wellness:

  • Fitbit or other wearable technology: These small bands can track your steps, heart rate, calories, sleep quality, and overall activity level. They are a great motivational reminder to help you meet your fitness goals each day.
  • Activity tracking apps: Monitoring your steps and exercise doesn’t necessarily require another piece of technology. Apps like Map My Run, Strava, and MyFitnessPal can also log workouts, calories, and overall health.
  • Luminosity and other brain games: Many of these games are free to download and offer fun and stimulating games to keep your brain active. They can also track your progress and potentially show any areas of decline.
  • Skype or Facetime: Social interaction is important for everyone, but especially for seniors, who are often prone to feelings of isolation. These video chatting tools can substitute face-to-face interactions with grandchildren and other loved ones when an in-person visit isn’t always practical.
  • Medication tracking apps: A daily pill box can still get the job done, but apps like Medisafe or Pill Monitor can provide visual reminders of which pills are needed as well as alarms to help you take them at the same time each day.

While using apps and other technology can sometimes seem daunting for older adults, most are built to be intuitive and user-friendly. Determine which ones would be most helpful in your life and start embracing the power of technology!

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.