The Many Benefits of Pet Ownership for Older Adults

Image of an older adult with a kitten, both of whom are reaping the benefits of pet ownership.If you are a pet lover, you’ll most likely be one all of your life. Those who have owned pets know just how rewarding having a furry friend can be, and how pets quickly become members of our families.

People derive many emotional benefits from owning a pet, even more so as older adults. In this post, we’ll examine some of the best reasons why you should consider having a cat or dog (or other pet) around in retirement.

Companionship

Even if you’re an introvert, everyone needs socialization in their lives, lest we feel lonely and isolated. Though your cat or dog can’t “talk,” they are more than capable of providing friendship and loyalty. Just like humans, domestic pets have unique personalities, skills, and habits that you can treasure and enjoy.

Exercise

For most of us, the most enjoyable form of exercise is the one that doesn’t actually feel like exercise. Going on a leisurely stroll outside with your dog each day is a great way to get moving and feels completely different mentally than tracking your time on the treadmill. It’s fantastic for your dog’s health, and yours! You can exercise with a cat as well by engaging in high-energy play throughout the day.

Sense of Purpose

Being a caretaker is a big responsibility that can provide a meaningful significance in our lives. Knowing your pet depends on you for their well-being, happiness, and health is a great motivator to keep active and positive. Everyone deserves to feel needed and appreciated.

Stress Relief

Did you know that scientific research tells us that holding or petting an animal is an effective form of stress relief? Specifically, it lowers blood pressure and reduces cortisol levels. Cortisol production is the leading cause of physiological stress and anxiety. What better way to achieve serenity than to snuggle with a soft and cuddly companion?

Safety & Comfort

If you’ve grown accustomed to living with a spouse or partner, it can be challenging to maintain that sense of security after they’re gone. Though having a pet cannot replace your loved one, it can help you feel safer at night or when you’re alone. Dogs also serve as excellent deterrents for burglars if home safety is a concern for you when you’re out. Even tiny dogs sound intimidating when barking behind a closed door!

Routine

Having some things to do each day provides stability and structure from which nearly everyone benefits. Incidentally, pets best behave when they have a routine and boundaries, too. Keeping even a loose daily regimen with your pet will provide the foundation you both need to find comfort in your home life and free up your brain for more exciting activities.

New Friends & Interests

Having a pet is a hobby that you can share with others if you choose to view it as such. You may see the same people walking their pets each day, or run into familiar faces at the dog park or groomer. These days, there are groups that exist solely to participate in pet-centric activities and excursions. So if you feel like you’d like to expand your friendship circle, hop online and see if others are nearby who want to plan a pug playdate or a mastiff meetup.

In summary, life is better with friends. If you feel something is missing in your life, or you’d like it to be sweeter, consider adopting a pet today. You’ll be doing yourself and your companion a world of good!

To learn more about retirement living at Touchmark, visit our website or Facebook.

Fun, Adventure, and Involvement—The Perfect Recipe for Active Aging

Image of Marion Travis, Touchmark residentWhen Marion Travis, 62, decided to move to Touchmark at Wedgewood almost two years ago, she was looking for peace of mind and a sense of community. “There are less worries here. If I need something, there’s someone who can help, and there’s always someone new to meet and talk to.”

Choosing a community in a familiar part of the city and close to her three children was also a huge benefit for Marion, especially after her husband Wesley passed away. “There’s no point in being sad. I want to keep busy and try to keep moving.”

Originally from England and interested in traveling abroad, Marion worked temporarily as a nanny. This adventure led her to Alberta, Canada, where she met her husband of 35 years. They made their home in Edmonton’s west end to be near Wesley’s family. Marion then went to work as a Radiation Therapist at the Cross Cancer Institute until she retired two years ago. Though she has eased into and enjoys the relaxation of retired life, she makes sure she remains active every day.

“I take my 12-year-old-dog Kodi on long walks twice a day. I also just set up my Bowflex® gym and elliptical in my basement so I can improve my cardio and fight joint stiffness—three times a week.”

Marion also still enjoys golfing once a week, a pastime she and Wesley used to enjoy together. “I am part of a golf league at the Stony Plain Golf Course, and I’m looking forward to participating in this year’s Touchmark Golf Tournament. Golf is like gambling. There’s just that one good shot that keeps bringing me back each time.”

During the winter months, Marion heads south to her second home in Arizona, where she has recently taken up tennis. “My sister-in-law got me into the sport. It’s fun to hit the ball around, but honestly sometimes we have more fun talking than we do playing,” she laughs.

While physical activity is an integral part of Marion’s lifestyle, keeping fit mentally is equally vital to her routine. “It’s important to keep your mind healthy and active. I love trivia and games, and I volunteer in the Touchmark store and every Wednesday as a caller for bingo. I also sing in the Touchmark Glee Club as an alto-soprano, though it really depends on the key as to which way I go.”

Marion is also enjoying some of the new experiences her new community has to offer. For example, at a recent creative workshop, she made a terrarium, and she volunteers as a porter when residents living in the long-term care neighborhood go shopping.

“I don’t want to be a couch potato,” exclaims Marion.

Her top tips for active aging? “Find something that you enjoy. Find something that gets you out. And find something that gets you socializing.”

The Slow-Moving Art of Tai Chi

Image of Earl, demonstrating Tai chiMy tai chi journey started about four years before my major medical event. Tai chi was initially a way to stay at least peripherally connected with my martial arts background as I aged, but classes then became a big part of my recovery from sudden onset paralysis due to a brain mass and rare infection. One morning in late October 2012, I simply could not get up out of bed. A head CT at the emergency room revealed a two-centimeter benign tumor in my right frontal lobe. Fortunately, my vitals stabilized, and a surgeon removed the mass several days later. Despite the tumor removal, I spent nine long days completely paralyzed on my left side due to inflammation from the infection. It was unclear how much mobility I would regain.

Mind-body Balance

The gentle slow-moving art of tai chi focuses on balance and body awareness. It is incredibly beneficial to anyone suffering from mobility or balance issues, and can even be learned and practiced while seated. Shifting weight from one leg to the other and stepping forces both sides of the body to work. Simply learning the form also helps with memory, as the 108-move Yang-style (long) form consists of three distinct sections. While tai chi is fundamentally a martial art, it can be practiced by anyone and is not at all aggressive. The best description is “a moving meditation.”

GRATE{FULL}

I am thankful I was able to call upon my tai chi skills which helped in physical therapy. Balance, awareness of my center, and being able to funnel chi (energy) into my paralyzed left side helped tremendously. I recovered my ability to walk, work, and play guitar and ukulele. At Touchmark Meridian, we are very lucky to have Jeffrey Vik—one of the best instructors that I’ve ever encountered anywhere. Join us for the next class and feel the stress melt away!

This guest post is told by Earl, Touchmark at Meadow Lake Village resident and avid Health & Fitness Club member. It has been edited for brevity.

Cool Down With Summer Mocktails

With summer temperatures rising, it’s important to stay cool and hydrated. Getting enough water can be difficult sometimes; especially if you’re craving something with more flavor. A nice cocktail by the pool is a fun alternative, but the alcohol can increase the risk of dehydration. To find the best of both worlds, take a look at these fun, hydrating mocktails, or cocktails without alcohol.

  1. Watermelon Lime Punch

This delicious punch combines the hydrating power of watermelon with a refreshing hint of mint to create a tasty punch for any garden party. Just blend fresh watermelon, stir in some honey and lime juice, add mint and ice, and enjoy! For the full recipe click here.

  1. Cucumber Lime Mojito

Mojitos are a fun summer treat, but all the sugar in them can make you thirstier than when you started. This version switches out sugary syrups for cooling cucumber and a hint of citrus. In a glass, muddle cucumber slices, mint, and a dash of sugar. Fill the glass with ice, and top everything off with lime club soda. For the full recipe, click here.

  1. Blackberry Lemon Spritzer

For a tangy, bubbly twist on lemonade, try this Blackberry Lemon Spritzer for your next party. Pour lemonade and lemon club soda into a pitcher. Then, mix in your blackberries; lightly muddling about half the total amount. Chill until ready to serve, and then add ice and a few more blackberries for texture. For the full recipe, click here.

  1. Pomegranate Sparkler

For those who enjoy a more tart beverage, check out this Pomegranate Sparkler. Be careful to choose the right pomegranate juice though, as many brands add a lot of extra sugar. To make this drink, mix sparkling water, pomegranate juice, and lime juice. Top with ice and enjoy! For the full recipe and others like it, click here.

  1. Raspberry Fizz

If you want to try out some more advanced mixology techniques, take a shot at this Raspberry Fizz Mocktail. In a shaker, muddle raspberries and lemon wedges. Add in ice, a dash of sugar, and—if you’re feeling adventurous—a bit of rose water. Shake well, strain into a glass with ice, and top with club soda. To get the full recipe, click here.

What are your favorite summer beverages? Let us know!

Debunking Detoxes and Cleanses

It’s summer and numerous messages we receive from the fitness, nutrition, and wellness industries have conflicting information. In particular, topics like detoxification, cleanses, hydration, and sports drinks can be confusing.

Detoxing and cleanses

A variety of detoxification (“detox”) diets and regimens, often referred to as “cleanses” or “flushes,” are suggested as a means of removing toxins from the body or losing weight.

Detox programs may involve a variety of approaches, such as:

  • Fasting
  • Consuming only juices or other liquids for several days
  • Eating a very restricted selection of foods
  • Using various dietary supplements or other commercial products
  • Emptying the colon with enemas, laxatives, or colon hydrotherapy (aka “colonic irrigation”)

At this time, there is no convincing evidence that detox or cleansing programs actually remove toxins from your body or improve your health. In most cases for healthy individuals, the body’s remarkable intrinsic detoxification system—the liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, and colon—work in conjunction with each other to remove harmful substances without needing any outside help.

The weight loss element of a detox diet typically results in a reduction in the intake of calories versus the “detox” itself.

From a health and safety perspective, use caution, as some of the products and procedures used in detox/cleansing programs may be harmful to your health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission have taken action against several companies selling detox/cleansing products because they contained illegal or potentially harmful ingredients. If you do decide to try a detoxification or cleansing product, be sure to clear it with your physician beforehand.

The Amazing Ripple Effect of Volunteering

Not only does volunteering help those in need, but it also provides significant emotional benefits to the one doing the volunteering. In fact, researchers from the London School of Economics found that people who volunteer weekly are 16% more likely to report being “very happy” than those who do not volunteer. This difference in perceived happiness is comparable to the boost you get from having an income of $75,000–$100,000 versus $20,000.

Now if that doesn’t have you wondering what work near you can be done to help others, consider that volunteering in retirement has even more significant benefits. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency for service, volunteering, and civic engagement released two studies in the last several years on their findings of older adult altruism. It found that:

  • Almost two-thirds of Senior Corps volunteers reported a decrease in feelings of isolation, and 67% of those who first reported they “often” lack companionship stated that they had improved social connections.
  • 70% of volunteers who initially reported five or more symptoms of depression reported fewer symptoms at the end of the first year.
  • 63% of volunteers who initially indicated three or four symptoms of depression reported fewer symptoms after one year.

So, why does volunteering have such a marvelous emotional effect on the volunteer? The reasons are many, but some at the top of the list include:

  1. Increasing social connections with others.

It’s difficult to help out in a vacuum. Chances are, almost every volunteer activity also comes with the opportunity to socialize with others. Be it nonprofit coordinators, fellow volunteers, children or youth in need, or an organization dedicated to doing good; your friend circle just got a lot bigger!

  1. Tapping into talents and hobbies.

Volunteering often requires us to use our unique skills in unconventional ways. For example, knitting hats in the winter or planting trees in the spring can bring out talents we forgot we had. Pitching in allows us to rediscover our gifts and share them with others, or find new ones altogether!

  1. Increasing the value of your time.

This may sound wacky, but a study from Wharton College found that people who give more of their time feel as though they have more of it and that it means more overall. Regular volunteers reported they felt more confident and useful in their lives, and that they can more easily conquer new tasks.

  1. Sharing of intergenerational knowledge.

What better way to share all you’ve learned over the years than to teach it to someone younger and with less experience? It’s no secret that grandparents and grandchildren bring immense joy to one another, but that joy can be felt between nonrelatives as well. Youth get the benefit of learned wisdom, and retirees earn a chance to view things from the younger generation’s perspective.

Now that summer is in full swing and the days feel longer than ever, take the time to look for ways that you can become more involved in your community. A great place to start is VolunteerMatch, a nonprofit organization that helps you find local volunteer opportunities all over the United States (and in some other countries). When you give more, everything feels better.

Meet the Browns

For the love of travel!

Since moving to Touchmark seven years ago, Fran and Ralph Brown have traveled by land, air, and sea to spots around the world. In addition to their recent four-month world cruise, they have taken a European river cruise, driven across the U.S. and Canada, and explored Hawaii, Alaska, India, Turkey, Namibia, Iceland, and Chile.

Fran says, “I love seeing this great big world, and what we love most about our trips are the animals and wildlife! We love seeing them in their natural habitat, especially on safari in Africa.”

While the Browns are away, they don’t have to worry about their home. They know Touchmark team members are collecting their mail, watering their plants, and taking care of everything. “Especially being gone for over 30 days, we are so happy to know we have the staff at Touchmark and wonderful neighbors to help us out,” says Fran. Before their recent trip, one friend at Touchmark, who has traveled around the world four times, offered them helpful advice about excursions—“another Touchmark benefit!”

Once home, the couple always put together a presentation for the residents, who enjoy seeing the photos, artifacts, and keepsakes. Some have been inspired to travel to faraway places, such as Transylvania and Japan, or take a world cruise. “The presentations are stressful to prepare for, but it’s neat to have a full crowd of people who appreciate and can share in our experience,” says Ralph. Fran adds, “We’re working now on an ‘Around the World in 80 Minutes’ presentation, which is going to be challenging!”

Around the world in 113 days

As the couple searched for their next adventure, Fran saw a cruise itinerary for 29 countries and 39 ports. “I told Ralph, if I knew I only had a year to live, I’d go on a world cruise.” Ralph quickly replied, “Why wait? Let’s do it while we can!”

Every day offered a new venture. They swam with stingrays in Bora Bora, snorkeled in Thailand, toured Singapore, visited the Hobbiton in New Zealand, and explored parts of Angola, Gambia, and Cape Verde in Africa.

One of the highlights was Vietnam, where they visited the C? Chi tunnels under Saigon. The tour focused on the ingenuity and resilience of the Vietnamese fighters, who lived and fought from the underground tunnels. “It was scary and yet fascinating crawling around in the tunnels, which were about 3 feet high,” says Ralph.

Never a dull moment! Next up …

At the end of this year, they will sail on a Caribbean Disney cruise celebrating the Christmas holiday with their family. In 2019, they will embark on a two-month road trip around the U.S. and Canada to keep in touch with family and friends. Beyond that, they are researching potential safaris to nurture their continuing love of the African wildlife. Eventually, they would love to go to Ireland and Scotland to explore Fran’s cultural heritage and roots.

Both agree that Touchmark is the perfect home base for their worry-free travels!

Touchmark Founder and Chairman wins Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2018 Award

We are honored to share the news that Touchmark Founder and Chairman Werner G. Nistler, Jr., has been selected as the winner of the Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2018 Award in the Lifetime Entrepreneur category in the Pacific Northwest! Accompanied by his wife Colleen, family members, and Touchmark CEO Marcus Breuer and his wife Emily, Werner received this well-deserved recognition Friday night at an exciting gala event in Seattle.

Touchmark Founder and Chairman Werner G. Nistler Jr., winner of the Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2018 Award in the Lifetime Entrepreneur category in the Pacific Northwest.An independent panel of judges selected Werner. The award recognizes entrepreneurs who are excelling in areas such as innovation, financial performance, and personal commitment to their businesses and communities.

This is a tremendous honor for Werner and a great tribute to his life’s work, most of which has been focused on creating and nurturing Touchmark. In his acceptance speech, Werner acknowledged the people of Touchmark. He also said everyone is an entrepreneur in one way or another, for he believes everyone is driven by passions and perseverance to make the world better. He then went on to share two statements that have always resonated with him:

  • “I worked so late last night I met myself coming to work this morning.”
  • “Everyone knows how often we have failed, but only God knows how often we have tried.”

What’s next?

As a Pacific Northwest award winner, Werner is now eligible for consideration for the Entrepreneur Of The Year 2018 National Awards. Award winners in several national categories, as well as the Entrepreneur Of The Year National Overall Award winner, will be announced at the Entrepreneur Of The Year National Awards gala in Palm Springs, California, on November 10, 2018. The awards are the culminating event of the Strategic Growth Forum®, the nation’s most prestigious gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies.

Since 1986, EY has honored entrepreneurs whose ingenuity, spirit of innovation, and discipline have driven their companies’ success, transformed their industries, and made a positive impact on their communities. Now in its 32nd year, the program has honored the inspirational leadership of such entrepreneurs as:

  • Howard Schultz of Starbucks Corporation
  • Pierre Omidyar of eBay, Inc.
  • Jodi Berg of Vitamix
  • Robert Unanue of Goya Foods
  • Reid Hoffman and Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn
  • Andreas Bechtolsheim and Jayshree Ullal of Arista Networks
  • Hamdi Ulukaya of Chobani

Prior accomplishments

Werner now joins these well-known entrepreneurs. In addition to Touchmark, Werner has developed other enterprises:

  • Formed Computran, a medical records technology company and batch-basis service bureau that captured physician orders for medications and treatments, reducing medical errors. Computran grew to serve 700 nursing centers across the country whereupon Werner sold the company to Beverly Enterprises, the largest nursing center chain in the U.S.
  • Developed the Dakota Enterprises office building in Beaverton, Oregon, which now serves as Touchmark’s company headquarters.
  • Purchased, operated, and sold seven nursing centers.
  • Purchased a radio station in Billings, Montana, and brought it back to life. Today it operates under ESPN, http://www.espn910.com.
  • Helped lead the formation of the Beaverton Banking Company, a state-chartered bank, and served as Chairman of the Board at age 34. (The bank merged with Valley National Bank of Forest Grove before selling to U.S. Bank.)
  • Formed Dynatran, the desktop version of Computran, which he sold to Omnicare, the provider of pharmacy services to long-term care providers.
  • Served for approximately 10 years on the Board of Directors of Capital Pacific Bank before its recent sale.
  • Developed custom homes and owned office buildings.

Extremely humble, Werner quietly lives his deep faith every day. He gives back to the community in many ways, sharing his time and expertise on boards and making countless charitable contributions. He also continues to serve on the board of the Touchmark Foundation, which he started.

Other accomplishments include completing 58 marathons (including the New York City and Boston marathons). Also, last fall, he was inducted into the University of North Dakota Accounting Hall of Fame.

Our congratulations to Werner on this notable and impressive distinction! 

Staying safe and healthy through ergonomics

couplejumpingWhile we often consider safety risks for certain activities we partake in, other risk factors for everyday tasks are a bit less obvious. Ergonomics is the science of human safety and capabilities in the workplace and at home.

As part of National Safety Month in June, take time to evaluate how you can keep yourself safe and secure in all that you do.

Ergonomics affects so many aspects of our daily lives—including how we sit, sleep, stand, lift, and reach. If not practiced properly, repetitive actions can lead to overused muscles, poor posture, and even to injury. As we age, our muscle and bone mass naturally decreases, which can lead to stiff joints and limited mobility.

No matter what activities you partake in at home, at work, or anywhere else, it’s important to make sure you’re safe and comfortable at all times. The following tips can provide a helpful starting point to assessing your ergonomic safety.

  • When sitting at a computer, make sure to keep feet flat on the ground, position monitor at eye level, and keep wrists flat and straight. Sit up straight—even the most expensive chair won’t protect you from creating tension in the neck and back without proper form.
  • If you’re sitting in one spot for a prolonged amount of time, take breaks to get up and walk around every hour to avoid slouching or slumping. Tighten and relax your abdominal muscles a few times in a row to improve core strength and keep your back safe.
  • Wear supportive footwear, especially when standing. Supportive shoes help maintain the body’s center of gravity and alignment of the spine.
  • When lifting something from the ground, bend only at the knees and hips, keep the object close to your body, and avoid twisting while lifting.
  • Get regular aerobic exercise—such as running, walking, or swimming—to help the muscles of the back stay strong and promote good posture.
  • Aside from posture and proper bodily techniques, proper lighting is important to keep eyes healthy and reduce the risk for eye strain. Position lighting to avoid glare on screens and use task lighting as needed.

Staying proactive and practicing proper techniques in everyday activities can be the difference in staying safe and healthy!

An active mind is a healthy mind

crossword puzzle and pencils

As we age, we often think about a decline in physical health and how we can work to keep our bodies active. But just as important as maintaining physical health is the health of our brains.

When we’re young, we are continuously learning. At some point in life, we become primarily a user of mastered skills and abilities and no longer engage the brain to acquire new abilities. Most of what we do are things we are familiar with. We apply skills unthinkingly and tend to look for nonstressful paths to things. But this can be detrimental to mental health.

A lack of challenging activities combined with the gradual shrinking of the brain’s volume with age can lead to brain cell damage and an acceleration of natural cognitive decline.

Fortunately, many of the ways we work to keep our bodies healthy also apply to enhancing brain health. These include staying physically active, following a healthy diet, and engaging in regular mental and social activity.

According to a clinical trial presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, this combination is proven to slow cognitive decline. Slowing this decline can help keep memory language skills, perception, reasoning, and judgment strong—plus keeps brain cells healthy to fight off dementia.

Activities that challenge the brain are key. This can include reading the news and discussing it with others, learning a new skill, taking a class, or playing stimulating games. Helpful online resources for keeping your brain active can be found at the following sites:

Additional steps you can take to keep your mind sharp as you age include controlling cholesterol and blood pressure levels, getting sufficient amounts of sleep, and avoiding excessive smoking or drinking.

It’s important to remember that while occasional memory lapses are normal, significant memory loss is not a regular part of aging, and any cognitive changes noted should be discussed with your doctor.