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.

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!

Meet Steve Minich

“I can now live the principle of paying it forward.”

What difference can an hour make? For Touchmark resident Steve Minich, donating an hour of his time to help others gives him the greatest joy. “Some people can retire and be OK. I’m not one of those people … I need a purpose,” explains Steve of his decision to move to Touchmark more than three years ago.

“I had a busy career working for the same company for 47 years. I couldn’t just turn the switch off and not be helpful.” Steve welcomes Touchmark’s Full Life and regularly embraces the seven dimensions of wellness, including Occupational/Vocational. This dimension is defined as “determining and achieving personal and occupational interests through meaningful activities, including lifespan occupations, learning new skills, volunteering, and developing new interests/hobbies.”

The rewards of volunteering

Steve is willing to lend a hand wherever and whenever he can, whether it is helping with an event, program, or cause. “I volunteer, because it helps my mental and physical health.”

Volunteering is new to Steve, who says his career and schedule prevented him from being able to volunteer his time to organizations. “I worked odd hours, which meant I was at work when many civic groups were having meetings or events. But here, I can help out whenever I want. I can now live the principle of paying it forward.”

That desire to help has led Steve to new opportunities. He is the Vice President of the Resident Council and serves on the Dining Services Committee. He has learned new games and skills so he can help fulfill a need in his community. For example, the bridge group was short a player, so Steve learned to play the game; now he can stand in when needed. He also taught himself to play mahjong so that group could continue.

“Steve volunteers for everything,” says Life Enrichment/Wellness Director Nanette Whitman-Holmes, “and if he doesn’t know how to help, he will find a way to learn.”

Supporting the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s is an activity that’s especially meaningful. “I like to work the booth and interact with the participants. It is a great feeling when someone donates $100, and we get to ring the bell and celebrate that person’s contribution to an important cause.”

Making others “feel good”

Another favorite event to help with is Touchmark’s annual Dick Morgan Memorial Easter Egg Hunt. “I help sort the eggs, fill the eggs, hide the eggs … anything that needs doing, I do.”

Giving blood donations is another way Steve helps others. A donor early in life—he started giving blood in high school when a fellow student developed leukemia—Steve appreciates that he can donate at Touchmark during the regular community events held on-site.

As he says, “Helping others gives me a good feeling, a personal satisfaction that what I do matters to someone else.”

In fact, Steve doesn’t just go the extra mile to help others—he believes in going 25 miles. Despite not having volunteered during his working years, Steve strove to make his work matter. “At Food Services of America, we were encouraged to go the extra 25 miles to make a difference. I was always looking for ways to make processes more efficient and cost-effective for my employer.” Upon his retirement, Steve was presented with all 12 of Food Service of America Founder Tom Stewart’s principle coins. “I just broke down. Very few employees ever earn one of the coins, so to get all 12 was truly an honor.”

That desire to make a difference in the lives of others is deeply ingrained in Steve. “Helping people gives me great satisfaction. I appreciate Nanette and the other staff’s work ethic and enthusiasm and passion for giving every resident at Touchmark access to the Full Life. And I like to be part of that and enrich others’ lives.”

Meet Bev Kuhn

Laughing … “It gives you life!”

When Bev Kuhn is asked why she’s always smiling and laughing, she quickly answers, “It’s a good release and makes things go well.”

She says she laughs at any humor she finds. Pausing, she thinks about an example and then lights up as she describes her “fun table” of six women who enjoy eating dinner together each evening. “One woman brings a book of Yiddish phrases to share with the group. They’re common phrases we all know, and that sets the stage for a fun dinner.

“We’re all different and may not agree on everything, but we can talk about anything, laugh, and have a great time.”

Research has shown there are many real benefits of laughter, from managing pain to reducing stress, and Bev acknowledges laughter played a big role helping her cope with the many demands of caring for her husband for five years as his Alzheimer’s disease progressed. “It was such a difficult time. I tried crying, but that doesn’t work, so I thought I might as well laugh about it. He had a great sense of humor!”

Before her husband’s diagnosis, the couple spent 20 years traveling across most of Canada and throughout the U.S. and Mexico in their RV. “He was a jokester! I’m not a joke-teller, but I love laughing at jokes when others share them.”

Born in North Hollywood, California, Bev has lived most of her life on the West Coast. She and her husband owned a metal engraving business and raised three daughters. With her flair for design, Bev also was an interior decorator. Plus, she was a district manager for Avon, overseeing 150 representatives.

Life—and laughter—at Touchmark

“I’ve had more culture here at Touchmark since I moved in almost three years now,” she says throwing her head back with a laugh. “The music is amazing, but that’s not all. You can’t do everything there is to do … there’s lots and lots to do.”

In addition to all the cultural events and activities, you can find Bev bubbling with enthusiasm at happy hours, chatting with people while she walks her dog, and signing up for “most anything.”

At the top of her list is the A-MAY-Zing Race, an activity patterned after the popular TV show, the Amazing Race. “I love it! That is the most fun! It’s a challenge, and I didn’t realize I was so competitive, but I jumped into it.” Her team (the Sweet Chicks) has won for the past two years. “And we plan to do it a third year: We’re tough!”

That competitive spirit also shows itself when she plays Wii Bowling, another favorite pastime.

Having crisscrossed North America with her husband, Bev still enjoys traveling and appreciates Touchmark’s organized trips. “We went to Cape Cod last fall, and we plan to go to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, later this year. I’m excited to go to the Panama Canal next year.”

But ask Bev what she likes the most, and she quickly says, “The people! Not only the residents but the staff, too: They’re wonderful and very caring.”

When she’s not talking and laughing with friends and neighbors or playing Pegs and Jokers, Bev is busy with projects in her home. “I adore quilting and have an embroidery machine and a pretty extensive collection of quilts.”

Whether she’s bent over her sewing or raising a glass and toasting life with friends, the one common thread running through Bev’s full and fascinating life is laughter. “It gives you life!”

Meet Barbara Bruno

Discovering new fitness possibilities

“Exercising is critical! If you want to feel good and not be tired, you have to move,” declares Barbara Bruno, adding, “If I can do it, anyone can.” Rather than slow her down, the fact that she has had three knee surgeries for a torn meniscus motivates her to exercise more.

A board-certified internist and cardiologist for 20 years, Barbara was the first female cardiologist in Scottsdale, Arizona, and was the leading expert in pacemaker implantation. She had been a registered nurse before returning to school and obtaining her medical degree.

In addition to creating a sense of well-being, Barbara appreciates how daily exercising gives her a sense of accomplishment and supports her independence. Her favorite exercise? “Pickleball!”

Earlier in her life, Barbara was an avid tennis player and had never heard of pickleball, but now she enjoys it more. “It’s a quicker game, and I find it more interesting. By the time we finish playing one-and-a-half to two hours, we’ve had a great workout, and it’s so much fun.” She says it has been rewarding to see how she and other players have improved through practice.

Variety keeps it interesting

In addition to playing pickleball three times a week, Barbara visits the Touchmark Health & Fitness Club daily. “I’m taking tai chi, which actually provides a lot of movement from one side to another, and that’s helpful with balance.” She also does strength training and is going to work with Touchmark’s personal trainer for a few sessions. “Getting strength training is so important to prevent falls. We lose muscle if we don’t work out regularly, and that ups your risk of falling.” She appreciates how Touchmark trainers make sure you’re doing things safely and correctly.

Barbara also has a treadmill and hand weights in her home and uses those to limber up before heading out to play pickleball. Hiking with the Touchmark Trekkers is another favorite pastime. “About a dozen of us go on these hikes, which is a comfortable number, and it’s fun being with a group of people and exploring different trails.” She appreciates how Touchmark staff scout the trails in advance and know the distances and whether they are most appropriate for beginning or intermediate hikers.

Exercising offers even more benefits

Both as a doctor and from her own personal experience, Barbara knows exercising’s benefits, and she quickly lists four:

  1. “It’s good for your whole body, particularly for your heart and brain.”
  2. “It’s a great stress-reducer. Sitting all the time is the worst thing you can do. Sedentary behavior can be just as risky as smoking. You must get up and move every hour.”
  3. “It combats fatigue! If you don’t move, your body just starts to freeze.”
  4. “You just feel better!”

Added benefits of the Full Life  

“There’s never a boring moment here—and that’s a good thing!”

She’s part of a health book club, where members read books relating to nutrition, stress … anything relating to health. “We meet twice a month. The next book we’ll be reading is The Alzheimer’s Solution: A Breakthrough Program to Prevent and Reverse the Symptoms of Cognitive Decline at Every Age.

Before moving to Touchmark, Barbara and her husband were living isolated in the woods, so she especially appreciates having a sense of community. “I love being in a community, being around other people. There are so many things to do here, there’s never a dull moment. You have to pick and choose.”

 

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.”

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.”

Meet Jim Nelson and Marilyn Ring-Nelson

Living their “full-to-bursting” life

At Touchmark, residents experience the full life. Marilyn Ring-Nelson laughs heartily as she says, “It’s not just the ‘full’ life. It’s the ‘full-to-bursting’ life! There is so much to do here!”

Prior to living at Touchmark, Jim Nelson would have described himself as being quite content with the title “the less social one” in the family. He says, “I didn’t really enjoy meeting new people or going out much. What I didn’t expect was that changing after moving here.” Now, when Marilyn asks if he’s interested in doing an activity, Jim usually says without hesitation, “That sounds like fun!”

Time for the next chapter

Married for 35 years, Jim and Marilyn enjoy walking and traveling, and they are avid readers and book lovers! Before their love of books turned into love for one another, Jim had lived in Reno. For years, he was a political reporter and sports editor for the Reno Evening Gazette. He was also a driver for the Washoe County Library’s Bookmobile.

Marilyn, meanwhile, had built a 33-year career working as a librarian at the Seattle Public Library. She managed the Bookmobile department in her last 15 years prior to retirement.

It was in that role that Marilyn interviewed Jim for a job. He initially turned down the offer, opting instead to ask Marilyn out on a date. Eventually, he started working at the library, holding several positions including Branch Clerical Supervisor, Library Associate, and Bookmobile Driver.

Two years ago on the road home after attending her eighth-grade school reunion, the couple looked at each other and said, “We don’t want to go back to Seattle.” Getting places took longer because of increased traffic. “This made getting together with friends or enjoying an evening at a restaurant or concert more difficult, says Marilyn, who was born and raised in Spokane.

Unlike some older adults who relocate to be closer to family (often grandchildren), Jim and Marilyn moved to Touchmark in Spokane, even though their family, which includes four children, three grandchildren, and a great-grandson, are still living on the west side of the state.

Jim says they researched several retirement communities; once they visited Touchmark, “We simply knew. This is where we want to be.”

Jumping into new adventures

As Marilyn puts it, “The day we arrived, we plunged into life here at Touchmark, because we didn’t have any other distractions. We didn’t know anyone, so we were kind of forced to do activities to meet people.”

They love the mix of social opportunities they have enjoyed. The list is lengthy and includes the Ping-Pong® Tournament, Mardi Gras, numerous restaurant outings, Happy Hour, exercise classes, the workout room, shopping trips, and a day excursion to Palouse Falls, to name just a few. Every Thursday, both enjoy attending Cottage Coffee Hour with other cottage residents. Typically, the men and women separate into groups, with each chatting about their interests. This fall, they’ll take part in their boldest social activity to date: a trip to Cape Cod with others from Touchmark. The couple couldn’t be more excited!

Social cheerleaders

Marilyn is the more outgoing of the pair, but it was Jim who attended Touchmark’s annual Harvest Festival, where residents line the hallways to pass out candy to hundreds of neighborhood kids in costume and help at a mini carnival. Jim loved it so much, he says, “I’m insisting Marilyn joins me this year!”

The enthusiasm the pair have for their lives at Touchmark is infectious. Jim admits moving felt a bit risky, but says it all worked out. “In our day-to-day life here, we wake up happy. We both look forward to almost everything there is to do here. We’ll try everything!”

Marilyn nods in agreement, adding, “There’s something to do almost all the time!”

Meet Josephine Spencer

Josephine Spencer greets each day with her infectious enthusiasm. “When you have the kind of active lifestyle I have, there’s no such thing as an average day,” she says with a smile.

Josephine enjoys taking advantage of many activities Touchmark has to offer. “I’ll do anything I can do, because I can.”

Whether it’s participating in an exercise class, creating art, meeting with her Bible study group, teaching sing-alongs in the memory care neighborhood, playing bridge and poker, listening to speakers, or attending Book Club and birthday nights, Josephine is always eager to learn new things and make new friends.

The decision to move to Touchmark was an easy one. Moments after walking in the front door for the first time, she knew she’d found her new home. “I just knew the moment I got here this was the place for me.”

Three-and-a-half years later, she loves it even more. “It’s so convenient! It’s close to downtown, both hospitals, and other health care options.”

Josephine has enjoyed getting to know the new chef, Clinton. “I really appreciate how responsive he is to what I like to eat,” she says. “And I love the barbecued ribs and the spinach with chicken salad!”

She has always liked to eat fresh, healthy foods. “Now it takes a lot less effort on my part to get those meals.”

Commitment to service

Though Josephine decided not to pursue a career as she became a wife and mother to two boys, she always placed a high value on service to her community.

“I’ve always volunteered. It’s just what I’ve always done and what I still really like to do.”

Since moving to Sioux Falls over 10 years ago to be closer to one of her sons—a biology professor at Augustana University—she has volunteered around the area in a variety of capacities. Fluent in Spanish and a piano player, she is happy to volunteer as a musician at a local Latino Lutheran Church.

Josephine lives with a simple yet profound philosophy: “Whatever you give, you get back.” That’s how she feels about living at Touchmark.

“You get back more than what you give, and I try to give as much as I can.”

Josephine loves to stroll the halls and check in with her friends, who all appreciate her eclectic style, both in personal fashion and how she decorates her apartment. While she’s very confident in her taste, it’s something she was never formally trained in; she just picked it up through the years from her sisters and family.

“We were never into the ‘in’ thing. I just found things I liked that worked and eventually kept learning and growing.”

She treasures the beautiful art pieces she and her husband collected over the years, many from his ancestors.

“I like hosting impromptu gatherings in my apartment and planning our next outing or trading news about what’s happening.”

One thing friends don’t notice upon entering her home is a TV. “I’ve never had one. It’s nothing against TV, it’s just never been a part of our lives. We never even thought to get one.” She does admit to sneaking an occasional peak at her computer to check out videos on YouTube and elsewhere.

Raised on the ranch

Josephine was raised on a ranch in Texas hill country with her two sisters.

“I couldn’t even rope a fencepost,” she says, laughing, “but I loved to ride horses!” When she was 5, her best gift was her first horse. “My sister and I rode mostly for pleasure, but during World War II, most of the neighboring young men were off to war, so we helped our father during roundup time.”

Life with her husband and his service in the Air Force took them far away from Texas, with the couple eventually settling in northern Vermont. “I loved growing up in Texas, but I was happy to get to see and experience other parts of the U.S.” She has been a widow since 2010.

A blessed life

“I feel tremendously blessed to have kept my health through the years.” She loves spending time with her kids and grandkids, and as much as she enjoys the meals at Touchmark, she likes going out to a nice dinner with her family on occasion.

Josephine has also come to view many of Touchmark’s team members as her friends. She has a great appreciation and respect for them as well as the instructors and performers who come to teach and entertain residents.

“Anyone who takes the time to teach someone else a new skill is someone worth getting to know in my book!”

She says she would be glad to teach some of the other residents a little Spanish if someone is interested in getting acquainted with a foreign language.

With all the activity in Josephine’s life, she never knows what each new day will bring. But she does know she’s ready for it, whatever it is!

“I plan on learning as much as I can and giving back as much as I can for as long as I’m able!”