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 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.”

Moving Beyond Memories: Connection Through Art

Art forms can be influential—they have the ability to evoke an emotional response, trigger long-term memories, and create special moments between people. These results can be beneficial to anyone, but especially for people living with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia who may be unable to express themselves.

As dementia progresses and memory deteriorates, people often have difficulty communicating, may experience significant changes in their physical abilities, and may become moody, withdrawn, suspicious, or change their preferences and typical behaviors. These symptoms worsen over time, leading to frustration and a loss of hope in loved ones and caregivers wishing to maintain a relationship.

The benefits of art—whether it be stories, music, or paintings—can be achieved by sharing in these activities one-on-one with a loved one, but are also practiced through programs with certified professionals. The targeted programs detailed below offer opportunities for meaningful connections that may otherwise be difficult to achieve.

In today’s world, there are no highly effective medical treatments available for dementia, which make these programs all the more valuable. Utilizing these activities, both in individual and group settings, caregivers and loved ones can encourage socialization, collaboration, and engagement—and often develop a deeper understanding and more positive interactions with individuals struggling with dementia.

Many retirement communities offer these types of programs to help engage the lives of residents and provide an enhanced quality of care tailored to each individual.

Finding a connection without words

TimeSlips™ is a therapeutic storytelling tool that encourages people living with dementia to create and share stories together, which helps to strengthen their cognitive functions.

While TimeSlips focuses on using a picture to draw upon memories and creativity from participants, other programs, such as Music and MemorySM, uses the power of music to connect. Studies have shown that music touches all lobes of the brain, and can reach people at any stage of dementia.

Additional forms of artistic expression and appreciation, including painting and drawing, have been proven to produce similar benefits. Individuals living with dementia are often able to achieve levels of focus and engagement otherwise unattainable.

Telling stories together

In 1998, TimeSlips founder Anne Basting was curious about how reminiscing activities could help adults with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, and began developing stories in group settings. Since its inception, TimeSlips has become an internationally recognized certification program with over 2,000 trained facilitators; free, custom storytelling software; staged plays inspired by the stories; and press recognition by NPR, Today Show, Chicago Tribune, and more.

During a TimeSlips session, a large photo is shown, and those participating are encouraged to share what they see as well as the smells, sounds, and other details they might associate with the image. The group’s observations are used to construct a story about the image, which is then read aloud to the group, allowing residents to recognize their contributions and share in a fun moment.

The benefits of personalized music

Musical appreciation and aptitude can remain as one of the last abilities for a person in the later stages of dementia, and favorite songs from the young adult years are most likely to elicit a positive response.

For individuals living with dementia, listening to favorite songs of the past can help them to:

  • Decrease agitation and distract from fear and anxiety
  • Connect with caregivers and loved ones in more meaningful ways, even when verbal communication is no longer possible
  • Reduce sundowning symptoms
  • Aid in reducing reliance on antipsychotic, antianxiety, and antidepressant medications

The Music and Memory program was founded in 2006 by Dan Cohen, MSW, a social worker in New York, who felt that if he ever lived in a retirement community, he would like to be able to listen to his favorite music from the ’60s. Over the next two years, Dan volunteered at nursing homes and provided residents with personalized iPods. The program has grown rapidly since then and is used in hundreds of communities throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Engaging in these proven-effective techniques for connecting with a loved one with dementia can help produce more meaningful, positive, and enriching experiences—even as the disease progresses. When words fail, art still stands.

Let’s get emotional about heart health!

Each February we focus on the importance of heart health, as cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United State and one of the leading causes in Canada.

We often hear about how our weight, blood pressure, diet, and activity levels can affect our heart health. But heart conditions are tied to emotional well-being, too.

While the links between the heart and the mind are not quite as measurable, there is plentiful evidence that suggests a happy mind equals a healthy heart. Paying attention to all aspects of our personal wellness promotes a healthy mind, body, and spirit!

According to the American Heart Journal, up to 15 percent of patients with cardiovascular disease have experienced major depression. Many people with heart conditions also suffer from anxiety.

One of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of depression and subsequent heart conditions is to surround ourselves with those who make us happy—these relationships can provide emotional support, physical and intellectual intimacy, and a sense of purpose.

They say married people tend to live longer, and these feelings are part of the reason why. For those who live alone, owning a pet and spending quality time with friends and family can bring many of these same benefits.

Other ways to reduce stress and promote emotional wellness include taking breaks to clear your head, getting regular exercise (good for the mind and body!), and sharing any early feelings of depression with a family member or your doctor.

Let the love in your heart keep you on the path to wellness this month!

Enticing your loved one’s taste buds

Did you know that people’s eating habits may change as they move through their dementia journey and the disease progresses? These changes are in addition to those experienced by many older adults, as taste tends to diminish as we age.

You may have already noticed a difference in your loved one’s food preferences. Because people with dementia don’t experience flavor the way they once did, they often change their eating habits and adopt entirely new food preferences. For example, they may crave “heavy” foods, like cream, or highly flavored foods, such as sweets.

For a caregiver, packing enough nutrients into a loved one’s meals can be a challenge, but there are ways to do it.

Tips for encouraging nutrition

Add protein

Identify good sources of protein that your loved one will eat or drink. Be aware that older adults may have more difficulty chewing meat, especially if they have dentures.

  • Consider making a smoothie or milkshake and adding some extra protein powder.
  • Supplement other food items, like oatmeal, desserts, and mashed potatoes, with protein. This usually won’t change the food’s flavor or texture.
  • Try offering custard (made with eggs), pudding (made with milk), or liquid supplements.

Sneak in vegetables

Encouraging your loved one to eat vegetables can be a challenge. It’s also important for people with dementia to take vitamin and mineral supplements, but visit with your doctor before starting.

  • Change the texture of the vegetables or add a dipping sauce to help enhance the flavor.
  • Puree vegetables and add them to a smoothie.
  • Try adding flavored powdered vegetable supplements to shakes or smoothies. There are several varieties available.

Make eating a social event

We all, including your loved one, like to eat with others.

  • Eat a healthy meal with your loved one. People with dementia tend to watch other people and mirror their actions.
  • Avoid distractions. This allows your loved one to focus on the food. For example, eating in busy restaurants may be too stimulating. Instead, consider going to restaurants when they are less crowded, noisy, and overwhelming.
  • Depending on where the person is in the disease process, having a conversation while eating may or may not be possible. Early in the disease process, people may be able to multi-task easily. As the disease progresses, talking can actually distract them from eating altogether.

It depends on the stage

If your loved one is in the early disease process, you may have to pay particular attention to dietary restrictions associated with other medical issues to make sure he/she is getting proper nutrition. Inadequate nutrition can lead to other health issues such as weight gain/loss, falls, skin breakdown, etc. When people are in the end stage of the disease process, it’s usually reasonable to let them eat whatever they want.

Changing tastes can be a challenge for you and your loved one, but focusing on making meals special times you enjoy with your loved one can make eating more enjoyable for all—and more nutritious for your loved one.

Meet Marge and Bob Willis

Meet Marge and Bob

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.”

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.

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.”

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.

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.