The Seriousness of Our Senses

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

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

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

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

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

Getting reacquainted with our environment

Sometimes we don’t realize how easy it is to make a difference in the health of our world, or how easily we can impact it. With Earth Day coming up, this is a great time to think about ways we can help ourselves, while also enjoying our environment, and helping our planet.

The world’s resources are not unlimited, and recognizing that fact by choosing alternative transportations is a good place to start. For instance, by walking, bicycling, and/or taking the bus on your next shopping or social outing—rather than driving or riding in a car—you can cut down on fossil fuel use. At the same time, by adding a little more physical movement each day—even if it’s just walking from the bus stop to the store—you can significantly improve your health over time. Small changes have big impacts!

You can always build on small actions, too—the next time you are out for a walk, bring along a paper bag and a rubber glove and pick up a piece of trash or two on each trip. It doesn’t take much to improve the world around us, and, who knows, other people might even be inspired by your actions and choose to join in!

Another seemingly small thing you can do for your body and the planet is to eat locally grown foods and avoid processed or heavily packaged foods as much as possible. Processed foods can contain ingredients that aren’t good for you. And by eating locally, you’ll further cut back on fossil fuels by limiting the need for the foods you eat to be transported across the country—or the world. Eating locally also cuts back on the resources used in manufacturing plastics and cardboards for packaging. This may mean eating fruits and vegetables only when they are in season—when they naturally taste their best!

Through a few small actions you can make big differences in the health of the planet, your immediate environment, and your own body. Start small and keep working your way up, and eventually you’ll inspire others, making you feel great in more ways than one!

 

Staying physically active for greater independence

As we age, it’s essential that we stay active. Exercise does more than keep our hearts healthy—it benefits our bones, our muscles, and our minds! By staying physically active, we’re more likely to be able to stay independent as we age.

At Touchmark, our full-service Health & Fitness Clubs and Studios provide everything you need to stay healthy every day, in a fun and supportive environment.

Enjoy a full life of fun and fitness

Our full-service Clubs are open to both Touchmark residents and the public—for individuals 50 or older. The Clubs include indoor heated pools, warm-water spas with whirlpool jets and seating for eight, group exercise studios, NeuroCom® Balance Master®s, various types and styles of cardio equipment, personal trainers and professionally trained staff, and many other amenities.

Designed exclusively for those 50+, we offer a wide range of specialized classes (such as Zumba, Functional Fitness, and Balance & Stability) and specialized equipment that can positively affect conditions such as arthritis, cancer, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension, and depression. Members of the Clubs and Studios are welcome to train for their general health and wellness or work toward more specific goals.

All programs are tailored to individual levels of ability, skill, and personal fitness goals and are designed to help you improve and maintain strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, and cardiovascular fitness, as well as supporting emotional health, and mental acuity, for maximum independence today and beyond.

The right level of care

Touchmark offers a wide range of care and lifestyle options to meet current health needs and to help plan for the future—allowing residents the ability to age in place and eliminate future moves.

Lifestyle options for residents of Touchmark range from Independent Living—which offers maintenance-free living and full community amenities—to Assisted Living and Memory Care for those requiring more care and assistance in everyday activities. Retirement counselors can help determine the most appropriate level of care for you or your loved one.

Touchmark team members in our memory care neighborhoods provide person-centered care through the Best Friends™ approach. This industry-leading method of care focuses on building meaningful relationships with those living with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. Memory care homes are intentionally designed to provide a secure, comforting, and supportive home environment.

For those recovering from an accident, illness, or surgery, some Touchmark communities also offer Home Health services for medical care and Home Care services for personal care.

Experience active-adult retirement living at Touchmark …

At Touchmark, we truly believe that a full life is available to anyone—no matter one’s age. We live this belief by ensuring residents have the unique tools, opportunities, and community support necessary to bring their personal visions to life.

Our Full Life Wellness & Life Enrichment Program™ has won national and international awards for the unique way it helps people enrich their daily lives, encouraging each of us to take control of our own health and happiness. It does this by focusing on key areas of enrichment, including health and fitness, lifelong learning, volunteerism, creative arts, and spiritual well-being. Residents and team members at each community create an exciting calendar of classes, events, excursions, and activities, such as the Touchmark Trekkers walking program, the Knifty Knitters, CardioFit, and the Brain Builders group, and many, many more.

Each of these areas of enrichment falls under a tier of our seven dimensions of wellness, and our Health & Fitness Clubs and Studios are just one of the ways we help enrich residents’ lives every single day.

Wellness within our world

When thinking about our personal health and wellness, we don’t often consider the effects our environment can have. But how you interact with the earth can have a significant impact on your well-being. When we are aware of how our actions and behaviors affect the world we live in, we can make informed decisions and feel good about our choices.

The resources of our world are not unlimited, and recognizing that fact is one of the most effective ways to develop our emotional wellness. Awareness of our place in the world and the consequences of our actions and behavior are the foundation of living of life with environmental wellness. We must consider not only our world, but the world of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

This month, we celebrate Earth Day and give thanks to all that our environment provides us with. But that gratitude can be a part of our everyday lives with just a few simple habits.

  • Engage in activities that help you appreciate the world we live in, while also stimulating other areas of wellness, such as walking, meditating, and gardening.
  • Walk or ride a bike instead of driving, when possible. When not possible, consider taking public transportation or carpooling.
  • Be cognizant of your impact on the world and work to reduce your footprint—turn off lights, recycle, and avoid polluting the air and water.
  • Reduce the use of toxic chemicals—choose “green” cleaning products and pesticides to reduce negative effects on people, pets, and the earth.
  • Eat local, whenever possible. Visit local farmers markets and eat what’s in season.

Cultivating our environmental wellness not only helps the earth stay healthy—it also helps to foster other areas of our personal health, by allowing us to breathe fresh air, eat nutritious fruits and vegetables, spend time outdoors with others.

A Practical Guide to Downsizing, Part 3 – Parting with Items

Everyone will face downsizing, yet many people procrastinate because they’re overwhelmed with their volume of belongings. In this final edition of this 3 part series, and I’m going to help you with parting with items.

WHAT ARE THE PROS & CONS OF HAVING A GARAGE SALE OR DONATING ITEMS?

As a veteran professional organizer, I typically advise my clients (who are overwhelmed by clutter already) against garage sales. For those with little time to spare and who relate their time to money, a garage sale can sap your time and energy for relatively little compensation.  However, if you have items of great value, it might be worthwhile to hold a brief, well-advertised sale or to consign the items.  Be sure to evaluate all hidden costs of doing so, such as time spent preparing advertising, pricing items, borrowing and returning tables, and cleaning up.

Donating to charity is always a win-win choice.  Groups often gratefully receive items you no longer use or want, and you get a tax deduction. A great donation value guide can be found at Salvation Army’s site www.SAtruck.org.

WHEN PARING BELONGINGS, WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT?

At first, the sorting and purging process can be a struggle because it involves making decisions that have been delayed and facing years of backlog.  However, as the process gains momentum, people begin to feel more freedom with less stuff and are liberated to pursue the things that really matter to them (which is really why many people downsize in the first place).

After the ball is rolling, and belongings are being re-homed (either to family members or charity, or via a sale) people start to feel relieved of burdens. They make better decisions about accumulation and tend to thin out their possessions on a more regular basis to avoid returning to the burden they left behind.

I hope this practical guide to downsizing series has left you empowered to “right-size” your life!

 

About the author:

Restoring Order founder Vicki Norris

Vicki Norris is a professional organizing expert, dynamic entrepreneur, speaker, television personality, and author who helps people live their priorities. Founder and president of Restoring Order®, an organizing services and products company, Norris teaches others how to identify their priorities and create sustainable change in personal organizational habits that support those choices.

This article and others are available on Vicki Norris’ website at http://www.restoringorder.com/.

A Practical Guide to Downsizing, Part 2

Everyone will face downsizing. I prefer to think of it as right-sizing your life. You’re not losing space and sacrificing belongings; you’re gaining a new season of freedom!

In this second edition of this series, and I’m going to help you with decision-making.

ARE THERE ANY RULES OF THUMB TO SIMPLIFY THINNING YOUR BELONGINGS?

Before you toss an item in a box, determine what category it belongs to and group it with its type.  For example, even though photos and memorabilia may be strewn throughout the house, you can set up boxes in the living room into which all memorabilia will be added as you pack. That way you will know how much space your memorabilia requires, and you can plan its future “home” in your new environment.

Grouping items by type can be shocking once you see all of your similar belongings together. You may discover that you own a disproportionate number of items in one category, like household linens, for example. As you behold a gigantic mound of sheets, bedding, and throw pillows, you may be more willing to pare down that category.

Identifying your priorities, realistically evaluating the available space in your new home, and grouping your belongings by type before you pack will make it easier to let go of your excess.

SHOULD YOU PART WITH ANTIQUES & ITEMS OF VALUE?

Antiques have at least two kinds of value: retail value and sentimental value. You must first determine which type of value your antiques offer. If you are keeping something simply because it “cost a lot” or “might be worth something someday,” then you are banking on its retail value. You can only cash in on this purported value, however, if you are willing to part with the goods.

If you are holding onto items because they evoke precious memories, that is a legitimate reason for retaining the item, within reason. No conscientious friend or professional should advise you to dispose of an object if it would break your heart.

 

About the author:

Restoring Order founder Vicki Norris

Vicki Norris is a professional organizing expert, dynamic entrepreneur, speaker, television personality, and author who helps people live their priorities. Founder and president of Restoring Order®, an organizing services and products company, Norris teaches others how to identify their priorities and create sustainable change in personal organizational habits that support those choices.

This article and others are available on Vicki Norris’ website at http://www.restoringorder.com/.

Employee Profile: Wendy Schrag, RN-BC, Vice President of Clinical Operations

Wendy has been a nurse for over 18 years and joined Touchmark 14 years ago. She helps ensure all health services across the company are effective, compliant, appropriate, and adhere to The Touchmark Gold Standard.

 

What makes working at Touchmark different from other retirement communities?

Touchmark is proactive and is always looking for ways to help residents lead healthy lifestyles.

 

What keeps you at Touchmark?

I appreciate the opportunity to be able to learn and grow every day.

 

How do you form relationships with residents?

I listen and try to respond to what they or their families say they need. I believe education is essential to understanding dementia and I enjoy helping all as they travel their journey.

 

What activities do you use to help residents stay healthy?

I work with my teammates to create new programs such as functional fitness or other leading options that we believe will help enhance residents’ health and wellness.

A Mouthful of Wisdom

The first few months of the New Year are a time for fresh beginnings and preparation for the future. Good nutrition is essential to good health and well-being, and March is Nutrition Month, making this a great time to check that your diet is on track for a happy and healthy new year.

The first step to optimizing your diet is to make sure you’re getting the right combination of nutrients. Look for a rainbow of food colors on your dinner plate, including proteins, fruits, whole grains, such as rice and wheat pasta, and dairy or other sources of calcium.

When they’re available, the best kinds of foods to eat are called “whole foods,” which just means they come from the earth to you, with minimal processing. Whole foods include any raw meats, raw fruits and vegetables, and unsweetened dairy products. (Whole foods don’t have to be raw when you eat them, just when you buy them!)

Whole foods are best because you can easily control their salt content, as well as any other ingredients. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat anything that comes in a box, but you should keep track of the nutritional content, serving size, and the fat and sodium levels available on the side of the box. Ask your doctor what levels are right for you, and compare this information to your recommended levels when choosing prepared and frozen foods.

Another important part of good nutrition that is easy to control is to make sure you’re getting enough water. It’s easy to forget to drink water, and doctors say that feeling thirsty can already mean you’re dehydrated — so try these handy tips:

  • Every time you take any medication, drink a full glass of water.
  • Always keep a glass of water next to your bed.
  • After every meal, drink a glass of water.
  • Eat plenty of foods with high water content, such as fruits and salads.

Eat and drink towards a healthier you, and make this year even better than the last!

 

Eat smart to live healthier

As our bodies change with age, so do our nutritional needs and priorities. Appetites might decrease as a result of less physical activity, as a side effect of medication, or even simply from living in isolation.

Eating a balanced, nutrient-rich diet is important at any age, as it contributes to maintaining physical and cognitive health. The best approach to healthy eating is to eat from all basic food groups (grains, vegetables, fruits, quality protein, and dairy) and limit saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, added sugars, and salt.

In addition to choosing whole, balanced foods, the tips below address the unique nutritional needs of seniors.

  • Cut sugar intake—choose water instead of sugary drinks and fruit for dessert.
  • Use spices and herbs instead of salt to add flavor to your meals. Choose low-sodium or reduced-salt options when available.
  • Eat foods high in levels of vitamin B12, such as fortified cereal, lean meat, or some types of fish.
  • Choose foods rich in dietary fiber to avoid constipation.
  • Pay attention to serving sizes and calories to make sure that you are eating the right amount of food and meeting daily recommended values of nutrients.
  • Drink plenty of low-fat or fat-free milk for vitamin D.

March is National Nutrition Month, making it a great time to focus on mindful eating and making healthy choices.

Changing your eating habits is more than just a quick-fix diet, it’s a lifestyle change. Start small—take the salt shaker off of your table, switch to whole-grain bread, or pick up a few more fruits and vegetables on your next shopping trip.

Effective changes don’t have to be expensive or complicated, and can make all the difference in your quality of life.

Connecting through music

Family was the main draw for Stan Stewart when he moved to Touchmark. “I wanted to live closer to my son,” he says. When he and his son first visited Touchmark, he was impressed with the different levels of care available.

“It seemed like a good fit.” Once settled, he quickly grew to appreciate the community of people seeking social connection, something lacking where he had previously lived. “There, the residents had all grown up together, attended the same high school, and spent their whole lives there. It was hard. I have a lot more friends at Touchmark. The people here are more likely to make friends.”

Stan and his son Christopher, who plays flute, guitar, and piano, share a deep love of music, and the father and son attracted a large audience when they played in the Touchmark lobby. “The place was packed!”

Music was the path to a new friendship with Harry Kramer, who heard Stan singing, and the two men started talking about music. Harry, who started piano lessons at age 5 and has played keyboards for 30 years, says he’s impressed with the quality and range of Stan’s voice.

“I often accompanied my wife when we played at dances. She was a big hit when she played an electric bass guitar. She got the standing ovations, and I got all the sitting ovations,” Harry jokes.

Stan enjoys Harry’s sense of humor and says it’s better to perform with him than alone. The two now regularly play together, often treating residents to lively, toe-tapping performances.

Generations of music
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Stan says his love of music grew from deep roots. His greatgrandfather played the fife in the Civil War. His grandfather played the flute. His father was in the military, so the family moved around a lot before settling in Modesto, California. “I learned how to play the guitar in college, but my true instrument is my voice.”

“I communicate with people through music,” he says, adding that he characterizes his music as more of an avocation than a full-time job. After studying economics at the University of California at Davis, Stan pursued a career in business that included insurance and estate planning, much of that time in Modesto.

Singing semiprofessionally
The road to performing in public started when he played some chords on a guitar at the insurance office where he worked. A coworker invited him to his house for band practice, and the other musicians asked him to sing with them for an Open Mic night.

“The next night I was the lead singer for a band.”

Stan says there are two kinds of music: country and western. “If it doesn’t tell a good story, I’m not interested in it.”

He often opened his shows with the Johnny Cash signature song Folsom Prison Blues. Stan croons the opening lines: “I hear the train a comin’. It’s rollin’ ‘round the bend. And I ain’t seen the sunshine since, I don’t know when.”

Travel time to gigs with bandmates was often spent singing so they were warmed up by the time they arrived. “Once we were done performing, we walked off the stage and divvied up the money.”

After entertaining for 10 years in Modesto, Stan now is part of a duet, having formed a friendship through a shared love of music. “Harry is very talented and knows many of the songs I like to sing. He’s got the talent, and I just sing along,”

Harry credits Stan with reviving his love of playing. Dealing with the grief of losing his wife of nearly 60 years was “the most horrible time.” He says the community of friends at Touchmark helped him to embrace the idea that “life is for the living.”

Today, Stan and Harry take pleasure sharing their musical talents with each other—and spreading the joy of music to others.

Stan and Harry