Encouraging wellness and PLENTI{FULL} living

You hear a lot these days about personal wellness in terms of physical health—exercising regularly and eating healthily. But wellness goes beyond bodily health. It is a whole-person state of being that involves several dimensions, each of which contributes to our individual quality of life.

Aspiring to whole-person wellness is especially popular among older adults who wish to mitigate health risks, keep health care costs down, and maintain happiness and physical and mental abilities as they age. Being out of the workplace (and sometimes out of the family home, as well) can mean seeking out fulfilling and enriching activities in different ways.

Participating in whole-person wellness programs can actually slow the aging process and promote independence. Research from the MacArthur Foundation’s Study of Aging in America concluded that successful aging is not determined solely by genetics but is also accomplished by incorporating wellness concepts into everyday life.

The seven dimensions of wellness listed below promote overall purpose and self-esteem and can be achieved in different ways for every person. Individual wellness looks different for each of us—but here are some examples of events and activities to cultivate each focus area.

  • Emotional wellness includes maintaining a positive outlook on life and being able to recognize and express feelings. At Touchmark, we promote emotional well-being by celebrating special events, giving back to the community, and reaching out to others.
  • Environmental wellness promotes awareness and appreciation of the needs of the environment, with a focus on long-term positive interactions with the world we inhabit. Touchmark environmental activities include conservation projects, gardening, and birdwatching.
  • Intellectual wellness requires openness to new ideas. Touchmark provides the opportunity to keep the mind sharp and active through Brain Builders classes, lifelong learning events, classes on the latest technology (such as iPads, digital cameras, and Skype), and attending theatre and other cultural events.
  • Occupational/vocational wellness doesn’t end with retirement. Developing personal interests and hobbies, learning new skills, and volunteering all contribute to lifelong occupational wellness. Touchmark fosters these elements through legacy projects, intergenerational programs, and the ICAA Champions program.
  • Physical wellness keeps the body healthy and strong as we age. This can be done by engaging in regular cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility exercises and maintaining a healthy diet. With a myriad of exercise and fitness classes, walking clubs, and other activities to get moving, Touchmark is a strong proponent of physical well-being.
  • Social wellness is achieved by developing and maintaining healthy relationships with others, sharing interests, and participating in community events. Nearly every event on the Touchmark {FULL} Life calendar promotes social wellness—including holiday celebrations, club meetings, outings, and enjoying meals together.
  • Spiritual wellness focuses on finding meaning and purpose in life events, appreciating nature, and showing compassion to others. Touchmark offers a wide range of activities to promote inner peace such as Bible studies, yoga, and meditation.

Retirement communities, libraries, senior centers, fitness clubs, churches, and other local establishments are great places to stimulate personal wellness through a variety of offerings. Other wellness opportunities can be as simple as spending time with loved ones, meditating, taking a walk, or reading a book.

Take the time to consider what contributes to your personal wellness—and let’s enjoy an activity together!

Pursuing adventures—and fulfilling dreams

Jean and Max JenkinsThe last two years have been especially busy for Jean and Max Jenkins. In 2013, they celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary and their 75th birthdays with a series of once-in-a lifetime adventures. They also continued planning the next phase of their life together, refining their search for a retirement community that would provide a continuum of care and full-life opportunities on one campus.

“We traveled and did some adventurous things, like taking a trip to Costa Rica to zip-line over the rainforest through 14 platforms,” says Jean. “We also went skydiving near Star, Idaho.”

They fulfilled individual dreams, too. Max climbed a 13,000-foot peak near Breckenridge, Colorado, and Jean won a Gold Medal in the Lewis-Clark Senior Games in the women’s rimfire handgun event, held in Lewiston, Idaho.

In 2014, the couple did more traveling and finalized their plans to move to Touchmark. “Touchmark best matched our criteria for retirement living,” Max explains. “We like the continuum of care; affordability; attractive, comfortable, and well-maintained homes; opportunities for active living; interesting residents; and the great chef.”

With their love of travel and family—son, daughter, and three grandchildren—scattered across the country, the couple also find Boise’s easily accessible air travel convenient.

Moving was a challenge. “We downsized significantly, holding multiple garage sales, selling through Craigslist, donating items; it was no small undertaking after more than half a century of acquiring stuff,” says Jean. Their house sold within a month, and two months later, the couple had moved into their new Touchmark home.

Advanced degrees, family, and many moves
Jean and Max met during freshman orientation at Idaho State University. While Max finished his five-year pharmacy curriculum, Jean, who received her bachelor’s degree in Home Economics, worked as the home demonstration agent for Bannock County Extension Service.

“Then we moved to Reno, where Max worked at a drugstore chain, and our daughter was born. After a year, we were off to Germany, where Max served as an Army Medical Service Corps Officer.”

Two years later, the family, which now included a son, returned to the US.

“I enrolled at the University of Idaho Law School and worked summers as a pharmacist in Reno,” explains Max. “I worked 80 – 100 hours a week, including the midnight to 4 am shift, seven days a week, in downtown Reno. I saw all kinds of interesting people, including celebrities, during those nights!”

“Our hard work paid off,” beams Max. “At graduation, we were proud to be free from any debt, and we had money in the bank.”

Max was hired by Osco Drug/Jewel Companies in Chicago, passed the Illinois Bar Exam, and became director of Pharmacy Operations before being given the task to start the company’s first photo-finishing plant.

“I then joined Carhart Photo Corporation in Rochester, New York.” As president, he led Carhart’s turnaround before it was sold to a subsidiary of Eastman Kodak. After retiring from Carhart Photo, Max was a nonpaid executive director for the Rochester Habitat for Humanity affiliate.

Called to serve
After years of managing the household, substitute teaching, volunteering, and raising children, Jean took the plunge and entered seminary to pursue a Master’s of Divinity degree. Ordained to Word and Sacrament by the Presbyterian Church in Rochester, Jean served for more than 13 years as a New York state chaplain.

“I worked with people who have developmental disabilities living outside the traditional institutional setting,” says Jean, who pioneered a community-based model of chaplaincy called Merging Two Worlds.

With additional specialized training, Jean served the Presbyterian Church as an intentional interim pastor. “Shortly after we moved to Lewiston, I came out of retirement to serve as the interim pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, just 35 miles to the north in Moscow. We had been members of that church when Max was a law student.”

Life at Touchmark
Today, Jean and Max are busier than ever. “There’s more to do than time allows,” laughs Jean.

Max continues his stock market trading activities along with pursuing a new goal to complete an ancestry chart and keep his photos up to date and accessible “within the cloud.” He also continues to be active with his early morning one-mile run to the local McDonald’s, where he drinks coffee and reads The Wall Street Journal on his Kindle, and then runs back home before breakfast. He also does 132 push-ups plus other exercises each weekday.

Jean is transferring all her sermons to an electronic format, so they, too, can be stored in the cloud. She also continues her quilting projects, painting, making new friends, preaching from time to time, and “staying alert to ways to serve the community at Touchmark.”

And their adventures continue. The two met friends in Park City, Utah, to check out The Extreme at Olympic Park—one of the steepest zip lines in the world. They are also planning a rafting trip in September with four Touchmark friends to the backcountry of the lower Salmon and Snake rivers.

Her motto is, “I’ll try it!”

Meet Clara Braun
Her motto is, “I’ll try it!”

Clara BraunSince moving to Touchmark in the fall of 2011, Clara has taken advantage of nearly every exercise class, social event, group activity, and bus excursion the community offers.

In fact, if it’s on the Touchmark Full Life calendar, Clara has probably tried it.

“I join everything that I have time for. I always have from day one when I moved in here,” she says. Then, she begins listing her current activities: “Posture & Balance. Fit to be Strong. Qigong. Water exercises in the pool … I also play cards and board games. We recently started a singing group, and I go to the coffee hour every afternoon. Let’s see,” she pauses to think, “There is Brain Builders as well as the Bone Builder exercise class I go to twice a week. Whenever the leader can’t come, then I lead the group,” she adds.

“And I join all activities connected to arts and crafts. I also enjoy all of their socials here. Wine socials. Birthday parties. Wonderful entertainment comes in. And a group of us takes the bus out to eat twice a month.”

There are so many things going on around her that Clara often must choose between two or more activities. “I’m lucky that my community has a pool, but sometimes, I can’t get into the pool, because I have something else I want to do.”

Clara is also on the Touchmark Resident Council and works with residents, team members, and administration.

“I like it here. I liked it from the day I moved in,” she says.

A long life of farming and hard work
Born and raised on a farm in Napoleon, about 75 miles southeast of Bismarck, Clara moved to Bismarck after high school. A year later, she married a farmer whose farm was just seven miles out of town.

Clara and her husband raised corn, wheat, barley, oats, alfalfa, and cattle. They also raised one son and three daughters.

After Clara’s husband passed away in 2010, she remained on the farm for about a year and then decided to move into town.

Her daughter encouraged her to move into town, reminding Clara that she was in town almost every day anyway, so she might as well move there.

“So I thought, OK; I want to move into a retirement community, so I won’t have to move again. I went and looked at all of the retirement homes in Bismarck with my daughter, and I decided this was the nicest. I know I chose the right place.”

She explains, “I could have moved to an apartment or bought a condo, but I would still be alone. Here, I have a lot of companions.”

And so many things to do right outside her front door. Clara especially appreciates the Touchmark bus service. “They take us nearly everywhere we want to go. I like that very, very much,” she says. “I also like that they come in and clean my home. I worked hard all of my life, and now I let them come in and clean. And they do the cooking for me, too!”

Clara cherishes time with children, grandchildren, and siblings
While her companions and activities within Touchmark offer more than enough to keep her busy, Clara is also blessed with having a big family with whom she keeps in close touch.

Many of Clara’s close-knit family live nearby. Two daughters live within a short distance of Bismarck: one just a mile away, and the other 13 miles out. Her son lives only 45 miles away, and her other daughter is in Virginia. Grandchildren also live within visiting distance. Plus, she has 10 living siblings, eight brothers and two sisters.

Clara participates in a lot of family birthday parties and holiday celebrations throughout the year and enjoys traveling with family. She recently toured Israel with one of her daughters—and rode a camel. She has taken her four children and their spouses to Alaska and Hawaii.

A time to fully enjoy life
Living on a farm all of her life except the one year she lived in Bismarck between high school and marriage meant Clara didn’t have extra time for personal pursuits.

“When I was younger, I was lucky if I got to travel outside of North Dakota. We didn’t travel until the last 25 or 30 years.”

Once their son was old enough to stay home and take care of the farm, Clara and her husband started traveling quite a bit, including trips to Europe. They also went to Arizona for 14 winters to escape the cold and snow.

Now, Clara is enjoying the freedom to pursue a variety of activities.

“My approach to life is to exercise and eat healthy,” she says. “And live life to the fullest!'”

Palette of interests keeps their marriage colorful and full of life

Joan and Bill GreenenJoan and Bill Geenen celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in October 2011.

Bill says that many people started asking them what their secret to a successful marriage was. He did some serious thinking about that question and concluded, “The secret is that when we got married, we knew it was for life, and anything else was not an option. So we just had to make it work.”

Both natives of the Appleton, Wisconsin area, their lives crossed paths just after Joan graduated from high school. Bill joined the Navy through the NROTC program after graduating from Marquette University, and it wasn’t until he returned home that they were married in the fall of 1961.

The couple raised three children. One son lives in Appleton, about three miles from them, while another lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and a daughter lives in San Jose, California. Joan and Bill agree that it’s nice having one son so close and also nice having two good excuses to take road trips from coast to coast. Although their lives have been joined for more than half of a century, Bill and Joan have managed to remain distinct individuals with many of their own interests and activities—another secret to their successful marriage. One thing they certainly have in common is a shared passion for the natural world and helping to preserve its beauty. Joan helps preserve it in her breathtaking artwork, while Bill preserves it through various conservation efforts.

Capturing nature through art
Joan—known as “Jo” in the art world—discovered a lifelong passion for painting when her youngest was just a few years old. With no previous background in art, she enrolled in an oil painting class with a friend at the Appleton YMCA, and was smitten.

“Over the years, I’ve worked with oils, water colors, acrylics, and finally ended up with pastels,” she says. “That’s all I work in now.”

Joan is deeply touched by the natural world and our place in it. Her artwork captures her subjects in a masterful blending of rich colors infused with motion, emotion, and brilliant highlights. She divides her paintings into at least four favorite categories: gardens, floral/botanical, landscapes, and seashores.

Today, her work is featured in private and corporate collections across the country as well as in many art galleries. Her pastels have been juried into national shows and won awards, and she has inspired many budding artists seeking to improve their technique in pastel painting.

Since 1972, she has been an active member of various organizations in the Appleton art community. (You can view her work at www. pastelpainting.com.) Several of Joan’s paintings can be seen in the Meadows at Touchmark and the Grande, the main building.

Preserving nature through conservation efforts
One organization that greatly benefits from Bill’s enthusiasm for the natural environment is the private, nonprofit Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust.

With 22 years of experience as the CFO for a regional airline, Bill serves as treasurer for the Land Trust. According to Bill, “The Trust’s mission is to preserve lands that protect our waters, landscapes, and natural habitats in 12 counties. This is made possible primarily through conservation easements granted by landowners, who voluntarily restrict their rights to develop their property. In exchange for giving up certain development rights, owners receive tax deductions.

“It seems to be a successful program,” Bill says. “We have about 40 easements right now that we manage. We also buy some properties. One purchase covered about 300 acres on the west shore of Green Bay. It’s pretty significant,” he says with pride. Another great source of pride is the 27 solar panels that Bill and Joan installed on the roof of their Touchmark single-family home in fall 2009. “They are working better than ever,” Bill says. “In fact, we’ve set records by generating over 700 kilowatt hours of power last year.” Bill figures that on an annual basis, the panels generate about 20% more power than they use. “So we are helping the grid out fairly substantially.” Bill and Joan have hosted several Solar Open Houses (sponsored by a state solar organization) in their Touchmark home.

Living their personal philosophies
When asked if they have a philosophy of life, Joan says hers is “giving back.”

“That means helping others as they have helped me,” she says.

Among other things, she has volunteered one day every week for 20 years as the receptionist at LEAVEN (Limited Emergency Assistance Valley Ecumenical Network). She also gives a gift to the world every time she creates another painting.

For Bill, his philosophy is more of an attitude with which he greets each day. “I’m a pretty optimistic person,” he days. “I always see the bright side of things. I look forward.” For example, instead of choosing not to put such a large investment into solar panels this late in life, he tells everyone, “I’m just not leaving here until I get them paid for!” He’s not the kind to let pessimism stop him from doing exactly what he wants to do.

Everything they need under one roof
The Geenens reserved a building lot almost three years before finally deciding to build their Fox Pointe home at Touchmark. They’ve been here since spring 2006. “We chose this site especially, because the house could be faced to have a western exposure to give me the best light for my painting studio,” Joan explains.

Theirs is a three-bedroom home with one room converted into an office. And where others have an outdoor patio, they enclosed a studio for Jo. Bill enjoys the creek that runs along the back boundary. He has his own dock to fish from, and he has a neighbor with a small boat; the two of them paddle about in it.

Joan and Bill both keep very busy schedules, enjoying full lives in their own unique ways. At Touchmark, they have developed a circle of friends while never being far from their other Appleton friends and family.

Speaking for both, Bill says, “I’d say living here has changed our lives for the better.”

Staying active is key to enjoying life

Joan Schnettler is all about being active. Whether it’s attending exercise class, taking computer classes, connecting with people around the world through her iPad, participating in Life Enrichment/Wellness programs, or going on Touchmark-sponsored trips, she’s always on the move.

“I really believe that you need to keep moving and stay active. You also need to exercise your mind just like you would your body,” says Joan, who has lived in a Touchmark home for the past six-and-a-half years.

After moving to Touchmark, she jumped in and immediately got involved in various activities. She walks to the Grande, the main building, for programs and the different classes. She also walks a mile each day, either outside or in the Grande. This is in addition to her exercise classes five days a week—three days of strength training and two days of aerobics.

As someone who likes to be on the go, Joan relishes Touchmark’s different trips. It doesn’t matter if it’s a day visit to The Fireside Theater in Fort Atkinson to see a play or an overnight trip; Joan is on board. “I love how they extend my horizons,” she says.

Enduring love
Joan and her husband Jerry were best friends and married for 63 years. After the war, the couple settled in Milwaukee, where they lived for 45 years. An electrical engineer, Jerry built a career with Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation, ultimately serving as president.

Joan, meanwhile, was a master homemaker and focused her talents on nurturing the couple’s children. Following retirement, she and Jerry spent the winters in Florida and summers at their lake home in Minocqua, Wisconsin.

“We moved to Touchmark to be closer to some family,” says Joan, who especially appreciated the support of others after Jerry passed away two-and-a-half years ago.

Keeping in touch with technology
Joan welcomes all of today’s technology. “It’s wonderful,” enthuses Joan when she talks about getting texts from her loved ones. “I bought an iPad and am going to the technology classes Touchmark offers to learn more about how to use the iPad. You can’t stop learning,” she says.

Attending the technology and other classes Touchmark offers allows Joan to expand her knowledge about a rich array of topics—and share laughter and learning with others.

“It’s a great way to be social. I love living here. I can have my own house, but yet I can go over to the main building for meals as well as all the programs,” says Joan. “I don’t want to just stay home and be a hermit.”

An advocate of whole-person wellness, Joan devotes time each day to attend mass.

She also enjoys exercising her brain by playing bridge, both online with people from around the world and with other residents at Touchmark.

“I really enjoy the people I meet at the different programs as well as on the trips,” she says.

“It is really a lot of fun.”

This couple has walked in all 50 states and eight foreign countries

Meet Catharine and Bill ByrdMeet Catharine and Bill Byrd
This couple has walked in all 50 states and eight foreign countries

Catharine and Bill Byrd have always shared a love of travel—especially on their own two feet. In addition to each state in America, the couple has participated in walks in Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Japan, Denmark, and Luxembourg.

Bill’s career offered him various job opportunities, which eventually relocated the family to Vancouver, Washington. That’s where the couple discovered their passion for Volkswalking.

“I was a dedicated mall-walker at that time,” recalls Catharine. “One day, out of curiosity, I attended a talk on Volkswalking. I went home and told Bill this was something we might like to try.”

So they tried it, says Catharine, “And we were hooked!”

“When Bill traveled for business,” she recalls, “we’d stay a few days longer and do 10-kilometer (6.2 miles) Volkswalks in the nearby states.”

Bill adds, “We did enough walking to keep our weekends busy for a number of years.”

The couple has now logged official Volkswalks in all 50 states and in the process seen some gorgeous scenery. “Volkswalking is a great way to see the country, because you see the little things that you miss when you’re zipping by in a car,” says Bill.

The Byrds became charter members in a Volkswalking group that began over 15 years ago in Vancouver. The club is still active, but Bill and Catharine tend to take shorter walks on their own these days or head out with a Touchmark walking group.

From Alabama to Washington
Both Catharine and Bill were born and raised in Alabama.

When Bill was just 18, the US was pulled into World War II, and he joined the Army. “I wound up in the infantry,” he says, “so that was really the start of my walking. Bill remained in the Army Reserves for 21 years, serving in both Europe and Asia.

After he returned from service, Bill enrolled in Auburn University in Alabama, where he met and married Catharine.

In those days, it was common for women to leave college once they were married, so Catharine dropped out of school while her husband finished his degree in Chemical Engineering. Later, Catharine returned to school and got her degree in Accounting at the University of Portland.

Right out of school, Bill landed a job at a foundry in Alabama. Soon, though, he and the family were transferred to southern California, and then to Columbus, Indiana. While there, he took a job with a competitor and relocated to Vancouver, Washington, where he and Catharine have lived for the last 40 years.

After earning her Accounting degree in their new home, Catharine taught in a business school. “Then I used my degree to volunteer in a lot of organizations, including our church as treasurer for almost nine years.”

The Byrds raised a daughter and three sons. They now boast seven grandchildren and two greatgrandchildren. The whole family gets together at least once a year.

Opting for easier living
A few years ago, the Byrds decided it was time for them to let go of the chore of maintaining their own home and yard.

“We already belonged to the Touchmark Health & Fitness Club, so we knew people here, and we were familiar with Touchmark.”

Still, they did their research and looked at other retirement communities in the area. In the end, they chose Touchmark.

“We liked the light and open feeling here at Touchmark when you walk in the front doors,” says Catharine. “And the people here are great.”

Bill chimes in, “And now we don’t have to drive crosstown to the fitness club; we just ride down the elevator.”

The Byrds originally moved into a Terrace apartment. When a larger apartment with more storage became available in the main building, they took it.

Staying physically and mentally active
Bill continues to take full advantage of Touchmark’s Health & Fitness Club. “I do yoga two days a week and work out on the machines the other three days,” he says. He especially likes using the pneumatic weight-lifting system and the rowing machine in his workouts.

Catharine used to take aerobic dance and now participates in the SAIL (Stay Active and Independent for Life) class three days a week.

Walking is still a favorite way for them to get their exercise between classes and workouts.

They also volunteer on various Touchmark committees. Catharine is head of the Dining Committee, while Bill volunteers on the Interior and Dining committees.

“There are a lot of activities here to participate in,” says Bill. “In fact,” he says with a smile, “it can put a bit of a strain on you trying to keep up with it all.”

Catharine laughs with her husband. “There’s certainly no reason to be bored here!”

Since they have lived in Vancouver for more than 40 years, they also keep active with people they knew before moving into Touchmark.

A philosophy to live by …
Catharine says, “I’ve always looked at my life in terms of stages: the Alabama Stage, the California Stage, and so forth. I try not to look back and regret things … You have to always look forward to the different phases of your life.”

Although the Byrds have many medals to show for their accomplishments, they still have much to look forward to—and do so with the same passion they always have.

Fascinated with the past—and living a full life

Meet Joyce and Jim HolterMeet Joyce and Jim Holter
Fascinated with the past—and living a full life

If you want to know anything about the 70-foot, world-famous Hjemkomst (Homecoming) Viking Ship or the replica Hopperstad Stave Kirke (church), Jim would be delighted to take you on a tour of The Hjemkomst Center, where he is a docent.

If you’d like to know more about genealogy and how to use a computer to research and record your own family history, Joyce is your expert.

On any given day, you could also find Joyce baking her special bread that the grandchildren call Grandma Bread or working on her computer helping
update the Touchmark resident story album. Jim is just as busy, practicing with the Touchmark choir and volunteering at Touchmark’s convenience store.

Their cottage home is inviting, warmly decorated to reflect their Scandinavian heritage.

To Fargo—and back again
Joyce was born and raised in Kindred, a small town in the same county as Fargo. She and Jim met at North Dakota State University, where Jim completed his undergraduate degree.

The couple soon married and moved to Ames, Iowa, where Jim earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and a Master of Science in Veterinary Pathology at Iowa State University. While he was taking classes, Joyce worked in Student Services, learning to use a computer and build databases, a skill she has used her entire life.

After graduating in 1957, the couple moved to Casselton, North Dakota, where Jim was a practicing veterinarian for 15 years. They then returned to Ames, and Jim started a 20-year tenure as a professor at Iowa State University.

Also in that timeline, the couple raised four children—two girls and two boys—all of whom eventually graduated from Iowa State University.

“We retired young,” Jim says. “I was 61, and Joyce was 57.”

Their own hjemkomst (homecoming) eventually led them back to Fargo. Joyce says, “When it came time for us to retire, we came home to what was really home to us.”

A long-planned move
When they first retired, though, the Holters bought a home on a lake in Minnesota.

“At that time,” Jim recalls, “I said to Joyce, ‘When I turn 80, we’ll think about doing something different. And she held me to it!”

So when Jim turned 80, Joyce reminded her husband of his promise. “By that time,” Jim says, “I was getting tired of maintaining the lake home, mowing the lawn, taking care of the boat and dock … ”

Joyce continues. “When Touchmark had an open house, we went to look at their cottages.” And they both liked what they saw.

“Now,” says Joyce, “whenever we go and visit other folks in the community, we always come home and say, ‘Oh, we have the best place!'”

Jim adds, “We’ve lived in many homes, and this is about the most comfortable that we’ve ever lived in.”

Joyce, the genealogist, adds, “And after we moved in here, I found out that I have three third cousins living here, too! I could show you exactly how we are related!”

Enjoying each day to its fullest
Because both are half Norwegian (Jim is also part Dane), it is only natural that Joyce and Jim volunteer at The Hjemkomst Center at least one day a week. Joyce works in the business office, using her many computer skills, while Jim is a docent, guiding visitors through the maze of Scandinavian history. Joyce and Jim have traveled extensively, including three trips to Norway.

Jim just performed with the Touchmark Choir at the historic Fargo Theater. He practices with them every week, and they perform at area schools, other retirement communities, for a local Kiwanis Club, and for other residents. “What’s so unique about our choir,” says Jim, “is that the members range in
age from 22 to 101!”

Joyce spends a lot of time on her computer. “I have had a computer on my desk since 1976.” She learned to build databases early on, which has proved indispensable for her genealogy work, which she has been doing for over 25 years.

Joyce and Jim enjoy people and are very involved in the Touchmark community. “We love sharing stories and histories and believe everyone has a story.”

This couple share friendship, laughter—and technology

Meet Jim and Helen BastianMeet Helen and Jim Bastian
This couple share friendship, laughter—and technology

“We have two things to say,” Jim announces. “One, we laugh a lot. And, two, after 64 years together, we are still each other’s best friend.”

And what resonates between them echoes outward, as their laughter and friendliness touch everyone around them.

“You can’t believe all the wonderful people who live and work at Touchmark,” says Helen. “Everybody is so great. It is a very wonderful atmosphere here.”

Sharing rich and interesting backgrounds
Helen was born in Fargo, ND, then spent most of her childhood in Minnesota, going through the Moorehead public school system. In 1947, she graduated from the School of Chemistry at North Dakota Agricultural College (now NDSU). Then she entered Purdue University to pursue her master’s degree.

Jim was born and raised in Indianapolis, Ind. Soon after high school, he went into the Navy, enrolling in Radio Technician Radar School. In 1946, Jim entered Purdue University. He started out in Electrical Engineering but ended up with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. He then went on to get his master’s and PhD in Physiology and Pharmacology.

Meanwhile, working on her master’s in chemistry, Helen met Jim. There must have been more than a little chemistry between them.

“We met at a football rally,” Jim remembers. “I walked right up to Helen, took her hand, and told her I was Jim. She told me she was Helen, and that started our relationship!” Jim and Helen both laugh heartily at the recollection. “It wasn’t like either one of us to act like that.”

It may have been a bit out of character for a couple of scientists, but the formula seemed to work. Helen and Jim married in 1950.

Supporting family and careers
“I never finished my master’s program,” says Helen. “After the war, with everyone returning home, I couldn’t renew my graduate assistant’s program, so I went into educational psychology.”

Jim chimes in, “Helen put me through my PhD program by working in a veterinary school as a lab technician.”

After that, Helen shifted her focus to making a home and raising their daughter and two sons. Once the  children were in school, she taught high school chemistry for more than eight years.

After Jim finished his PhD at Purdue in 1954, he joined Armour Pharmaceutical Company, working as a drug researcher for 32 years. Among his many successes, he helped lead the development of the first drug to relieve chronic pain caused by Paget’s disease of the bone.

When Jim retired in 1986, he continued doing consulting work with Armour and then with a Japanese company until 2000.

A passion for technology
Helen and Jim are fondly referred to as “early adopters” as they actively seek out the leading edge of technology.

Helen recently found herself one of only 100 people in the world who has an OrCam for home use. It is a tiny, smart camera for visually impaired people. Mounted to her glasses, her OrCam “sees” the book or newspaper page she is holding then orally “reads” it to her.

“Jim read about it in the New York Times before it was even available on the U.S. market,” Helen recalls. “We immediately got on a waiting list.”

When not using her OrCam, Helen is often on her iPad. She reads books on it, watches news programs, and looks up recipes. “You can find almost anything on an iPad.” She also uses it to keep track of her family— including their two great grandsons—on Facebook.

With wide-ranging interests, Jim has always been an inventor on the side. For instance, in 1967, he patented the first roller paint machine. More recently, he patented a new hold-bar attachment for treadmills. “I’ve made hundreds of inventions over the years,” Jim says, “but often found out someone else had beat me to the patent.”

Jim recently launched a new business. “I’m fully occupied with it,” he says. “I’m a true, honest-to-goodness, livewire entrepreneur … it’s exciting!”

In fact, Jim is completely absorbed with manufacturing and selling his latest invention: a device that “magically” attaches a cell phone to your arm or waist—on the outside of your clothing—via a strong magnet. “I have a minifactory and hundreds of products all ready to sell. It’s a 24-hour business.”

The business means Jim doesn’t have time to bake his famous cinnamon-craison bread anymore; however, he was recently elected to the Touchmark Resident Council. “I consider this a great honor, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Continuing their full lives
Moving to Touchmark has been a natural continuation of Helen and Jim’s full lives. What they enjoy most is the many opportunities for social interaction just beyond their front door.

“It’s so interesting to sit down and talk with any of these people,” says Jim. “Many of them were top in their fields. It’s unbelievable!”

“Such interesting stories!” adds Helen. “From farming stories to WWII pilots getting shot down!”

Other enjoyable activities are walking their miniature poodle Lucy and keeping close tabs on their great grandchildren. And laughing. “Yes, you could say laughter is our philosophy of life!”