When is it time to give up the car keys?

Making the decision to stop driving can be a scary, life-changing experience for many. Fears of giving up independence and not being able to meet basic needs are certainly common and not unfounded.

It can also be a sensitive subject to broach with someone—as driving and owning a car can be a matter of pride. Studies have shown that reduced mobility, such as losing one’s ability to drive, can be a major cause of depression.

But it’s important to value safety and consider the potential risks to yourself and others if your driving abilities are questioned.

There are several age-related factors that can affect a person’s driving abilities, including:

  • Impaired vision
  • Impaired hearing
  • Slower mental process
  • Side effects of medications

Fortunately, even without a car, there are several ways for older adults to get around. Family and friends can often help with basic needs. Public transportation, senior centers, and retirement communities can provide supplemental options, as well. It’s often a pleasant surprise to find that getting around can be easily accomplished—without the cost, maintenance, and stress of owning a car.

Staying safe

Ensuring safety behind the wheel requires regular evaluation by an impartial third party. Other steps to take include taking a driver safety course (often offered by AARP), exercising regularly to keep the mind and body sharp, and being cognizant to identify personal high-risk areas, such as driving at night, in bad weather, or on unfamiliar routes. A doctor can also provide a clinical assessment to evaluate an older driver.

If you think driving may no longer be safe for you or a loved one, the following resources can help identify warning signs:

Always put safety before pride when it comes to driving.

Focusing on fun—and family history

Dorothy KrogenDorothy has a Bucket List she’s working her way
through. The last big item is a hot-air balloon ride, and she’s determined to take that ride. She also vows never to go a day without having fun.

Raised on a farm in Killdeer, North Dakota, Dorothy graduated from high school in 1948 and then took a summer course at Dickinson College, a teacher’s college.

“They were so short of teachers back then,” recalls Dorothy, “that you could just take a summer course and teach in a country school.”

After she received her teaching credentials, a friend introduced her to the school board president of a small school. She was hired on the spot to teach five students: a
first-grader, a fourth-grader, two seventh-graders, and one eighth-grader.

That’s where Dorothy met her future husband. “It’s a funny story. This young man rode up on his horse and saw me standing on the porch in a blue dress. … The rest is a
long story.”

Dorothy married this young man in the spring of 1950 and moved to his farm. Together, they raised three children.

Traveling the world
After retiring, Dorothy and her husband enjoyed traveling. They visited many European countries including Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. They toured Australia and cruised through the Panama Canal.

They also traveled all over Canada and the United States, first with their own fifth-wheeler, then with bus tours.

“My favorite place was New York City. I’ve been there three times. I especially loved the Broadway plays. Australia was also a great trip, particularly when my brother was our tour guide.”

In 1981, Dorothy and her husband started making annual treks to Arizona to escape the North Dakota winters. They made many friends from all over the country.

“We had a wonderful life. My husband and I were married almost 60 years before he passed away in 2009.”

Moving to Touchmark
A few years later, Dorothy decided she wanted to move closer to family, so she moved into a Touchmark cottage in the fall of 2013, not too far from her daughter.

Now Dorothy is near six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, with another on the way.

She lives with Molly, a very talkative cat, who loves bringing in “live gifts” for the two of them to play with. Sometimes, Dorothy posts pictures of Molly and these gifts on her Facebook page.

“Touchmark doesn’t just feel like home, it is home. They offer you everything here. The house is wonderful. The people are nice. I just love it here. I can’t say enough nice things about Touchmark.”

Dorothy continues to go to Arizona in the winter months. “This will be my 34th year,” she says. “Molly and I fly down. I’ll keep going as long as I can.”

Every day is eventful “I sign up for everything that Touchmark has to offer.” She dances, takes riverboat cruises, goes on casino excursions, and visits different restaurants with friends.

She also plays pinochle every day. “I like to beat the boys,” she says with a grin.

“Do I work out in the gym? No, that’s not my favorite thing to do. My favorite thing to do is to write books on my family’s history.”

Dorothy’s lifelong passion
When Dorothy married in 1950, she began using her wall calendar to record daily notes on everything she and her family did. In 1960, she began writing a history of her
family, using those notes. She started out using a manual typewriter and pasting pictures onto the pages. “It’s like an autobiography with pictures,” she explains.

She has since exchanged her typewriter for a computer and now scans her pictures into her digital text document. “Oh my, this is so much easier and faster!”

Besides documenting her immediate family, she also researched ancestors. She traced her husband’s family back to 1534 and her own family to about 1746. “When I’d get little bits of information about their lives, I’d make a story out of it.”

Dorothy recently published her third book of family history, covering the years 2009 through 2013, and will soon start on her fourth.

“It takes a lot of my time, but it’s something I love to do. I will do this as long as I live; as long as I am able to do it.”

Philosophy of life
Like many people, Dorothy has a Bucket List. At 86, she still wants to take a hot-air balloon ride.

“I want to do what I want, and have fun every day for the rest of my life!”

An active mind is a healthy mind

crossword puzzle and pencils

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He aims to “live life to the fullest”

Paul KimblePaul’s exuberance for life is contagious. That’s because Paul wants to make every day as good as it can be—for himself and for everyone around him.

Raised on a family farm near Hazlehurst, Mississippi, Paul developed a strong work ethic growing up and then worked hard to get an education to launch a successful career.

In 1948, he took a job with Dun & Bradstreet, the US-based, worldwide credit-rating company. “Most of my business knowledge was on-thejob training in the areas of financial analysis, marketing, and management,” says Paul. “I was awarded the company’s presidential citation on two occasions.”

Since key people in the company were often transferred, Paul and his family moved many times during his 25-year tenure.

In 1973, though, Paul decided he did not want to move his wife and two sons again. “I just knew it was time for us to quit moving,” he says. “I’m a family person first and a business person second.” When he was offered a job by The Cardwell Companies (conveniently located in El Paso, Texas, where they were living), Paul left Dun & Bradstreet.

After several years with The Cardwell Companies, he became executive vice president of Petro Shopping Centers, a related company, which grew into a nationwide modern chain of truck stops. He also was vice president of several related companies having operational, marketing, and financial responsibilities.

After almost 25 years at Cardwell, Paul retired in 1997 and remained in El Paso with his wife Mary.

Paul laughs when he says, “I sort of wish I had never retired. I just love to work; I love people!” This love and concern for others was also evident during his 43 years as an active Rotarian.

Traveling the world
Paul and his wife did a lot of traveling after he retired. “We went to Europe 13 times, traveled all over the United States, went to Asia, New Zealand, Australia … you name it,” he says.

“Over the years, my wife and I met a lot of people on our travels. It’s comforting to still get emails from people you met 10 or 15 years ago,” Paul says, adding, “When I lost my wife, it was comforting to get over 100 sympathy cards from people we know. We’ve got a lot of friends.”

Today, Paul continues traveling. He recently went to the Eastern Caribbean for 10 days. In late summer, he’s going on an Alaskan cruise with family, and he’ll soon return to Mississippi for a visit.

Building a life at Touchmark
In 2012, Paul and Mary’s sons began encouraging them to move closer to one of them. That meant relocating to either Ruidoso, New Mexico, or Edmond, Oklahoma (about five minutes from Touchmark).

“Our son in Edmond did a lot of research and talked to many people, and everyone recommended Touchmark,” Paul remembers. After a few conversations with Touchmark, he and his wife made a trip to Edmond and signed an agreement to build a cottage.

“We got to choose a floor plan and customize it with the options we wanted,” explains Paul. They lived in one of the Touchmark apartments while their home was being built, so they were able to walk to the site and see the progress almost daily.

They moved into their new home in February 2013. Ten months later, Paul’s wife passed away unexpectedly.

“We were married 65 years,” says Paul. “I miss her every day, but life goes on.” Today, Paul honors his wife’s memory by continuing to plant the flowers that she loved so much.

“Every day is a good day”
Each morning when Paul gets up, he sends a text to his son in New Mexico that reads, “I’m vertical today.” Paul laughs hard. “That way, he knows I’m fine.”

Paul says he is in excellent health and “still able to do anything I want to do.”

His preferred form of exercise is taking daily walks outside, but he also uses the treadmill at Touchmark. “I walk real fast, and I walk for a long time,” he says. “I just enjoy being outside.”

He also gets exercise by planting flowers in his yard. “My wife loved flowers. Last fall I put out 250 pansies and a lot of vinca.”

Paul stays very busy with activities that combine his love of people with his business background. He is on the Touchmark Resident Council, representing cottage residents. He is also very active in his church, currently serving as the Finance Chair and a member of the Building Committee.

He belongs to a Touchmark singing group and enjoys the fellowship he finds here. “We look out for each other; it’s a supportive group of people here.” He prides himself on getting to know everyone, including the Touchmark staff, who he finds exceptionally helpful.

“Even though I like to plant flowers all of the time, I don’t like to pull weeds. So, they are always coming over and weeding my flowerbeds. And they trim my trees, mow my yard, and come in once a week and clean my house. My needs are all taken care of here,” he says, smiling.

“I want to make every day as good as it can be,” says Paul. “That’s what I live for: To live life to the fullest.”

A natural remedy with plentiful benefits

Portrait of a mature woman receiving shoulder massage

We often think of massage therapy as a spa-like indulgence to help us relax and relieve stress, but this ancient practice has plenty of health benefits, as well. It can be a valuable form of treatment for a variety of conditions, while also helping to help feel younger, healthier, and balanced.

The benefits of massage therapy are vast! Depending on each individual, massage can help:

  • Relieve pain
  • Improve range of motion
  • Enhance immunity
  • Increase joint flexibility
  • Alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Relax injured, tired, and overused muscles
  • Release endorphins—the body’s natural painkiller

Different types of massage can help serve different purposes, each utilizing different types of movement and levels of pressure.

Massage for older adults tends to differ from traditional massage practices, and usually includes gentle stroking, kneading, and light pressure on specific points. Targeted pressure can help lubricate joints, which relieves the pain and stiffness of arthritis. The relaxation and communication promoted during massage can often help those living with Alzheimer’s disease.

And unlike many medications, massage is a natural way to stimulate the nervous system and increase blood circulation. In fact, according to Massage Today, regular massage can often help reduce the need for medications.

In the middle of July, the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) group sponsors EveryBody Deserves a Massage Week to raise awareness of the health benefits of massage and bodywork. Many organizations offer discounted massages during this week—check with those in your local area for a great chance to treat yourself.

Massage therapy can benefit most people; however, it may not be appropriate for those with bleeding disorders or who are taking blood-thinning medication; people with deep vein thrombosis; or when you have open or healing burns or wounds. Speak to your doctor before scheduling your first massage.

Staying safe and healthy through ergonomics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”