Senior Living September 16 2008

Do you know at least one person who has fallen within the last year? Hopefully not, but because our abilities and circumstances change as we age, we are at greater risk of falling resulting in broken hips, head injuries or even death. According to the Fall Prevention Center for Excellence “more than 40% of people hospitalized from hip fractures do not return home and are not capable of living independently again and 25% of those who have fallen pass away each year”. But most falls are preventable and there are things you can do.

The first step is to talk with your doctor or health care worker. During your next visit ask what your risks are and what you can do to reduce them. For example, certain medications can cause dizzyness in older adults. I know of several folks who have had serious falls after starting a new medication. Know the side affects and be prepared.

The second step is to improve your balance, flexibility and strength. This can both reduce your risk of falling and also improve the chances of recovering if you do fall. We aren’t as spry as we once were. (I don’t sit down on the floor anymore because I can’t waste the hour and a half it takes to get back up.) So get moving whether it is as simple as walking, taking a water aerobics class or participating in one of the many exercise classes at the Senior Center. Tai Chi is particularly good for improving balance and there are two Tai Chi classes starting September 23rd: a class taught by Corliss Marsh on Tuesdays, 1:00 pm at the Senior Center (call 296-4788) and a class on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1:00 pm offered by MCMC at their Celilo Center (call the Center for Mind and Body at 296-7414).

The third step is too access your home to identify ways to make it fall proof particularly in the bathroom and on the steps. In the bathroom, you can install grab bars in the shower or tub, create a place to sit, and add non-slip surfaces. For the steps, you can add handrails, provide better lighting, and add contrast between steps. By making changes to the home environment a person can feel safer and decrease the risk of falling.

You can learn more about fall prevention and other ways to make your home safe at the Next Chapter Lecture on “How to Assess and Prevent Accidents around your Home” presented by Visiting Health Services on Tuesday (23) at 11:00 am at the Senior Center.

One of the characteristics of The Dalles that sets it apart from other Oregon cities is its history. This weekend you can learn and experience the history of our fine city by attending the many events at museums and historical sites throughout the city during “Historic The Dalles Days”. The celebration begins Thursday, September 18, when the popular “Cascade Singers” offer a free “Old Favorites” public concert in St. Peter’s Landmark. The music starts at 7:30 and will feature folk songs, hymns, spirituals, camp songs, patriotic music and sing-along favorites.

One of the Friday events is a Tribute to Veterans, POWs and MIAs in the Civic Auditorium from 1:00 – 2:00. And Saturday there are all kinds of events to remember the “good old days”: wagon rides, free tours, music, and demonstrations at The Fort Dalles Museum from 11:00 – 4:00, a “Three Courthouses” presentation in the Original Wasco County Courthouse at 1:30 pm, the Port of The Dalles 75th Anniversary reception at Klindt’s Annex (formal ceremony at noon), a tour of D-21 School District Archive Museum at The Dalles Wahtonka High School main campus from 9:00 – 2:00 (entrance at 10th and Court Street) and many more.

Then on Saturday evening from 6:00 – 10:00 pm you can really get into the spirit by dressing up in your 1800’s finest and attending the 1858 Costume Ball and Dinner at the Discovery Center. There will be horse-drawn carriage valet parking and music performed by the High Strung String Quartet. The cost for this evening of memories is only $25 per person, and you can add an optional candlelight buffet dinner for only $12, served until 8 p.m.

Our regular cook Bonnie Lobdell will be gone this month but we are going to try to do her proud. The menu for this Saturday is Biscuits and Gravy with sausage and fruit along with the regular beverages.The Boy Scout Troop #395 will be back from their summer adventures to help serve and bus tables. Marilyn Erickson will be collecting money at the door and if you haven’t seen her for a while you can catch up on the latest going on’s. Come down, visit with friends and neighbors and let someone else do the cooking because “Food always tastes better when somebody else makes it”.

The Jazz Generations will be performing next Tuesday (23rd) at the Senior Center playing their Big Band sounds. Bring a dance partner and enjoy an evening of fine music and dancing the way it use to be. And tonight our home grown Victor Johnson and friends will be performing. Music starts at 7:00 and everyone is welcome. Admission is free but donations are always welcome.

A quick reminder about the new activities starting this week at the Senior Center. The Book Club starts Wednesday (17th) 7:00 pm discussing “Aristotle and an Aardvark go to Washington: Understanding Political Doublespeak through Philosophy and Jokes”. As the prophetic Will Rogers once said,”Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke”. Also get a jump on the holiday season by making Holiday Cards with Joyce Browne on Thursday 18th at 2:30. And on Friday at 10:00 learn to play games on the Nintendo Wii starting with Tennis. To register call the Senior Center at 296-4788.

That is it again. Until the next time, keep moving.

“Things ain’t what they used to be and never were.” Will Rogers

Senior LIving September 9th

Now that the presidential conventions are over and the election is in full swing and IF we can get past who does or doesn’t wear a flag lapel pin or who is or isn’t pregnant, I hope there will be an honest and thoughtful discussion about one of the most important issues facing all of us: the crisis in our health care system and the need for health care reform. It is undoubtedly a complex issue, but the public’s dissatisfaction with the current system is deep and broad and growing.

According to Humphery Taylor, Chairman of The Harris Poll – Harris Interactive, who spoke at the Aging in America conference last spring, only thirteen percent of the public felt our health care system works well, while fifty percent felt fundamental changes are needed and almost a third felt there is so much wrong with the system that we need to completely rebuild it.

And there is substantial evidence to support the public’s perception. Based on data presented by Taylor, the US health care system compared to most other western democracies is by far the most expensive, the most inequitable, the least efficient and one of the most unpopular. The one bright spot is that we Americans have relatively short waiting time for elective/non-emergency surgery.

While there is consensus that the system is broken, there is no consensus on the specifics of how to fix it. That is the challenge. Forty-eight percent of the public want to maintain the current system based mainly on private insurance compared to forty-one percent who want to replace the current health system with a government run health care system. And even more challenging, the public wants change but doesn’t want much higher taxes, higher out-of- pocket costs, bigger government, rationing, reduced quality and reduced choice. It may take a Solomon to find the solution to what everyone agrees is a critical problem.

But in the greatest nation in the world, it is unacceptable that a husband, after his wife falls, must think first about whether he can afford to take her to the emergency room. It is unacceptable that one can’t get health insurance because he has a “previous medical condition”. It is unacceptable that health care costs are increasing so fast, fewer individuals and businesses can afford it. It is my hope that after this election, we as a nation can find an answer to one of the most critical issues facing us: how to provide basic affordable health care for everyone.

Next Tuesday another home grown talent will be performing at the Senior Center. Victor Johnson, an excellent folk and blues guitarist, has entertained folks from 80 to 8 months, (well maybe not 8 months but close) and you can hear for yourself this coming week. On Saturday take your grand kids to hear Victor and Steve McLennon kick-off the Wonderworks Free Kids Music concerts at 11:00 am on the outdoor amphitheater stage at Columbia Gorge Community College. And then stop by the Senior Center on Tuesday night and enjoy his musical talents again. There is a child in all of us.

And tonight The Notecrackers will be playing for your listening and dancing pleasure. You may not think you know how to dance but come anyway because as I heard at the center (I can’t remember who told me, which may be a good thing), “I never learned to dance, but I sure know how to hold them.”

Hal Sessions has scheduled speakers for the next three months of the Next Chapter Lecture Series, but he had one open date next Tuesday the 16th. So Hal and I took the easy route and scheduled ourselves to present the latest news on the Senior Center’s building expansion. We have the cost estimates and floor plans and are working hard on developing a capital campaign. This is your chance to get the latest information on this important community project.

A new monthly informational series called “Healthy Aging” starts at 11:00 this Thursday (11th) at the Senior Center. The class is taught by Fern Wilcox, Wasco County Extension Faculty and Strong Women instructor, and the first topic is “Food Safety for Seniors”. But you may ask, “Why is this important to me? I have had a lot of experience buying and preparing food and studies show that older adults are better handling and preparing food than any other age group”. The first reason is obvious: things have changed. Food is produced and distributed differently. And secondly, as we age we are less able to resist food-borne illnesses which is a serious concern for older adults. Fortunately, food-borne illnesses can be easily prevented and you will learn how at this informative presentation.

Couple of quick reminders: “Living Well with Chronic Conditions” starts on Tuesday September 16th at 2:00. Over 14 people are registered but the more the merrier. The class is set up so you can learn from each other as you share what works for you. Also only six seats are left for “Menopause: The Musical”, Sunday, September 26th at 2:00 pm and only $65 including transportation. We haven’t had one daring man sign up yet. And that includes me. I’m staying home because women have always been a mystery to me and I am afraid to learn what I don’t know.

Every Wednesday I e-mail to folks (you don’t have to be a Senior Center member) the Center’s weekly newsletter as well as this column. If you would like to receive either or both electronically send an e-mail to and I will put you on the list.

Well that is it again for another week. I do have to go. I have important work to do: I need to practice my Wii golf and tennis skills for the Friday 10:00 Wii class. Isn’t life grand! So until we meet again, don’t forget to stretch – it is good for your body and mind.

“If you are sure you understand everything going on around you, you are hopelessly confused.” Walter Mondale

Senior Living September 2, 2008

There are many ways to support your community and the agencies and organizations that make it strong. One such way is through your local United Way. I support United Way because I personally experienced the importance of United Way funding. In the mid 80’s I was director of The Dalles Child Care Center which was working hard to meet the need for quality child care at a price working families could afford. But the recession hit, the aluminum plant closed and United Way funding shrank. Consequently, their reduced support was the tipping point that forced the childcare center to close. Those were difficult times for the community and United Way.

Today there is a much brighter future. Your local United Way is strong and active because of the diligent work of good people who kept the United Way spirit alive. It has merged with Hood River, Klickitat and Skamania counties to form the United Way of the Columbia Gorge which has created several benefits including reducing administrative expenses to where over 93% of the money raised is invested in local programs. With the hard work of volunteers and the support of individuals and businesses during this last year’s campaign, Wasco County reached their goal of raising $55,000 for local organizations, an increase from $16,000 raised just a few years ago. That is great news for all the valuable programs that United Way helps including several programs supporting seniors: Meals-on-Wheels, Pioneer Potlatch, Hospice of the Gorge and Visiting Health Services.

To kick-off this year’s United Way Campaign while celebrating last year’s success, you are invited to enjoy a free hot dog, chips and drink. You will find those hot dogs roaming around The Dalles Chronicle parking lot between 12:00 and 2:00 on Wednesday September 10th. We will be glad to catch one for you while you learn how United Way helps make our community stronger.

Because of the great response to see “Menopause: The Musical”, the Senior Center has purchased twenty four tickets for the 2:00 matinee performance on Sunday, September 28th. The bus will leave the Senior Center at 11:30 and have you back by 6:30. The cost is $65 including transportation. Call the center soon because there are already 14 people signed up for the show. The Senior Center number is 296-4788.

The Notecrackers will be back to perform at the Senior Center’s Tuesday Night Music and Dance on September 9th. They are great folks as well as musicians and really enjoy playing for the over 50 crowd. They feature danceable tunes from the 20’s through the 60’s — vintage music that’ll bring back memories. And performing tonight will be Harold and several of his jamming Friends including Gordon, Norma, Marla, Dave and Mike. They are all coming back for an encore performance playing country flavored sounds that will pull you to the dance floor. I also would like to thank all the jammers who play at the Senior Center every fifth Sunday of the month and all the fine folks who come out to listen and dance. Everbody has a great time and the donations from the pie and coffee help support the work of the Senior Center.

Last week I mentioned several new activities that will be starting this fall at the Senior Center. Unfortunately, I gave the wrong time and date for the Holiday Card Making class taught by Joyce Browne. The first class will be on September 18th at 2:30 and will repeat on Thursday October 16th. The only cost will be for the materials which will be available for purchase from Joyce. You will need to register for the class by calling the Senior Center. This is your chance to create unique cards for your special friends and family in time for the holidays.

But this week I want to mention the classes that are returning from their summer hiatus starting the week of September 8th.

NEXT CHAPTER LECTURE SERIES – Every Tuesday 11:00 – 12:00 starting September 9th
Learn something new that will stretch your mind and impress your friends by attending these informative lectures on subjects ranging from local history to health care.

STRONG WOMEN – every Monday and Wednesday 2:00 – 3:00 Starting September 8th Instructor: Fern Wilcox If you enjoy a good dose of laughter while exercising, this is the class for you. Come and find out why this class has grown to over thirty women.

BASIC COMPUTER CLASS – Every Monday or Wednesday from 10:30 – 11:30 starting September 8th and September 10th. Instructors: Laurie Fadness on Monday and Richard Lyon on Wednesday. Each class meets every Monday or Wednesday of the month and covers beginning topics such as how to turn on and off the computer, how to use a mouse and how to get on the Internet. These classes are limited to five persons and you will need to sign up by calling the Senior Center.

COMPUTER HELP LAB – every Tuesday 1:45 – 3:00 starting September 23rd. Instructor: Corliss Marsh Get your basic questions about your computer or software programs answered in this drop-in help lab.

The Next Chapter Lecture Series which is starting on Tuesday, September 9th at 11:00 will feature Jim Bishop of Westcorp Mortgage returning to talk about Reverse Mortgages. Even though Reverse Mortgages are controversial, the AARP and other senior advocates suggest that in certain situations they are a useful tool to help seniors stay in their homes longer. Come to this presentation and find out if a reverse mortgage is right for you.

That is it again. But since it is a holiday my trusted “corrector”, Zelta is not here. So I am on my own which is not good. Until we meet again, be kind to those who make mistakes because “to error is only human” and some of us are more human that others.

“Last night, my friend and I were sitting in the living room and I said to her,’I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens, just pull the plug’. She got up unplugged the computer, and threw out my wine.”