How to Downsize (and stick to it!)

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In a society where ‘bigger is better’, it can seem impossible to downsize. And, even if you want to downsize, you may worry about all of the things you have acquired over the years. But, as we all know, bigger isn’t always better. And, simplifying your life may have benefits to your overall well-being. So, where do you start?
1.) Realize what you have.
A lot of times we collect things that we don’t even realize. When downsizing, it’s important to make a list of everything that you have. Pick a week to designate to taking inventory. To make the task seem more achievable, break it down into one or two rooms per day. Make sure you record all the items in that room and the number of each item you have.
2.) Streamline your list.
Now that you have this big, long list what do you do? From your inventory list, make three different categories, things you haven’t touched in a year, things you use a few times a year, and the things you use on a weekly basis.
Most of the things you haven’t touched in a year may be thrown away. But, sentimental items, like family heirlooms, may not. Be honest with yourself when sorting through these items.
The second list should be things you have used a few times in the past year, but do not use on a weekly basis. Go through your ‘past year’ list and see if you can narrow it down. For example, if you have 150 books, pick 15 that you cannot part with.
And, the third list should be things that you use on a weekly basis. In many cases, most the weekly basis list may be kept, except for duplicate items, such as two vacuums or multiple sets of dishware.
3.) Donate or sell immediately.
This is the most important step, because if you have your items sitting around your house for too long they might just end up back on that book shelf! Consider donating items to families, friends or a homeless shelter. If you are selling your items, determine a sell-by date. If you don’t sell them by the date, then donate them. This will keep you from waiting around for a buyer for too long.
4.) Creatively store the remaining items.
There are some items that you just won’t be able to part with, and that is okay. Pictures and important paperwork may be among the things you choose to keep. Now, the key is to store these items creatively. It’s easy to go out and find boxes to put on a shelf. But, stop and ask yourself if this is the most effective way. Look for furniture pieces that can double as storage, such as a hollow ottoman. This way, you will be able to store photos, paperwork, and other important items, without your guests knowing.
If you have decorative family heir looms, consider using them to decorate your new place. And, if these items are too large to keep in your new home, think about passing them down to another family member. If you can’t bear to part with them, a climate controlled storage unit is an option, too.
Through taking these steps, you may be more likely to stick to your downsizing project! And remember, you are simplifying your life in order to make room for bigger, better things such as being closer to your grandchildren. Or, waking up on a cold, snowing day knowing that you don’t have to worry about finding someone to shovel your drive way.

What to do when the weather turns cold?

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By: Peg Carmany

As the weather starts to turn colder, and our choices of outside activities here in Central Ohio become more limited, I find myself making lists of things to do of good books to read, good movies to watch (or re-watch), and then there’s the ever-present wealth of learning opportunities on the internet – TED talks, Podcasts, silly hamster videos, and much more!

What do the residents find to do at Wesley Glen, Wesley Ridge, and Wesley Woods when the weather outside turns frightful? Well, it varies depending on the interests of the individual, but the communities offer a wide array of activities to meet a wide range of interests, including (but not limited to!) the following:

For the theater lover:

The drama group at Wesley Glen meets regularly, and practiced all fall for its winter reading production.

For the fitness fanatic:

There are so many wellness activities, including yoga classes for all levels, meditation classes and water aerobics at Wesley Glen and Wesley Ridge. Wesley Ridge has its chair volleyball team, where competitive spirit runs high!   At Wesley Woods, we have state of the art fitness equipment and various classes to take. Many campuses also have dance fit classes to keep everyone moving!

For the competitive player:

On top of all of these fun to-do’s we also have Rummikub, bridge and chair volleyball. When these events are going on, they bring out the best in us! You get a chance to see everyone’s friendly, but competitive nature. Some of the games can get intense, and they will have you on the edge of your seat!

For the contemplative spirit:

One of my personal favorites is our worship services. I’m happy to know that our residents have a place, right at home, where they can attend services. New residents love attending these services, and it is a great way to meet others in the community. On top of this, we also have prayer groups that meet regularly.

For the crafty cat:

If you are the crafty type, like me, you will enjoy our art classes and knit and crochet groups. These groups create an endless amount of beautiful crafts.   We have some very talented artists!  And, you can really see the personality of individual shine through their work.

For the busy bee:

If you are looking to get out, many times we have dinners out and other outings, with transportation provided. Even in the cold, wintery months it is nice to get a breath of fresh air.   Or, outings in the bus to look at Christmas lights, also a personal favorite!

For the homebody:

If you are looking for a more relaxed day, visit our library or our on-site salon. Our peaceful libraries provide the perfect atmosphere for an afternoon of reading. We also have book clubs, such as our brain fit book club, that our residents enjoy. And, our salons will be sure to pamper you when you need it. You leave with your hair looking great, and your spirit uplifted.

On top of all of this, we also have a choral group, educational offerings, volunteer opportunities, on-site sundry shopping and billiards that many different people enjoy.

Rarely (if ever) does a resident say “there’s nothing to do,” in fact, the more likely “tongue in cheek” complaint is, “The calendar is too full!   I have a hard time choosing!”

One of the greatest benefits of moving into a retirement community is the ability to stay socially active. As the CEO of The Wesley Communities, I am proud that we have an environment where our residents can learn, relax and thrive in community.

How to Sleep Better as We Age

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There’s no “right” amount of sleep. What you consider a good amount can be entirely different than what your neighbor needs. Still experts recommend adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.

As with other bodily functions, the efficiency of the brain in carrying out its sleep-related duties begins to decline over time, and this may lead to sleep problems. Such a decline in normal sleep probably begins in our 40s, though it may not be until years later, when we reach our 50s or 60s, that we finally become aware of a problem.

The brain produces less and less melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep at night and alertness during the day. As adults enter their senior years, sleep patterns may naturally shift to earlier in the day. If you feel rundown because of it, here are some ways to get better rest.

Tips to Sleep Tight

  • Stick to a regular bedtime. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Your body will get used to the routine.
  • Take a warm bath. When you get out of the tub, the drop in body temperature may help you feel tired. It can also help you relax and slow down, so you’re more ready to go to bed.
  • Take time to calm down before you turn out the lights. Turn off your electronic devices and TV an hour before bedtime. You can read a book, listen to music — whatever helps you unwind.
  • Make the bedroom a sleep zone. If you’re still awake 20 minutes after you hit the sack, get up. Train yourself to think of the bed as a place for sleeping only.
  • Avoid afternoon naps. If you sleep during the day, you’re more likely to stay awake at night.
  • Don’t drink alcohol close to bedtime. Even small amounts can make it harder to stay asleep. It can make you wake up in the middle of the night when the effects of alcohol have worn off.
  • Drink less fluid at night. Trips to the bathroom break up your sleep.
  • Wear yourself out. Exercise at regular times each day, but not within 3 hours of your bedtime.

If you still find you are having problems sleeping at night, schedule an appointment with your doctor. He or she may be able to help narrow down the reasons why you’re having problems getting a good night’s rest. Your doctor can check any medications you’re taking to see if they’re interfering with your zzz’s. If need be, you can get a referral to a sleep specialist.

Clean it Up and Toss It Out

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The stylish formal cocktail dress you wore in 1987. That growing stack of Christmas, birthday and thank you notes that, well, keeps growing. Those Beanie Babies, comic books and dolls your children played with twenty-five years ago. Yes, there are some things that we hate to part with, and, frankly, they really do need to go. If you are downsizing or moving out-of-state, it’s time to take stock of those things gathering dust.

Most individual’s favorite things are most often aligned with special memories and moments. I am one of those people who has been guilty of keeping holiday cards and birthday cards, year in and year out, to remember a special gift or note from someone close to me. Truth is, I put them in a container and didn’t touch them again. I moved them from one house to another. As I look ahead to my next home, somewhere in a little sleepy beach town, I have been on a mission to clean things up and toss them out, and simplify my stacks.

What are the common items people keep? One of the biggest keepsakes for women is their wedding dress. Many have them dry-cleaned and professionally stored. Question: are you going to wear it again? Probably not. Will your daughter? Highly unlikely. Some ideas to keep the memory alive: have the dress made into a christening dress for your grandchild or into a special pillow, or as a piece of something “old” that you can use to wrap a gift for your child’s wedding.

Love letters. Yes, I admit I have some of those along with cards from old boyfriends. My mother still has a stack from my father when he was traveling. If they are yours, keep them. If they belonged to your parents, think about doing something sentimental, such as burn them and distribute those ashes in their favorite place. Send that love into the atmosphere!

Photos. No, boxes of old photos. We all have them. I found a group on photos my father took of a lake. Lots of lake pictures.  They do not mean a thing to me. They found the trash can. If there are duplicates, share them with your siblings. Save the ones that are unique, memorable, and personal: your parents’ wedding picture, a group shot of a family reunion, that photo of your grandma at Ellis Island. The rest you can pick and choose and put into an online document or photo album.

Do you still have many of your kids’ toys stored in the attic? Do what my mother did: she told us to pick what we wanted or she was sending to charity. It worked. Some things were favorites. Others we decided were in bad shape and not what any of our kids wanted to play with.

Books. Okay, so I still have a library stored at my mother’s house. I collected books. First editions and a complete library of Nancy Drew Mysteries, along with classics. Plowing through those and moving them is a monumental task. Many local libraries are happy to take books off of your hands and there is always EBay and Craig’s List. Sell your heart out.

I think everyone I graduated from high school with received a full set of luggage. I did…baby blue, heavy, cumbersome and now out-of-date. I have donated mine to Goodwill and Faith Mission. Everything was in good shape, but not conducive to how I travel now. I need those rollers!

Other items, such as fine china (who uses this anymore), antiques, various appliances, and even your wardrobe, can all be taking up excess space. It’s time to clean house and live simply and efficiently. Think of it in the grand scheme of things: less is definitely more! Happy Cleaning!

How To Be A Good Grandparent

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There are as many different roles for grandparents today as there are different family configurations and needs. In no particular order, being a grandparent is an opportunity to play, to love someone new, to appreciate the magic of a developing mind, and to be needed by someone again. Usually grandparents have the benefit of interacting on a level that is once removed from the day-to-day responsibilities of parents. This can make it easier to develop a close bond with grandchildren.

Whatever your specific circumstances, by expressing love, showing concern for your grandchild’s safety and wellbeing, and being consistent in your behavior, you are already doing a good job of grandparenting. Here are things you want to avoid as a grandparent so you can continue a healthy relationship with your children while winning as a grandparent.

  1. Don’t tell your kids how to raise their children. Avoid judging their parenting style. Children don’t arrive with instruction booklets, so we do our best, and we have to let them do the same. Offering advice without being pushy is important to your relationship with your children.
  2. Don’t forget how to say no. Never commit to babysitting or ongoing childcare if you really don’t want to do it. You will end up feeling resentment. Remember, you are entitled to a life too, and you should not feel guilty if you need to say no.
  3. Don’t compete. Many grandparents fall into the deep dark “I’m the best grandma or grandpa” abyss. Competing grandparents only alienate their children and can ultimately make their grandchildren feel pressured and uncomfortable.
  4. Don’t disregard parental rules. Ideas about discipline, snack foods and TV time can be hot button issues. Be careful not to stretch the limits. Talk over non-negotiable rules that are important to your children.
  5. Don’t be too pushy. Resist the urge to see your grandchildren all the time. Instead, let your kids, and later your grandkids, come to you. Always communicate your availability, but don’t insist on unwanted or inconvenient get-togethers. Understand that you won’t always be a top priority for your grandkids. They will inevitably go through times when they are more interested in their activities and friends than in spending time with you.

All grandparents begin with the best intentions, yet no relationship is without its mistakes. Understand the arrival of a grandchild makes one a new person with a new place within the family. Identify relationships and role shifts. People sometimes fail to realize there’s a major difference between parenting and grandparenting. When this happens, family conflict is sure to follow. Failure to listen is a common grandparenting mistake. Remember on-going, open lines of communication are important for the grandchild-grandparent relationship.

A good grandparent is devoted to the family and has a vision of the family as extending from the past into the future. Share the commonality between the two worlds. Although their generation may seem vastly different from your own, you have more in common than you realize. Children of every generation want to absorb their grandparents’ essence and legacy.

Spice Up Your Taste Buds!

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Salt and pepper — the two seasoning staples at our kitchen table. I am partial to black pepper myself. Since I am not a big salt person (and I know many of you are), I decided to go on a quest to find other spices that may add a little extra zest to some of my favorite dishes. Plus, I am trying to reduce the amount of sodium that can be found in some processed foods we eat and expand my flavor palate.

One of my favorites — crushed red pepper flakes. I started adding this to my pizza, but thought about adding to my pasta sauce and even my chili. Depending on your taste, it can break you into a little sweat, but is one spice that increases your metabolism (who doesn’t like that!) and helps your immune system.

Another favorite is cinnamon. I have always loved the smell of this spice because my grandmother and mother baked with it. My mother even throws a pinch into her spaghetti sauce. Delish! Cinnamon is a spice that helps control your blood sugar as well as reduces your triglycerides. Try adding some to your morning oatmeal toast or add some to that barbeque sauce. So good on pork.

Rosemary — ahhh, yes. One of my favorite ways to use this spice is to sprinkle it with olive oil over roasted red potatoes. Or you can add to steak, fish or chicken.  It also helps with mental focus. No wonder I am thinking better!

Have muscle pain? Try a little ginger tea, add some to your stir-fry, or serve with sushi. This ancient Chinese secret needs to be shared more!

We talked about rosemary. How about thyme? Adding this spice, especially to soups, helps lower blood pressure and protects against food-borne bacteria. Always a good thing.

In addition, did you ever wonder why lemon is served with seafood? A little splash of citrus –lemon, lime or vinegar – can replace salt in many diets while providing some needed flavor and giving a boost of Vitamin C.

There are many spices and condiments infused in menus today. While you are dining out, take note of the use of sriracha (very popular now), pesto, Tabasco, etc. Let your taste buds take a journey and enjoy.

Have you uncovered a favorite use for a spice? Share it (and your recipe!) with us!

Oh, My Aching Back!

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I remember the first time it happened to me. I was on vacation and I reached down to pick up my purse off the bed and rip! OUCH! I thought I was going to pass out from the pain. What the heck just happened? I found out I pulled a muscle in my lower back. People tell me it comes with age. I never had back issues in my life. What about you? They say that four out of five people will experience lower back pain and that in most cases, like mine, they know what caused it, i.e. they lifted something improperly, slept in a weird position or, like me, was doing something considered normal and it just happened.

Lower back pain is one of the most common causes of disability and frequent doctor visits, and is often initiated by factors most people can fix. Can you guess what triggers your back pain? The answers may surprise you.

  • You carry your weight in the front/middle. Extra weight means you are carrying around extra pounds, which puts stress on the back. But it is WHERE you are carrying it that is most impactful. Those extra pounds in your belly make your pelvis tilt, which in turn, causes your spine to curve and voila! pressure on the back. The remedy? Exercise those large and small back muscles. For instance, simple lunges use both your lower back muscles and your butt muscles to build stability. Losing weight also helps take the pressure off.
  • Look down. That’s right. Your feet are a culprit. If you have bad feet or you walk with pressure on one foot versus another, it is all offsetting for your gait. And that will throw your entire body balance off, and thus put undue pressure on your back. Ouch! In fact, a podiatrist or your family doctor should check any pain that affects your gait—injured knee, a twisted ankle or arthritis in your legs. You may have more than one issue.
  • Love your phone? It doesn’t love you. Chatting on your cell phone or landline for long periods of time not only puts a crimp in your neck, but also travels long distance down your spine. Did you know that bending your neck to read or text can put an extra sixty pounds of force on your spine.

I wondered why my neck hurts at the end of a workday. And when this poor posture is combined with any arthritis issues and/or spinal disc degeneration, the impact is back pain. So what to do?

Make sure you take breaks between phone calls or phone work. Keep your head straight and eyes down. I have started to use an earpiece (headphones will also do the trick) so I do not have to bend my neck on long conference calls. Good posture also does not hurt. Shoulders back and face forward!

  • You put your right hip in…. Yes, that hip, and it’s causing issues. If you tend to sit around, whether it’s office work or at home, you can be assured that steady sitting will be a root  cause of lower back pain
  • Sitting can put an absorbent amount of pressure on your spine and, depending HOW you sit, such as slouched, leaning forward, etc., the pressure more than doubles. In this case, it is what you don’t know that is hurting you. Time to loosen those hips with this quick tip: kneeling on the floor, spread your legs apart as far as you can then roll your upper body forward so your elbows and forearms are on the floor. STRETCH! Doesn’t that feel great??!
  • Last one: you’ve got the blues. Gray, rainy weather can make us feel lethargic and down.

And that can affect other parts of your body. Researchers found those suffering from depression are least likely to exercise or move around and typically have interrupted sleep, both contributing to back issues. If needed, seek help from a professional to manage your down moods and in turn get you back on the upswing.

Hopefully, these tips will help you keep your back aligned and healthy and will increase your mobility. If you have any remedies for putting your back on track, please share them with us.

Zika Virus: Are You At Risk?

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It has been the topic of news for several months now and as of late, has turned into a bigger epidemic. The Zika virus, spread by bites of infected mosquitoes in the Aedeus genus, is in the same family as West Nile, yellow fever and tick-borne encephalitic viruses. I just returned from a cruise recently to the Caribbean, where several of the countries are affected. The entire ship’s crew was staffed with bottles of hand sanitizer, and the cruise line took direct steps to communicate with passengers as part of our embarkation process, as well as when we exited the ship for ports of call in Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico to make sure we were covered in bug repellant.

Individuals most at risk are pregnant women, as the Zika virus is linked to birth defects. Fetuses and newborns are of most concern, particularly those in the first trimester. While one in five people infected with the virus become ill, there are those who experience little to no symptoms and may be completely unaware that they are infected.

Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, headache and red eyes or conjunctivitis. Per Dr. Robert Amler, vice-president for government affairs, dean and professor of public health, and professor of environmental health science at New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York, “these symptoms are usually mild and last only a few days or up to one week.” Symptoms typically occur roughly two to seven days after the mosquito bite, according to the World Health Organization.

In recent weeks, the Zika virus has been linked to older individuals. What are YOUR risks? Researchers have been studying a link between the virus and developing Guillain-Barre syndrome. This post-infection complication causes the body’s immune system to attack part of the nervous system shortly after exposure to the virus. It causes gradual weakness in the legs, arms and upper body, and in some cases, paralysis. In some tracked cases, there was also significant hearing loss, as well as dizziness, although, again, those symptoms were temporary.

At the current moment, there is not a quick test for Zika, nor a vaccine. Thus, it is most important for those traveling to Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, South America or any third world country to be extra cautious and be sure to travel with some form of cover, including Sawyer Fisherman’s Formula Picardin or OFF! Deepwoods VIII, which contains 25 percent deet. Such products keep mosquitoes from biting for about eight hours. Repel Lemon Eucalyptus contains 30 percent lemon eucalyptus, and lasts for roughly seven hours. These particular products were recommended by Consumer Reports.

Think Spring! Starting a Walking Group

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Do you enjoy walking, but hate walking alone?  Are you looking for a new way to motivate yourself and others to get up and get moving?  Starting a walking group requires little effort and provides big rewards.  Because walking is possible for most people and doesn’t require special skills or equipment, it has become the most popular form of physical activity in the U.S. If you like to walk, why not invite others along on your walking adventures?  Getting support from others by walking together can actually help you stick with your health and fitness goals.

A daily, brisk 30-minute walk boosts brainpower, helps control weight, and improves your overall health.  And if you commit to doing it with your friends, you’re more likely to stick with it.  A sure way to get started and stay committed is to start a walking group.

Here are some suggestions for getting started.

Step 1- Partner up, start recruiting.  Ask friends and neighbors if they’d like to form a walking group, and drum up interest by posting fliers in your retirement community or your place of worship. Also be sure to check with the activities center at your senior community for help in organizing.

Step 2- Encourage members of your walking group to set individual goals, like eating a healthier diet, and/or investing in a step counter to help keep track of their progress

Step 3- Establish guidelines and decide when, where, how long, and how often you’ll walk.  Create some rules, like whether or not you’ll walk when it’s raining, and whether members need to notify the group if they can’t make it.  Exchange contact information and agree on a starting date.

Step 4- Maintain momentum.  Once your group’s walking routine is established, look for ways to maintain and boost motivation.  You might choose a name for your walking group, enter charity-walking events, and set group goals to increase walking time.

Before you start walking, it’s important to check in with your physician to make sure your heart is healthy enough for exercise.  Your doctor will also know how many minutes of exercise in optimal for your body.  When you start walking regularly, pay attention to your body to find the intensity level you are most comfortable with.  And remember, with any exercise routine, it’s important to stay hydrated.

Be sure to contact the activities director at your senior living community for assistance in organizing your group.

Get to Know your Neighbor

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On a recent trip to Tampa, I learned the importance of knowing your neighbors.  My uncle lives  in a quiet retirement community, and he shared several stories of how he and his neighbors look out for each other.   We noticed a brand new American flag flowing in the wind in his front yard as we pulled up.  We asked if he bought a new flag for us.  He said his neighbor noticed his was a bit worn and put up a new one.   We both commented on the gesture, and he continued with more stories of how knowing your neighbor matters, especially as you get older.  About a year ago, one of the neighbors noticed a large puddle of water at the end of the driveway of the couple that lives across the street during the winter months in Florida.   After a closer look, they found there was a water line break, and because they all have each other’s numbers in case of emergency, they were able to notify the couple and help them arrange repairs.

With spring in the air, it’s the perfect time to plan a get together or two so you can meet your neighbors.  If you know everyone already, use the time together to get caught up on what everyone’s been doing.  Here are some ideas to bring everyone together so you can meet your new neighbors and reminisce with the ones you already know.

  • Get on your green thumb! Community gardens are great ways to beautify a landscape and fortify new-found friendships.
  • Offer a carpool. If you go to the grocery or the pharmacy every Tuesday, offer your neighbors a ride so they can also pick up items they need.  It lends an opportunity to chat and maybe even share dinner ideas.
  • Host a game night. Dust off those board games you always loved to play and invite some folks over for a game night.  Pick a day, send invites, and provide light snacks.  The loser of the game hosts the next game night.
  • Start a birthday club. Pick a day each month to celebrate those who have birthdays that month.  Buy a cake and meet in a common area at your senior community.  You will meet more new people who will likely stop by to share in the celebration.
  • Recipe swap. Ask your neighbors to share one of their favorite recipes.  Provide them with recipe cards and plan an afternoon to meet to share the actual item, as well as pass out the recipe to each other.
  • Walk group. Plan a time and location to meet and get moving.  If It’s 30 minutes or if it’s 10 minutes, it gets the heart pumping and encourages time with friends.
  • Scrapbook Club. What a great way to preserve your memories!  Gather your pictures, scissors, fancy paper and a tape runner, along with a scrapbook. Create decorative pages to store your family photos for generations to come.

Since one of the risks of aging can be a sense of isolation, getting to know one’s neighbors goes a long way toward enriching the lives of all concerned.  There are a number of reasons and advantages for seniors to become acquainted with their neighbors.  Feeling connected with neighbors increases a sense of community not only in seniors, but also with community members of any age.  Many seniors have family members who live elsewhere.  Bonding with their neighbors gives a direct sense of family or a bit of closeness one might associate with families.

For a list of group activities happening in your retirement community, contact the Activity Director for Wesley Ridge at 614-907-4198 and for Wesley Glen at 614-987-8973.