Fitness for Safety and Strength, Nutrition for Weight Management
An Hour with Fitness Doctors and Snap Kitchen
by Tom Knutsen
“Never reach around to the back seat of your car to grab something,” said Sarah Scott of Fitness Doctors. That was one of a number of simple instructions for safety and strength management she shared with a group of Capital City Villagers on Tuesday, March 17. Why? When you reach around, you’re risking the rotator cuff that holds your arm to your shoulder.
In one brief, fast-paced hour, Ms. Scott demonstrated simple but effective means for improving and maintaining balance and strength. In addition to exercise instruction, we had a lesson on nutrition from Laura Berson of Snap Kitchen, a retailer of prepared meals she identified as “fresh, healthy, and take-away.”
Why is strength important? Ms. Scott cited several studies on aging that show “…the more muscle you have, the longer you’ll live.”
She began by explaining that the nerves connecting our brains to our feet run down the back and across a potential roadblock, the part I’m sitting on now as I write. Call it by its formal name, the group of “gluteal” muscles, or the butt. Keeping those muscles strong helps stabilize our bodies, she said, and keeps the nerve path open.
So, she put the group through easy exercises you can do at home that target our keisters. First, she handed out throw pillows and small balls, instructing us to put them between our knees. Press knees together, slowly count to ten, relax, repeat two more times. Same with leg extensions — holding the ball or pillow out front.
To demonstrate how easy it is to find resistance weights in a house, she put out soup cans and detergent bottles with hand grips, substitutes for dumbbells for arm curls. “Focus on your form,” she said, “keep your arms against your body, turn them slightly out, and raise the weight slowly.” Again, 10 repetitions, rest, two more times.
Perhaps the most important demonstration was how to get up — using legs and arm momentum to stand from a seated position. “Sit on the front edge of the chair,” she instructed, “lean forward, push up with your legs while swinging your arms back.” A few practice moves, and everyone got the hang of the fluid motion from relaxed sitting to an upright stance.
Next, she emphasized the importance of being able to get up from the floor with only two “points,” body part such as foot, leg, arm, or hand, on the floor. Sitting on the floor of her gym, Ms. Scott rolled to a kneeling posture, raised one leg so the lower part was vertical and the thigh horizontal, and, pushing on the thigh, stood up. The movement does not require great power, but uses the body as a sequence of levers.
Oh, she also advised, “Use night lights to avoid stumbling and falling in the dark.”
Having worked up appetites, we next heard about Snap Kitchen. Its preparation center is in its shop at the Triangle on Guadalupe and North Lamar where a chef and registered dietitian supervise the cooking. The meals, Ms. Berson, said are made of local, fresh ingredients, and are sized for a daily caloric intake. The daily nutrition plan comprises 30 percent protein, 30 percent healthy fat, and 40 percent carbohydrates from vegetables, with the intent of keeping sodium content low, she explained.
Snap Kitchen coordinates a 21-day weight loss and nutrition plan, Ms. Berson said. She brought along some food samples, including an especially tasty smoked salmon salad.
A highlight of the session occurred just at the end, when CCV Volunteer Betty Dickson demonstrated the strength and balance she’s acquired over eight years as a Fitness Doctor client. Amazingly, she did a safe version of “Marine push-ups,” leaning against a wall, shoving off, clapping hands, and catching herself as she fell back to the wall. She also did horizontal push-ups on the floor, even holding her back straight in the “plank” position.
To learn more, best to call Sarah Scott. Fitness Doctors offer CCV members a discount and could arrange a special class for us.
Spring Lawn Care: Or When His (Or Her) Jobs Become Your Jobs
From AGE of Central Texas Blog
Lawn care. Hmmm, not my expertise. I do enjoy the sight of a well tended lawn, though. Thick green grass, nicely edged, pretty stones in a ring around each tree, neatly trimmed trees, front flower Green Lawnbed blooming. All very nice, but I am clueless as to how to create that, and probably not much better on knowing how to maintain it. You see, I’ve been married close to 45 years and we’ve had a system called ‘his work’ and ‘her work’. I took care of the inside of the house and he took care of the outside. The work inside of the house and all my other responsibilities took up all of my time and then some, so I paid little attention to the work in our yard. Seven years ago when we moved into our current house, I was eager to learn how to do yard work and hoped to work together with my spouse to plan the landscaping and share in the labor. My dear husband was insulted by those plans—refer back to ‘his work’ and ‘her work’ above. The yard was definitely his domain and I’d best remember that. In the name of peace and harmony, I took my rightful place, and simply enjoyed the loveliness.
I enjoyed it until now. Now my spouse is not so capable of planning and organizing the yard work. He sometimes forgets how to start the lawn mower and claims it doesn’t work. Our good neighbor comes over to get it going, and tells him the mower just needed an adjustment. Helpful friends give him bedding plants for the flower beds, thinking he would enjoy digging in the dirt again. He enjoys the digging and puttering, but then becomes very anxious because the plants aren’t thriving. That’s when he asks me what to do, and, I’m –clueless. He worries about the bald spots in the front lawn and then I worry. Surely bald spots are not a good thing, but what does one do?
The solution would probably be to hire a lawn service. Wouldn’t it be divine to turn the issue over to a professional? To do that, though, I’d need to work an extra job to pay for it, and then I’d need to pay for a caregiver to be with my dear spouse while I’m working that extra job, which would require more money. I don’t think that’s a good solution.
When I talk with other caregivers I realize that this spring yard work problem is only one of many problems faced by my caregiver sisters that all fit under the general theme titled, ‘When His Work Becomes your Work’. For some it’s paying the bills, for others it’s technology, and for still others it’s the cooking. There always seems to be at least one area where caregivers are clueless. I would imagine it’s very similar to the situation faced when a person dies, leaving behind a spouse to cope alone. The only difference seems to be that in the case of death, the issue is more evident and support may be more forthcoming. While the spouse is alive, it often is assumed that the job is getting done—until the bald spot in the front yard reveals otherwise.
In the Matter of Balance and Powerful tools for Caregivers classes that I teach through CaregiverU, the curriculum tells us to be assertive, communicating the need for help with good ‘I’ messages. That would mean I should say, “I have some yard issues that I do not know how to tackle. Could you please teach me what to do?” Perfect verbage, but to whom do I say it? The ‘to whom’ seems to be at the crux of my conundrum, but it may also be that asking for help from anyone is an unlearned skill.
I’ve never been good at asking for help. It just seems to go against my independent grain. Many participants in my classes seem to also have difficulty asking for help, and recently I visited with a friend struggling with that same issue.
This particular friend is currently experiencing some rather serious health challenges which make it difficult for her to do everything that she is accustomed to doing. She expressed frustration with her eldest son, who seemingly doesn’t get the ‘Help Needed’ message. As we talked, I realized that her son is probably living under a concept learned early in life and perpetuated to the present. The concept he’s operating under seems to be that his mother is a strong woman who always handles difficulties with grace, multi-tasking with amazing capability, never needing assistance. Perhaps it’s time for a very direct and honest communication session between the two. My friend seems to have now granted herself permission to ask for help, but since it’s such a new concept, others around her may need a little help realizing this.
When I, too, finally granted myself permission to communicate that ‘Help Needed’ message, the ‘to whom’ became crystal clear. I have a very good friend who delights in sharing her plant knowledge! Teaching me about plants may become a very enjoyable way for us to spend time together. Perhaps in the asking for help and then receiving it, I will be able to give more to others, enriching my life by the receiving and giving. Wow–I just may have stumbled onto a large life lesson!
CCV Visit to Ransom Center World at War Exhibit (3/4/14)
By Mavis Waggoner
On Tuesday, March 4th, CCV members visited Harry Ransom Center to explore the World At War 1914-1918 exhibit. We were led by an enthusiastic and engaging docent, the Center was extremely gracious, and our good turnout did us proud. We revisited the political reasons why Europe was such a powder keg and what set off the fuse. The artifacts displayed gave us the flavor of the time and the challenges people faced, both at home and on the front. We recommend the exhibit for one and all. The Center has easy physical access, has stable camp stools available for a break from standing, and there is no entrance fee.
Thanks to member Sara Moore who arranged for the tour. She is also spearheading the creation of a CCV interest group focused on “the perpetually fascinating subject of war.” For more information, contact her via email.
How ‘Golden Girls’ Models the Future Of Senior Housing in Central Texas
By Veronica Zaragovia
From Miami to Austin: As the number of seniors living in Central Texas rises along with the cost of living, “The Golden Girls” is becoming a template for senior housing.
The number of seniors living in Central Texas is soaring – and so is the cost of living.
That’s making “The Golden Girls” far more than a funny ’80s TV show. The show’s shared-living arrangement could become a template for senior housing in cities like Austin.
Helene Frager says she dreamt she would live like Blanche, Sophia, Dorothy and Rose by now. “I always had this fear of growing old and alone. When I used to watch the program, ‘The Golden Girls,’ I said, ‘Hey, they’re not too bad! They have companionship, they have each other, they can talk about things,” she says.
The TV show from the 1980s and early ’90s made the shared setup look so easy.
“I was never able to find that,” Frager says with a laugh. “It was just a television program.”
Frager laughs it off, but the 77 year old lives about 20 miles outside of Austin’s center. She worries about housing a lot.
Considering the numbers, finding a roommate close to her age shouldn’t be so tough. Census data shows the population of people 55 to 64 in all of metropolitan Austin more than doubled between 2000 and 2010. But Frager’s ads on Craigslist haven’t been successful.
Dr. Amy Moss, a geriatrician at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, commends her for being creative.
“It’s fantastic that she’s tech savvy and is actually looking for roommates,” Moss says. “One thing I encourage seniors to remember is that this is a trial and error [situation]. And that you really have to do your homework about whom you’re going to bring into your home as a roommate, or that you’re going to move in with as a roommate. Think of it as a marriage – and when it goes bad, divorce is usually not fun.”
The National Shared Housing Resource Center has a list of organizations that match seniors up for what’s called “co-housing.” There are no such agencies in Austin right now. But people who do co-housing in other cities say nonprofits that work with seniors already are well-positioned to take up the challenge.
One such organization in Central Texas is Family Eldercare. Joyce Hefner, the group’s director of housing and community services, says rent in Austin is driving seniors far outside the city.
“Unfortunately, support services such as transportation and easier access to health care, etcetera, are not out there,” Hefner says. “So they’re having to choose … between giving up services and support in order to find affordable housing.”
Hefner calls senior co-housing “one option that will allow them to find affordable ways to live.”
That’s despite a preliminary vote by the Austin City Council that recently lowered the number of unrelated adults that can live in one house. (It was six, but the council voted to reduce that to four. The item returns to council for final passage this spring.)
Still – that’s enough for that “Golden Girls” scenario Helen Frager dreams about. And for her part, she wants any potential future roommates to know this about her:
“[I] love to talk with my grandchildren, I’m fairly intelligent, so you can mention the subject and I can talk on the subject,” Frager says. “I like challenging things, like I like to play Scrabble and bridge.”
The demand for co-housing is only likely to grow. The city demographer expects the share of the Austin area’s population of people 65 and older to grow from eight percent now to about 20 percent by 2040.
A city Commission on Seniors tasked with advising the Austin City Council on issues related to this population – including housing – will begin meeting this month.
This story is part of the MetLife Foundation’s “Journalists in Aging Fellows Program” – organized by The Gerontological Society of America and New America Media.
As a Caregiver: Preparing for Major Family Events
From AGE of Central Texas Blog
May seems to be the month of graduations and June is the traditional wedding month. There is great joy and excitement as friends and family celebrate with the graduate or witness the wedding vows of the bride and groom. The excitement breeds noise and a delightful chaos upon which wonderful memories are built. All this is absolutely fantastic, but if someone in the group has a cognitive disability that individual will have difficulty adapting to the spontaneity and lack of structure.
I have three adult children with spouses, for a grand total of six adult children in our family. Over the last three years we’ve had two weddings, a birth and a baptism which have been great family events to celebrate. My husband, who has a cognitive disability, has needed a bit of help to ensure that the focus could be on the people for whom the event was created. In the process I’ve gained some insights to share.
My only daughter was married in 2010 in a small church wedding here in Austin. It was very personal, with many friends and family helping to host the event. Lots of worker bees tying ribbons and inserting candles into floral arrangements! My son was married the following year in a much larger wedding in another city. The next year my first grandson was born. Through it all we managed to celebrate well, build special family memories, and learn many lessons in the process. Hope these ‘Lessons Learned’ will help others!
• Support the person(s) being honored. The celebration is about them and for them.
• However, also plan something special during the event for the person with the disability. This is the ‘carrot’ that will ease the discomfort of saying ‘no’ to something else.
At the time of the first wedding, my husband was usually fairly able to cope. The sudden inability to solve a problem, though, would cause great anxiety and frustration. Realizing all this, my daughter was concerned about him walking her down the aisle. She was certain she wanted to do the father/daughter dance at the reception, and they enjoyed working together on that. It was not until shortly before leaving the house for the rehearsal, that she told her father that she had decided to have her brothers walk her down the aisle. Her father had a meltdown. Big brother handled Dad, and I consoled a tearful daughter. Eventually we arrived at the church for rehearsal, and the walk down the aisle was beautiful! Her two brothers escorted her, and when the pastor asked the usual, ’Who gives this woman to be married?’, we as a family said, “Her family.”
• Plan ahead to meet the needs of the person with a disability.
Chaotic family events are stressful, so work to lower the stress before the start of the event. On the day of the wedding, one of the boys took Dad to the gym for a good morning work out to get rid of some of the anxiety. A kind friend entertained him before the wedding, while I helped the bride (my daughter).
• Designate a quiet place for the person with a disability and designate a person who can be with the individual there.
That person should know a signal that will indicate it’s time for the quiet space. Melt downs are awful and can ruin a perfectly lovely time, so plan ahead and don’t allow it to happen in the midst of all the people.
• Ask people to help, and organize that help.
At my daughter’s wedding, the cry room to the side of the sanctuary was the designated quiet space. At the reception, various people had 15 minute slots assigned to be with my husband. He loved that attention.
• Some people are not comfortable working with someone with a cognitive disability and they feel uneasy doing it. Accept that and utilize their help with other tasks.
I learned this the hard way, by asking someone to step out of their comfort zone to help. That person has never forgotten the discomfort and it has tainted our relationship ever since then. Don’t let that happen to you.
• Try to keep things as close to the normal as possible.
Meals are very important to my husband, and he did not view a buffet as a meal. His perspective was that he missed a meal!
• Be a creative solution finder!
At the second wedding, we were to light the groom’s candle on the altar. It was adjacent to the unity candle, and my hubby desperately wanted to light that candle, too. I placed my hand over the unity candle to prevent that!
• Plan for good care and special moments for the caregiver.
At the second wedding, I did not plan well for good self care, and I regretfully did not savor the event as much as I had hoped to do. I stayed in one place to watch over my husband, rather than circulating around the large room, greeting people. One very sweet moment though was the mother and groom dance to the song ‘Rainbow Connection’ from an old Muppet movie– I will treasure that forever.
• Family relationships are golden; value and honor.
This year, my daughter and son-in-law became first time parents to a baby boy. What a joy to share in this young man’s life from his very first breath! I’ve juggled the responsibilities of job and family caregiver to lend my support to the young family, and other family members have lent their support to me. It has strengthened all our family bonds. In all these events, my husband has been fully included, and he is in many of the event pictures. These images stir up special memories put smiles on the faces of those who fondly remember.
This was a long list, but there are many things that can help on the day of major events. Do you have any suggestions for making major events easier on the person you care for?
BettySoo House Concert
by Tom Knutsen
What makes a Capital City Village house concert so much fun is the way you make the party. It’s almost as if Sara Moore made a few phone calls and said, “My house is ready, the singer’s lined up, let’s party!” And then you show up. Some help make space in her house. Tom and Kay McHorse volunteer their stable of folding chairs, and other members set them up. Volunteers — this time Barbara Gamble and Pat McCarty, take over the kitchen, setting out the food and wine you bring.
It’s a sure bet that when CCV members are asked to bring “pot luck” finger snacks, the luck will turn out good. You snack, you chat, you settle in to listen to the music.
So it was on Saturday, February 8 when a good crowd of 34 nearly filled up Sara’s house to hear local folk artist Betty Soo perform her songs. What an entertaining and fun end to the week of the ice storm that never was. BettySoo’s sweet, clear voice matched the intimate setting in Sara’s living room.
Unfortunately our photographer didn’t succeed in getting good photos other than one of our youngest, adjunct member, Lily. She dances to the music and entertains herself until she’s ready for bed.
When the music ended, the cleaning crew took over. You folded up chairs and moved them out to waiting vehicles to go back their stable. You put Sara’s furniture back in its places, after cleaning the room. By 10 p.m. all was back in order.
Keep an eye out for our next house concert. They’re too good to miss.