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home : health : health May 26, 2016

3/1/2011 1:43:00 PM
Sisters is a great place for seniors to age well
By Jeff Spry

Staying mentally and physically fit is of vital importance to aging well, and Sisters offers a multitude of options, outlets and resources to achieve that goal, regardless of your number of "years young." From senior luncheons, special-interest clubs and organizations, to engaging in social events, Sisters respects its silver citizens.

Marlene Dumas with GreenRidge Physical Therapy emphasizes a whole-body lifestyle approach in her practice.

"One of the things I see a lot is how much strength, flexibility and balance seniors lose as they age. The aging process is an inevitable cause of this, but its effects can be slowed and delayed," she explained. "Fitness for seniors needs a focus on gentle but progressive toning and strengthening, emphasizing core conditioning and flexibility. Working on flexibility will decrease the loss of balance we experience as we age, but I try to focus on core conditioning, allowing much less risk for injury."

The old adage "use it or lose it" is most appropriate when it comes to aging, and consistent exercise is key. Everyday walking, light weights, easy regular stretching, even lifting soup cans. Group athletics like aquarobics, pilates, yoga and Tai Chi classes can all address different parts of fitness for a more interesting diversity and are offered at many local health clubs and yoga studios.

Absolute Serenity in Sisters is an adult foster care home catering to seniors and Alzheimer's/dementia care, the only one of its kind in the city limits. Owners David and Leah Tolle can provide care for up to five people at a time, each resident with their own room and half bath.

"The rest of the home we all engage together at mealtimes and family-type activities," said David. "Our motto is: 'Enriching the lives of those we serve... one day at a time.' We try to stress the home atmosphere at our place so that it's not such a drastic transition for them. The other part is to promote independence but being there to assist as needed, to support what they can do and not rush in to do everything for them, allowing seniors to do what they're still capable of."

Tolle believes Sisters as a community offers a tremendous array of senior involvement.

"We have our residents engaged in a lot of public events and celebrations through the calendar year: car shows, rodeo, the quilt show and all the holiday parades. The community as a whole here is very supportive of the senior population and allows them to feel very comfortable and welcome in any environment, and that is so important for a basis for optimal health."

Lance Trowbridge was born in Bend and has been a lifetime resident of Sisters. He's now the primary caretaker for his elderly father, Howard (Shorty) Trowbridge, who is 93.

"I talk to a lot of people taking care of their parents in different stages of deterioration, and it's never easy," he said. "It's really good to get support with your home doctor with the little physical ailments that come up and have all their Medicare paperwork in order. Nutrition is so helpful, finding things he likes to eat like hot bread, things that are familiar and comforting, add to the fullness of their day."

Many seniors are not quite ready to move into an assisted-living facility, yet they need help with the day-to-day work of living at home. Services like Home Instead Senior Care offer companionship and personal services that can help seniors maintain a high degree of independence for a longer period of time.

Social interaction is very important to seniors' health. COCOA (Central Oregon Council on Aging) sponsors a weekly lunch for the elderly at Sisters Community Church, every Tuesday at noon.

"We have about 60 people who come and eat every week, and the cost is $3.50 per person," said Alwyn Stockley. "They get together beforehand and provide free blood pressure screenings and foot clinics for a small fee. They try to have variety of different meals. It's nice if you're alone and have a chance to socialize with friends for an hour or two, and lots of people look forward to it. Afterwards, there's the opportunity to play Bingo, as well as a committee present that assists with assorted senior issues ranging from information on AARP benefits and Medicare inquiries."

Seniors with physical limitations or severe disabilities may require additional help with routine chores and errands. Fortunately, many have extended networks of friends and families to ease the burden, especially during the harsh months of a Central Oregon winter, with its hazardous snow and ice.

Tom Salgado works with many Sisters-area seniors and veterans whose personal limitations require assistance.

"Sometimes it's just a ride to get to the grocery store, the post office or an eye appointment," he said. "Little things that may seem simple to most people but to them it means a lot.

"We all help out, not just me. We snowblow driveways and help shovel and stack wood and clear away ice. Whatever we can do to make things easier."

Proper eating habits and portion control can make a profound difference in mental attitude and wellbeing. Malnutrition is a dangerous issue resulting from eating too little food with too few nutrients or ignoring digestive tract disorders. Nutritionists stress a focus on low-sodium foods and whole grains and fruits, rather than simply juices, to enable the absorption of more fiber.

Seniors need 6-7 ounces of whole grains per day for balance and regularity. With fruit, aim for two servings a day with a banana, apple or be bold and choose color-rich foods like melons or berries.

Dark, leafy green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli are a welcome friend on any plate, as well as vitamin-packed carrots, squash and yams. Calcium for aging bones is vital, with a recommended intake requirement of 1,200 mg a day through servings of milk, cheese and low-fat yogurt. Protein figures are easy to calculate: simply divide your weight in half to determine the number of grams per day needed. One serving of tuna or lean chicken packs about 30-40 grams of protein.

Seniors are especially prone to dehydration because their bodies partially lose the ability to properly regulate fluid levels. Post a note in your kitchen reminding yourself to sip water every hour, and with meals.

Benefits of healthy eating include increased mental acuity, resistance to disease, faster recovery times, and better management of chronic health problems. Eating well can be the key to a positive outlook and staying emotionally balanced.

Home Instead Senior Care has put together a public education campaign to help families evaluate seniors' nutritional needs called "Cooking Under Pressure." An overview of the program is available by visiting

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