Archive | AGING WELL

Key to aging well

Key to aging well

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Lowery and Mary Ann Smith have found that depression, stroke recovery made easier by staying active

Lowery and Mary Ann Smith on their balcony, with the river behind them. (Photo by Jan Willms)

Lowery and Mary Ann Smith seem to have found the key to aging well. Stay socially and physically active, learn new things, grow spiritually and keep strong family ties.
For Lowery, who is 90, being physically active has meant playing racquetball on a weekly basis at LA Fitness or the Midway Y. “My oldest membership card at the Y was 1962, so I’ve been a member 57 years,” Lowery said. “Our sons were on the swimming team and went to Camp St. Croix. The Midway Y has been a big part of our family.”
He also competes in discus and shotput in the Senior Games, an equivalent of the Olympics for seniors.
“The Senior Games changed my life,” Lowery said. “When I was 85, I sank into a depression and felt like I was in a dark room I could never get out of. I felt like I had accomplished nothing in my life.” But as he learned about the Senior Games, he worked his way out of that depression.
The competition with others as well as with himself was a strong factor that moved him forward. He attended the nationals in Birmingham, Ala, in 2017. In June of this year he participated in Albuquerque, N.M., where he played singles and doubles racquetball and won gold in both. He took third in shotput and fourth in discus throwing. “It’s a lot of the stuff I did in high school,” he commented.
A year ago while he was competing at the Senior Games in Mankato, a young woman approached Lowery and asked Lowery if he would agree to be interviewed and filmed for an ad for Blue Cross Blue Shield.
“Nobody had ever asked me that before, and I thought why not?” he said. They shot video for four and a half hours and created a 30-second ad that ran for three months. BCBS later videotaped Lowery following his activities on a typical day, and those 12 hours of shooting resulted in a three-minute film. In mid-December of last year BCBS ran a full-page ad on the back page of the Star Triune of Lowery holding a discus.

Make it a habit
He also does strength training and aquarobics. Mary Ann, 83, has done aquarobics three times a week but had to slow down a little after she had a stroke in May. “That crimped my style a little bit, and I have only been going once a week,” she noted. She attributes the aquarobics workout to having helped her recover from the stroke. “The exercise just has to become a habit,” she said.
Mary Ann, who has a PhD in Education, taught home economics early in her career. “I was at the University of Minnesota when I finished up my career at the college or education. I worked in staff development for the extension service and worked with educators out in the counties,” she said. “It was a fun career.” Her home economics background also led the family to eat well-balanced meals. “I don’t think we have ever done anything radical, but we are just aware of serving sizes and that when you pick up a few pounds, you have to take them off right away,” she said.
For his part, Lowery said he was raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where his parents were teachers. His family later moved to Rapid City, where he attended high school and college, getting a degree in geologic engineering.
“My first job out of college was with Exxon,” he said. “I did geology work in Casper, Wyo., then worked on a well in Montana. Then I really found my career in technical sales. I had an engineering background, and I liked people. I sold explosives to mines and quarries.”
Lowery joined the J. L. Shiely Co. He then ran a Frack sand company and eventually started his own company, Ag-Lime Sales, Inc. “Fine limestone dust was generated from crushing limestone,” he said. “We had a quarry on Grey Cloud Island. I ran that, as the sole employee, for 27 years. I shut it down when I was 87.”
However, he still maintains his office in the Griggs Building on University and goes there five to six times a week. The sign on his door reads “Lowery’s Man Cave.”
“It’s a place to go and catch up, and I can work on my website,” he said.

Get involved and keep learning
Besides going to his office, Lowery starts out each week with a group of friends that meets at a Dunn Brothers to drink coffee and discuss books. He also attends a 7:15 a.m. Toastmaster’s meeting, an organization he has belonged to for many years.

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World’s only oboe bass duo offers monthly music series at Lyngblomsten

World’s only oboe bass duo offers monthly music series at Lyngblomsten

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen


Rolf Erdahl (double bass) and Carrie Vecchione (oboe and English horn) make up the musical duo OboeBass! Erdahl said, “By returning to Lyngblomsten nearly every month, we’ve gotten to know people and hear their music stories. One woman told us, ‘I wish I’d listened to classical music before I was 80!’ We hope our programs inspire people to expand their own musical experiences, because it’s never too late to learn.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Carrie Vecchione and Rolf Erdahl just finished their first year of monthly music education programs at the Lyngblomsten Care Center, and they will be back in 2020. Performing as the duo Oboebass!, their series explored composers, ensembles, instruments, conductors, ideas, and compositions that make up the multi-faceted world of classical music.
Barbara McClelan is a Falcon Heights resident who didn’t miss a first Friday performances all year. She said, “I like how well thought out the programs are, and how much fun Carrie and Rolf have playing music together.” McClelan is a member of the Lyngblomsten Community Sage Singers: a group made up of resident and non-resident singers and directed by Macphail Center for Music faculty.
On the first Friday of November, the duo introduced Igor Stravinsky’s piece “The Rite of Spring,” which premiered in Paris in 1913. Vecchione and Erdahl called their presentation, “The Riot of Spring.” They explained that the public had reacted to the Paris debut with an actual riot. Members of the audience heard the first strange, uneven bars of music and began to fight, shout, and throw things at the conductor. Was the piece a reckless abomination, or a work of genius? It’s a matter of personal taste, but “The Rite of Spring” became the most talked about musical composition of the 20th century.
Vecchione and Erdahl approach each session this way. They offer a piece of music or a composer for consideration, tell stories, play selections, and sometimes invite audience participation. They also provide resources for further study, in the form of suggested readings and supplemental listening. OboeBass! presentations are engaging and educational, and give listeners the rare opportunity to hear classical music played just a few feet away.
Both members of OboeBass! earned doctoral degrees in music performance: Vecchione on the oboe and English horn, and Erdahl on the double bass. Former professors at Ball State University in Indiana, they moved to the Twin Cities in 2006. They have been tenure track music professors, and professional orchestra musicians. At this point in their long careers, they are focused on performing and teaching as a duo – and they keep finding new ways to make that happen.
Erdahl said, “We started as a married couple looking for repertoire written for our instruments, and quickly learned that there wasn’t much. Fortunately, we have composer friends, and continue to find new composers and performance opportunities. The wide range of styles and expression, and the high quality and appeal of the music written for us, convinced us that we could pursue a career as a duo specializing in new music for oboe and double bass.”
Since 2008, OboeBass! has received several grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. They first started doing music education programs for elementary schools, but have since developed programming appropriate for all ages and life stages. Vecchione said, “We’ve had a lot of success doing our programs inter-generationally, as well.”

“We value the bridge that OboeBass! provides
for young and old to come together
to enjoy and appreciate the power
of music in all of our lives!”
~ Andrew Lewandowski, Lyngblomsten

Listen on the first Friday
The year-long series at Lyngblomsten will be offered again in 2020. Toward the goal of building an intergenerational audience, community members are encouraged to attend. Neighbors, families, homeschool groups, and music classes are all welcome to join the residents of Lyngblomsten for these lively presentations. The recommended minimum age for participation is upper elementary school.
Vecchione explained, “Our ultimate goal is to keep live music performance alive. We’ve travelled to more than 100 senior care facilities across the state. We’ve particularly enjoyed the year-long series at Lyngblomsten, because it gives us a chance to get to know the people who attend regularly. We are not just providing entertainment here; we are providing an opportunity for active listening. Some people may not appear to be actively engaged because of mobility issues or health conditions, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t listening.”
OboeBass! is on an exciting trajectory, inspired by their love of lifelong learning. While both Vecchione and Erdahl still aspire to play with orchestras at a high level, they are involved in creating a rich repertoire of their own chamber music to perform.
Erdahl said, “We received a grant from Chamber Music America, and were able to commission a piece by Valerie Coleman. She’s a very ‘in’ composer, and we should be receiving the piece any day now. We had three amazing pieces written for us this year.”
OboeBass! performs in the Nelson Benson Chapel at the Lyngblomsten Care Center, 1415 Almond Ave. There is a small parking lot, and plenty of on-street parking. The performances are free and open to the public. Carrie Vecchione and Rolf Erdahl will present their programs at 10:30 a.m. on the first Friday of each month in 2020, except February and April.

Mary Ann also belongs to a couple of book clubs, one in their old Longfellow neighborhood that she has attended for 40 years.
“One of the things that has helped both of us,” said Mary Ann, “is that we really like to keep learning, and we are involved with things that help us keep learning new things all the time.”
Lowery also noted that their spiritual life is important to them. They belong to Bethlehem Covenant Church, and over the years have gone on six mission trips to Chile.

Lowery said he also believes strongly in family, and hosting family celebrations over the years as well as adventurous trips to the Grand Canyon, Switzerland and other destinations has been something he really enjoys.

Enjoy the view
And then there is the view. The Smiths live on the 20th floor of an apartment in St. Paul that overlooks the Mississippi, and the city. Every room of their apartment has a large window that lets the light in.
“The other morning, when I was going to Toastmaster’s, it was still dark out when I was getting ready. We could see the rowboats down on the river, from the rowing clubs. There were lights on the ends of the boats; I hadn’t noticed that before,” Lowery said.
“In the fall, the river turns crimson,” he added.
“One of our hardest years was when we decided to move out of our house, but every day we are glad we chose this place,” said Mary Ann. “It’s refreshing to wake up to these views every morning.”
“The weather is amazing up here,” she added. “You can see the storms coming in.”


In addition to the EP, KFC recently released a music video filmed and directed by Keegan Burckhard. Vagle acknowledges that being in a band (and doing the communications/marketing piece) is challenging as a fulltime student, but that it’s what she wants to pour her energy into.
Here are the links to the EP “Get Along” online:
• Bandcamp: https://keepforcheap.bandcamp.com/album/get-along-2
• Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/3QffWplEQYSkoMviShc9r7?si=sUlVzPmtR-S5t7vN3IRkkQ
• Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/album/get-along-ep/1483261945
For more information about KFC, email Autumn Vagle at info@keepforcheap@gmail.com.

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Theatre 55 21

Theatre 55 provides stage for elder actors

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Lola Watson (left) and Brent Berheim (right) anchored the cast of “Pippin,” Theatre 55’s second production which just closed at Mixed Blood Theatre on the West Bank. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Company enriches lives of people as actors, audience members, and lifelong learners
Richard Hitchler spent 20 years managing Stepping Stone Theatre for Youth in St. Paul. When he left that position in 2015, he knew he wanted to start his own theatre company, but the Twin Cities already had so many. What he saw missing, locally and beyond, was an opportunity for people 55+ to take to the stage. Hitchler is now artistic director of the company he founded last year, called Theater 55.
Hitchler said, “I know the ins and outs of running a theatre, and the creation of this one was certainly helped by an ‘aha!’ moment. I was listening to MPR in my car one day, and heard that it was the 50th anniversary of the Broadway production of ‘HAIR.’ I was aware that the History Center was also having their 1968 exhibition at that time, and that it was attracting a lot of interest.
“I knew then and there that I going to make Theatre 55 happen, and that it was apropos to launch ourselves with a revival of the musical ‘HAIR,’” he said.
Their inaugural production was proudly advertised as “HAIR, by those who lived it,” and there’s a lot to be said for artists who bring life experience to their performance. Who could interpret the turbulent 1960s better than those came of age then?
“HAIR” sold out performance after performance last winter, and its success encouraged Hitchler to mount a second show.
“Pippin: a Mid-Life Crisis” just finished a run at the Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis. Told by an ensemble of actors, “Pippin” is the story of a prince searching for his purpose in life. The protagonist dabbles in warfare, romance, and politics, only to discover that true happiness is more complicated than it appears.

All levels of experience
Theatre 55 is what Hitchler calls a semi-professional ensemble. The actors bring a mix of experience levels from first-time to seasoned. Staging, choreography, artistic direction, and instrumental musician roles are all filled by professionals.
Hitchler created Theatre 55 to enrich the lives of elders as artists, as audience members, and as lifelong learners.
He said, “There’s a natural mentorship that happens between the more experienced actors and those that are cast in their first play. Our auditions are friendly and easy to do. We publicize them through MN Play List, and also at senior centers and care facilities. Every show we do stands alone, and is cast separately. It’s important to me that our actors, no matter what their experience level, are paid a stipend made possible through ticket sales.”
There is a third production planned for 2020, with auditions scheduled for the first week of December. The name of the show will be released at that time.

Being onstage is empowering
Hitchler is frequently asked what it’s like to work with senior citizens after two decades of working with teenagers. He said, “In some ways, it’s not that different. Everyone is vulnerable and has a fear of being judged at first, but older actors bring so much life experience and wisdom with them. And every person finds a new, stronger voice when they’re on-stage.
“The process of being on-stage is very empowering. ”
There are many ways to be involved in the work of Theatre 55 in addition to acting. Hitchler said, “We welcome volunteers in every capacity from helping in the box office, ushering, managing the front of house, assisting with costuming, lighting, and set construction. Whatever your contribution to the production, it’s a community building thing.”
Learn more at www.theatre55.org.

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Natural Burials 13

‘Green’ cemetery opens in Twin Cities

Posted on 10 October 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Catholic Cemeteries begins offering natural burials in three-acre restored prairie


Executive director Joan Gizek stood on top of the plot she has already purchased in the natural burial section of Resurrection Cemetery. She said, “I love the idea of coming into the world, and leaving the world, simply. I look forward to going back to the earth, to being part of creation. More than 100,000 tons of steel and 1,600,000 tons of concrete are used in the U.S. for traditional burials each year. Natural burial is the original recycling.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

In the Catholic tradition, the body upon death is re-committed to the earth, “for we are dust, and to dust we shall return.”
Some people are taking this belief to heart again, with a desire to have a more organic, less industrial approach to death and burial.
The Catholic Cemeteries consists of five locations that have served the Twin Cities Catholic community since 1856. Their Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights has recently become what is known as a hybrid cemetery. It contains a traditional cemetery, and a newly created natural burial allotment on a nearly three-acre restored prairie.
As gravesites in the allotment become occupied, native perennial flowers and grasses will cover them. Eventually, the natural burial area will become a peaceful, uninterrupted prairie maintained in perpetuity along with rest of the grounds.

What is a natural burial?
Catholic Cemeteries Executive Director Joan Gezik said, “We’ve been studying the natural burial concept for the last eight years. Our allotment was just blessed and dedicated by St. Paul Arch Bishop Hebda on Memorial Day 2019. Our mission is to bury the dead – not just Catholics. The first of several sections that we’ve opened can hold 40 graves, and we have sold over half of them.”
A natural burial cemetery can use machinery to dig graves, but no chemicals are used to prepare the bodies of the deceased or to maintain the cemetery grounds. In the natural burial process, the bodies of the deceased, and the earth to which they return, are treated with reverence.
In a natural burial, the deceased is placed directly into the ground where it decomposes naturally — without embalming fluid, and without a burial vault. The remains of the deceased are placed directly in the earth, allowing the body to decompose naturally.
If the body is clothed, the clothing must be made of natural fibers such as cotton, linen, wool, or silk that will decompose over time. The garments must be free of all plastic and metal such as buttons, zippers, and hooks. Jewelry, belt buckles, and other materials that are not biodegradable cannot be buried along with the deceased.
The body of the deceased may be washed, wrapped in a cloth shroud made of natural fiber, and placed in a grave – which at Resurrection Cemetery is dug to four feet deep. The wrapped body can also be placed in an open or closed container made of biodegradable material like pine, wicker, or bamboo.
Rather than placing individual headstones or markers on grave sites, the names of the deceased, along with their birth and death years, are listed on a permanent community monument in the natural burial area. The cemetery office will also maintain burial records, and a grid map with the approximate location of each burial site.
Costs associated with a natural burial are less than those of a conventional burial. The purchase of a gravesite includes a contribution to the permanent burial site care fund, and the cost of memorializing a name on the common memorial. The internment (grave opening and closing) fee is paid at the time of burial; with natural burial, no outer burial container is required by law.
The natural burial area at Resurrection Cemetery is located at the southwest corner of the Chapel Mausoleum. Access it from the front of the mausoleum by following the sidewalk along the west side of the building. Resurrection Cemetery is located at 2105 Lexington Ave. S. in Mendota Heights.


From then to now
When the body of Jesus was removed from the cross, it was washed, wrapped in a cloth shroud, and placed in a tomb. For many years, most burials took place in a similar manner. These practices changed in the U.S. around the time of the Civil War, when bodies were transported long distances for burial. By treating the body with embalming fluids to prevent decomposition, the body became suitable for transportation and for viewing.

Renewed interest in natural burial is influenced, in part, by people’s desire to honor their loved ones in a manner that is sensitive to the environment. The first “green” cemetery in North America was opened in South Carolina in 1998.

Inspired by Pope Francis
Pope Francis – whose reverence for nature led him to choose his papal name inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology, is committed to the sanctity of nature and the need to protect it. The Pope asks Catholics to be mindful of the natural world, and to dedicate themselves to having a gentler impact on the planet.

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55+ help shape, define features of ThePOINTE’s active living community

Posted on 10 October 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Consider moving to an active adult community, one that nurtures the mind, body, and soul of residents.
When ThePOINTE Roseville opens in August 2020, it will be among the 55+ apartment buildings offering a new kind of senior living experience.
“Many of our signed residents are looking to simplify their lives with one-level apartment homes that offer maintenance-free living along with social events available to them when they choose to participate,” remarked ThePOINTE Roseville’s Terri Ford.
“ThePOINTE Roseville was designed for active adults in mind looking to spend more time socializing with family and friends. Many are looking to travel, make new friendships and experience new things. We take the worry out of maintaining their home; we are a phone call away.”
“We have designed a building that works for people at whatever stage of life they are in, their interests, and their desired level of activity,” observed Great Lakes Management President Mike Pagh, who works on behalf of property owner and developer United Properties.
The facility is set up with many different community spaces. Some are large while other more intimate.
“We’re creating a sense of community,” said Pagh.
Designers envision that long-time local residents can move into ThePOINTE Roseville to stay within their community. “Residents can maintain longtime friendships and relationships while meeting new people,” said Pagh.
While residents are away, a concierge will tend to their home needs. ThePOINTE will also employ an enrichment coordinator to plan social and physical activities, as well as social outings, pointed out Ford.
ThePOINTE offers:
• Beautiful outdoor landscaped plaza with outdoor kitchen, gas fire pit, bocce ball court and raised gardens
• Fitness center along with a dedicated yoga studio
• Art studio, workshop, club room, lounges, coffee/juice bar
• Community rooms for entertaining and large social events
• Business center with separate conference room
• Pet friendly with wash station and walking areas
• Golf simulator with lounge and winter leagues
ThePOINTE was designed based on comments from residents at other United Properties locations who told designers what they want to see in 55+ community, pointed out Pagh. The facility will be similar to the Applewood Pointe Communities with the main difference being that residents rent rather than own at ThePOINTE.
Each of the 95 units at ThePOINTE includes modern amenities that renters expect, according to Pagh, such as center islands, ceramic backsplashes, high-end lighting packages, and large windows that let in lots of natural light.
The spacious apartments have quartz counters and in-unit GE washer and dryers. Each home has it own individual climate control with dedicated internet, phone and satellite TV. All utilities are included in the rent with the exception of electric. The unit interior finishes were selected by a professional designer. One storage unit and garage space is included.
Units have generous decks and balconies. Studio apartments of 416-617 square feet will cost between $835-$1,390, while one bedroom apartments of 718-897 square feet will range from $1,685-$2,035. Options go up to three bedrooms with two baths, as well as an add-on den. There are seven different styles and 22 different floorplans.
ThePOINTE is a smoke-free community.
One of the main features is that it is a turn-key community, Pagh observed. “You can turn the key and walk away for a day, a month or the whole winter, and it’s maintenance-free,” said Pagh.
One of the most common questions Pagh hears is what happens if a resident gets ill and is no longer able to live as independently.
He pointed out that those with health concerns have a 60-day clause they can activate to move out and into a space with more higher-level care options, such as Cherrywood Pointe next door.
Leases for ThePOINTE are already being signed, and the facility is about 50% full.
“The market has been highly receptive to this offering, and we’re thrilled with the response to what we’ve designed,” said Pagh.
United Properties intends to use the Roseville location as a model for future developments.
Pagh said, “We look forward to developing at other great locations within the Twin Cities.”

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