The importance of listening to the person with dementia

We need to hear well before the voice is silenced by the disease

By Mike Good for Next Avenue


Credit: Thinkstock

(Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series examining and interpreting a commonly used “bill of rights” for dementia patients.) 

People with Alzheimer’s or other dementia are an invaluable part of our society. Millions of them are brilliant, wise and actively advocating for their rights and needs.

As my friend with Alzheimer’s, David Kramer said, “It’s not something that necessarily makes us idiots.” No it doesn’t, but unfortunately the vast majority of people don’t understand the disease, and therefore, don’t know how to listen to the person with dementia.

Just like anyone else with unique challenges and special needs, people with dementia need to be able to communicate their needs, wants and fears without being judged.

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It happens to the best of us: I’m not cool anymore

Despair turns to hope during a humdrum trip to the grocery store

By Peter Gerstenzang for Next Avenue


Credit: Thinkstock

A few mornings ago, I saw a reflection of myself and had to summon every bit of strength to keep from shrieking. What was staring back at me, from a darkened winter window, was sad, morally repugnant and just plain creepy.

As I caught a glimpse of myself on the NordicTrack, wearing a velour sweatsuit and horn-rimmed glasses so I could watch CNBC, I had the most unsettling epiphany: I’m not cool anymore.

I looked beyond the window at my snow-covered suburban lawn and wondered what had happened to my rebellious nature. Where was the guy who once wore mirror shades and motorcycle boots, whose long hair was held in place by a bandana? How did he morph into the guy who was exercising before dawn? Who chugged prune juice? And now dressed like senile mobster, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante? I did not know. And I was bummed about it.

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Art and friendship make powerful tools to fight ageism

College students and older adults become ‘pals’ in this creative arts program

By Linda Bernstein for Next Avenue


Credit: Caption: PALETTE participants bridge the generations

“Whom would I meet? What would I say? Would I seem dorky?” These were Rena Berlin’s concerns before she met her Partner in Art Learning, the new “pal” she’d been matched with through a program that pairs a college student with an older adult to create art.

“For the first time in my life I really felt like a senior,” says the 68-year-old educator from Richmond, Va., with a laugh. “They were transporting a small group of us from the Weinstein Jewish Community Center in a van to the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. A van. That mean’s you’re getting old. I was also nervous.”

It turns out she had nothing to worry about. “After my PAL and I got started, it was amazing,” she says.

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The secret to a long marriage

Our relationship is different from our parents’ but just as lasting

By Candy Schulman for Next Avenue


Credit: Getty Images

When I mention I recently celebrated my 40th wedding anniversary, friends stare incredulously as if to say, “How is that possible?” I joke that I was a child bride in an arranged marriage, sold with a dowry to the highest bidder. The truth is I did vow “I do” at 23.

My husband, Steve, and I married young and had a child late.

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4 life lessons from Tony Bennett and other 89-year-olds

Bennett and Dick Van Dyke are going strong and happy

By Liz Fedor for Next Avenue


Caption: Tony with his son Danny, 2007 Grammy Awards

Singer Tony Bennett, at 89, isn’t resting on his laurels.

He recently released a new album, The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern. In an interview with NPR, he recalled how much he loved singing for his relatives as a boy. “It created a passion in my life that exists to this moment as I speak to you, that is stronger now at 89 than in my whole life,” Bennett said. “I still feel that I can get better somehow. And I search for it all of the time.”

Bennett’s not the only 89-year-old who is defying stereotypes of older age.  Actor Dick Van Dyke  just wrote a memoir titled Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About Aging.  Queen Elizabeth continues to carry out the royal responsibilities she inherited in 1952. And Marilyn Hagerty, my friend and former colleague, continues to write regularly for the Grand Forks, N.D., Herald.

Their daily lives offer four lessons for all people of all ages:

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Fiftysomething diet: 7 trendy (and healthy?) foods

They are getting a lot of attention and may even be good for you

By Maureen Callahan for Next Avenue


Credit: Thinkstock

In the never-ending parade of new food products that make headlines every year, there are always a few that catch on and become trendy, almost fashionable. They are options that beg to be included in any healthy diet.

The question is: Are they worth bringing to the table? Put another way, will they help you age more gracefully and do they have unique nutritional benefits?

Here’s a look at seven of the trendiest edible offerings that people are talking about around the water cooler, at book clubs and in the coffee shop, along with details on what they do and don’t offer when it comes to health, nutrition and disease prevention:

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Dad’s gone but his travels to Africa still inspire me

His pictures from the other side of the world set me off on an unexpected path

By Wendy Walleigh for Next Avenue


Credit: Getty Images

Africa has had a special place in my heart ever since I was a little girl looking at my father’s World War II photos. Dad had been a 24-year-old Air Force cargo pilot in multiple countries in east, west and central Africa. And while on the continent in 1942 and ’43, he traveled to Egypt and Palestine.

He sent his photos of these locales home to my mother, who lovingly preserved them, mostly black-and-white, affixing them to the black pages of a photo album with sticky corner-frames. I liked to sit with him looking at these pictures as he told me the stories that accompanied them.

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Garden helps residents

20160725_111231 Pat Bird and Alverna Cantrell work hard to keep the flower beds and vegetable gardens healthy at Manor of the Plains. Turns out, gardening is doing the same for them.

Both women say working the soil and tending the plants is good for their own bodies, minds and souls. “It’s really good therapy,” Alverna said.

The community gardens at Manor of the Plains are thriving this season, due in large part to the work of these residents and many other volunteers. This year, residents were allowed to adopt a raised bed to grow their own produce or flowers, with help from volunteers like Alverna, Pat, and Activity Director Lisa Montoya.

“It is a community thing, really,” Alverna said. “Health care adopted a bed this year, and Lisa was taking their produce in.”

Pat, who moved here last fall, has enjoyed helping Alverna this first growing season.

“I just like to play in the dirt,” said Pat, who used to farm alongside her husband. “I like to plant a seed and see what materializes.”

Alverna also grew up on a farm and said she always found a place to plant something. Even here, she said, almost all of the apartment residents have a few pots of plants on their patios. In her six years living here, Alverna said residents have grown cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, cucumber, zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, okra, onions, potatoes, jalapeño peppers and, of course, tomatoes. And there’s always a surplus to share.

The act of watching and helping something to grow is wonderfully satisfying, Alverna said. Gardening can be great physical activity, but it’s also good for overall wellness – even if you’re just enjoying the view. “When I leave the dining room after lunch, I usually just cut through the garden and take a walk around and look at it,” she said.

Pat prefers to cultivate flowers; if you have seen the riot of zinnias, marigolds and cosmos among the beds, that’s her handiwork. She’s full of gardening tips – just ask her how banana peels can make your roses “wake up and say howdy.” She also plays bridge and makes ceramics, and her zest for living is as bold as the colors in her garden.

“I’m 88, and people say you don’t act like you’re 88,” Pat said. “You’ve got to keep stimulated, because if you don’t, you just die on the vine, really.”


Dodge City Alzheimer’s Walk coming soon

MoP_September_2016 “Celebration” is not a word used very often in connection with Alzheimer’s disease. But the atmosphere of the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s is undeniably celebratory, as people come together for the common purpose of supporting their loved ones, as well as research to find a cure.

The Dodge City Alzheimer’s walk is Sept. 17, and Manor of the Plains is a main sponsor of the local event. Each year, more than 2,500 community members gather to make a difference in the lives of those affected by Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Locally, the goal is to raise about $21,500. There’s still time to register or join a team online at

You don’t even have to walk the two-mile route to participate. You can simply attend and support the cause.

The walk begins at Western State Bank Expo, 11133 US Highway 283 in Dodge City. Registration is at 9 a.m., followed by a ceremony at 9:30 a.m. and the walk at 10 a.m.

The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.