Living Well As We Age

As we age I often hear talk about our aches and pains, how much medication we are taking and how tired we feel.  We all understand the need for exercise and eating well to maintain a healthy life style.  But are there things we should be considering to help us live our senior years as well as we can?

Medications and treatment have come a long way in your life time. It is easy to get into the mentality of “I don’t feel well so I will go to the doctor and hopefully he/she will have a pill for what is wrong.”  Life styles have become more sedentary. Modern conveniences have made it easy to do less physical exertion. Technology has given us entertainment that we can do from our easy or computer chair. In order to age in a healthy way it is important we look at different dimensions in our lives to see how we can take charge of our health and well-being.

First look at the emotional stress in your life. Managing stress can be a difficult thing. All our lives we have dealt with stress or our emotions in certain ways. Some people see “the glass as half empty and others see it as half full.” Stress can break down our immune system, causing weight gain and giving you an overall ill feeling. When you retire your routine changes and how you deal with the change can have long-term effects. If there is a particular issue causing stress you might try journaling. Writing down ideas, possible solutions to try, or pros and cons of a decision can help bring the problem into perspective. Stress reduction is important in healthy aging.

Staying physically active is a large component of aging in a healthy way.  Exercising regularly helps keep blood pressure down, helps with weight management, helps to keep your bones strong by warding off osteoporosis and gives you a sense of well-being.  Exercising provides release for stress by increasing endorphins which increase your feelings of overall wellbeing.  Walking is a good form of exercise. There are a number of places in Reedley to walk or ride your bike. Joining one of the various gyms or participate in water aerobics at the Wellness Center at Sierra View Homes gives you a place to exercise.

Sleep is important for health and wellbeing?  Sleeping well at night gives us the ability to deal with the issues of the day. If you find you are not sleeping well at night look at your bedtime routine. Do things right before bed that relax you like take a warm bath, read, and listen to relaxing music.

What we eat also makes a difference in how we age. The food that gives the body the fuel to deal with the day is important. Unfortunately most processed easy to fix food is loaded with calories and salt. Food rich in nutrients often take a while to prepare. Thought and preparation are a must in eating a nutricous diet.

Staying alert by keeping your mind sharp is important. Seek out ways to be involved. Being connected to people and tasks you enjoy helps to keep a positive trend of thought. Keep learning and trying new things. It is exciting to be able to accomplish something new.  You might find a talent that has been hidden all these years. Read for knowledge or just for fun. It is important to challenge your mind. Some people enjoy jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles or other types of puzzles. Maybe there is a class at the college that intrigues you. There are many options of things to keep intellectual stimulation going. The challenge in needing to think and to figure things out helps the brain to stay focused and sharp.

Just because you are retired does not mean you don’t have a lot to offer in society. Some retired people look for jobs that will give them a sense of purpose.  Becoming a volunteer with various organizations gives you an opportunity to be productive and make a difference. Volunteer jobs can be found in helping organizations, schools, retirement communities and churches to name a few. Look for jobs doing things you are interested in. Part-time jobs give a sense of structure and yet some flexibility of time you may have been looking for as you retired.  When you feel like you can contribute and make a difference you feel able to deal with the stresses of the day.

Maintaining friendships gives a sense of belonging.  Getting out of the house, being socially connected with others keeps us feeling part of the greater community. Staying home and watching television can cause feelings of isolation. There are a number of different groups throughout Reedley who get together for coffee at various places.  Some friends go for walks together, or just get together to sit and visit. Maintaining friendships helps when life gets tough. Giving and receiving friendship helps give quality in our lives.

Believing in something greater than ourselves gives you another avenue for learning and being involved.  Meditation and worship help to bring peace and purpose in a time of many distractions.   Allowing time to enjoy nature, to take the time to watch the changing seasons and to be aware of the birds or animals around us gives a sense there is something greater than we are.

Working at these dimensions gives all of us ways to enjoy the “golden years.”  When you retire and move into a new schedule of life. Being involved with social groups, be a part of a spiritual group, participate in something you are interested in, keep learning, take care of yourself, and most importantly keep moving. Follow these simple directions and you will lead a healthier life.



11 Benefits of Living in a Retirement Community

Wondering if retirement community living is really better than living in a house? It is!

Below is a list of reasons that retirement community living beats living alone in a home every time.

Benefits of Living in a Retirement Community:

  • FriendshipsFriends

    As we age, we often lose roles, spouses, and friends. As a result, living at home can become lonely. Living with peers offers friendship, companionship and a sense of community. Neighbors become traveling companions, friends who share a cup of coffee, and often a fellowship and support group in times of need.

    On the day I arrived and moved into my apartment, I was welcomed by many of my neighbors,” said Mary Lou Martens. “One of my neighbors even brought over some cupcakes to enjoy with my coffee! My doorbell rang quite often during that first week. Though I didn’t know them at the time, they’ve since become good friends. It’s so nice to know that I’ll always have someone to talk to, someone who notices when I’m away, and always someone who will help when it is needed. We look out for each other! One of the best decisions in my life was coming to live at Sierra View Homes Retirement Community.”

  • Safety and Peace of Mind.

    Living in a retirement community can combine the best of both worlds, offering both freedom and safety. Sierra View’s gated community, security cameras, key-card locked building, indoor mail slots, and vigilant neighbors mean that you have more security than you would in a house. Friends check in on each other, noticing when someone is missing from the dinner table. Additionally, in case of some sort of medical event, nursing staff are right across the parking lot. All of this combines to increase the feeling of safety and provide peace of mind.

  • Less Home Maintenance.

    As we age, home maintenance becomes increasingly difficult. Gutters, lawns, and leaky hot water heaters are no respecters of age! This is one of the biggest benefits to life in a retirement coCCRC_Buffetmmunity – the chores of keeping up a house are gone. You do not have to worry about who will water the lawn while you travel, or deal with the financial burdens of home ownership. 

  • Less Cooking.

    Many retirement communities (like Sierra View Homes Retirement Community in Reedley, CA) offer meal plans, where a certain number of meals are provided each day. These meals are tasty, and provide the opportunity to socialize with neighbors.

    We never miss the evening meal,” said one resident. “Not only is it nice not to worry about cooking, it’s also an important time for us to connect with our friends. My husband and I are always busy and out and about, but we plan around meal time with our neighbors and try to make it a priority.”

  • Interesting Activities.

    Retirement communities make social activity a priority, making it easier to keep active as you age. There’s something for everyone! Bingo, movies, exercise classes, swimming, cooking, musical events, shuffle board, pool-playing competitions, bus trips and featured programs  – the busy activities calendar increases the level of social activity and provides entertaining ways to socialize. Living in a retirement community makes it easier to find peers who have similar interests and enjoy similar activities.
    Sierra View Guitar

  • Transportation.

    Most retirement communities offer transportation to surrounding shops and resources, which can be a vital service once driving is no longer an option. Sierra View’s shuttle goes to supermarkets every week, and other locations in the nearby city for special events. Even those who can drive often choose to tag along with their friends on the facility shuttle – why not turn the weekly shopping trip into a chance to chat?

  • Freedom.

    After devoting years to work and family, many seniors have a desire to experience traveling, deepening relationships or simply enjoy doing the things that interest them. There is a sense of freedom when you leave on a trip and know the staff and friends of the retirement community are watching your place. For many people, becoming a resident of a retirement community is a wonderful thing because many of the worries and burdens of life are gone, and in their place come new friendships, traveling companions, and rich experiences.

  • Access to Additional Services/Care Without Relocating.

    Recovering from a fall and need rehabilitation? Need some extra in-home services? Recovering from an illness that needs temporary skilled nursing care? These are situations that would require a complete relocation while still living in a house alone. In a retirement community, stepping up to a higher level of care does not necessitate losing your home, or even leaving it. Retirement communities offer the ability to smoothly move from one level of service to another, and back again, and typically preferred access to higher levels of care is given to those already living in the community.

  • Lower Financial Burden.

    There are often choices for housing in retirement communities, meaning that residents can choose their housing based on their budget. Knowing what your rent will be, and what your extra payments are, can help with budgeting for the future. A move to a retirement community can often lock in rates, or lock them to planned-for increases, which works better for a senior’s fixed income.

  • Respectful Neighbors.

    Retirement communities have an age requirement of 55 and older, and as a result they enjoy a level of peace and quiet that cannot be found out in the general community. No loud rap music and frat parties here! 

  • Volunteer Opportunities.

    Retirement communities offer a wealth of opportunities for residents to make a difference, through service projects like gardening to make the community more beautiful, reading to those whose eyesight no longer allows them to, leading support groups, and going out together to make a difference in the Reedley community.

    I thought, what do I have to give? I realized that I can share my music. I have been playing the piano in the lobby for awhile now and I can’t begin to tell you how blessed I feel. There are so many opportunities here for those of us who enjoy volunteering. Sierra View Homes Retirement Community in Reedley, CA is the best place to live as a retiree.”

Make the transition to a retirement community today! The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll be enjoying the benefits that only retirement community living can provide.


     What happens when the kids are grown, you have reached the age of retirement and the house becomes too big? Through the years you have accumulated lots of “stuff” thinking someday your kids or grandkids will need it. Maybe it is time to downsize and possibly move to a smaller place. The thought of no yard work, no upkeep on the house, and being able to travel and not worry about what is happening at home are all factors in the decision to downsize.  

        The hard part of downsizing is where to begin.  So many of our belongings have not only monetary value but more likely have sentimental value. The reality of throwing something away that has sentimental value can be extremely stressful. But hanging onto a place that is too big to care for or items that no longer are useful can be harmful too. During my years doing admissions at Sierra View Homes Retirement Community I have visited people at their home where more than 50% of their stuff was being held for others. It can become a health hazard when too much “stuff” is kept. Downsizing although difficult can be a healthy way to deal with the retirement years.

      If you have decided the time has come to downsize it is important to look at your options. Whether you are looking to move or stay where you are, ridding yourself of unneeded or unnecessary things can be a healthy and a way to simplify your life. If you plan to move to a smaller place you need to ask some important questions.  Do you want to rent or own the next place you live in? Do you want a house or an apartment?  Looking at the retirement communities is a good place to start planning to downsize. Retirement communities offer apartments or houses with many opportunities for entertainment, food, friendship and security.

      I asked a few residents of Sierra View Homes Retirement Community how difficult it was for them to downsize and how did they do it? Caroll and Jerry Strader said they downsized several times before they came to Sierra View. They had a few things they decided they must keep and then they called their children and grandchildren to come and take what they wanted. They had a yard sale and the rest they gave to the Salavation Army. Their hope was to help someone else with their donation. Caroll and Jerry moved and downsized three times before they came to Sierra View.

      Agnes Jantz arrived at Sierra View with many of her house hold belongings. She worked with her family to see what pieces worked in her apartment and what did not. She suggests making a list of what you want to accomplish and check off as you accomplish the items on the list. Agnes decided to rent a storage space and has decided to slowly let go of items that she does not need or do not fit.  “Giving items away can be a very freeing experience when you let go of the attachment you have to it” she states.

     The experts suggest you assess your actual needs as you plan to downsize. What furniture do you actually use all the time? Look at your daily life and prioritize the activities and items that are part of your lifestyle. Walk through your house and evaluate everything you see. Go through each room and identify the things you must take with you. Ask the question about each item on your list “have I used the item in the past year or how important is this item to me?” Think about, where your items came from and who gave you that something special? Consider all the things you have hung on to for reading or doing at a later date. You might want to put some things in storage and then check back in 6 months to re-evaluate the items. If you do not need or use them within 6 months it might be time to give, sell or throw them away.

      If you are moving to a smaller place, measure your furniture to see how or if it will fit. Also, get the room measurements and floor plans to know the shape and size of the rooms establish where the windows and doors are. Plan out where you will put the furniture you plan to take. The furniture that does not fit in the new smaller place will need to be given way or sold. You have the opportunity to give items to family and friends. Or you may want to sell items to raise extra money.

      Research suggests that you move your largest pieces of furniture into your new place first. Then work on the smaller items. Assess walking spaces and the availability of doorways. It is important there are no tripping hazards.

      Parting with long kept belongings presents a significant change that can be both physically and emotionally draining. It can be especially difficult if you are older.  Downsizing may mean you are moving from the beloved family home or from a home that has many memories from years of living there.  Look for support from family and friends. Allow yourself to grieve over the changes that are being made but also look to the future. Downsizing can give you freedom to do more activities you find interesting. It can give you opportunity to share important memories with your family.  Downsizing to a retirement community can offer friendships, possibilities for nutritious meals, exercise opportunities and the freedom to live your retirement years with fewer worries.


Sierra View Terraces Grand Opening

Sierra View Homes Retirement Community in Reedley held the grand opening for its new 52 unit apartment building, the Sierra View Terraces, on February 23, 2012. The new one and two bedroom senior apartments in the Sierra View Terraces feature energy efficient construction, emergency alert systems, handicap accessible bathrooms, private balconies, and kitchens with modern appliances and granite countertops. This project was the completion of a 13.2 million bond issue that was issued at the end of 2009 through the State of California Mortgage Program.

The grand opening ceremony celebrated the ways in which the addition of the Sierra View Terraces will serve Reedley and the broader Central Valley community. Judith Case from the County Board of Supervisors presented Sierra View with a certificate of achievement. Shannon Major from the office of Senator Tom Berryhill presented Sierra View with a certificate of recognition to commemorate and celebrate the occasion. Speakers at the ceremony included Reedley Mayor Mary Fast, City Manager Nicole Zieba, and Sierra View Homes Board Chair Irvin Isaak. Speakers highlighted the fact that numerous Central Valley businesses benefitted from the construction of the building. Pickett and Sons of Fresno was the construction contractor, Kimberly’s of Kingsburg did the flooring, and all of the furniture was purchased in local stores.

Thirteen residents or couples have already made the Sierra View Terraces their home. Residents are arriving from Selma and Fresno and as far away as Chula Vista. Once the 52 Sierra View Terrace apartments are rented, Sierra View will swell to a community providing care and housing for 280 people.

The new three story apartment building fulfills a major part of Sierra View Homes’ strategic plan to add to the senior living options available on its 13 acre campus. Founded in 1960 by the First Mennonite Church of Reedley, Sierra View Homes has grown from a 26 bed skilled nursing facility to a retirement community with four levels of care. The Sierra View Terrace apartments join a campus composed of 65 other independent living apartments, an assisted living facility, a 59 bed skilled nursing facility, and a new memory care center that opened in August. While the campus of Sierra View Homes has changed over the past 50 years, staff members were quick to note that Sierra View’s core values of friendliness, hospitality, and hope remained central to the vision of the community. Vito Genna, Executive Director of Sierra View Homes remarked, “The founding fathers’ spirit of humility, compassion and hopefulness that has defined Sierra View Homes for over 50 years remains essential and it always will.”


Retirement Communities and Eating Habits

Could moving to a retirement community improve my eating habits and help me eat a healthier diet?   
– D. Mc. of Reedley, California

Yes! Living in a retirement community does encourage better eating habits. Very often, socialization during meals results in an increase in appetite.

Having a healthy diet with proper nutrition has benefits, such as increased mental ability, better mood stability, a strong immune system, more energy and faster recuperation times.

As we age there are factors that cause our eating habits to change, such as the loss of a spouse, a limited budget, metabolism starts to slow down around age 40. Activity levels change due to medical or physical problems. Our sense of taste and smell diminish and various factors can cause appetite changes, such as medication, depression, or an acute or chronic medical condition.

In the aging process we need to continue to exercise.  Statistics show weight more than age determines how much energy we have.  Eating food with fiber keeps the digestive system working well. Taking calcium walking and getting 15 minutes of sunlight daily, helps keep bones strong. Drinking plenty of water promotes regularity, helps our joints, keeps us feeling energetic and much more.  Avoiding foods with high sugar content is important; sugar can suppress the immune system, weaken eye sight, and contribute to obesity, diabetes and other chronic health issues.

Retirement living facilities offer help with maintaining good eating habits. Some independent living facilities have meal plans that can be purchased by the people who live there. There are facilities that offer one meal a day; others offer 2 or more. Some have the meal plan built right into the rental price. There are also assisted living and skilled facilities that serve 3 meals a day.

It should be noted that retirement communities create menu cycles based on the direction of a registered dietitian. For example, SVH has John Varin, RD who verifies diets for proper nutrient content and gives direction to the kitchen supervisor in coordinating food preparation and modified diets. . Retirement communities offer nourishing meals and the socialization encourages better nutrition by continuing to wet the resident’s appetite.

If living in a retirement facility is not an option then try having a potluck frequently with friends. Go to the community center either in Dinuba or Reedley for a noon meal M-F.

Both programs are serving meals very reasonably priced and offer other activities with possibilities to meet new friends and have things to do.

The life span for the average American is increasing. A healthy diet and regular exercise can help us live those extra years with energy, and enjoyment.

This article was co-written with John Varin, R.D. He is the consultant dietician for Sierra Kings Hospital and a number of long term care facilities in the Reedley area.