Active Aging in 2021: How to Live Well into Your Later Years

Santa Barbara is a great place to live no matter your age, but it takes many people a number of years — and perhaps a successful career or two — to start calling our shoreline home. That means there are plenty of people living their best later lives here, which is why we started our Active Aging Guide in 2018 to help navigate the endless options for staying healthy, striving for wellness, and living even longer.

This is the fourth annual edition of this promotional section, in which sponsors suggested trends, techniques, and talented experts from their organizations to our editorial team. Then Leslie Dinaberg took those nascent ideas, put on her reporter’s cap, and turned
them into engaging articles that cover a wide range of topics, from bone, brain, and sexual health to volunteering, nutrition, and even drum circles.

Read on, and age well.

The (Drum Circle) Beat Goes On at Vista Del Monte

Westmont Living’s Nutrition Tips for Brain Health

Step Up to Help Seniors at the Family Service Agency

Borrowing Medical Basics from VNA’s Health Loan Closet

Connect, Discuss, and Explore at Vistas Lifelong Learning

Stimulating Senses to Stimulate Wellness at Villa Alamar and Alexander Gardens

OsteoStrong Builds the Bones of Skeletal Health

Turner Medical Arts Offers Treatments for Inside and Out

Originally published in The Santa Barbara Independent on August 12, 2021. Cover photo by Erick Madrid. To read this special section as it originally appeared in print, click here.

The (Drum Circle) Beat Goes On at Vista Del Monte

People of all ages benefit from music therapy, with especially positive changes for people with autism; visual, motor, emotional, hearing, or cognitive disabilities; or high stress levels. With these benefits in mind, the residents and staff at Summer House —which is the memory-care unit at Vista del Monte retirement care community (vistadelmonte.org)
— regularly participate in drum circles.

“The sound waves and the sound of the drums and the feel of the drums are very
powerful for those who have cognitive issues,” said Helene Hellstern, the life
enrichment director for Vista del Monte, where residents gather in a common area called The Alcove every Tuesday and Thursday. “When we tell people we are doing a drum circle, they are very willing to come to that activity, and we typically have at least a dozen
people if not more.”

First are exercises to warm up their hands and get energized. Then Hellstern uses a 70-inch computer screen to broadcast images of nature or from a particular country or culture that’s especially stimulating. “Then we start the drumming,” she said, explaining that groups are typically led by Karen Rojas. “We’ll just do different rhythms, and we’ll have the residents repeat those. And we always incorporate having the residents do their own little rhythm, and so it’s just one person doing their rhythm, and we all repeat it.”

The music, the exposure to community, and the physical activity are all beneficial. “A lot of our residents have mobility issues or are non-ambulatory, so we tend to just use hand movements — although if people want to tap their feet, that’s definitely encouraged,” said Hellstern. “The movement of the arms or the drumming itself is a really good movement. It energizes the whole body and the sound waves, because the drum is on their body—they really feel it as well as hear it.”

And there’s science as to how this helps people with memory issues. “They have
determined that music in particular sets off most areas of the brain,” she said. “And not just drumming, but other music often triggers their long-term memory.”

The drums have become a therapy tool beyond the circles as well. “Sometimes, we will just get the drums out if whatever we have planned isn’t quite working — everyone responds really well to that,” she said. “A truly holistic healing approach, group drumming breaks down social barriers, promotes freedom of expression, nonverbal communication,
unity, and cooperation.”

See vistadelmonte.org.

Originally published in The Santa Barbara Independent on August 12, 2021. Cover photo by Erick Madrid. To read this special section as it originally appeared in print, click here.

Connect, Discuss, and Explore at Vistas Lifelong Learning

Learning new things and maintaining a vibrant social life are two of the key pillars that experts say will keep our brains sharp and healthy. This is exactly what the nonprofit Vistas Lifelong Learning (vistaslifelonglearning.org) offers to the community.

This volunteer-run organization, which started in 1999, is dedicated to keeping aging brains nimble with ongoing educational programs on a wide variety of topics. Recent
courses included Foods That Changed the World (exploring foods that have changed the world in profound and delicious social, political, and economic ways); Unpacking
the Dementia Epidemic (current thinking about the causes of dementias, dementia management, and how to stay on top of new developments); and Politics and
Religion in Verdi’s Operas (with audio and video extracts from modern performances of the operas).

The depth and variety of the programming is impressive, but the social component of Vistas is equally important to its success. “I think of all the connections that people find through Vistas,” said President Jim Hemmer. “There are two book clubs; there’s a short story class; there are memoir writing classes. And in our in-person programs — which moved to Zoom during the pandemic and will resume in the fall — there’s always a 20-minute coffee break in the middle so people can socialize and see old friends and meet other similarly situated people.”

For Hemmer, who retired from a career as an attorney in Chicago and moved to Santa Barbara with his wife, Francine, in January 2017, becoming part of Vistas has been a great way to engage his brain and find a community. Though it’s not a requirement, many of the Vistas presenters are members as well.

A longtime history buff, Hemmer found his way to the organization through a presentation on the Silk Road that he made to a luncheon group called The Cosmopolitan Club (sbcosmo.com). A Vistas member suggested he present to that group, and the response was so positive that Hemmer ended up teaching three different courses on the journey of the historical Silk Roads through China’s current efforts to reinvigorate them today.

“Vistas really attempts to satisfy this desire to learn things, and being a presenter is a wonderful way of doing that,” said Hemmer. “Taking other people’s classes is also great. I find that because I’m busy preparing presentations, I don’t have time to take all the classes I’d like to. I’ve been very busy during the pandemic, and it’s just great.”

Vistas is a small group, explained Hemmer, fluctuating between 300 and 400 members, and is not affiliated with any college or other institution. Programs are open to the public for a small fee, and the fees are less for members. (Annual membership fees are $40 per person for email-only communications and $50 for snail mail, with individual classes averaging $9 per session for members and $14 for nonmembers.)

“It’s a really varied and interesting group of people,” Hemmer says. The mostly retired members come from very diverse careers, ranging from former judges, teachers, and
docents to social workers, librarians, and secretaries, just to name a few.

Upcoming programs in the fall include a reprise of the Silk Road series; the short history of cryptography; the writer James Baldwin; climate change and the impact on the Great American Waterways; criminal procedure; economic issues; and the social safety net in the U.S., with additional courses and details still being finalized.

“We have a very, very wide palette. There’s somebody for everybody,” said Hemmer. “It’s a wide variety of programs on science, history, current events, music and fine arts, and so on.” Research suggests that humans learn better in social environments. “The brain is triggered more through discussion and questions than from solitary activities such as
independent reading,” said Hemmer.

“So it turns out that Vistas’ cooperative spirit that we’re all in it together and we get our ideas from other members is particularly beneficial in the case of seniors.”

See vistaslifelonglearning.org.

Originally published in The Santa Barbara Independent on August 12, 2021. Cover photo by Erick Madrid. To read this special section as it originally appeared in print, click here.

On the Trails

On the Trails, originally published in the May 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

In his updated guide to Hiking & Backpacking Santa Barbara & Ventura (Wilderness Press, 2021, wildernesspress.com) Craig R. Carey provides nearly 100 of his personally tested routes for day trips, weekend excursions, and backcountry treks on the lush trails of the
Los Padres National Forest.

The forest “has always been a place for me to hit that reset button,” says the Ventura County native.

In addition to the routes, Carey’s book includes maps, GPS coordinates, descriptions of terrain, flora, and fauna, attractions, and charts detailing the distances and dog- and child-friendliness of each trail.

805 Living Cover, May 2021, photo by Gary Moss.

Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

 

Traveling Overseas

Traveling Overseas, originally published in the May 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine. Photos by Andrew Agcaoili.

There’s a new way to fly over water. A recent innovation in water sports that carries riders above the surface, a Fliteboard is a half-sized surfboard mounted atop a mini hydrofoil powered by an electric motor.

“The most exciting thing about this sport is the weightless feeling of flight above water,” says Danny “Rad” Farahirad, founder of Just Ride Los Angeles ( justridela.com), which offers Fliteboard lessons at Point Dume State Beach.

“No previous experience is required,” Farahirad says. “We’ve gotten people as young as 13 and as old as 77 flying during their first session. It’s much easier and safer than it looks.”

A private lesson includes use of a board, helmet, and a life vest.

805 Living Cover, May 2021, photo by Gary Moss.

Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

 

New Nature to Nurture

New Nature to Nurture, originally published in 805 Living Magazine, May 2021. Photo by @VisitVentura.

Getting back to nature in the 805 area recently got even easier with the establishment of Harmon Canyon (venturalandtrust.org), a new 2,100-plus-acre preserve owned by the
Ventura Land Trust.

“Harmon Canyon offers beautiful scenery, spectacular views, and a trail system for both hiking and biking found nowhere else,” says Ventura Land Trust executive director Derek Poultney. “And it’s available to the public for free in Ventura.”

State grants combined with a generous donation from the previous landowners funded the purchase of the Walker-Hearne Ranch for the preserve, which features hills and canyons, oak groves, streams, and vistas of the coastline and Channel Islands National Park.

“Community contributions allow the Ventura Land Trust to manage and provide public access to the property, restore wildlife habitat, and support our popular environmental education programs: Ventura Wild and Once Upon a Watershed,” says Poultney.

Dogs on leashes are also welcome.

805 Living Cover, May 2021, photo by Gary Moss.

Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

 

Biking Bliss

Biking Bliss was originally published in the April 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.Specializing in electric bicycles, Montecito’s new Mad Dogs & Englishmen (maddogsenglishmen.com) bike store offers a wide selection of high-end e-bike
brands for sale and rental.

Like the other locations in Mill Valley, Carmel-By-the-Sea, and Monterey, the recently opened outpost on Coast Village Road also carries helmets, some of which are disguised as pretty straw hats, and sporty sidecars—a fun way to turn an e-bike into a cargo bike, or carry kids and dogs (up to 100 pounds) as passengers.

Owner and CEO Jennifer Blevins has a passion for the e-bike. “It’s like a magic
carpet that lets you discover more, go to more places,” she says. “You can see more
and enjoy more on a bike. Perhaps ditch the car and take the kids to school by bike.
Or cycle down to the beach with your pup. The e-bike levels the playing field and
eliminates all obstacles—and makes biking fun again for many riders.”

Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.