Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

This special section for the Santa Barbara Independent features the following stories (click on links to read them or click here to see the issue as it appeared originally.

Introduction to Active Aging

Aging with Grace and Humor: Etta “Honey” Miller Celebrates 105th Birthday

Providing Healthy Food for Healthier Lives 

Time to Move to a Senior Living Facility? Westmont Living Experts Answer This Question and More

The Shift to Telemedicine: Dr. William Gallivan’s Orthopedic Institute Lead the New Way

Healthy People, Healthy Trails: Broad Collaboration is Taking Seniors Into Nature

Building Better Bone Health With Osteostrong: Wellness Studio Fights Against Osteoporosis

Reverse Mortgages 101: Mutual of Omaha’s Montecito Office Offers Planning Advice

When Families Help Families: Mission Villa’s Brother-Sister Transition Team

Meet the Society of Fearless Grandmothers: Seniors Band Together to Fight Earth’s Destruction

The Cremation Quiz: Simply Remembered Educates About End-of-Life Options

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on July 30, 2020. To view the Active Aging Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens, click here.

Time to Move to a Senior Living Facility?

Time to Move to Senior Living Facility, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

Time to Move to Senior Living Facility, Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

Westmont Living Experts Answer This Question and More

Today’s seniors and their loved ones have an abundance of choices when it’s time to move into a retirement community. But there remain many factors to consider when deciding the timing of that transition and determining which location is best for you. Experts from Westmont Living, which owns Mariposa at Ellwood Shores in Goleta, share their insights.

How do you know when it’s time to choose senior living?

“Ideally, families should start looking for an appropriate senior living community when when there isn’t a sense of urgency,” said Nick Begane, community relations director at Mariposa at Ellwood Shores, a senior community offering independent and assisted living as well as memory-care options.

Waiting lists can be very long for desirable senior living situations. Can you get on a waiting list even if you’re not quite ready to move?

“A family should start their research at least one year ahead of your desired move,” said Jack McCarty, vice president of sales and marketing for Westmont Living, which also runs The Oaks in Nipomo and will open The Oaks in Paso Robles in 2021. “When you find a place that meets a majority of your criteria, consider placing a deposit with the community so that you can secure a place when you are ready or when they have an opening.”

How can you tell if a place is right for you?

“Some communities allow short-term or respite stays,” said McCarty. “This allows for your parent(s) to spend time getting to know the community, those that work there, and to enjoy the amenities firsthand. Interestingly, some people stay rather than move out again. When that happens, it’s a win-win for the seniors and their families.”

What questions should you ask about a community?

• Is the building secure and do they follow the recommended CDC guidelines?

• How competent is their health support? Are they licensed to provide health services? Are nurses on-site every day? What are their COVID-19 procedures?

• Does the building look like a place that you would like to live?

• Do they have a fitness center or exercise options for optimum health and wellness?

• Is therapy after hospitalization available?

• Does the dining program provide the right menus?

“Once you have determined that a particular community is a good fit for your family member, then meet with a community relations person to review the payment structure and termination and refund policies,” said Begane.

How can you best learn about the culture and vibe?

“Ask to see the community schedule and look at the quality of the activities available and the frequency of social activities,” said McCarty. “Find out if the community can support the mind, body, and spiritual needs of your parent(s).

Stop by and have lunch and spend time observing your new home.”

COMMON SIGNS THAT EXTRA SUPPORT IS NEEDED INCLUDE

 short-term memory loss

 forgetting to pay bills

 not managing personal affairs

disorientation of time and place

 loss of normal judgement, such as making an illogical approach to a problem

 not cooking or eating regularly

 loss of weight

 poor home maintenance (dirty dishes, unwashed laundry, and clutter)

 poor personal hygiene (not bathing regularly, repeatedly wearing the same clothes without washing)

 not taking medication or following medicine instructions

 losing touch with friends, not socializing or participating in favorite activities

 showing signs of depression, like sleeping or crying

Westmont Living: westmontliving.com

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

 

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on July 30, 2020. To view the Active Aging Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens, click here.

The Cremation Quiz

The Cremation Quiz, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

The Cremation Quiz, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

SIMPLY REMEMBERED EDUCATES ABOUT END-OF-LIFE OPTIONS

“The death of a loved one can be overwhelming,” says Dan Flynn, owner of Simply Remembered Cremation Care, a funeral home offering cremation services, home funerals, and green burials. “Planning for one should not be.”

When considering cremation services, it’s important to get the facts straight. Test your knowledge with this short True-or-False quiz.

1) The County of Santa Barbara regulates funeral homes and cemeteries.

False. They are regulated by The Cemetery and Funeral Bureau of the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

2) Embalming (preservation of a corpse from decay) is required by law.

False. Embalming is not required by law. The embalming trend was kicked off by the first celebrity embalming, Abraham Lincoln, said Flynn, explaining, “They stopped at every single town on their way to his final resting place.”

3) A deceased loved one’s body must be removed from the home within 72 hours.

False. There is not an amount of time by which a loved-one’s body must be removed from the home.

4) It is legal to hold a funeral in your home.

True.

5) Ashes may not be scattered at sea in California.

False. Ashes may be scattered at sea, provided they are at least 500 yards from shore.

6) Ashes may not be scattered in a lake, pond, or river in California.

True.

7) Ashes may be scattered on land in California.

True, provided you have permission from the landowner.

8) Cremation accounts for just 25 percent of all dispositions in the United States.

False. Cremation now accounts for 52 percent of all dispositions in the United States, 63 percent in California, and 90 percent in the Santa Barbara region.

9) Full-body burial at sea is not legal.

False. Full-body burial at sea is legal. The only requirements for full-body burial at sea are that the boat be a minimum of three miles offshore (federal waters) and in 600 feet of water. Due to the shallowness of the coastline in Santa Barbara, boats must go out eight miles to reach a depth of 600 feet.

10) A “green burial” means that no fossil fuels were used in the preparation of the body.

False. “Green burials,” which are legal provided the cemetery allows them, are when there is no embalming, no casket, and the body is wrapped in a cloth shroud and buried directly in the ground. There are currently no cemeteries in Santa Barbara that offer this option. A loved one’s ashes can also be planted in a “Bio Urn” that will grow a tree of your choosing.

11) “Water cremation” is illegal in California.

False. Effective July 1, 2020, California became the 14th state to allow “water cremation,” also known as alkaline hydrolysis. This is literally a warm, soapy bath, where the high-alkaline solution dissolves the soft tissue over a couple of hours. What remains is only the skeleton, which is then processed to a fine white powder.

Simply Remembered Cremation Care: simplyremembered.com

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

 

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on July 30, 2020. To view the Active Aging Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens, click here.

Meet the Society of Fearless Grandmothers

Meet the Society of Fearless Grandmothers, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

Meet the Society of Fearless Grandmothers, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

SENIORS BAND TOGETHER TO FIGHT EARTH’S DESTRUCTION

The planet is in grave danger, and a vibrant group of grandmother activists has banded together to battle against the potential destruction of the earth.

This may sound like the tagline for a bring-the-whole-family blockbuster movie, but these superheroes aren’t fictional—they’re working in our midst right here in Santa Barbara.

Committed to nonviolent action and demanding urgent measures to address the Earth’s climate emergency, Santa Barbara’s Society of Fearless Grandmothers was formed last October.

After their first training session—led by two of the founding grandmothers of the indigenous group Idle No More S.F. Bay, and the Bay Area Society of Fearless Grandmothers— the group quickly built momentum. They rallied in front of the County Administration Building on Valentine’s Day, demanding the denial of new fossil-fuel project permits; they hosted a virtual Earth Day art project collaboration with their grandchildren; and they wrote postcards as part of an NAACP effort to reach people in states where voting rights are under attack, urging them to make sure that they are registered and to pledge to vote in November.

“Our hope is that people will really start to talk about the climate crisis issue and demand that we take some action, because otherwise our grandchildren a children are going to be in a world of hurt,” said Irene Cooke, one of Santa Barbara’s Founding Grandmothers. She’s a longtime climate activist who moved from Colorado to Santa Barbara in 2018, primarily to be near her daughter and young grandson.

“I replaced my mountain hikes with beach walks, and it makes me so sad to walk these beaches and know that, when my grandson is my age, those beaches won’t be here,” said Cooke. “They’ll be underwater. There won’t be any beaches, not to mention the issues with food production and migration and disease. The climate crisis will impact every aspect of life on earth.”

Frustrated with the restrictions mandated by the pandemic, the Society of Fearless Grandmothers — which  has about 40 members ranging in age from their late fifties to 85 — is currently using technology and other physically distanced tools to demand that COVID-19 responses focus on a transition away from the fossil-fuel economy to a system that addresses climate justice and protects people, not profit.

They are also adamantly opposed to racial violence, and one of their official statements connects that movement to climate activism: “We recognize that the impacts of climate change disproportionately affect people of color. We can no longer tolerate a planet where anyone’s right to breathe is compromised — whether by police brutality or by pollution.”

The Fearless Grandmothers fear that time is running out. “At a certain point, if enough action hasn’t been taken, it will be too late,” said Cooke. “And we’re not there yet. A lot of people have just said, ‘It’s too late, we can’t do anything,’ but that’s not true. The technology is there. It’s just a matter of the political will and people rising up to demand that we do something about this. That’s the main thing that we want to communicate.”

The Society of Fearless Grandmothers: fearlessgrandmotherssb.org

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

 

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on July 30, 2020. To view the Active Aging Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens, click here.

When Families Help Families

When Families Help Families, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

When Families Help Families, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

MISSION VILLA’S BROTHER-SISTER TRANSITION TEAM

When it comes to senior services, the Newquists are keeping it in the family.

Sensitivity, understanding, and compassion are so important when it comes to helping people with the big changes in their lives. When seniors are moving out of family homes — either to “rightsize” into something more suitable, or to transition into life in an assisted living environment — it can have a dramatic impact on the entire family.

The brother-and-sister team of Dana Newquist and Nancy Newquist-Nolan works closely with families to help them through these changes in this emotional time in their lives.

Dana Newquist, who owns and operates the downtown Santa Barbara assisted-living dementia care specialist Mission Villa, has been in the memory care business for 24 years. He started his career in the early days of tech, founding Computer Plaza in 1981 (near Harry’s Plaza Café), as well as Montecito Video and Summerland Video. He was looking for a new venture in the mid-1980s when his sister Lyn Lorenzo, the oldest of the seven Newquist siblings, came to him with her gerontology degree in hand and a thesis project describing a new assisted-living model that was more like a home and less like an institution.

She’d taken the thesis to the bank for a loan, but they wanted a business plan. “Well, my sister was a great gerontologist, but she wasn’t very well schooled in business,” said Dana. “So she called me to write her a business plan.”

That plan turned into Country Village (countryvillagecare.com) in Chico, California, which is still operating.

“She was very progressive in her thoughts,” said Nancy about her admired oldest sister, who is now 78 and still actively involved.

The family ties keep coming. Nancy’s husband, Keith Nolan, principal of ON Design Architects (ondesignarchitects.net ), designed both Country Village and Mission Villa senior care homes. Meanwhile, Nancy is Coldwell Banker’s senior real estate specialist (nancynewquistnolan.com ), with training from the California Association of Realtors on understanding what seniors need when they go to sell a house.

Dana is also a Realtor and frequently works with Nancy on deals. In addition, Nancy used to own an estate liquidation business and brings years of experience in working with seniors and their families to sell the contents of their homes.

“When you’re going into a house to liquidate everything, you learn about so many aspects of life,” laughed Nancy. “When they get older, they stuff everything in their pockets or in books or in weird places. I always tell the family prior to us coming in: Please go through your family members’ pants pockets, coat pockets, flip through their books, because they tend to get dementia and start putting money in those places, and we want to make sure that we didn’t sell a book by accident that had a thousand dollars in it.”

The hardest thing is letting go. “They love their home, they have their memories, and they’re afraid,” said Nancy. “And you’re telling them to let go and move forward on to what will be a safer place for them. We try to be proactive instead of reactive. And being proactive means they can make the choice, and that’s what we highly suggest. That way, they still are able to have their say in what happens to them.”

Added Dana, “Trust is the whole deal — you’re dealing with the most important thing they have, and that could be a spouse, or a mom or dad.”

That’s especially true when going to a memory-care facility like Mission Villa, which works closely with hospice providers and is designed to be the last home a person will live in.

“This is really an end-of-life kind of facility,” said Dana.

The pandemic is only making compassionate care more challenging, as visitors are currently prohibited.

“Because we’re dealing with dementia, if you take a daughter or son away for even a week, let’s say, when the dementia patient has to be reinforced in memory all the time, they forget who somebody is,” said Dana. “We totally become their family.”

Thankfully, the Newquists are up to the task. “When you have seven kids in the family, you have to have grace and patience,” said Nancy. “We all seem to have that, which makes us really even keeled to help the seniors as we do.”

Mission Villa: mvcare.com

Nancy Newquist-Nolan: nancynewquistnolan.com

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

 

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on July 30, 2020. To view the Active Aging Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens, click here.

Reverse Mortgages 101

Reverse Mortgages 101, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

Reverse Mortgages 101, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

MUTUAL OF OMAHA’S MONTECITO OFFICE OFFERS PLANNING ADVICE

A type of loan available to homeowners aged 62 and older, reverse mortgages allow people to borrow money based on the value of their homes. Unlike other loans, the debt isn’t immediately due. Instead, payment is deferred until the borrower either dies or sells the home, at which point the debt comes out of their estate or sale.

“In the right circumstances, a reverse mortgage can be a really nice thing for older homeowners in retirement,” said Tom Kronen, an advisor at Mutual of Omaha’s Montecito office who has specialized in this type of loan for almost 20 years. He often works with multiple family members and also prefers to get a trusted advisor involved, whether an attorney, accountant, or financial advisor.

“This is much more of a relationship business than the traditional one between a broker and client,” said Kronen. A reverse mortgage should not be seen as a silver bullet for financial survival, and Kronen does not suggest using it as a “stand-alone product.” He explained, “So you are utilizing home equity, but it’s better if you utilize home equity in coordination with retirement income and other assets.”

But it can be a worthy tool during tough times. “When financial markets are really volatile, and especially if you sustain losses in the market, that’s not a good time to pull money out of your savings and investment accounts,” said Kronen. “Instead, you can use a reverse mortgage to supplement your income and carry you over until the markets rebound.”

Many are concerned that this arrangement will interfere with their ability to leave money to their family when they’re gone, and there’s truth to that.

“Legacy is a really important thing, and it’s something that we always bring up in the conversation because it can really affect decision making,” said Kronen. “But a reverse mortgage sometimes can be even better for legacy; it just depends on the situation. One thing we like to say in our business is: A reverse mortgage is best when it’s not used as a last resort. It’s better if it’s used earlier in retirement and as part of a coordinated plan.”

You can actually use a reverse mortgage to finance the purchase of a new home. “If a retired couple or individual is downsizing or rightsizing into a new home from their old home, they can use a reverse mortgage exactly like they would get a mortgage in a new home,” he said. “But you are not obligated to have mortgage payments on that new house. You’re going to get to put more money in the bank.”

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

 

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on July 30, 2020. To view the Active Aging Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens, click here.

Building Better Bone Health With Osteostrong

Building Better Bone Health With Osteostrong, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

Building Better Bone Health With Osteostrong, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

WELLNESS STUDIO FIGHTS AGAINST OSTEOPOROSIS

Almost everyone knows about the increased dangers of falling and breaking bones as we age. But traditional workout programs never really focused on enhancing bone strength to aid in the fight against osteoporosis.

OsteoStrong, a five-year-old wellness studio franchise operation owned by Yvonne and Jim Parsons, who originally brought Curves for Women to town, hopes to change that.

“We help people with issues with bone health,” said Yvonne, explaining that people stop producing the mineral and tissue that make our bones strong after we turn 30. “If you’re playing tennis or you’re doing high impact sports — hiking, running, tennis, those kinds of things—generally people maintain their bone mass. But as we age, especially for women, we start losing it when we start menopause because our body leaches the calcium out of our bones.”

That leads to osteoporosis or osteopenia, with half of all women and a third of all men over 50 eventually breaking a bone. “It’s the third leading cause of death after 65,” said Parsons ominously. “Forty percent of people who have a fracture will be staying in a nursing home after 65, and 20 percent will never walk again.”

Developed by biomechanics engineer John Jaquish, OsteoStrong works on the principle of “osteogenic” loading. Using super-resistance machines that cover every section of the body—a chest press, leg press, core pull, and skeleton-stressing vertical lift that resemble weight machines and feature feedback monitors

OsteoStrong clients come in once a week, briefly stand on vibration platforms to warm up, then exert 30 seconds of all-out force at each workout station. A session is designed to take approximately 10 minutes from start to finish.

Parsons offered a few analogies to explain how it works. “If you go into a dark room, how long does it take for your pupil to enlarge? If you start to put your hand on a fire, how quickly does your body respond by pulling it away?” she asked. “It just is like a nanosecond, so it only takes five seconds to hit the degree that you need to for the axial loading when you’re doing it on the equipment.”

Curious to try it out? An initial visit is free. osteostrong.me

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

 

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on July 30, 2020. To view the Active Aging Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens, click here.

Introduction to Active Aging

Introduction to Active Aging, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

Introduction to Active Aging, Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

We’re living in a strange time for seniors. Old people have never been so powerful — or so vulnerable.

We’ve got a 74-year-old in the White House, put there in part by a cable news network controlled by a mega-wealthy 89-year-old. Then we’ve got a 77-year-old presidential nominee, who won the Democratic nomination over a 78-year-old Senator preferred by many, if not most, young people in the primaries. And don’t get me started about the future of some of our most crucial rights that may rest on the survival of an 87-year-old Supreme Court Justice.

At the same time, almost 80 percent of those who have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. were 65 or older. That’s left many seniors staying close to home, feeling uncharacteristically vulnerable and uncomfortably dependent on the benevolence of family, neighbors, and Good Samaritans.

If you’re fortunate enough, as I am, to have your parents still around, part of the challenge of middle-aging is watching your own parents age. We’re tiptoeing onto that sensitive tightrope of still being their children, while slowly becoming their caregivers.

As Bette Davis famously said, “Getting old ain’t for sissies.” But staying active, engaged, and prepared for the future with solid plans in place will certainly make all of our golden years shine a lot brighter.

With that in mind, this promotional section was developed from a combination of editorial ideas and suggestions from the special issue’s sponsors about people, projects, and trends that they’re excited about. From that list, we selected stories that represent a wide variety of “active aging” ideas in Santa Barbara and developed the editorial content independently.

Cheers to strong and vibrant finish!

—Leslie Dinaberg

PANDEMIC RESOURCES FOR SENIORS

Accessing information about community resources for seniors is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, so the Family Service Agency is collaborating with many other nonprofits to provide a one stop gateway to critical resources for the health and well being of the seniors in our community. See fsacares.org/senior-resources.

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

 

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on July 30, 2020. To view the Active Aging Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens, click here.

The Shift to Telemedicine

The Shift to Telemedicine, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

The Shift to Telemedicine, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

DR. WILLIAM GALLIVAN’S ORTHOPEDIC INSTITUTE LEADS THE NEW WAY

All it took was a pandemic and a government-mandated shutdown, but it looks like telemedicine — the modern version of the house call — is here to stay.

Dr. William Gallivan and his team at Orthopedic Institute of Santa Barbara were using telemedicine on a limited basis for years before COVID-19, primarily for out-of-town patients who wanted to discuss possible surgical procedures and for short, post-surgical follow-up appointments. So when the pandemic mandated physicians to digitize their health-care process in March — while lifting some privacy restrictions to allow virtual exams — his office was better prepared than most. Even with restrictions now eased, the Orthopedic Institute is managing more than one-third of patient visits via telehealth.

In order to train seniors and other non-digital natives in the process, Gallivan is a “heavy utilizer of scribes,” enlisting tech-savvy, pre-med students to work with patients in advance of their appointments to set up remote communication. There’s a learning curve. “Sometimes it’s three or four calls to connect,” said Gallivan. “And with the outliers, it takes me two days of calling them to actually get a connection to do the telehealth. But most of them, more than 90 percent now, are set up and engaged with the telemedicine portal.”

How does this work for orthopedic exams, say, for a bad knee? “If it’s not a post-op, the patient actually can do a self-examination as we instruct them how to do it,” he said. “If we can see their range of motion, assess the swelling a little bit, and they can point out where it’s tender, we have a reasonable way to assess the problem and make recommendations.”

He plans to continue with telehealth as a bigger part of the practice even when the pandemic is over. Of course, he can’t replace the first post-op visit, when sutures are removed — “at least it would be a bit more of a challenge,” he said — but telemedicine works well for the six-week checkups.

“We can really be quite effective,” he said. “The communication has been excellent. Actually, some of it may even be better than the in-person stuff, because you are looking at the screen, instead of staring at a knee most of the time, you’ve got the patient’s face right there. The nonverbal communication is important, and I think we get that with telemedicine pretty well.”

He’s been happily surprised with how well it works, leaving visits confident that he provided a good service and not a second-rate one just because it is remote.

“It’s certainly not perfect, and I’m a big fan of in-person communication,” he said. “But the efficiency of not having sick people that have to travel for a meeting, and being able to get stuff done and having direct communication, is enhanced.”

Orthopedic Institute of Santa Barbara: gallivanmd.com

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

 

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on July 30, 2020. To view the Active Aging Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens, click here.

Aging With Grace and Humor

Aging With Grace and Humor, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

Aging With Grace and Humor, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

Etta “Honey” Miller Celebrates 105th Birthday

Even over the phone (an unfortunate pandemic restriction), Ettna Miller is full of vim and vigor. In early July, she celebrated her 105th birthday with a small gathering at Vista del Monte, where she has resided in her own apartment for the past year.

Her “baby brother” Dr. Dean Vogel, a longtime Santa Barbara resident, also lives there and moved “Honey” to the facility after she broke her back at home in Indiana.

When she’s not entertaining her caregivers and fellow residents with tales of her storied life, Honey receives a variety of rehabilitative therapies through VNA Health’s home health-care services. A physical therapist, occupational therapist, and case manager bring therapies directly to her home, working with her to improve her strength through various activities and fall-prevention strategies.

Here are some highlights from a recent chat with Honey and her caregiver, Carolina Navarro. Their responses have been briefly edited for clarity.

Happy Birthday, Honey. Do you have a favorite birthday memory?

Ettna “Honey” Miller: My 100th birthday. There were well over 100 people at that birthday party. I don’t know if I ever greeted all of them or not. Everybody was running around with a camera. There were a lot of little kids there and everybody wanted to get pictures for show-and-tell.

How was your 105th birthday?

EHM: That was really a lovely affair. My brother Dean did the arranging. Of course, we were all quarantined, so there were limits. They arranged a new area with outdoor seating, and they had beautiful umbrellas. They had tables that seat nine, and they seated three people per table. We were only allowed to have 10 people at the luncheon. It was really lovely. We had dinner and we had birthday cake.

Carolina Navarro: For her 105th birthday, Honey received well over 50 birthday cards in the mail. She was still getting greeting cards yesterday in the mail.

EHM: It was amazing, people sent cards that I hadn’t talked to for years. People I hadn’t even thought about. One lady said she knew a friend of hers that went to high school when I did, and so she said that she wanted to send a card. I’m amazed at these people, how nice that it is to hear from them.

It’s very special to live to 105. You’ve seen things that most of us haven’t.

EHM: I’ve been blessed in so many ways.

Are you the oldest person you know?

EHM: I don’t know anyone older than me.

How old is your brother?

EHM: He is 87; let’s see, he was born in 1933. I was graduating high school when Dean was born. I didn’t even know my mother was pregnant. I said, “Well, that’s keeping a girl pretty dumb, isn’t it?”

Did you have other brothers and sisters?

EHM: There were nine of us, five boys and four girls. We had two older sisters that were bit by rattlesnakes and one of them died, and the other one, Vera, they were able to get her to a doctor and she survived and lived to be 90 years old. We lived in a prairie, in the rural area of South Dakota, a place called Lemmon [current population 1,227].

Where did you live after Lemmon?

EHM: Well, my father was born in Germany, and he came to the United States when he was about 16, and his mother wanted to keep him out of the German army. Then she wanted him to come over to Germany again and learn the cheese manufacturing business.

We only had a three-month visa, so we had to come back to the states. We went over in 1926 and came back in 1926. The big ocean liners were something great back then.

Aging With Grace and Humor, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

That sounds very exciting.

EHM: There was a shipwreck. Our ship, the Berlin, when we were coming back from Germany to the U.S., received an SOS that an English freighter was in distress, and we were to return and assist them.

Turning around in the ocean was fierce. The waves were 30 to 40 feet high, and you’d look out the window and you would see them 100 feet up above you and then the next instant they were down below you. When our ship turned around, the waves were so high they broke down the main door to the entrance to our ship, so we had water pouring down our stairways.

I didn’t go to the cabin like I was supposed to. My dad had his hands full, keeping everybody in line. I was behind some drapes in the dining room where there was a porthole and I could see out. I watched them put everybody they could into a lifeboat and lower it. But when they lowered it, the ropes broke, and it tipped over and dumped them in the ocean.

They were all drowned because there was just no way of getting out of that with the high waves and the boat falling and everything. That crew was lost, but the captain stayed with the ship.

And you witnessed all of this at 10 years old?

EHM: Yes. I remember that when we got back to New York, it was early morning when we came by the Statue of Liberty, and everybody got down and was kissing the deck thanking god that we were safe.

Wow. Can you talk a little bit about your typical day now?

EHM: Well, mostly every day is similar. They wake you up fairly early.

CN: There are a lot of us that come in here to visit, and we want to chat with Honey. She has a very close relationship with the Vista del Monte staff.

How’s your back now?

EHM: I really don’t feel bad or sick. A lot of people have a sickness or a sore place that hurts all the time. I’ve never had that in my whole life. I didn’t know what a headache was or aspirin until I was old. I just didn’t hurt even when I was in the hospital; the only thing that hurt was my tailbone. I couldn’t get a cushion that would relieve the pressure on that bone. It still gets sore.

CN: Honey has always been very active. She likes to swim, and if you see her physically, she’s very fit and very light on her feet. When she stands up, she’s very light, and she looks like she’s floating.

EHM: I love to dance, too; I’ve always danced. I took ballroom dancing when I was 100 years old.

What are some of your other favorite things to do?

EHM: I like to knit and crochet and sew. I can make things.

Can you share some advice for people who want to live a long, active life?

EHM: I think if you take every day as it comes, do what you have to do, and if there’s something coming up, try not to put off tomorrow, that would be the best thing I could think of. Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today. Whoever thought that up thought up something good.

Everybody has a story that’s interesting. I can make a story out of almost everything. Give me the salt and pepper, and I can make a story out of salt and pepper.

VNA Health: vna.health     Vista del Monte: vistadelmonte.org

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

 

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on July 30, 2020. To view the Active Aging Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens, click here.