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Many people look at competitions as a way to compare their abilities with others, but one 96-year-old man in Palm Beach Gardens is only competing with himself. George Heller, a spry, active Jewish resident of La Posada (a premier senior living community) says that every time he works out or competes in wellness challenges he tries to outdo himself and beat his previous records. He always focuses on self-improvement. From daily exercise goals to NuStep Challenges to rowing competitions and race-walking marathons, Heller has set personal and public records for the last several decades. Though not a famous athlete, he is an inspiration to others around him.

 

“I have not always been a gym rat and haven’t always gone to such great lengths to take care of my body,” said Heller. “At the age of 55, I was grossly overweight from eating poorly and not being active enough. At the time, I was traveling a lot selling innovative medical supplies, many that helped cardiologists, one of which was one of first battery-operated defibrillator. As I watched other people prepare for open heart surgery, I thought to myself, ‘George that could you be you if you don’t turn your life around and create better, healthier habits for yourself.’ I began working out and eating nutritional food, and I lost 100 pounds that first year. I started with jogging, but I found that race walking was easier on the body and a better alternative for me. I trained and competed all over the world: Puerto Rico, Australia, Oregon and more. I set many records at the time, and I’ll bet you didn’t know the longest race in the Olympics is a 50K race walk.”

 

Heller decided to race walk in the New York Marathon in his late 60s and set a record for his age group. He stopped competing in the 70’s, but still views exercise as obligatory and spends one hour each day doing some form of cardio – whether cycling or using a rowing machine. Burning anywhere from 600 to 900 calories during a one-hour session, he will either ride approximately 23 miles or row approximately 5,000 meters. He discovered his love for rowing last year and has since acquired a rowing machine for his apartment, in addition to the one he uses at the La Posada wellness center. He even competed in a rowing competition run by local police. He finished with the highest record in his division. He rowed 1,000 meters in a mere seven minutes and 55.8 seconds, a new 2017 American record – a fact confirmed by authorities at Concept2. This year, he is proud of himself for completing 8,000 meters without stopping.

 

“No one is going to do the exercises for you, and you just have to find the motivation to do it,” said Heller. “For me, music helps break up the monotony. I YouTube songs that bring back all sorts of memories – Neil Diamond, Josh Grobin, Adele – you name it. Music helps me experience good feelings, happy thoughts and gives me that drive I need. The one thing I have always valued and worked toward is endurance. Having the right music and the right attitude all helps me attain endurance.”

 

In addition to rowing and cycling, Heller participates in a challenge each year that is very close to his heart. After losing his wife who lived with dementia in her final years, he sought to help raise awareness and funds for the Alzheimer’s Association by participating in the NuStep Challenge for The Longest Day. This summer in one day, he completed 11,004 steps on the NuStep in just under 100 minutes.

 

“Staying active and working out makes me feel energized and full of life,” said Heller. “My 97th birthday will be in April, and I’m shooting to live to at least 100. I come from a family with a history of poor cardiovascular health. I must be doing something right to have lived this long and maintained the ability to hit the gym. I do work out with a heart monitor, so I can make sure I stay within my zone. Being fit and healthy isn’t just about being free of diseases or physically in shape, it is about creating a situation where you can continue living the way you want to live.”

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While some people have qualms about getting older, others think aging should be celebrated because it is an opportunity that not everyone will experience. The best way to age gracefully is to stay active. Recognizing the importance of leading an enriching lifestyle during one’s senior years, the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) created National Active Aging Week in 2003. According to the ICAA, Active Aging Week challenges society’s negative expectations of aging by showing that regardless of age or health conditions, adults over 50 can live as fully as possible in all areas of life – physical, social, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, vocational and environmental. La Posada, a Kisco Senior Living community, recently presented residents with a weeklong series of events and activities and celebrated their dedication to living an active and vibrant lifestyle in recognition of Active Aging Week.  

 

“The concept of Active Aging Week ties in perfectly with La Posada’s The Art of Living Well® philosophy, which is featured in every aspect of community life and presents unique social and wellness opportunities that strengthen the mind, body and spirit,” said Brad Cadiere, executive director of La Posada. “Active aging is about more than moving the body around and attending exercise classes. There are many dimensions of wellness to engage in, and our community’s wellness director, Rick Minichino, has coordinated a beneficial event, activity or program each day for our residents.”

 

The theme of this year’s Active Aging Week was “Inspiring Wellness.” The weeklong campaign is recognized during the last week of September and wholeheartedly celebrates the positivity of aging today. La Posada residents chose from the following highlighted activities and others: a painting class, a healthy cooking demonstration, a memory and aging lecture, as well as a health fair. 

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Dorothy Weiss, a resident of La Posada, a premier senior living community, has been practicing ballroom dancing since she was 13 years old. She and her friends were inseparable, and one summer they started getting together in a finished basement to put on big band records and dance. Ballroom dancing has been an integral part of her life ever since. When she married and started a family, she and her husband would have weekly date nights to go out dancing. They took lessons together as part of an adult education program through the local elementary school. Now, Weiss is eager to pick up her weekly routine with the start of a new series of ballroom dance lessons happening on select Fridays at 1:30 p.m. at La Posada.

 

“Growing up, it meant a great deal to have a date with a boy and go to a ball in the city,” said Weiss. “All the glamorous hotels put on social dances in elaborate ballrooms and brought in popular big bands. It was the number one event we looked forward to when we were young. It’s still the highlight of my life. I am such an advocate for ballroom dancing, as I feel it lifts peoples’ spirits, provides physical and mental health benefits and brings people joy. We are so fortunate to have a truly talented and passionate dance instructor at La Posada. One day she suffered a major accident and didn’t know if she would ever walk again. Surprisingly, she began practicing dance techniques, which helped her learn to walk again. After this experience, she felt seniors would really benefit from similar exercises, so she started volunteering at our community to lead the classes.”

 

The instructor took the last year off from teaching to travel but is eager to pick up where she left off at the senior living community. Weiss encourages fellow residents to try something new, reasoning that the music will make them want to move to it. Outside of the ballroom dance classes, La Posada hosts different themed dances throughout the year, during which the community brings in male ballroom dancers for ladies who don’t have a partner. Residents and invited guests dance for hours as a big band featuring musicians play toe-tapping, arm-swinging tune after tune.

 

“My favorite dances are the Latin ones: the Cha Cha, Rumba and Merengue. I also enjoy the Fox Trot and the Waltz,” said Weiss. “I’ve always had a passion for music and dancing. There was a point in time I used a walker for rehabilitation. As I regained my strength, I listened to a Jane Fonda tape and felt like I was dancing instead of walking. I’ve always felt the music, music is the rhythm of my soul.”

 

“Ballroom dancing has many benefits for those who participate,” said Rick Minichino, wellness director at La Posada. “The class itself is uplifting and fun, and there’s a social aspect from everyone coming together to learn, practice and create memories. Ballroom dancing is a type of exercise that burns fat and strengthens bones and joints. The movements also improve muscle tone, flexibility, conditioning and endurance. The creative outlet is equally healthy for the brain, as attendees need to learn different sequences of footwork. Some residents have ballroom danced their whole lives while others are trying it out for the first time. It’s like we have our own ‘Dancing with the Stars’ group here at La Posada, and it’s inspiring to watch.”

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Many people look at competitions as a way to compare their abilities with others, but one 96-year-old man in Palm Beach Gardens is only competing with himself. George Heller, a spry, active Jewish resident of La Posada (a premier senior living community) says that every time he works out or competes in wellness challenges he tries to outdo himself and beat his previous records. He always focuses on self-improvement. From daily exercise goals to NuStep Challenges to rowing competitions and race-walking marathons, Heller has set personal and public records for the last several decades. Though not a famous athlete, he is an inspiration to others around him.

 

“I have not always been a gym rat and haven’t always gone to such great lengths to take care of my body,” said Heller. “At the age of 55, I was grossly overweight from eating poorly and not being active enough. At the time, I was traveling a lot selling innovative medical supplies, many that helped cardiologists, one of which was one of first battery-operated defibrillator. As I watched other people prepare for open heart surgery, I thought to myself, ‘George that could you be you if you don’t turn your life around and create better, healthier habits for yourself.’ I began working out and eating nutritional food, and I lost 100 pounds that first year. I started with jogging, but I found that race walking was easier on the body and a better alternative for me. I trained and competed all over the world: Puerto Rico, Australia, Oregon and more. I set many records at the time, and I’ll bet you didn’t know the longest race in the Olympics is a 50K race walk.”

 

Heller decided to race walk in the New York Marathon in his late 60s and set a record for his age group. He stopped competing in the 70’s, but still views exercise as obligatory and spends one hour each day doing some form of cardio – whether cycling or using a rowing machine. Burning anywhere from 600 to 900 calories during a one-hour session, he will either ride approximately 23 miles or row approximately 5,000 meters. He discovered his love for rowing last year and has since acquired a rowing machine for his apartment, in addition to the one he uses at the La Posada wellness center. He even competed in a rowing competition run by local police. He finished with the highest record in his division. He rowed 1,000 meters in a mere seven minutes and 55.8 seconds, a new 2017 American record – a fact confirmed by authorities at Concept2. This year, he is proud of himself for completing 8,000 meters without stopping.

 

“No one is going to do the exercises for you, and you just have to find the motivation to do it,” said Heller. “For me, music helps break up the monotony. I YouTube songs that bring back all sorts of memories – Neil Diamond, Josh Grobin, Adele – you name it. Music helps me experience good feelings, happy thoughts and gives me that drive I need. The one thing I have always valued and worked toward is endurance. Having the right music and the right attitude all helps me attain endurance.”

 

In addition to rowing and cycling, Heller participates in a challenge each year that is very close to his heart. After losing his wife who lived with dementia in her final years, he sought to help raise awareness and funds for the Alzheimer’s Association by participating in the NuStep Challenge for The Longest Day. This summer in one day, he completed 11,004 steps on the NuStep in just under 100 minutes.

 

“Staying active and working out makes me feel energized and full of life,” said Heller. “My 97th birthday will be in April, and I’m shooting to live to at least 100. I come from a family with a history of poor cardiovascular health. I must be doing something right to have lived this long and maintained the ability to hit the gym. I do work out with a heart monitor, so I can make sure I stay within my zone. Being fit and healthy isn’t just about being free of diseases or physically in shape, it is about creating a situation where you can continue living the way you want to live.”

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On June 21 from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., dozens of residents and associates of La Posada (the premier senior living community of Palm Beach Gardens) paired up to take thousands of steps on the community’s NuStep recumbent cross trainer to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s and dementia. This was a part of a nationwide NuStep Challenge held every year for The Longest Day: a day that seeks to not only raise awareness, but to pay tribute to the strength, passion and endurance of those living with Alzheimer’s, their families and their caregivers. The event takes place on the summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year. Teams across the nation participate in sunrise-to-sunset events to honor those who live the longest day every day. The Alzheimer’s Association encourages people all over the world to form teams and choose an activity they enjoy, or one loved by those affected and do it from sunrise to sunset – whether it's NuStepping, bike riding, bowling, cooking, walking, playing video games or classic board games, dancing, hiking or playing music.

 

“We were determined to exercise and will keep two NuStep machines going for 12 consecutive hours,” said Rick Minichino, wellness director for La Posada. “NuStep machines are recumbent cross trainers which provide a full-body workout. Residents and associates of La Posada, as well as friends and family, pledged any amount of money per hour to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer's. La Posada has raised more than $12,000 for the Alzheimer's Association since 2015. My father-in-law passed away from Alzheimer’s disease in 2016 after a seven-year battle, so this cause is very close to my heart, as well as the hearts of many who live and work at La Posada.”

 

Today, more than 35 million people across the world are living with Alzheimer's, including more than five million Americans. In the United States alone, more than 15 million caregivers generously dedicate themselves to those with Alzheimer's and dementia, and these numbers will continue to rise. The NuStepping to End Alzheimer’s challenge was initiated by NuStep Inc., a manufacturer of inclusive recumbent cross trainers, in 2015. Last year, 203 “NuStepping to End Alzheimer’s” teams across the country stepped up to the challenge and raised over $250,000 to support The Alzheimer’s Association.

 

“One year, I did the entire NuStep challenge on my own and only took five-minute breaks if people paid $20 for them,” said Minichino. “I’ve never felt so challenged and determined in my life. I am glad I can use the inspiration from that accomplishment to encourage everyone on our campus to come together to make an impact. Together, we can show those facing Alzheimer's they are not alone. We see the impact of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia firsthand as we care for residents in our memory care neighborhood. Donations, no matter how small, give hope to those affected by Alzheimer's disease.”

 

Astounding statistics about Alzheimer’s disease provided by the Alzheimer’s Association:

•             Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

•             Every 66 seconds someone in the U.S. develops the disease.

•             More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s.

•             One in the three seniors die from Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia.

•             In 2016, 15.9 million family and friends provided 18.2 billion hours of unpaid assistance to those with Alzheimer's and other dementias, a contribution to the nation valued at $230.1 billion.

 

“The shocking reality is that Alzheimer’s disease is currently the only leading cause of death in the U.S. which cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed,” said Brad Cadiere, executive director of La Posada. “As a continuing care retirement community, we are on the front line helping those living with the disease, and we view ourselves as advocates for these residents. We hope that with the proper funding and research, Alzheimer’s can eventually be managed, slowed down or even cured. Raising money and awareness will not only help fund research and development, it also empowers others to keep their bodies and minds healthy and to get checked early for signs and symptoms. By partnering associates with residents, raised more money and awareness and do our part to fight Alzheimer’s disease.”

 

To donate money to the La Posada NuStep challenge, follow this link:

http://act.alz.org/site/TR?fr_id=8480&pg=personal&px=10554605

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Taking in the desolated burnt ruins of the building in which he used to create beautiful works of art, Riis Burwell didn’t imagine anything salvageable remained in the mound of debris. Last fall, he was among the many Californians impacted by a series of wildfires which ripped through the North Bay, killing nearly four dozen people and destroying thousands of buildings and homes, including Burwell’s art studio. Miraculously, his sculpture titled “Spirit Form Emerging” was the only piece of art that survived. The sculpture itself is a reflection on the transitory nature of life, going from one state of existence to another. La Posada, the premier retirement community in Palm Beach Gardens, is now the permanent home for the piece. The community recently unveiled the bronze sculpture displayed in front of the La Posada campus. This piece is a part of Palm Beach Garden’s Art in Public Places program. Mayor Maria Marino and Palm Beach Gardens City Council members were in attendance.

 

“This is the first sculpture I created for a senior living community,” said Burwell. “I am thrilled that the public can enjoy this piece in a beautiful community whose residents represent livelihood and an exploration of life’s experiences. The sculpture was originally created to commemorate the lives lost when planes struck the Twin Towers on September 11. When the towers collapsed, 3,000-plus lives were instantly evaporated, and I imagined the cloud of debris that came up as a likeness of their spirits transforming and rising. This piece is the third version, and it carries new meaning, signifying lives lost during the recent natural disaster and the rebirth of cities and homes. It also emphasizes the transitory stages of life we all experience as human beings.”

 

The fires that engulfed his studio burned through 30 miles in just a six-hour period. Burwell said it looked like a blowtorch took out Santa Rosa. He describes the survival of the sculpture as a godsend. It took Burwell a month to pull Spirit Form Emerging from the debris. Once the piece was accessible, he spent two to three months finishing it. The sculpture foundation in the San Francisco Bay area allowed him to use their spacious workspace while he rebuilt his studio. Burwell is thrilled to attend the unveiling of the sculpture, as this piece is incredibly meaningful to him.

 

“When we saw the image of Riis’ original sculpture, we knew that it would be a perfect representation of La Posada and the City of Palm Beach Gardens’ dynamic spirit. It is also a manifestation of our community’s multiple dimensions of wellness,” said Patrice Goldberg, director of interior design for Kisco Senior Living. “Kisco Senior Living communities are unique representations of mature life, and our goal was to provide a modern, sophisticated public art piece to reflect just that. This sculpture imparts a grace, dignity and balance that we want everyone to relate to in one form or another – though we understand everyone will interpret the work in their own way.”

 

“La Posada is pleased to contribute to the Art in Public Places program, which was developed by the city of Palm Beach Gardens to ensure that as businesses grow and prosper, so does the appeal and collection of public, accessible art,” said Brad Cadiere, executive director of La Posada. “In addition to providing art on-site, we have also designed an artistic bus shelter located at the main entrance of the community. We are grateful to the City’s Arts Advisory Board and the City Council for their help in approving our art proposal, as we feel it will greatly benefit the residents of La Posada and those living in the surrounding community.”

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Coby Verheij and Bev Dirksen met in a hospital kitchen in Edmonton, Alberta in the 1950s and quickly became best friends.

In the 62 years since, they have lived in three countries, four states, ran a bed and breakfast together and created a lot of memories, including meeting “Elvis.”

Now, they are roommates at La Posada senior living community in Palm Beach Gardens.

The women — both of whom are Dutch — left Holland for Canada soon after World II ended.

Verheij, 81, remembers the day that Nazis came to her house. “They were looking for anything of value,” she said.

Verheij stood watch at the door and as soldiers came down her street, she said, mother was inside hiding anything of value under the floor boards.

“It was scary,” said Verheij, especially because her father wasn’t there.

But there was no escaping the Nazis, who captured Verheij’s father, a welder, as he was riding his bicycle to work. At the time, the Germans needed people to weld and build parts for their machinery.

Verheij’s father was transferred to a work camp in eastern Germany, where he lived for almost a year. One day, he woke up and found no guards, which he figured meant the war had ended. Verheij’s father and other prisoners left the camp, and made their way back to Holland with the help of the Canadian Red Cross.

“When my father came home and rang the doorbell, I peeked through the upstairs window and alerted my mother that a man stood at the door,” said Verheij. “I was 9 years old at the time and didn’t recognize him because he was wearing different clothing and had lost a lot of weight.”

Soon after that reunion Verheij’s family decided to move to Canada.

Dirksen, for her part, immigrated because her brother already lived in Canada and urged her to join him. So she did and left behind her parents and 11 other siblings.

When Verheij started working in the kitchen and diet office of a Catholic hospital in Alberta, a supervising nun asked her to take another Dutch woman, who had just arrived in Canada, under her wing. That woman was Dirksen.

“Bev showed up and the nun comes up to me and says, ‘I think she is from where you’re from,’” Verheij recalled as she looked over at her friend, who’s now 95. “So, I walked up to her and Bev said, ‘I don’t speak English very well.’ I said ‘that’s OK.’ And that’s how we became friends.”

Canada gave Verheij her best friend, as well as her husband, Johan.

Johan Verheij was from a “hole-in-the-wall” city in Holland, that Verheij said she never would have visited when she lived there. But the two met at a church social group and married in 1957. The couple had their only child, Rick, in August 1958.

Dirksen never married or had children of her own, but she served as an aunt to Rick.

“I don’t recall any period of time that Bev hasn’t been with us,” said Rick Verheij, who added that Bev was also his babysitter.

Verheij and Dirksen’s friendship also extended to business, where Verheij said “we worked like sisters.”

The Verheijs and Dirksen opened a bed and breakfast called Applewood Manor in Asheville, North Carolina. Dirksen took care of the housekeeping, Verheij cooked and set tables, and Johan Verheij took reservations and dealt with the customers.

The trio ran the business for 10 years before selling it in 2006. Verheij said that their time in North Carolina was her “favorite because of the bed and breakfast.”

So, what’s the secret to making friendship last?

“Give and take,” Verheij said simply. “Not everybody is the same, so what she likes you may not like. And what I like, she may not like.”

But what these two both enjoy is adventures and Elvis.

For Verheij’s 80th surprise party in North Carolina, Rick Verheij arranged for an Elvis impersonater to perform. The impersonater was so impressive, he said, that by the end of the party all of the older women were lining up to have their photos taken with the King of Rock and Roll.

Dirksen and Verheij have been to Las Vegas for a Neil Diamond performance and to Panama, where Johan worked for the summer in 1974. It was during that summer that robbers broke into their apartment and stole money as well as Johan Verheij’s watch.

“I woke up the next morning and screamed,” explained Verheij. “They took everything.”

In 2012, the duo took a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon and Dirksen sat in the front row. When asked if she was scared, Dirksen replied, “I’m in my 90s. Why would I be scared? What is there to be scared of?”

That idea of not being scared of life is something Verheij talks about too. After 81 years of living “every day as a new day,” she said, adding that her life is full.

“I have to be honest I am lucky. There is nothing that I could say I should have done,” said Verheij. “I have traveled. I have seen things, done things. I didn’t sit in a chair.”

Dirksen chimed in and added, “I’ve seen enough,” which drew laughter from both of them.

Now they spend their days reading, watching television, going for walks and enjoying each other’s company.

“Most people think we are related, and they can’t understand the dynamic friendship we have,” said Verheij. “It is a rare and wonderful thing.”

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Linda Beers, 95, an award-winning Hungarian-born artist and resident of La Posada retirement community, has created oil paintings for approximately 80 years. She started practicing creative expression through art as a little girl. She and her family moved to the United States because her father wanted his children to attend universities in America. She was only six years old when she and her immediate family came to the United States, and she found that expressing herself through art was easier than learning English. Through the years, she developed a passion for oil painting, which led to showings in museums and numerous awards. One award of note was for her winning entry to Life magazine, published in June 1941. Of the 15,000 Americans to enter, Beers received the scholastic art prize and was the only female artist to be featured in the magazine. Her journey with art didn’t end there, and she continues to find joy in painting.

 

“For me, I love having the freedom to paint whatever I want on a blank canvas. My favorite subjects are women,” said Beers. “I enjoy painting people in general. I’m not a scenery painter, and I dabbled in abstract, but creating portraits has always been my greatest love. I paint what I like to paint, and hopefully it resonates with other people. If my work happens to appeal to them, well of course that is a wonderful feeling. I never pursued an art-related job after getting my art diploma; it would’ve limited my creative freedom. I can’t paint what others want me to paint. I love to paint, and I paint my world.”

 

Each time Beers begins a new painting, she thinks of the advice that one of her professors shared with her. He said, “Be careful how you start a painting, as it is very difficult to correct it.” She has always been very careful with how she positions her models because of this advice. Beers began her art education in high school at Washington Irving High School in New York City. After graduating, she won a scholarship to the Art Student League in New York City.

 

“I studied with anyone who would teach me anything new about creating art,” said Beers. “After I graduated, I won several prizes. Painting was my passion, but I had love for other aspects of my life too. I met my husband and was married to him for 55 years. My husband was a real catch, my mother jokes that I fell into mud and stepped up in gold. He was drafted during the earlier part of our marriage and became a pilot serving in the Pacific. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross along with a few other medals. He stayed in it because he loved it and retired as a General. We had two delightful and smart children together. During his career he traveled a lot, and though I raised our two children I didn’t stop painting. He built me my very own studio because he saw the love I had for painting and the immense joy it brought me. When I start painting, it is like I become hypnotized and the whole world could fall apart and I wouldn’t notice. It’s like a form of meditation or a therapy for me.”

 

While raising her children, she also went back to school to Brooklyn College and became a registered nurse. Even after becoming a mother and a nurse, Beers continued to paint. She studied at the Brooklyn Museum of Art School, and then later at the Norton Museum Art School in Florida, at Palm Beach Community College and the Armory Art School in Palm Beach. Beers eventually stopped working as an RN at the age of 75, but she hasn’t stopped painting. She loves to paint her world; to feel and express what she sees. When she finishes a painting and is happy with how it turns out, she feels elated. Though Beers lost her husband and her son, she keeps painting because it keeps her going despite the sorrow she confronts daily when thinking of the loss of her loved ones.

 

“I have approximately 100 paintings in my home right now, and I plan to leave them to my grandchildren,” said Beers. “I love painting, it’s what keeps me going. It’s harder for me now, but I still find the time to dedicate myself to it. While I paint, I reflect on my life and I think about how truly lucky I am. I married a wonderful husband, and we had 55 years of marriage. We had two amazing children. Our son became the editor-in-chief of the renowned Merck Manual of Medicine. He was a special doctor who created the Beer’s Criteria that dictates what medicines are inappropriate for seniors to be taking. He had walked into too many nursing homes and saw seniors sleeping with their heads down because they were overly medicated or taking the wrong medications. He was a change agent for seniors and nursing homes in America. My daughter was a science teacher in New York City, and we are very close. I am a joyful person who has been fortunate enough to experience a lifetime of love and happiness.”

 

“Linda is a talented woman who enriches the lives of those she graces,” said Rick Minichino, wellness director for La Posada. “Many of the residents living in the senior living community have an appreciation for art and culture, and they delight in viewing Linda’s work. We are fortunate to have such an inspiring artist living among us. You can really see her kindhearted spirit and how she sees the world when viewing her artwork.”

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During one of the recent virtual reality sessions at La Posada, a premier retirement community, a resident reached for a martini glass on a cocktail table in front of her while listening to an entertainer sing Frank Sinatra songs in a lounge. While reaching for the martini glass and grabbing a wisp of air, the resident remembered she was not actually at the show. However, she kept tapping her toes to the beat and turning her head up, down and sideways to take in the full spectrum that MyndVR created. The senior living community recently partnered with MyndVR, a health and wellness company creating virtual reality (VR) solutions for adults 55-plus, to participate in a nationwide pilot to gain observational data on the positive impact VR has on seniors’ well-being. Residents across the continuum of care from independent living to assisted living and memory care will participate in virtual reality experiences using the company’s proprietary VR solution and customized content. The innovative technology and unique content provides opportunities for engagement, reminiscing, increased feelings of joy, and a sense of connection.

 

“I was getting ready to showcase a TED Talk on virtual reality and the potential it has for health care when I learned of MyndVR,” said Rick Minichino, Wellness Director of La Posada. “The timing was impeccable, and partnering with MyndVR to run a pilot at the community was an opportunity I jumped at for our residents. When thinking of what this could do for the residents, I considered the therapeutic aspects for residents with dementia in memory care and those with less mobility or other health issues in assisted living. I believe the music component will be especially beneficial for those living with dementia and Alzheimer’s, igniting memories associated with different songs during the course of their lifetime. For those in need of assistive services, I think this will be a new technique for them to experience the world from inside our community. For a resident living in assisted living who cannot travel extensively due to physical limitations or reasons pertaining to health, they can still embark on adventures through the virtual reality program and then share these experiences with their family or friends.”

 

The pilot was first made available to assisted living residents, and the community is now extending the pilot to residents living in independent living and memory care. Minichino’s hope for memory care residents is that the VR program brings out their personality traits through dancing in their chairs, smiling, singing and toe-tapping as they experience elevated moods and connect with content that helps them recall memories from the past. There are a number of interactive environments in which residents can immerse themselves, and all of the content is customized for seniors.

 

“I foresee virtual reality having the potential to be a part of our programming as a form of clinical treatment, therapeutic engagement and entertainment,” said Minichino. “I am excited to explore this new technology with our residents and see all of the unique and interesting content MyndVR has to offer and what they come up with next. During the pilot, residents have undergone a variety of experiences already. For example, you can move through famous paintings, or you can go diving and look at bright tropical fish swimming around and the sunlight streaming through the top of the water. In other virtual reality experiences, you can go white water rafting, submerse yourself in an African grassland with elephants coming up to you, or float in space to look at the stars and Jupiter. It is really quite amazing, and I am very excited to share this with more residents living in our community.”

 

 

“We spent the past year conducting a nationwide pilot, and we are thrilled to partner with La Posada as we conclude this phase,” said Chris Brickler, co-founder of MyndVR. “MyndVR is much more than entertainment. We are really looking to improve the lives and overall health and cognitive outcomes for seniors. We have seen our proprietary VR solution and customized content have a powerful impact on hundreds of seniors so far. We have observed mood improvement, reductions in feelings of isolation, triggering of memories, an increased sense of connection, and lifted spirits among participants. Some participants have even reported relief from symptoms of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration and Parkinson’s disease. This approach is proving successful during our pilot, and we look forward to incorporating our findings from the residents’ experiences at La Posada into our Mynd MomentumTM solution.”

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“Alone! Unarmed! Unafraid?” was the slogan of a small group of men who were selected to fly top-secret reconnaissance missions over North Korea, China and Russia during the Korean War. The slogan came about/arose because these men flew alone in single-seat fighter planes equipped with cameras instead of guns, which left them unarmed. Whether they were afraid or not, depended on the scenarios they faced during each mission. Walt McCarthy, a resident of La Posada senior living community in Palm Beach Gardens, flew on six of these top-secret missions. He wanted to become a pilot starting at a young age, so he signed up for the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) in 1947 and was called to active duty on June 26, 1951 when he was 22 years old. While the Korean War is sometimes referred to as “The Forgotten War,” McCarthy and his fellow veterans are not forgotten and were recently honored at a Veterans Day celebration at at La Posada on November 11. The community recognized every veteran regardless of whether they served during a period of war. McCarthy is open to sharing his memories of his service, some of which touch on recently declassified missions.

 

“After flying school I went to Korea and became a flight commander and trained seven or eight other pilots,” said McCarthy. “I flew F-80s, the original jet fighter, and later flew F-86s. I flew several training missions in the F-80s and was ordered to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas to check out in the F-86s. I was stationed in Japan after that training and was assigned to become the squadron intelligence officer and lead top-secret mission. During these top-secret missions, I felt like we were breaking every treaty we had ever made.”

 

McCarthy was stationed in Japan when he was instructed to go with his wingman, Nick, to patrol the Kuril Islands and take pictures of submarine pens, as the Navy was interested in obtaining that intelligence. The photos were then developed at a secret lab in Tokyo. One day, McCarthy and Nick were called to the lab. The two thought they were in trouble, however, the developer stopped the film and showed them a picture of two Russian MiG fighter jets which had been right below them and they had no idea.

 

“On another mission, we were staging out of Korea,” said McCarthy. “I was flying over the ocean as a decoy so Nick could fly over the center of North Korea. I happened to glance down and saw two MiGs turning into me. Since I was unarmed, I got out of there as fast as I could. That was easily the most dramatic mission for me, seeing as we didn’t even have guns in our planes to defend ourselves. We only had cameras with 200 feet of nine-inch wide film.”

 

McCarthy married Joy Bragg during his service and even brought a little girl into the world while living in Japan. The couple jokes that she is their Japanese daughter. This was their second child, as they had a son in Texas. McCarthy recalls that it wasn’t easy being a service wife and trying to raise a family while he was completing missions, but she stayed strong. McCarthy would have a bag packed and ready to go because they didn’t know when they would be called for a mission. They would then take off immediately and couldn’t give their wives any details because their missions were top secret. When people asked his wife if she worried about him a lot, she replied no because if he was dead the chaplain would be at their house by then. He loved her support and is grateful for his experience. Veterans Day is significant to McCarthy because he believes all veterans deserve recognition. His time spent serving his country was very important to him, and he likes to think of other people growing and making something of their service like he did.

 

“My life was enriched by my time spent in the service,” said McCarthy. “It helped me grow up and forced me to take on responsibilities I never would have dreamed of handling. I wasn’t the most charismatic leader, but I think my men respected me because I used common sense. This experience helped me build confidence which I later used to pursue a career at Pratt and Whitney, a company that builds aircraft engines. In two years I was promoted to supervisor, and I spent 35 years working with that company. My service gave me the confidence to do well in my role.”

 

“There are many veterans and spouses of veterans who live in our community, and we feel honored when we hear about their experiences,” said Cadiere. “It is a real privilege to listen to their stories, and it helps us understand what they have witnessed over the years. We were pleased to host a ceremony to celebrate all of the veterans who live or work at our community. This celebration was a way to honor their sacrifice and the sacrifices made by fellow veterans and their spouses. Their service, whether it was a few years ago or a few decades ago, impacts us greatly by ensuring that we have the freedom we know and love. The least we can do is host an event to pay homage to the sacrifices they made.”