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A time to live, not stop
Q&A with Dr. Jennifer Brinckerhoff
October 24, 2011
By Karen Weintraub, Globe Correspondent
Dr. Jennifer Brinckerhoff
Brinckerhoff, medical director of Hebrew SeniorLife Medical Group at Orchard Cove in Canton, is one of the scheduled speakers at a two-part lecture series on retirement living, Thursday and Nov. 10. For more information: www.hslindependentliving.org.
Q. As the geriatrician at a facility where the average resident is 89 years old, what do you see as the keys to successful aging?
A. The people I find who do the best with aging are those who are able to focus on what they have left to give, not just their limitations. Often people get bogged down in what they can’t do: They can’t drive anymore, or they can’t walk without pain, and they can’t see as well. You can still look at your years ahead and say: “How do I want to make the best of this?’’ It’s probably a lot easier if you learn that [way of thinking] from a young age, but it doesn’t mean you can’t learn it when you get older.
Q. So, you encourage them to avoid talking about illness or death?
A. Aging has more to do with living than it does with dying or illness. We try to help people to gain a perspective and knowledge base so they can help themselves age better. There’s a difference between being in denial, and putting those medical illnesses in a place that can be separate from the enjoyment of your day-to-day life. Just because you’re not focusing on them doesn’t mean you’re ignoring them - just that you’re not allowing them to take over.
Q. Is it safe to assume that staying active is also crucial for healthy aging?
A. The more active they can be and the more socially plugged in they can be, the more we find they can have joy and empowerment and independence.
Q. Diet is obviously important, too. What do you think people over 80 often neglect in their diet?
A. Drinking enough liquids [is crucial]. Between 45 and 65 ounces of noncaffeinated liquids a day really helps people to maintain blood pressure, to fight back some of the side effects of multiple medications, to keep them more energized and able to do more activities. A lot of times people will try not to drink because they don’t want to have to go to the bathroom. [But] you can do scheduled voiding and bladder training. You can still drink liquids and have control over your independence.
Q. Isn’t there also a lot of sorrow for people in their 80s and 90s, as they watch friends and family members die?
A. We talk about the concept of accumulated grief. Each death in itself isn’t just additive, it’s almost multiplicative, because each time you have a significant loss, it brings up all those feelings of grief and loss from when your sister died or your best friend died. It’s something that never really goes away. But look what you’ve had. If you had never grown that attachment, you never would have suffered the loss, but you never would have had the love either.
Q. You are a strong believer in limiting the number of pills older people take.
A. That worrisome number is about four pills. People who are on more [than four pills a day] have more falls, they have more adverse drug reactions, they have more trips to the emergency room. It’s not like when you turn 80, you say “I’m not going to take more than four pills.’’ A good geriatrician can help you [decide which pills to prioritize].
Q. Has working with older patients changed your own perspective on aging?
A. I guess it’s inspiring to see the people who are really doing it well. That’s the ultimate privilege: to be able to be old. The alternative is you’re not here. I’m reminded of that every day, so I just love what I do.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Karen Weintraub can be reached at Karen@KarenWeintraub.com.
Canton’s Redmont receives prestigious French Legion of Honor recognition for work as journalist
By Paula Vogler
Wicked Local Canton
Canton — Canton resident Bernard Redmont, 92, joined an elite group of Americans who have received France’s highest recognition in a ceremony at Orchard Cove Sept. 27.
Named a Chevalier or Knight in the French Legion of Honor in 1973, Redmont was promoted to Officier, or Officer, and received his award from Consul General of France in Boston Christophe Guilhou on behalf of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Guilhou said Redmont had a passion for promoting a better understanding of France in the United States even during great times of turmoil and unrest, and continues to strengthen the strong bond between the two countries.
“His passion for French culture is outstanding and deserves recognition,” Guilhou said. “His continued dedication has earned him a promotion.”
Redmont, a former CBS News bureau chief, was a foreign correspondent who lived and worked in France for more than 27 years, and most recently, the dean of the College of Communication at Boston University. In all, he has reported in more than 50 countries.
During his career, he has earned numerous other awards and honors such as being inducted into the Communication Hall of Fame in 2001, a Pulitzer Fellow in 1939-1940 and the Overseas Press Club Award for best radio reporting from abroad in 1969 and 1974.
He worked in freedom in France, a place he said he could be fully himself without the “erosion of the soul that happens in so many other places.”
“For a journalist like me, France was a country where it was good to work,” Redmont said, speaking in both English and French. “The affection I’ve had for France has not changed.”
When McCarthyism hysteria caused the United States government to pull his work papers in the 1950s, France made a way for him to stay and work.
It was while in France in 1968 that Redmont broke the story about a high-ranking North Vietnamese official who told him if the United States stopped the bombing of Hanoi, they would come to the table to negotiate peace to end the Vietnam War.
Redmont said the only way to communicate between him and the North Vietnamese official was the French language.
Redmont said he is an American citizen with an American passport, but out of nostalgia keeps his French residence card that has expired.
He lamented the fact that the love of other cultures is vanishing and said it is important to immerse oneself in another culture to learn about the spirit, the politics and the ways of living.
“This is a great honor and I accept it in all humility,” Redmont said. “France overwhelms me by decorating me with the Legion of Honor.”
June Kredenser was one of nearly 100 friends and family members who turned out at Orchard Cove to watch Redmont receive his award. She has known Redmont for 11 years and said he hosts a monthly current events talk for Orchard Cove residents.
“There is always a big turnout when he is speaking,” Kredenser said. “There is no pretense about him. He’s a nice man.”
Other past honorees include Walt Disney, Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford, Queen Elizabeth II and most recently Liza Minelli in July.
Paula Vogler can be reached at 508-967-3515 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Links to Other Bernard Redmont Articles:
Canton seniors thrive in new aging program
By Kate Sullivan Foley
April 29, 2010
Canton - At 85, Sylvia Namyet is excited about the future. Her plans include traveling more, diversifying her volunteer efforts and picking up her once beloved interest in pastel painting.
A resident of Orchard Cove in Canton for the past seven years, Namyet recently participated in Vitality 360, a pilot program initiated to help residents redefine aging and improve the quality of their lives. Fifty residents volunteered to go through the six-month process that includes a scientific assessment of their lives with a focus on seven aspects -- health, nutrition, physical fitness, mental fitness, community links, lifelong learning and spirituality.
The first phase was a 45-minute interview with Orchard Cove's wellness coach. Namyet answered a series of questions, which helped her reflect on her active and productive life.
A mother of three and an avid volunteer, Namyet taught in the Sharon Public Schools before earning her master's degree in reading. She then worked in the Canton Public Schools for more than 16 years before retiring in the late 1980s.
A Sharon resident for more than 54 years, Namyet served on the School Committee, helped start the League of Women Voters, served as its president and was involved with her synagogue. She and her late husband, Saul, also were active volunteers with the former Striar Jewish Community Center where they helped run a seniors program.
"We may look backwards to those lives we had before - but we all have to look forward," Namyet said.
The second phase was about preparing for the future and setting personal goals.
For many seniors, Namyet said, moving into a continuing care retirement community, like Orchard Cove, means their lives are over.
Not true, she said; rather it is a new beginning.
"We are not here to end our lives - we just need to pause a little and recalculate our future," Namyet said.
Vitality 360, innovative and unique, is helping seniors do just that, according to Aline Russutto, Orchard Cove Executive Director.
It helps seniors decide those next steps they want to take and gives them the tools to be successful in each one, Russutto said.
"How many people think that when they are 80-plus years old they are going to sit down and set goals and achieve those goals?" Russutto asked.
After retirement, it is easy for seniors to lose sight of life's purpose, she said. Vitality 360 helps them refocus.
"We are empowering our residents to really think about their lives," Russutto said.
Natalie Linden, a retired registered nurse, relished the opportunity to sit down with a professional and talk about her life.
"The staff here is wonderful - they have all been trained to realize the problems of the aging," she said.
Through Vitality 360, she said, they don't just look at one part of the person but instead look at the whole person.
The effort already has been very beneficial for many seniors, she said.
Those who needed to become more physical are finding strength through exercise, and many who were shy are learning to come out of their homes more often and get involved, Linden said.
"It helps us see what we can do to make sure we use all of our God-given blessings to keep ourselves active, useful and productive," she said. Staff members, including a social worker, fitness director, chaplain and nurse practitioner, are readily available to help residents with Vitality plans meet their desired goals, Linden said.
"Whatever we choose to do, we have all kinds of support," she said.
Socially busy and physically active, Linden, who has lived at Orchard Cove for 16 ½ years, found three goals for her future which she already is well on her way to achieving.
To lose a few extra pounds, she started getting on the treadmill three times a week in addition to her morning walks. She's lost four pounds.
With her many interests and commitments at Orchard Cove, she is quite busy. To maintain her role as a "devoted and loving mother and grandmother," she believes she needs to invest a little more effort.
To ensure weekly communication with loved ones, she now schedules time to talk on the phone with each of her grandchildren and with her son. She also looks forward to dinner once a week with her daughter and son-in-law.
And finally, she plans to continue volunteering.
"When I come off of one committee, I try to look for another one," she said.
At 86, she is proud of her full and wonderful life. She hopes other seniors will take the time to evaluate their lives and embrace new opportunities.
"At any age, people can still have new challenges and continue to be very productive," Linden said.
Orchard Cove is a continuing care retirement community from Hebrew SeniorLife
(HSL), a nationally-recognized non-profit leader in senior healthcare, housing and wellness, and the Vitality 360 program was created based on years of research from HSL's Institute for Aging Research. Orchard Cove estimates that 90 percent of its 300 independent living residents will choose to participate in the Vitality 360 program and should be in the "coaching" phase of the program by September 2010.
Results are in:
The following are the results of the six-month Vitality 360 pilot program at Orchard Cove: * 75 percent of participants now exercise regularly (a 50 percent increase from before the program); demand for fitness programs is so high Orchard Cove has hired a second personal trainer.
- The program showed that many residents were having balance issues that limited their movement and socialization; Orchard Cove implemented an evidence-based balance class that has helped many residents become more independent and engaged in the community.
- Many residents have reconnected with family members after setting a goal to improve their relationships and this connection has increased their well-being, outlook on life and involvement in the community.
A GOOD AGE: 86-year-old fights off cancer to direct musical
By Sue Scheible
October 27, 2009
Jack Morris is 86, and just made a comeback from colon cancer. He is directing a musical at Orchard Cove Retirement Community on Oct. 29.
They've still got it. Oh yes. Sylvia Gorberg, 91, with her exquisite soprano. Shirley Goldberg, 87, who rolls through the tongue-twisting lyrics of "Nagasaki." Elliot Kraft, 89, with his mischievous "Jeepers Creepers."
"They want to do it; they love to do it and it's an accomplishment," says Barbara Stoller, 79, of Milton.
They're all members of the cast of "We're Just Wild About Harry," this year's musical-variety show at Orchard Cove retirement community. These seniors do enjoy the music of featured composer Harry Warren. But it's really 86-year-old Jack Morris they're wild about.
Morris is both director and "the miracle" behind the drama taking place at Orchard Cove. A year ago, everyone thought he was on his deathbed after surgery for colon cancer. The 2008 show was canceled. Then in August, word came that he would be back for his 17th year. "Some of my wonderful old-timers showed up," Morris says. "They were tickled to death."
It is especially touching to see a group of people in their 80s and 90s work hard to perform challenging Broadway routines and do a good job of it, as they did at a recent rehearsal. You know they must have been something in their day.
Their voices may occasionally tremble and a few get rattled or forget their lines, but who doesn't? They've got the glint in the eye, the smiles, the enthusiasm. They're better than most of us could ever hope to be.
"You get a wonderful sense of teamwork and you can forget yourself and be someone else," is how resident musician Carol Elledge explains the magic.
Morris has a long, proud history in Boston theater. As a youngster, he staged musicals in his Dorchester basement and had a traveling puppet opera. In the Navy, from 1942-47, he put on musicals aboard ship. While working as a window designer at Jordan Marsh, he produced musicals with The Limelighters, an amateur group, where his wife, Bea, designed costumes.
For 11 years, he ran a CYO youth theater group at St. Ann's Church in Dorchester and then directed the New Neponset Players for 17 years.
"I had the Orson Welles syndrome," he says. "I wrote the shows, acted in and directed them." Now, he is content to sit back and "see it all coming together into fruition, the satisfaction on the performers' faces."
The creative spirit carries this gentle but determined soul forward. Morris is also an accomplished artist, but theater is his first love.
"It feels wonderful to be back," he says. "It is like adrenalin. In the hospital, I thought about this often, but never expected I would be able to do this again. But God is good."
Thanks to John McDonald, 49, of Quincy for the tip. This reminds me of the 2007 documentary film, "Young at Heart." The show goes on at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Orchard Cove auditorium. It is free and open to the public. Call 781-821-0820.
Jack Morris directs seniors performing in the production Oct. 29.
Jack Morris, second from the left, and wife Bea Bennett, third from the left perform in the 1950s with the Limelighters, a theater group in Boston.