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A Special Section Focusing on Senior Lifestyles


This Month’s Focus: Health+Wellness

January 2013

Marjorie Johnson: A recipe for successful life BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER Marjorie Johnson may be known as a blue-ribbon baker, but red is definitely her color. Standing only four feet, eight inches tall, the Robbinsdale senior dons her signature red dress and apron each time she appears on one of many national shows that clamor for her award-winning desserts and powerhouse personality. “When you’re on TV you aren’t supposed to wear stripes, plaids or white. I noticed in every picture I see, red stands out. Since I’m small, I thought that a little spot of red would be a pretty good way to get noticed,” she said. Marjorie’s national fame began when the James Beard Foundation contacted the Minnesota State Fair for someone to represent the state in one of its programs. Having won more than 2,500 fair ribbons including more than 1,000 blue ribbons in her lifetime, Marjorie was the ideal person. She flew to New York City for the event, and while there volunteered to do publicity appearances to promote the foundation’s Meals on Wheels program. She appeared on the Rosie O’Donnell show, and the two women hit it off. “She kept inviting me back. I was there for the last show in 2002,” said Marjorie. “Rosie had lost her mother. Perhaps she thought of me as a substitute mother.” A producer from the Rosie O’Donnell Show went to work for Wayne Brady in 2003, and an invitation to appear soon followed. One visit evolved into a contract to appear 23 times. Amateur bakers could “Challenge Margie” to a baking contest judged by celebrities. She recalls the most memorable battle when

Marjorie Johnson’s most recent appearance on The Tonight Show occurred on Dec. 20, 2012 where she made a Christmas tree cake with Jay Leno and Katherine Heigl. (Photo courtesy NBC Studios) Wolfgang Puck pronounced her pie the winner, complementing her superior piecrust. Wayne Brady also began to send Marjorie as a correspondent to marquee events like the Emmys and Sundance Film Festival. When the Wayne Brady Show ended in 2004, she thought her TV days might be over. Then in 2006 Rosie invited her on The View. Soon after, she was asked to appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. “I was on in January and they all liked me. I was invited back,” recalled Marjorie. “That March I went back on The View to make Rosie’s 45th birthday

cake.” When Marjorie returned to The Tonight Show that May, they asked her a strange question. “They wanted to know if I knew a lot about sports. They said, ‘We’re going to send you to San Antonio to cover the NBA Finals.’ I told them if they sent me, I’d know all about it.” The Tonight Show viewers loved her. She went on to cover Major League Baseball, NBA Basketball, the X Games, and the Las Vegas Bike Fest motorcycle rally. Her most recent appearance on The Tonight Show occurred on Dec. 20, 2012 where she made a Christmas tree cake

with Jay Leno and Katherine Heigl. She has also appeared on The Martha Stewart Show, Dr. Oz, HGTV, the Travel Channel, and Twin Cities Live. Marjorie began baking at eight years old in a family of six girls. “My mother was a fabulous baker,” she recalled Marjorie earned a B.S. degree in Foods and Business with a minor in Journalism from the University of Minnesota. “Things have changed so much since then, but I like to keep up on everything new in nutrition and health,” she said. Marjorie hasn’t changed her attitude towards life in decades. She has the same vitality, zest for living, interest in new recipes and perfecting her baking as she did when she was in her 20s. This is one of the reasons she was selected for inclusion in the new book, Awaken Your AgePotential: Exploring Chosen Paths of Thrivers (Beaver’s Pond Press, 2012) by Twin Cities author and gerontologist Lori Campbell. In the book, Marjorie sums up her advice to seniors on how to thrive later in life: eat healthy, exercise, get enough sleep, think positively, and be interested in something. “For me that is baking. You have to be vitally interested so you will wake up and want to discover and be interested,” she said. “I expect the best. There’s always something to be happy about — little things, like a walk, or that first cup of coffee in the morning.” For more information, go to or read her book, The Road to Blue Ribbon Baking with Marjorie (Oh My Gosh! Press Nov. 2007). For more information about The AgePotential Movement, go to

2 Mature Lifestyles – Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013

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Seniors helping seniors

Northeast Senior Services:

BY EMILY HEDGES – CONTRIBUTING WRITER Kay Acton of Columbia Heights knows what Northeast Senior Services means to seniors around the area because she is one of them. As a longtime board member, she has helped design the non-profit from the ground up. As a volunteer, she stays connected by giving rides to those who can’t drive or manage public transportation. As an 80-year-old resident, she uses Northeast Senior Services to keep herself healthy. A group of local churches and community groups formed Northeast Senior Services in 1973. In 1996, Acton was asked to represent Faith Methodist in St. Anthony Village. She says her volunteer work has made her more aware of the needs of others. “It can be really lonely for a lot of people. We provide a pal to go and visit. People need someone to talk to and discuss things with. You’ve got to have connections with people,” she said. Kay Anderson, executive director of Northeast Senior Services, hopes to see the program expand through volunteers like Acton. “I envision a program where seniors can call other seniors and stay in touch,” she said. “Many seniors don’t drive, so they kind of get stuck in their house. They need to talk to someone outside to get them engaged.” Anderson believes these connections have a direct link with improved health. “When seniors stay at home too much they can get depressed and don’t eat well. Sometimes they don’t keep up with doctor appointments. Our program was designed as a way for seniors to connect with someone,” she said. Acton provides door-to-door service for seniors who need a ride to their appointments.

Northeast Senior Services gives Kay Acton the chance to give back to her community, and will continue to help her stay independent in her home as she ages. “I really enjoy it. I think these older people really appreciate it. Of course now I’m 80 myself, but I still feel comfortable driving,” said Acton, whose own mother lived to be 106 years old. Acton said she usually waits at the appointments and reads the newspa-

per unless they will take longer than about an hour. In that case, another volunteer might do the taking or picking up, or she’ll go home and come back. “They all have a story, and I love hearing them. We just have a nice,

pleasant time,” she said. “People feel like you’re a neighbor giving them a ride.” Acton, a retired school nurse, raised five kids in the Columbia Heights school system. She has 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She served as the Republican Chairwoman in Columbia Heights for many years until finally getting disillusioned by politics. “When Nixon did his Watergate thing, that’s when I left it,” she said. “I was tired of politics and went back to work.” Acton says she has depended on Northeast Senior Services for Medicare counseling, and regularly uses the exercise program offered through Northeast Methodist Church. “It’s exercise for seniors. Most of it is sitting in a chair, but it’s a good, hard workout,” she said. She anticipates needing more from Northeast Senior Services as she ages. Northeast Senior Services assists residents of Columbia Heights, New Brighton, St. Anthony Village and Northeast Minneapolis. Northeast Senior Home Connection helps with low-cost yard maintenance, home repairs, electronics troubleshooting, housekeeping, and housing counseling. Volunteers like Acton provide rides to appointments through the Senior Rides Program. Riders donate what they can afford. The suggested donation is $8. Seniors can call by noon on Thursday for rides starting the next Monday or after. Northeast Senior Wellness helps seniors improve their health and continue to live independently. Seniors can sign up to have a friend to visit with once per week in-person or by phone. For more information on services, or to become a volunteer, call 612-7815096 or go to

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Hearing loss affects life connections BY EMILY HEDGES – CONTRIBUTING WRITER Jane Hutar doesn’t take hearing for granted. With her new hearing aids from hi HealthInnovations, the 74-year-old is reminded just how sweet the simplest sound can be, like your name across a crowded room. “I noticed when I was in a large group of people, I couldn’t hear or understand one word. That went on for quite a while,” said Hutar. She recalls at one gathering, she mentioned to the woman standing next to her that she couldn’t hear. The woman responded that she too was thinking of getting hearing aids. “I thought that’s what I should do,” she said. “People expect you to hear what they have said, and it’s so difficult when you don’t hear at all.” Hutar’s daughter, who works for UnitedHealthcare, told her about hi HealthInovations. She went to the clinic in Eden Prairie and had her hearing tested at no charge. According to Dr. Lisa Tseng, M.D.,

CEO, because hi HealthInnovations is part of UnitedHealth Group they can offer higher quality at a lower cost. She also points to the support infrastructure as unique in the industry. “The affordability of our hearing aids and the amount of customer support we provide set us apart,” she said. “We have free one-on-one phone support from product specialists, online user videos, daily new user seminars hosted by audiologists, and in-person support in many cities nationwide.” For Hutar, there is no downside to her new hearing aids. “I love them. They don’t show even with my short hair. I don’t think it would bother me even if they did show,” she said. “It’s nice to know what everyone is talking about and hear when someone calls your name. It gives you more of a feeling of being included when you can hear everything.” According to Dr. Tseng, seniors sometimes don’t realize that hearing loss can impact our closest relationships. “It’s really hard to be intimate and

engaged when you feel the other person isn’t hearing you. It’s difficult enough sharing feelings without having to repeat yourself,” she said. Dr. Tseng points out that the misunderstandings that occur as a result of hearing loss is another important reason for seniors to seek help. “Many people with hearing loss have a harder time distinguishing consonants, so they tend to have difficulty correctly recognizing words. Two people can be having a conversation and have two different understandings of what went on. It really can be quite challenging,” she said. Studies show that untreated hearing loss can affect a person’s ability to stay connected to friends and family, contributing to social isolation, depression and lower income. While 90 percent of people with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids, fewer than 20 percent currently use them, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The high cost of most hearing aids is one of the reasons many seniors choose not to seek help.

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“It is so important to treat hearing loss. It’s not something you have to live with,” said Dr. Tseng. Hutar thinks that some seniors might hesitate because they’ve heard they are difficult to set, or they won’t actually use them, or they will be self-conscious. “I suggest going in as soon as you can. You don’t realize how much you miss until you get your hearing aids. Don’t wait a year or longer like I did. You’re just losing out.” hi HealthInnovations also recently launched a new program to make hearing aids more affordable for U.S. veterans and their spouses. Hearing loss is a growing health concern for some veterans, in part because of their history of noise exposure during service. Hearing loss is the second most common health condition among veterans, affecting more than 670,000 members of the armed forces nationwide, according to The Hearing Journal. For more information on the veteran discount program and hearing tests, call 1-855-523-9355 or go to

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Learning and love through dementia BY EMILY HEDGES – CONTRIBUTING WRITER Tammy Lofthus was always her mother’s helper. As a child, she followed Flo around the garden and kitchen, learning self-sufficiency and resourcefulness as the military family reinvented itself in communities all over the world. “I had the most phenomenal childhood anyone could ask for. I was very close to my mom and dad,” said the Burnsville resident. At 53 years old Tammy is still her mother’s helper, but now she is the one creating the safe and loving home. Flo, now 83 years old, suffers from Lewy Body Disease, a kind of dementia. “It’s a terrible thing when aging parents suffer from dementia. She has a good longterm memory, what we did in the past, the places we traveled to, but zero short-term memory,” she said. Tammy is no stranger for caring for loved ones at home. She grew up with her grandmother living with her family. She watched her mother care for her until she passed away from stomach cancer.

“As a young girl and woman, I didn’t know any different than caring for parents. I knew I would do the same for my mother,” she said. As an adult, Tammy was constantly flying home to Georgia to visit her parents and help take care of things. All that changed in 2010 when her father passed away unexpectedly. “I had promised my dad that I’d take care of her. I brought her back to Minnesota from Georgia, and have been her caregiver ever since,” she said. The first thing Tammy did was to make her home look as much like her parents’ home as possible. She believes the key for her mother is a rigid, predictable schedule. “The more consistent the schedule, the better it is. If everyday we get up to the same, it lends less confusion for them, the less they’re upset within the world they live in, the better,” she said. Every morning Tammy eats breakfast with her mother, get washed and dressed. When she leaves for her job at KrausAnderson Insurance, her fiancé stays with Flo until Tammy returns home at lunch.

One or all of Tammy’s three daughters – two in college and one at Burnsville High School – stay with their Grandmother until she gets home in the evening. “It definitely takes the entire family,” she said. “I understand why some families can’t do it. I’m just happy that we can.” Although her mother’s basic needs were being met, Tammy knew Flo needed connections that were lacking since she moved away from all of her friends. That’s when she saw an ad for Home Instead Senior Care in Burnsville. She called and spoke with a staff member about Flo’s needs. A short time later Uni, a Home Instead CAREGiver, entered their lives. “They instantly fell into a one-on-one conversation,” said Tammy. “Now Uni comes on Thursdays. I always have some type of dessert for them. She is here for two hours. It’s wonderful. It lets my mom talk. My mom has a friend.” It also gave Tammy the chance for some self-care. “When Uni is there, I try to have lunch with a girlfriend, or go shopping. It gives me that time with no worries about my

mom. I know she is in good hands,” she said. Vitaly Salo, executive director of Home Instead Senior Care, believes the education and resources they offer to families is one of the most important factors in helping those families provide better care and enjoy caring for their loved ones. “We have a training center with free education for caregivers. It’s important for them to be good at what they do. This experience will define them for years as loved ones need that care. A few things they learn will go a long way,” said Salo. For Tammy, the built-in support system she has with Home Instead gives her confidence that no matter what happens in the future, she will be able to give her mother the care she needs. “Caring for loved ones at home is not for the faint of heart, but if you have a good support system, it’s possible,” she said. Home Instead of Burnsville offers services by the hour with rates starting at $24 per hour. For more information on Home Instead, go to or call 952-882-9300.



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Inspiration by example Hopkins resident teaches aerobics class for 29 years

services and activities manager that extreme,” she said. From that time on, she began for the Minnetonka Senior Center. “The class draws 75 to 80 incorporating exercise into her life. She recalls waking up at 5:30 people a day.” McSwiggen was first moved to a.m. and walking four miles b e f o r e lead a breakfast. m o r e BY EMILY HEDGES During bad active life CONTRIBUTING WRITER w e a t h e r, during a she would to Jean McSwiggen only knows trip walk up one way to inspire her senior B a r b a d o s and down exercise class – by example. The with her her baseHopkins resident is known for h u s b a n d ment steps rarely missing a class in the 29 in 1972. 100 times. “ W e years she has volunteered to A f t e r teach low-impact aerobics at the were there awhile that Minnetonka Senior Center. As a v i s i t i n g got boring, result, the 88-year-old can run up my sister she the stairs with no problem, and has a in -STEVE PIEH, so decided to loyal following of fellow seniors P e a c e SENIOR SERVICES AND ACTIVITIES MANAGER start going who consider her a friend and Corps. We FOR THE MINNETONKA SENIOR CENTER to the walked the role model. “I believe it is the largest sen- b e a c h e s ior exercise program in and I kept Minnesota by number of stu- getting bushed. It was hot, but Minnetonka Center for the Arts dents,” said Steve Pieh, senior we really weren’t doing anything in Orono where her husband was taking classes of his own. She drove regularly to Orono until the 80’s gas crunch hit, and she didn’t feel right wasting the gas. She took the opportunity at church one Sunday to ask the current director of the : N O I T N ATTE Minnetonka Senior Center if they offered an exercise program there. “She told me, ‘We need a new leader, and you’re it!’” she said. McSwiggen went to a training program for Park Nicollet’s “Over 50 and Fit” program, MARCH EDITORIAL FOCUS: where she learned the exercise routines. Since then, she has added a few original ones choreographed by the late Dagmer We are looking for people who Locke, who served as her cohave added a mother-in law leader for a number of years. apartment to their home or “Now I can’t find anyone to do have you bought a house new routines for me,” said specifically because it had one? McSwiggen, who volunteers to teach classes on Mondays, apartment Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 If so, please contact Krista Jech at a.m. to 10 a.m. and is known for 952-392-6835 always showing up. or “I don’t miss because of snow

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or anything like that because it’s good for me. I keep telling the gang that I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t doing me some good,” she said. McSwiggen is no stranger to serving others. The day she turned 20 years old, she and a friend went in and volunteered for WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), a World War II division of the U.S. Navy. Stationed in Pennsylvania, she served from 1944-1946 tracking the location of supply ships. “Women couldn’t join until they were 20. I already had most of my family in the military, including two sisters in WAVES,” said McSwiggen. She returned home and enrolled in the University of Minnesota. However, marriage and the birth of her first child cut her academic career short. After raising eight children, she decided to return to the University in 1974 to get a degree in Political Science. “I needed to put a period to that part of my life. I needed to get that degree,” she said. Whether it’s exercising her mind, or body, McSwiggen is determined that growing older is a time to thrive. “As you get older, it gets harder for your friends to get out, and you need someone to talk to,” said McSwiggen. “Here they have people to talk to while they exercise, and they do. They talk all the way through it.” She says she enjoys the social buzz of conversation. “I’ve made lots of good friends that way. They are my support system. Everyone needs that,” she said. The Minnetonka Senior Center is located at 14600 Minnetonka Blvd. For more information on classes, call (952) 939-8393 or go to

Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013– Mature Lifestyles 7

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