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The Importance of Friendship in Senior Living Technology Making Life Better for Seniors Starting an Exercise Program After Age 60

Elm Crest Strengthens Community Bonds One Program at a Time


any children today have limited exposure to the elderly population compared to the past where often multiple generations of a family lived together. Today, if grandparents live a senior living community, visiting can sometimes be a little daunting for children.

At Elm Crest, we are fortunate to have a number of programs that bring children and youth into our community to visit and spend time with residents. We are easily able to coordinate interactive programs with youth groups because we are located just a few blocks from the local Harlan school. Several times throughout the school year the first-grade class plans a visit to Elm Crest. The field

trip is a very popular as the students get to meet residents and entertain them with activities such as reading aloud, playing games and singing songs.

Harlan and the surrounding area is also home to a number of churches and other youth organizations such as 4-H, student clubs, 5th grade pen pals, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and FFA. With this strong sense of community Elm Crest acts as a natural gathering place and often has these youth groups come and host bingo, crafting events, musical programs and recitals. Another tradition we all—residents and staff alike—look forward to is a

performance from the local high school marching band. At the start of each school year the band assembles in formation around 8:00 AM in the Elm Crest parking lot. The band director visits with residents and describes the show they are about to perform. The show then begins and the band performs the routine they take to contests and events. This annual marching band performance is particularly special for residents who have grandchildren or great grandchildren in the band. Through these programs Elm Crest builds relationships with the greater Harlan area and continues to strengthen community bonds.

Law Enforcement Appreciation Event Was Huge Success


ver the past year police nationwide have faced substantial criticism in the media and local communities. Unfortunately a number have even been killed in the line of duty. Late last year, to show our support of local law enforcement, Elm Crest hosted a Law Enforcement Appreciation Event. The Elm Crest event was an opportunity for our residents to show their appreciation to Harlan officers.

dog, who the officers had brought along with them.

Elm Crest Administrator Tim Nauslar introduces law enforcement officers during the Law Enforcement Appreciation program at the community

The event, held in the Elm Crest community room, was attended by eight of Harlan’s finest on behalf of the City. Along with the officers residents enjoyed the chance to meet Harlan’s local drug enforcement

SPRING :: 2017

Tim Nauslar, Elm Crest Community Administrator, started off the event by sharing a few words of welcome and appreciation, followed by a few words from Pastor Donna Ewert. Several residents created signs, which they presented to the officers along with appreciation gift bags.

Afterward, coffee and cookies were served and residents got to spend a few minutes asking questions and visiting with the officers. The event was a nice way for Elm Crest residents to show their appreciation for the officers who put their lives on the line to keep our community safe.


A Friendship A Day Keeps the Doctor Away! Throughout our lives maintaining social connections is necessary for physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. For seniors, social bonds are more important than ever, but too often social networks begin to shrink just when they are needed most. By choosing to live in a senior living community residents are surrounded by a network of friends, family and peers. Activities, events, entertainment and mealtimes make it easy to meet new people and when living on a senior campus or in a community setting, friends and neighbors are close by therefore eliminating the transportation barrier that causes many seniors to feel isolated in their home. Social isolation can lead to unintended psychological and physical health risks. For example, depression, cognitive decline, impaired mobility, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and dementia. In addition, those who are socially isolated are less likely to be proactive about their health, leading to poor diet, decreased physical activity and a lower likelihood of seeking medical care. In American Baptist Homes of the Midwest (ABHM) communities like Elm Crest, seniors can create a lifestyle of their choosing and easily maintain or expand their social circles, increase interaction and prevent the consequences isolation can have on overall health. The social aspect of a senior community is one of the key benefits our residents receive during a stage of life when many experience social isolation. New friendships form every day across ABHM communities and are often the first thing residents mention when describing how their life has improved through community living.

“It was scary leaving my home of 32 years to move to a senior living community,” said one longtime resident, “but I’ve discovered that in the sharing of memories and the daily adventures of retirement, I’ve formed deep new friendships that bring me great joy. I find it impossible to clearly express the many blessings that are freely shared here each day, person-to-person and friend-to-friend.” Paulette Webb moved to ABHM’s Mountain Vista Senior Living Community in Colorado during July of 2016 and said her new friendships have been an unexpected blessing. “I have made good friends here and really enjoy being social”. Paulette continues, “It’s something I didn’t even realize I was missing when I was living in my house, but now I don’t know how I lived without it!” Though they may initially feel reluctant to change, most seniors find moving to a senior living community transforms their overall quality of life. If you are experiencing social isolation, talk to a loved one about transitioning to a senior community in your area. Already living in an ABHM community and looking for more? Ask your community’s activity coordinator how you can get more involved in community life.

Technology At ABHM Communities,

Is Changing

Senior Living

For the Better

n his 18 years with American Baptist Homes of the Midwest (ABHM), IT Director Roger Hennen has seen technology transform the lives of residents, as well as the way ABHM communities manage and deliver care.


This transformation follows a trend across the senior living industry. Communities all over the country are adopting new technologies in order to create more efficient processes, provide more personalized care, and facilitate communication between families, providers and community staff. At ABHM, Roger spearheads IT initiatives and helps the senior living communities implement and adapt new systems that streamline care and enhanced resident experiences. For example, digital health records enable staff to more carefully monitor resi-

dents’ progress over time, while health information exchange systems simplify patient transitions between hospital stays, rehab and discharge. Even the dining services team has technology on their side, using software to manage dietary plans customized to the needs of each individual resident. Perhaps the most dramatic change has come from the residents themselves, and how they adapt to new technology. Roger states, “Today, many new residents arrive at our communities with laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones in tow. Eighteen years ago, that rarely happened, people just didn’t have the interest and some of the technology didn’t even exist.” He continues, “In my time with ABHM there has been a dramatic change, I see residents in their 80s using

a wide variety of digital devices and computer systems, it has become the new norm.” The use of technology has been especially lifechanging for residents who do not have family nearby. These new means of communication give residents the opportunity to talk face-toface with family and friends hundreds and even thousands of miles away. “The biggest thing now is social media,” says Roger. “I’m seeing more and more of it each week. Facebook, Instagram . . . residents are using social media to stay in touch with family.” For those who don’t own a smartphone, tablet or laptop, ABHM provides access to computers so residents can use FaceTime or Skype with distant family members. Over the last five or six years, the access and use of technology has become a routine part of daily life for residents and families. ABHM communities have Wi-Fi installed throughout all the common areas and in the health centers, networks for guests and visiting family to access and walk-up computer stations are available in each community for those who don’t have a personal computer. “People coming to our communities have grown accustomed to having access to technology,” says Roger. “It’s part of their lives.”

How to Start an Exercise Routine AFTER AGE If you haven’t made exercise a regular part of your life by the time you’re 60, you may think it’s too late. Fortunately, it’s not! Many people associate aging with physical decline that makes it difficult to exercise. In reality, physical decline is a by-product of not being active on a regular basis. And far from being too late to get started, adults over 60 actually stand to benefit from exercise even more than younger adults! Regular physical activity lowers your risk for almost every chronic illness, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and strokes. Exercise has also been proven to slow mental decline, improve mood, and increase your body’s ability to recover from injury or surgery. Increased strength and dexterity reduce the risk of falls, which are a leading preventable cause of senior hospital visits. With all these potential benefits, what’s stopping you? Here’s how to get started.


3. Consistency Over Intensity

You don’t need to run marathons to gain the benefits of regular physical activity. Even a daily walk is enough to see improvements in your overall health. The key to establishing an exercise routine at any stage in life is picking something that you can commit to doing consistently. Find something you enjoy and exercise won’t seem like such a chore.

4. Work with a Trainer A physical trainer can help you set realistic goals, find exercises that fit your body and limitations, and practice exercise safely. For example, lifting weights without proper training and guidance can risk injury. ABHM’s staff of physical therapists and trainers will work with you to design a customized fitness program that will help you reach your goals.

1. Get Approval

5. Know When to Stop

Before you start any kind of exercise program, it’s important to get clearance from your doctor. Check with your physician to make sure they don’t have any concerns about you participating in certain forms of exercise. Take any advice they offer seriously. A sudden change in activity level can be dangerous if you have a heart condition or joint problems.

When you push your body beyond what it’s used to, it’s normal to feel some soreness and discomfort. However, if you experience pain or illness during a workout, that’s a signal from your body that you should stop and rest or slow down. Warning signs include chest pain or pressure, dizziness, nausea, cold sweat, sharp joint pain, and racing or irregular heartbeat.

2. Start Small If exercise hasn’t been a regular part of your life, you’re not going to jump up off the couch and head off running down the block. Assess your physical fitness level to determine an appropriate starting point. Without knowing your baseline, it’s easy to overdo it and cause an injury. Take it slow and work up to a more strenuous routine.

With spring just around the corner, now is the perfect time to start a new exercise routine. There’s almost nothing better for your mental and physical health than spending time outside moving your body, so get out there and go! Wellness and fitness activities are offered at all ABHM Communities, including Elm Crest. Contact Elm Crest administrator Tim Nauslar today to learn more.

Get to Know the Elm Crest Community Chaplain: Pastor Donna Ewert

Pastor Donna Ewert was born in Chicago before moving to Mt. Vernon, Iowa to attend Cornell College, where she studied elementary education and music education. After graduating in 1964, she taught first grade for five years and music for two years. Then in 1972, she went back to school to get a master’s degree in vocal performance from Northern Illinois University.

umenical communion on the first Tuesday of every month and a Time to Remember service on the last Monday of the month. In addition, Donna is also involved in daily activities

For the next 20 years Donna taught preschool before going back to school in 2000, this time to earn her masters in divinity from North Baptist Theological Seminary. In 2002, she was contacted by the Congregational United Church of Christ in Harlan to become their full-time pastorate while still teaching classes at Iowa Western Community College in Harlan. Long before Donna became the chaplain at Elm Crest, she participated in church services at the community, made frequent visits and was a familiar face to many Elm Crest residents. Eventually in 2014, Elm Crest, looking to expand spiritual services for residents, hired Pastor Donna Ewert as community chaplain. Since becoming chaplain, Donna has implemented a number of services and events to increase community involvement. The expanded services include Monday bible study group, Wednesday chapel service, ec-

of the community, developing care plans and daily visits to check in on residents. “Pastor Donna is not just a chaplain,” said Phyllis Mendenhall, an Elm Crest activity aide. “She is always there to lend a helping hand.” The Time to Remember service is something Donna created in 2016 as an opportunity for residents, families, and staff members to come together and remember residents that have passed.


“Our residents appreciate the opportunity to remember and show respect to those of our community who have passed away,” explained Donna. “At this service, we gather in the chapel, share scripture, personal memories, and sing songs to celebrate these lives and the promises of our faith.”

Donna keeps just as busy in her free time. In addition to her work at Elm Crest and her own church, Donna is also involved in a number of community organizations. She currently serves as the local Hospice Chaplain, Hospital Auxiliary board member, Kiwanis board member, Key Club Advisor, Builder’s Club Advisor, Blue Zone board member, Community Resource member, Circle of Support member, and Ministerial Association member. She also volunteers for the Meals on Wheels program and reads to Harlan first-graders every Friday. For her hard work and passion, Donna was awarded the Friend of Education Award in 2015, Hospice Chaplain of the Year, and Iowa Mother of the Year in 2016. Donna and her husband Roger have been married for 52 years. They have three kids and two grandchildren.

2104 12th Street Harlan, IA 51537

Elm Crest Senior Living Community is owned and operated by American Baptist Homes of the Midwest, a not-for-profit provider of senior health care since 1930.



Elm Crest is a faith-based, not-for-profit senior living community. Our mission is to create healthy Christian communities that empower older adults. We provide choices for housing, services, and technology that enrich body, mind and spirit.



The Importance of Friendship in Senior Living Technology Making Life Better for Seniors Starting an Excercise Program After Age 60

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Elm Crest Magazine Spring 2017  

Elm Crest Magazine Spring 2017

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