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SaturDAY, AUGUST 17, 2013

SENIOR FESTIVAL

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Lifestyles Senior Fesival has much to offer There will be something for everyone in the 55-and-older crowd to enjoy By Heather Johnson hjohnson@nptelegraph.com

Who wouldn’t want to spend a day having fun and socializing with people who have common interests? The Lifestyles Senior Festival will offer the chance to do just that. The festival is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Aug. 20 at the Quality Inn and Suites, 2102 S. Jeffers St., in North Platte. The free festival is open to the public, but geared toward those 55 and older. It’s sponsored by Target Publications and The North Platte Telegraph. “The event will be very entertaining, and people will be able to learn a lot from it,” Dee Klein, Telegraph director of sales, said. “I would encourage anyone who hasn’t been there before to stop in and see what our booths have to offer.”

Chuck, Job and Peter will kick-off the entertainment at 11:30 a.m. Voted “favorite band” by readers five years in a row, the North Platte-based trio offers harmonies from the 1960s and 1970s. From noon to 2 p.m., Gary’s Super Foods will serve a chicken and potato salad lunch for $5. Bea Fiala, also known as “Bea Funny,” will take the stage at 1 p.m. The comedian draws inspiration from “senior moments” for her presentations, which will have audiences rolling with laughter. More than 20 vendors will be set up at the festival, providing information about everything from retirement planning and investments to home health care and exercise classes. Giveaways are planned throughout the day. No pre-registration is required. Walk-ins are welcome.

Telegraph file photo

Participants from across the area gather for information and entertainment during the 2012 version of the Lifestyles Senior Festival at the Quality Inn & Suites. This year’s event kicks off at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20.


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Stand-up comedian ‘Bea Funny’ to perform By diane wetzel dwetzel@nptelegraph.com

Getting older doesn’t have to be a downer. It can be fun. Just ask Bea Fiala, alias “Bea Funny.” Fiala is the featured entertainment at the annual Lifestyles Senior Festival for people age 55 and older on Tuesday, Aug. 20, at the Quality Inn & Suites in North Platte. “I love being a senior citizen,” Fiala said. “I waited a while to become one, but I love it for the discounts alone.” Fiala appeared at the event four years ago and was a hit with the crowd. She has been performing stand up comedy since 2000, after a weekend at a women’s retreat in Columbus. “We were asked what we always wanted to be,” Fiala said. “I wrote down ‘stand-up comedian.’” Fiala discovered humor at a very young age. As the youngest of 20 children, she used humor as a way of being noticed. “My mom had eight, dad had eight and they had four together,” she

said. “I always thought I was getting laughed at a lot, so I figured I must be funny. Comedy was a defense mechanism for me. I try to find humor in all situations.” Her comedy act is like Ivory soap, she said, 99.9-percent clean. “My life is the source for a lot of my humor,” she said. “My husband gets picked on unmercifully. Although he has come around to where he looks forward to traveling with me and telling people he’s my agent.” Although she suffers from fibromyalgia and back problems that forced her retirement in 1996, laughter remains the best medicine, she said. “When I am on stage I am healing myself and hopefully my laughter is helping others heal,” she said. Her humor is geared to seniors and reflects her deep faith. “My faith is the No. 1 thing in my life,” she said. “Second is my sense of humor and third is my husband. My act isn’t about religion, but I do let people know I am a Christian and faith is a strong part of what I do.”

Fiala will take the stage at 1 p.m. Also appearing at the event will be the popular local trio Job, Peter and Chuck. Voted Reader’s Choice for the most popular band five years in a row, the group plays classic rock and folk music from the 1960s and ’70s. Founded in 2006, the members are all long-time musicians who play regularly to sold-out audiences at local events and regional festivals and concerts. Job Vigil is an accomplished pianist and violist who has played with several groups in Colorado and Nebraska. Chuck Salestrom, bass guitar, was a long-time member of the local band Chance and the popular regional band Timberline. Peter Rogers plays 12-string guitar and adds vocals to the band’s harmonies. The group encourages audience members to sing along because the songs they play are the songs audiences know and love to sing.

Courtesy photo

Bea Fiala, who works as a standup comedian under the alias “Bea Funny,” will perform at the Lifestyles Senior Festival at 1 p.m. on Aug. 20.


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SENIOR FESTIVAL

By the numbers The older population — persons 65 years or older — numbered 39.6 million in 2009 (the latest year for which data is available). They represented 12.9% of the U.S. population, about one in every eight Americans. By 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2000. People 65 and older represented 12.4% of the population in the year 2000 but are expected to grow to be 19% of the population by 2030. — Source: Administration on Aging, Department of Health and Human Services

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Senior centers offer meals and much more By Andrew Bottrell abottrell@nptelegraph.com

For many seniors, the local Senior Center is the only outlet for socialization. The West Central Area Agency on Aging coordinates with senior centers in 17 counties to help ensure that seniors continue to have somewhere to go where they can get an affordable meal and a chance to get out. “Sometimes that’s the only socialization those seniors get. We want them to get out and socialize,” said Program Director Shelly Callaway. With the help of the agency, people who are older than 60 years of age qualify for the suggested contribution, but Callaway said any senior will receive a meal even if they can’t contribute the suggested price. However, everyone can eat at the senior center and Callaway encouraged people to go for a meal and to

visit with the seniors. There is a set price at each senior center for people under the age of 60. The agency oversees 23 senior centers and four other meal-site locations. In the Sandhills, the agency has partnered with restaurants in Arthur, Hyannis, Stapleton and Tryon to help seniors get an affordable, healthy meal. “They have a little area where the seniors can go in and eat, meet and socialize,” Callaway said. The agency works to ensure that the senior centers are providing balanced meals, and works with a dietitian to make sure the meals are nutritious as well, Callaway said. “We want to make sure they’re getting what they need,” she said. Meals aren’t the only thing that senior centers offer, however. Many

Please see MEALS, Page D5

WHERE YOU WILL ALWAYS MAKE NEW FRIENDS

Good Food • Noon Meals are served Mon - Fri 11:30-1:00 Great Fun & Lots of Activities • Bingo for fun • Pool Tables • Card Parties • Quilting

• Home Delivered Meals are delivered Mon - Fri

• Wood Carvers • Strength Training • Zumba • Tai Chi

Entertainment & Special Programs • Public Bingo • Music

• Wed Evening Dance/Live Music @7:00

• Foot Clinics / Blood Pressure Checks • Special Health Screenings

Information and Assistance Services • Medicare D Help • Farmers Market Coupons

• Home Health Equip Loaners • Defensive Driving Classes

• Referral Services

North Platte Senior Center 901 East 10th • 308-532-6544


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MEALS from Page D4

provide musical entertainment, a place to play cards with friends and exercise programs. All of the senior centers are air-conditioned as well, and Callaway said that may be the only air conditioned building some seniors have. Callaway said they also try to provide information and guidance to seniors from serious matters such as health care to help around the house, like referrals for people to clean and do yard work. “They get a lot of other information when they go there,” Callaway said, “not just the meal.” The agency also offers home-delivered meals for people who qualify. Callaway said that seniors need to apply for an assessment through the agency. To find out if you or a loved one qualifies for meals, or for more information on Area Agency on Aging programs, contact the main office in North Platte at 308-535-8195. Callaway said there are volunteer

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Area Senior Centers The West Central Area Agency on Aging office in North Platte helps coordinate with 23 senior centers and satellite centers in a 17-county range. Benkelman Cozad Curtis Elwood Eustis Farnam Gothenburg Grant (Venango) Hayes Center Hershey

Imperial Lemoyne Lexington (Overton) McCook North Platte Ogallala (Brule/Paxton) Stratton Sutherland Wauneta

representatives in most communities in the 17-county area who can help guide seniors toward helpful programs. Callaway also pointed out the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, offered through the state of Nebraska. The program gives qualifying seniors $49 worth of vouchers to spend at area farmers markets. Vendors are certified throughout the

Andrew Bottrell / The North Platte Telegraph

The North Platte Senior Center offers the 60-and-older crowd a balanced noon meal, as well as an opportunity for social interaction and a variety of activities. state and display a sign informing seniors whether or not they can accept the vouchers, Callaway said. “There are still coupons available

here in North Platte,” Callaway said. To find out if you do qualify for the farmer’s market program or for more information, call the agency.


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SaturDAY, AUGUST 17, 2013

SENIOR FESTIVAL

Target Publications

This is not the average rocking chair generation Opportunities abound for N. Platte seniors to find their fitness groove By Heather Johnson hjohnson@nptelegraph.com

Gone are the days of rocking chairs and knitting baskets. Today’s seniors are joining the party and getting fit in the process. Although some classes are designed specifically for them, senior citizens can participate in all the exercise options the North Platte Recreation Center has to offer. “Age isn’t always a limiting factor,” said Trudy Merritt, recreation leader. “We have a 75-year-old in our fitness series who is one of our most consistent athletes.” n The Rec Center offers Zumba classes at its facility at 6:45 p.m. on Mondays

and Wednesdays and at the Senior Center at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The monthly fee is $20. The high-energy Latininspired dance class is designed to make people forget they are exercising. No previous dance experience is required. Easy-to-follow moves tone people up while also slimming them down. n The SilverSneakers Classic is presented specifically for senior citizens. Participants move to music through a variety of exercises designed to increase muscular strength, range of movement and activity for daily living skills. Please see EXERCISE, Page D7

Sage Merritt / The North Platte Telegraph

Participants in the Splash class at the North Platte Recreation Center get a total-body workout in the water that focuses on cardiovascular health, muscle strength, flexibility and balance. The Rec Center offers several aquacise classes.


SENIOR FESTIVAL

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EXERCISE from Page D6

Hand-held weights, elastic tubing with handles and a ball are offered for resistance. A chair is used for seated or standing support. The program is from 9-9:45 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Rec Center. The cost is $20, or free with Humana Gold Choice or an AARP Medicare Supplement. Despite the other options, Merritt said the majority of seniors choose water aerobics. “Water is the one place where almost anyone can benefit,” Merritt said. “It’s easier on joints. At all times joints are cushioned and protected, which allows for a wider range of motion.” The buoyancy effect allows people to exercise with minimal impact. In deep water, there’s zero impact. Just getting into the water can have a positive effect, according to Merritt. “The pressure of the water causes the heart rate to go up,” Merritt said. “So there’s a good cardiac effect, but at the same time, the heart doesn’t

SATURDAY, AUGUST 17, 2013

“Over the years, we can lose muscle mass. Water can help with that because every movement in the water is also a strengthening exercise.”

—Trudy Merritt, R ec Center recreation leader,

have to work as hard as it does on land.” She said hearts typically beat 10-13 beats less in water than they have to on land to get the same health benefit. The lower rates make it easier for seniors to work out, especially if they’ve had cardiac problems in the past. “Another reason water aerobics are good for seniors is because there’s zero concern of falling,” Merritt said. “Equilibrium and balance are often something people worry about as they get older, but water provides balance.” It also adds resistance from all sides. “Over the years, we can lose muscle mass,” Merritt said. “Water can help with that because every movement in the water is also a strengthening exercise. It also allows people to exercise in multiple directions. They can walk forward, backward and side-

about water exercises

ways, whereas on land that may not be a good idea for seniors.” The temperature of pools can also be beneficial — especially to those going through menopause. “We can exercise more vigorously in water than on land because of the cooling effect,” Merritt said. “It’s ideal for menopausal women because they don’t overheat.” The temperature is also partly responsible for why people can trim up and tone up so well. “On land, some of the oxygen people use has to go toward the process of keeping the body cool through sweating,” Merritt said. “But in pools, water keeps bodies cool so more oxygen goes toward the working muscles. It allows for some really good effects.” Water classes at the Rec Center include: n Aquacise Fitness at 8 a.m. on

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Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The low-impact workout focuses on muscle strength and balance. The monthly cost is $20. n Splash is a total-body workout that focuses on cardiovascular health, maintaining muscle strength, improving flexibility and maintaining balance and coordination. It’s offered at 11 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. The monthly fee is $20. n Aqua Blast is fast-paced and the perfect exercise for those who want to lose weight, tone muscles and improve cardiovascular health, balance and coordination. A variety of aquatic exercise equipment is used to move participants through full ranges of motion against multi-directional resistance. People get stronger from every angle. It is offered at 6:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. The monthly fee is $15. n Aqua Shake is for those who love to dance. This workout teaches how to move and groove in the water. It combines low-impact moves and the resistance of the water to keep joints comfortable and waistlines small. The drop-in class is at 10 a.m. on Saturdays. The cost is $5.


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SaturDAY, AUGUST 17, 2013

SENIOR FESTIVAL

Target Publications

 Alzheimer’s is sixth leading cause of death Annual walk offers patients, caregivers a way to raise money, bond with others By diane wetzel dwetzel@nptelegraph.com

An estimated 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s Disease, the sixth leading cause of death in the country. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that the cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in 2013 will be $203 billion. The annual Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s — conducted in various locations across the nation — is the largest event in the country to raise awareness and money for care, support and research. On Sept. 29, 2013, the North Platte Walk to End Alzheimer’s is coming back to Cody Park.

At the 2012 walk, 150 participants raised more than $16,000. “Our big push this year is to get our teams and individuals to sign up [for the walk] online,” said organizer Dalene Skates. “It’s really simple to fill out of the form to register. Then they can easily track where they are with donations and compare how they are doing with other teams. There is also lots of information from the national association on fundraising ideas and things they can do to be prepared. Online registration helps them get organized.” To register as an individual or a team, go to www.alz.org/walk and click on “Nebraska” and find the North Platte event. A diagnose of Alzheimer’s Disease changes the lives of entire

Support group

families and every person connected to the disease has his or her own personal reasons for taking part in the walk. New to the walk this year is the Promise Garden, Skates said. Every participant will receive a pinwheel f lower. Each different colored f lower represents a different aspect. Blue pinwheels are for walkers who have been diagnosed with the disease. Yellow is for those who support or care for someone with the disease. Purple is in honor of those who have lost someone to the disease. Orange will iden-

The North Platte Alzheimer’s Disease support group meets at 1 p.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of the month in the Fireside room at First Methodist Church. To learn more about the group, contact Helen Bell at 308-532-6214 or Dick Warneke at 308-532-9443.

tify for those who support the cause and can see a world without Alzheimer’s Disease. “Everyone will get a pinwheel,” Skates said. “We will do the first lap of the walk with the f lowers, then plant them in the garden. You or your loved one’s name will be written on the f lower.” There is no charge for the f lowers.


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SaturDAY, AUGUST 17, 2013

SENIOR FESTIVAL

Target Publications

Safety first when it comes to personal info Agency on Aging offers tips, urges extreme caution with Medicare, Medicaid By Andrew Bottrell abottrell@nptelegraph.com

Officials want seniors to be safe and they are warning them to be on the lookout for Medicare and Medicaid scams. The most prevalent scam is a phone call during which the person on the other end of the line asks for personal information, including Medicare or Medicaid numbers. “Medicare would not call them and would not ask for your Medicare number,” said Rhonda Godbey, public benefits specialist with the West Central Area Agency on Aging. “Never give out your Medicare card. Don’t carry your Medicare card.” While Godbey said she advises se-

niors not to carry their card with them, she said they do need to be aware that when they go to the doctor or to the area agency on aging, they will ask for the card. That is only done in person, never by phone. The Nebraska Senior Medicare Patrol program, which assists the Area Agencies on Aging across the state, wants to help protect seniors from Medicare and Medicaid fraud. The United States Government Rhonda Godbey Accountability Office estimates that $1 out of every $10 spent on public insurance programs is lost to fraud. The USGAO also estimates that 5 percent to 10 percent of all health care expenses, between $80 billion and $160 billion, is lost to health care fraud.

Godbey also advises seniors not to give out Social Security numbers or any other personal information, such as bank account numbers or credit card information. Other ways that can help seniors steer clear of being victims of fraud is to record all doctor visits, tests and procedures into a calendar or journal in addition to reviewing and being familiar with Medicare Summary Notice and Part D Explanation of Benefits. If mistakes are found on any of those notices, seniors should contact the Nebraska SMP at 1-800942-7830. They can also visit www. dhhs.ne.gov/smp online for more information. The annual enrollment period for Medicare is also just around the corner, and the Area Agency on Aging has several tools to help seniors out. “Even if you don’t change plans, you need to look at it,” Godbey said. The Medicare open enrollment period begins on Oct. 15 and ends Dec.

7. Several programs can help seniors understand the process. The Nebraska Senior Health Insurance Information Program is one of them. SHIIP is an informational-only program that can help guide seniors to plans and programs that can help them through the Medicare process. However, SHIIP does not sell any specific products. To receive information or get some help, contact the Area Agency on Aging office in North Platte at 308-535-8195. Access Nebraska also offers a number of programs that can help seniors, including the Help Paying for Medicare Premiums program. Individuals with an annual income of less than $15,756, or couples with an annual income of less than $21,180, could be eligible. To find out more about the programs offered by Access Nebraska, contact the Area Agency on Aging office, call Access Nebraska at 1-800-383-4278, or go online to www. accessnebraska.ne.gov.


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SATURDAY, AUGUST 17, 2013

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End of life: Can there be both death and dignity? How will I die? planned death when the patient reIt’s a question we likely all occaquesting assistance had six months or less to live. sionally pose to ourselves but often Opponents successfully argued feel powerless to control. Some that skills used in states are changing predicting death are that as they wrestle measures to support Michael Huckabee questionable, at best. The bill was missthe right of patients ing a required to determine their evaluation that you life’s end. or I deserve if we are Called “Death choosing to end our with Dignity,” it is lives, just to assure synonymous with that this critical dephysician-assisted cision is being made suicide. with an entirely In Nebraska, Iowa Michael Huckabee, Ph,D., is sound mind. and 32 other states, professor and director of the The state medical assisted suicide is University of Nebraska Medical society clarified that considered a criminal Center physician assistant program a physician’s role is to offense. That’s not the heal and comfort, and case everywhere. at the final vote the A closer look remajority of public voters agreed, 51 veals the controversies are more percent to 49 percent. than just a thumbs up or down Comforting rather than endvote. ing life: Maine held the vote in its Predicting death: In House of Representatives where it Massachusetts, a bill proposed was defeated 95 to 43. that physicians could help with a

The two main physician groups in the state opposed the bill, arguing successfully that adequate pain management and comfort care (together considered “palliative care”) should be the emphasis during the last days. Offering a choice: Vermont recently approved a law allowing physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of a narcotic to a terminally ill patient who requests it. Similar to laws in Oregon and Washington, the patient’s physician and a consulting physician must confirm that the patient has less than six months to live and is able to make a voluntary and informed decision. Counseling about alternative end-of-life health care services such as hospice care must be provided. The patient’s request must be made twice, spaced at least two weeks apart. Lastly, the physician must not administer the drug; the patient does the act.

“Well Accepted”: Researchers reported last April that after more than two years of study, the Death with Dignity program at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance was “well accepted” by patients and clinicians. From 114 inquiries, 40 participants received their lethal prescriptions and 24 died after medication ingestion (the other 16 died without taking their drug). Eleven of those receiving a prescription lived beyond six months. Everyone agrees on one thing: You and I should make our wishes clearly known regarding our own end-of-life goals. One helpful option is to make a formal statement as an advance directive, which allows each of us to address the kind of medical care we want if we are too ill or hurt to express our wishes. Decisions on breathing machines, tube feedings, organ donation and more can be made in state-specific documents at caringinfo.org.


D12

SaturDAY, AUGUST 17, 2013

SENIOR FESTIVAL

Target Publications

Bridging a sizable generation gap at work A push for harmony among America’s workers young, old CHICAGO (AP) — There’s a sense of urgency to the quest for workplace harmony, as baby boomers delay retirement and work side-byside with people young enough to be their children — or grandchildren. Put people of widely different ages together — and there are bound to be differences. Baby boomers, for example, are workaholics, while younger workers may demand more of a work-life balance. The solution for a growing number of companies: generational awareness training to help foster understanding and more effective communication among its workers. Employees are taught about the characteristics that define each generation, from their core values to their childhood and adolescent ex-

The Associated Press

Brad Karsh, of JB Training Solutions, speaks to a group of generation X’ers at a manufacturing plant in Chicago. There’s a new urgency in the quest for workplace harmony, as baby boomers delay retirement and work side-by-side with people young enough to be their children — or grandchildren. periences to the type of figures they regard as heroes. Then workshop leaders typically drill down into how those attributes play into the strengths and weaknesses each age

group offers on the job. The goal is that by learning why people of different generations act the way they do, companies can better emphasize their employees’ strengths and find ways to overcome challenges “The Boomers say, ‘Now I understand a little bit more of why they’re always on their phones,’ ” said Juergen Deutzer, who leads generational training at San Diego-based Scripps Health for about 200 employees a year. “Gen Y says, ‘Maybe I need to be a little bit more understanding if someone doesn’t get a grasp on technology.’ ” Companies downplay friction between old and young workers as a

reason for training. They say it’s more a matter of helping people of different ages connect, which affects group cohesion, employee satisfaction and the overall quality of work. “There was no animosity, no aggression, none of that,” said Scott Redfearn, the top human resources executive at Protiviti, a global consulting firm based in Menlo Park, Calif., that began offering generational training earlier this year. “But you really need the team dynamic to work well because it’s that collective genius of the team with all kinds of people, all kinds of back-

Please see WORK, Page D13


SENIOR FESTIVAL

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WORK from Page D12

ground, all different generations.” Protiviti was seeing a higher turnover rate among its youngest employees and an internal survey found those workers craved more guidance from their superiors. The company revised its performance review system, started giving employees more feedback and changed the way it used social media. It also began putting executives and managers through training led by Chuck Underwood, an expert on generational differences. By next year, all new employees at Protiviti will go through a session, alongside more traditional training fare on topics such as sexual harassment, diversity and ethics. Jennifer Luke, a 33-year-old Protiviti employee, attended two 90-minute sessions this summer and was struck by how closely the generational attributes she learned about applied to her and others in her life. “It’s an awareness tool. You think about it if you’re going to send an

email to a client, for example,” she said. “You just take an extra minute or two as you’re planning a project or communicating with a client to think about how you’re structuring those communications.” Gen Xers prefer to work individually. Boomers and Millennials thrive in groups. The oldest workers, from the Silent Generation, are known for loyalty and respect for authority; the youngest, from a yet-unnamed generation, are far more informal and global-minded. Language and cultural references, naturally, vary widely by age. Ingrid Hassani, a 58-year-old patient care manager at Scripps, said learning about generational differences helped explain why older nurses might hesitate to approach doctors, viewing them “almost like God,” while younger nurses are “very comfortable to go right up and talk to them.” It also helped when she found her younger subordinates were cutting corners in the hospital’s 18-step process for giving a patient medication as simple as Tylenol. Millennials tend to want explanations for everything they’re told to do rather than just following

orders, as older workers might. “They want to know the why behind everything,” Hassani said. “But once their questions are answered, they are fine.” When Lisa Williams, executive director of the University of Kentucky Institute for Workplace Innovation, held focus groups with local businesses to determine the most pressing issues of an aging workforce, generational differences dominated the discussion. Now she’s working to get a generational training program started. “Most of the time there was no conflict, but there were these islands of older workers and younger workers,” she said, “and they’re not able to understand the others, so there’s a lot of judgment.” Underwood said he began getting a flood of calls from human resources departments in the mid-2000s as Millennials began their careers. “Something’s going on in our workplace that we don’t understand,” he remembered being told. “What was going on was the next American generation was entering adulthood, bringing very different core values, very different skills

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and very different weaknesses.” Training to bridge the generational divide is becoming more commonplace. Brad Karsh, of JB Training Solutions, holds roughly 150 sessions a year, half focused on helping younger employees understand older ones, and the other half on helping older employees understand younger ones. A recent Chicago workshop falls in the latter group. Millennials take a bit of a good-humored bruising during the discussion, for a perceived sense of entitlement, a constant desire for explanation and discontent with entry-level tasks. “I Love Millennials” buttons were given away, perhaps to soften the blow, and Karsh acknowledged that pointing out the flaws of a younger generation is “a time-honored tradition.” He urged participants to see beyond the stereotypes and note that each generation brings a particular skill set to work. “They’re not better, not worse, just different,” he said. “What’s important is understanding what those differences are.”

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SaturDAY, AUGUST 17, 2013

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Punching Parkinson’s: A new way to fight FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A slender 57-year-old woman shuffles her feet, narrows her eyes at the young man in front of her and throws a punch. Tina Hargrove repeatedly jabs at Tony Lamarr’s upper body. Fortunately he’s protected by a punch pad and it isn’t Lamarr that Hargrove is after — it’s freedom from the physical toll of Parkinson’s disease. To knock out some of the effects of the disease — a brain disorder that causes uncontrollable tremors, muscle rigidity, slower movement and balance issues — Hargrove attends former world champion Paulie Ayala’s twice-weekly “Punching out Parkinson’s” training classes. Ayala opened the University of Hard Knocks gym on Camp Bowie Boulevard two years ago with the intent to train and manage fighters. But now it’s a place where Parkinson’s patients can work out to regain some control over their bodies and their lives.

Hargrove, a former marathon runner, said the program helps her build strength more effectively than her yoga and Pilates classes combined. “I don’t have tremors anymore since I’ve been coming here. I can lift things. I can reach and grab heavy bowls off the top of the cabinet,” Hargrove told the Fort Worth StarTelegram. Ayala trains each individual differently, for free, depending on how the Parkinson’s has progressed. The Fort Worth native said that at first only 25 percent of his participants could step into the ring without help. Now all of them can not only slip their bodies through the ropes but also bob and weave on the canvas. “I try to read them to understand what they feel — figure out how to isolate body parts so they can focus on one thing at a time,” Ayala said. “One arm. One leg. Their core.” Dr. Saud Khan, a neurologist at John Peter Smith Hospital, said speech therapy and physical therapy are recommended for people with

The Associated Press

Paulie Ayala, left, encourages Don Wells during a class for Parkinson’s patients at Ayala’s University of Hard Knocks boxing gym. To control some of the effects of the Parkinson’s disease, Wells attends “Punching out Parkinson’s” training classes. Parkinson’s, which starts on one side of the body and gradually progresses. One million Americans are living with the disease, and 50,000 to 60,000

new cases are diagnosed each year, according to the National Parkinson Foundation. About 4 percent of peoPlease see PUNCH, Page D15


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ple with Parkinson’s are diagnosed before their 50th birthday, and men are 1½ times more likely to have Parkinson’s. “I think we do have enough evidence as studies show that a boxing program is good for Parkinson’s patients,” he said. Ayala, who said he was looking for a way to satisfy his philanthropic itch after permanently stepping out of the competitive ring in 2004, got the idea to work with Parkinson’s patients when Stacy Christopher came knocking on his door. A former board member for the Dallas chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association, Christopher was inspired to visit Ayala after hearing about an Indianapolis-based gym founded in 2006. “I knew I could help,” Ayala said. “Six months later, she came back with more information. We started out with four people.” Ayala works with 20-plus men and

SENIOR FESTIVAL women ages 40 to 80. This week, Gary Schmitz, an original Punching out Parkinson’s member and a 13-year patient, along with the group’s steering committee, will file to make the organization a federally recognized nonprofit. There are also plans to expand the program to Dallas and contribute to research on the benefits of boxing training by Dr. Madhavi Thomas, president of the North Texas Movement Disorders Institute. Thomas urges all her Parkinson’s patients who are healthy enough to walk to go to Ayala’s gym. Ayala and Thomas communicate regularly about what kind of therapy the patients need, and Ayala applies that to his training. “It’s not just the arms and the legs that it helps. They also get a trunk workout, which is good,” she said. “We have had patients together for almost four years now.” Sweat drips from determined faces as Ayala trains his afternoon class. “Come on, come on. Push,” Ayala shouts. The hour-long exercises vary from punching bag warm-ups to foot agility drills around the ring, where

participants jog while alternating their feet. “When you have Parkinson’s, your muscles contract, but it’s hard for them to expand, so crossover helps with that because you’re focusing,” said student Tim Runte, 44, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in January 2012 and began training at Ayala’s gym eight months later. “People think Parkinson’s is an old person’s disease,” he said. Runte had tremors in his right hand, his right foot dragged, his arm refused to swing — finally he decided to make a move. The combination of physical activity and camaraderie at Punching out Parkinson’s also staves off depression, Runte said. While focusing on the speed bag and combination punching, he regained strength on the right side of his body, he said. “Don’t sit at home on the couch,” he said. “You’ll likely find yourself in a wheelchair. Troy Rynd, 49, holds a 15-pound weight above his head while he lunges and squats during a weightlifting portion of training. In the ring, Rynd punches with

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such force against the pad that he nearly knocks Lamarr out of the ropes. Only four months into his diagnosis, Rynd jumps, punches, lifts and bends like a man who can run a marathon, a man who can climb a mountain. When Don Wells, 80, discovered that he had Parkinson’s a year ago, the grandfather to 15 and wakeboard and water-skiing instructor developed trouble with balance, a lack of lower-body strength and stiff arms — all detrimental to his work. “Last year at the end of the ski season, I thought it was all over,” Wells said. Wells said the program allowed him to regain enough strength to do the occasional quick turn and jump on his board and then “leave the rest to the kids.” Ayala said the class members have changed him from his anti-social former self. “To be able to see what I do helps them with their lives — well, I feel honored,” he said. “You read Scriptures and quotes on how it’s better to give than receive, and I know what that means now.”



Lifestyles Senior Expo 2013