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January/February • 2014

Puttin’ on the Ritz The Dancing Grannies

Forever in Black The Faces of Omaha Performing Arts

Looking for Trouble

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Feature: The Faces of Omaha Performing Arts_____________ S5 Health: Maintaining Dental Health___ S6 Feature: The Monday Book Club_____ S8

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ERE WE ARE, 2014! How time flies! I remember my father telling me time goes faster the older you get. Now I believe him, and it’s going pretty fast for me. It’s not too late to make resolutions— maybe join a social group, volunteer for a charity, or join a gym. I enjoy reading about the active people in 60 Plus, and they are an inspiration to me. You have to admire the men and women in this issue—they’re not just sitting in a rocking chair. Happy New Year!

Gwen Gwen Lemke Contributing Editor, 60PLUS In Omaha Comments? Send your letter to the editor to:

All versions of Omaha Magazine are published bimonthly by Omaha Magazine, LTD, P.O. Box 461208, Omaha NE 68046-1208. Telephone: (402) 884-2000; fax (402) 884-2001. Subscription rates: $19.95 for 6 issues (one year), $24.95 for 12 issues (two years). No whole or part of the contents herein may be reproduced without prior written permission of Omaha Magazine, excepting individually copyrighted articles and photographs. Unsolicited manuscripts are accepted, however no responsibility will be assumed for such solicitations. Best of Omaha®™ is a registered tradename of Omaha Magazine.

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60PLUS faces Story by Suzanne Smith Arney • Photo by Bill Sitzmann

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Sue Mouttet in the calm before the storm at the Orpheum Theater

Forever in Black


The Faces of Omaha Performing Arts


time inside the glittering Orpheum Theater or your fiftieth visit to the sleek Holland Performing Arts Center, attending a live performance is an exciting event. The lobby fills with eager patrons and the buzz of conversation as a floor captain directs a couple to the gift shop while their tutu-clad daughter hops up and down with anticipation. A man in elegant evening wear checks out a hearing device from a volunteer while a couple in cowboy boots hover at their assigned door, which is—finally!—opened by a smiling usher. Each of these patrons has been made to feel welcome by an official Ambassador for Omaha Performing Arts [OPA]. For its March 2013 return run of The Lion King’s 32 sold-out performances, 383 Ambassadors volunteered a total of 6,804 hours. This past August, Disney Theatrical Productions presented a rare award, a handcrafted lioness mask honoring the outstanding achievement of The Lion King’s success in Omaha. Ambassadors were a central element in the success of that and any run at either the Orpheum or the Holland. One of the black-clad volunteers, Sue Mouttet, was recognized for working 94 events during the 2012-13 season. Think of the math on that. That’s the equivalent of Mouttet spending one out of every four days of the year dressed in one of her black Ambassador’s outfits. “I became an Ambassador in 2005, the year the Holland opened,” says Mouttet. “I enjoy every assignment I get because I love the public contact.” Many people think of Ambassadors simply as ushers, but their duties are as varied as Omaha Performing Arts’ lineup of performances. One of the jobs of female Ambassadors is directing intermission traffic

through the rest rooms during lobby-packed intermissions. “It may sound funny, but it can make a big difference in one’s [a patron’s] experience,” Mouttet says. [Editor’s Tip: For much shorter restroom lines at the Orpheum, take the short flight of stairs down from the lobby and use the lower-level facilities.] Mouttet has a special understanding of theater—she is an actor who’s played several area stages. This background helps her better explain the nuances of the evening to ticketholders. Why can’t we be seated early? The doors must wait while cast and crew make their last-minute checks so you will enjoy a killer, perfectly staged performance. Joni Fuchs, OPA’s Front of House Manager, oversees 450 volunteer Ambassadors. She was hired for the position two years ago but had been an Ambassador since 2006. Like many in her small army of volunteers, she came at the suggestion of friends and joined a mixed group of people who share a love for performing arts and helping others. Many are retired, but others come from jobs in business, education, and trade. The minimum age is 18; the oldest Ambassador is 90. And each one is greatly appreciated. “They provide an invaluable service to Omaha,” says Fuchs. “They are the face of Omaha Performing Arts.” Ambassadors like Mouttet take their responsibilities and commitments seriously, but they also enjoy such perks as seeing OPA’s array of outstanding Broadway, music, and dance performances at two stellar venues. Ambassadors may watch performances during periods when they’re not otherwise needed, and they also earn points that they can exchange for free tickets. “No matter what we do,” Mouttet says of her varied and many duties, “we serve one patron at a time and we go, go, go!” january/february • 2014 

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60PLUS health Story by Susan Meyers

Mother Knows Best

A little maintenance can help seniors enjoy strong dental health.

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tell you, “Don’t forget to floss and brush your teeth?” It’s a mantra many of us have probably heard repeatedly from our mothers and dentists throughout our lives. It turns out that brushing your teeth and flossing daily are the two most important habits you can practice throughout your lifetime to maintain healthy teeth. Eunice Levisay, now 78, is living proof. “By the time you reach your 60s and 70s, many people will have problems with things like gum disease, receding gums, tooth decay, and deteriorating teeth,” says Steven Wegner, DDS. “Eunice has been very conscientious about following good oral health habits and, as a result, has beautiful teeth. She’s a great example of how to have good dental health as you get older.” “Dr. Wegner always encouraged me to brush and floss daily and to get my teeth cleaned and checked every six months, so


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that’s what I did,” says Levisay. “It’s pretty basic, but it makes a difference.” As we get older, our teeth and oral health changes and this can put seniors at risk for a number of problems, notes Dr. Wegner. For instance, our gums begin to recede naturally as we age. As your roots become more exposed, not only are you at greater risk for tooth decay, but the supporting bone may eventually resorb and your teeth may become loose. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, 69 percent of adults ages 35 to 44 have lost at least one permanent tooth to an accident, gum disease, a failed root canal, or tooth decay. By age 74, 26 percent of adults have lost all of their permanent teeth. As a result, many seniors turn to dentures or dental implants, which have become a more popular permanent and reliable alternative to dentures over the last 20 years. Removable full and partial dentures have a number of potential problems. They may slip, food can get underneath them, and they can affect adjacent healthy teeth. Dental restorations that are supported by dental implants can look and function like your permanent teeth and, when properly cared for, can last for many years. Gum disease is also more prevalent among seniors, often a result of a lifetime of bad oral hygiene, use of tobacco products, poor diet, and such diseases as cancer and diabetes. Another common problem is dry mouth, which is caused by reduced saliva. This is often a result of many of the medications taken by seniors as well as cancer treatments. Reduced saliva diminishes your ability to dilute acids from your mouth, which can result in increased cavities. “Daily brushing and flossing are critical to keeping your teeth and gums clean and to help prevent decay,” says Dr. Wegner. The American Dental Association also recommends using an antibacterial mouth rinse, which can reduce bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease. Warning signs of potential oral health problems include gums that are red, inflamed, oversensitive, or bleeding. Regular visits to your dentist can help you stay on top of potential oral health problems, says Dr. Wegner.

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60PLUS feature Story by Judy Horan • Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Karen Kennedy, president of the Monday Book Club

Jazz Age to Tech Age The Monday Book Club has been meeting since 1924.



book clubs began as a sewing club 90 years ago. Women in white gloves and cloche hats met in homes for elegant Monday lunches. They read such books as E.M. Forster’s Passage to India and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tales of the Jazz Age. Founding members were S8  60PLUS 

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indeed living in the Jazz Age—also called the Roaring Twenties. Women who began the club in 1924 most likely bought their books from Matthews Book Store at 1620 Harney St. In those days, a new book cost about 50 cents. High school-age “book boys” were paid to pick up books from members’ homes and

take them to other members’ homes so they could be shared. Interesting side note: There are only two “book girls” on record. Member Lois Reynolds inherited a piece of the club’s history when she received 24 luncheon trays and other items from when her mother-in-law, Laura Reynolds, hosted the Monday Book Club. Reynolds remembers in the 1960s when her future husband’s mother would talk about the elegant luncheons. “It was a big deal to get ready for the ladies coming for lunch,” says Reynolds. “They got out their silver and good serving pieces.” Hostesses brought out their best china and linens. But times changed and so did the club. Members started meeting at city clubs, restaurants, and even a bowling alley. They met at the Hilltop House. It closed. They met at the legendary Blackstone Hotel. It closed. They met at the Omaha Club, Younkers, the Ranch Bowl, the Fireside Restaurant, and the Sky Room at the Center. All were Omaha landmarks that have since closed. “When I joined we were at the Plaza Club Cloud Room, which has since closed,” says Karen Kennedy, president of the Monday Book Club, which she says is Omaha’s oldest active book club. “We now meet at the Omaha Country Club, but on Fridays, since we learned that country clubs are closed on Mondays.” Yes, that’s right. The Monday Book Club meets on Fridays. “We used to have hostesses for centerpieces and menus. But when we went to the Omaha Country Club, it became easier if we paid an annual membership fee,” says Kennedy, a member for 14 years. “Dues are now $135, which includes lunch, operating expenses, an annual donation to a charity, and occasional speakers.” Members now bring their books for sharing with others to the monthly luncheon meetings (the “book boys” lost their jobs), which are held October through May. Speakers are sometimes invited to talk about such topics as making a will, writing a book, poetry, and safe driving. A slide show about the coronation of Queen Elizabeth was a 1955 luncheon program. In 1957, the speaker was an anthropologist. Most of the club’s 40 members buy books at the locally owned The Bookworm, where

they receive a discount. “We then take the book to the first meeting, check it out for a month, and bring it back to the next luncheon meeting,” says Kennedy. “This way we get a variety of books. We hope they read something they otherwise may not. We share the love of good books and good company.” When Beth Black moved The Bookworm to Countryside Plaza in 1999, she inherited many book clubs from the Village Bookstore that had been located there, including the Monday Book Club. “We have more than 60 active registered book clubs,” says Black, co-owner of the bookstore. “Only about a dozen are like the Monday Book Club, old-fashioned book clubs that pass books on to members but don’t discuss them.” “It is old-fashioned,” agrees Kennedy. “That’s a fine word. It’s about fun and friendship.” Members ask Black and her staff at The Bookworm for recommendations. The store keeps a list of the books that members buy, so they do not duplicate each other’s purchases. The book club’s members decided to stop exchanging holiday gifts at the Christmas luncheons and instead give money each year “to an organization that we believe in,” says Kennedy. Donations have been made to such nonprofits as Child Saving Institute, CASA, The Salvation Army, and the Stephen Center. Most significant for a book club are donations to literacy and the library foundations and the Omaha Public Library. Few of the book club’s records go back before the 1950s, says Kennedy, but the group’s history is perhaps best told in bloodlines. The Reynolds are a prime example of how families have passed participation in the Monday Book Club down through generations. Lois has been a member for six years; her mother-in-law was a member for 40 years; her husband’s aunt, Louise Reynolds, also was a long-time member. Members’ names over the years have included those of well-known individuals in the community. Presently all members of the venerable club are women. What if a man wanted to join the all-female group? “I don’t think we would turn them away,” says Kennedy.

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60PLUS feature Story by David Williams • Photos by Bill Sitzmann

Wayne Fry (left) and Gene Tschida about to call in a “1098”

Looking for Trouble “E The Volunteers of the Metro Area Motorist Assist Program

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occupied,” went the call over the radio. 60 Plus in Omaha was only a little more than a mile out from base in a ride-along with the volunteers of the Metro Area Motorist Assist program, and 65-year-old Wayne Fry was calling in the first incident report. A vehicle—the “1062” in the cop-talk lingo above—was pulled over at mile marker 449 of Interstate 80, and a young man named Kenny was about to make the mistake of pouring engine coolant into the wrong receptacle of his overheated and smoking junker. “I obviously had no idea what I was doing,” says Kenny. “Those guys are lifesavers.” The red-faced man was more than happy to

have his last name shown in print as simply “Occupied,” the designation from Fry’s radio report indicating that the car had at least one person in it. Over the last 13 years the Motorist Assist program has come to the rescue more than 85,000 times. Based on the most recent census report, that’s the equivalent of coming to the aid of one out of every 10 people in the metro area. “It started as a public safety initiative so that law enforcement can concentrate on what you pay us to do—enforce the law,” explains Lt. Kevin Bridges of the Nebraska State Patrol. “It doesn’t take a trained officer to give a lift to someone who is out of gas, so that’s where our great Motorist Assist volunteers come in.” Omaha’s State Patrol Troop A office has 21 Mobile Assist drivers, but Lt. Bridges has a duty roster that calls for twice as many. Volunteers go through 12 hours of training and are required to have a current CPR card. All ages are welcome to explore becoming a Motorist Assist volunteer, but the normally wide-open schedules of a retired person, Lt. Bridges says, is the most common profile of the volunteer he seeks. Mobile Assist uses the buddy system, and 84-year-old Gene Tschida was riding shotgun the day of the interview. “It’s a lonely, helpless feeling to be stopped by the side of the road with all that traffic buzzing past you, so people are glad to see us,” says Tschida. “The big thing is the personal satisfaction we get in helping people.” “Especially because so many of the folks we encounter are maybe less fortunate than we are,” adds Fry. “That young guy, Kenny, was an excellent example of a great stop. He was polite. He gave us a nice ‘thank you’ and a big smile,” one that broadened when he learned that Assist services carry no fees. Tschida is a veteran of 15 years volunteering behind the wheel of a Motorist Assist vehicle. “I’m still kinda feeling out this job,” he quips. “The pay is pretty lousy, but I figure it might improve with seniority.” Fry returned to the radio to call in a “1098,” the code for “all clear.” Fry and Tschida were back on the road, once again looking for trouble. To learn more about volunteering with the Metro Area Motorist Assist program, contact Lt. Kevin Bridges of the Nebraska State Patrol at 402-331-3333.

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60PLUS cover feature Story by David Williams • Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Patricia Chase, Katie DiBaise, Jean Granlund, and Linda Hall S14  60PLUS 

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Puttin’ on the Ritz


The Dancing Grannies are “All That Jazz” and more.


resonates throughout the studio. A big out-of-town gig looms less than 24 hours away, and the troupe is working to

perfect the pitterpatter steps of the “Lullaby of Broadway” number from the film Gold Diggers of 1935. Never mind that the company’s oldest hoofer was already in junior high when the film premiered. And never mind that arthritis and bum knees have perhaps taken a bit of a toll on the gams of even the leggiest members of this troupe—the Dancing Grannies won’t rest until the curtain call of tomorrow’s performance.

“I love dancing, and it’s just a fabulous feeling to be out there in front of all those smiling faces,” says 73-year-old Linda Hall. “But the Dancing Grannies is more than just dancing. We practice together, we travel together, and we perform together. The camaraderie among us is important, and we’re a very close-knit bunch of girls.” “And we love the crowds and all the energy we get from them,” adds Katie DiBaise. Spending any amount of time with DiBaise leads one to guess that she was probably the class clown back when the Palmer Method was being taught for writing lessons on Big Chief tablets. Her sense of humor serves her well as the cracking-wise emcee at Dancing Grannies events. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a serious bone or two in her 78-year-old body. “When I’m out there dancing,” DiBaise muses in one of her more reflective moments, “all I can think of is just… just…‘Wow!’” Now in their fifth decade of grannie glitz and glam, the troupe originally formed in the late ’70s as the Camelot Steppers before later adopting the Dancing Grannies name. Assisted living centers occupy a number of dates on their schedule, but you may have seen them everywhere from high-stepping through halftime at CenturyLink Center sporting events to country line-dancing through countless area festivals and just about anyplace else where crowds gather. Road trips can be full of surprises for the still-adventurous women who refer to each other simply as “the girls.” When the company made a refreshment stop at the retro soda fountain of Springfield Drug in the community of the same name south of Omaha, the scene seemed to practically beg for an equally retro, impromptu performance.

“The soda jerks asked us about our costumes, and one thing led to another,” explains 76-year-old Patricia Chase. “Let’s just say that there were free root beer floats involved.” Assisted living performances remain a favorite for many of the women. “They see our costumes, and the music starts, and their faces just light up,” says Chase. “And those hands start swaying, and those toes start tapping,” adds 81-year-old Jean Granlund, who has been with the group for more than 25 years. “They always tell us afterward that they’d be right up there dancing with us if only they could.” Granlund and Chase are the de facto leaders of the otherwise loosely organized group. The minimum age for membership is 50 and the oldest member is now a still-spry 89. Bringing in new recruits can be something of a challenge for a group that, by definition, is limited to women of a certain age. Prospective members generally lead much more active lives than did women in the earlier days of the company, but all, Granlund explains, are welcome to check them out by visiting a rehearsal. Like all “the girls,” she shares a lifelong love of dance. “My mother was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland,” Granlund says. “She was a traditional Highland dancer, so dance has always been a part of my life. Later in my mother’s life when she was in assisted living, they didn’t do the sorts of entertainment programs that are common now. I always picture it as if my mother is out there in the audience every time I dance and especially when we perform in assisted living facilities. I know she would be very proud of me.” To learn more about membership and bookings with the Dancing Grannies, contact Jean Granlund at 402-392-0497.

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60PLUS the grandpa chronicles Story by David WIlliams

Making Tracks


Conquering Cabin Fever with Your Grandchildren

HE FROSTBITTEN MONTHS CARRY additional and sometimes

frustrating challenges when taking my two preschool-age grandsons for the weekend. The problem is that there seems to be an inverse relationship between the temperature and the CFQ. The what? That would be the Cabin Fever Quotient, that restless, bouncing-off-the-walls void created when you run out of indoor activities capable of entertaining the little ones. But Saturdays are a snap if you possess an intrepid spirit and a decent pair of boots. One of our fave winter outings is to go critter tracking in expeditions that offer a fascinating peek into the sometime-secret winter habits of area wildlife. Start by doing a web search on the subject of “animal track identification” and you’ll find gobs of online field guides and other useful resources, several of them in easily printable, carry-along formats. It’s also fun and informative to gather the children in front of the computer to watch

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any of the zillions of YouTube videos available on the topic in preparation for your woodland trek. A fresh, unblemished snowfall is the perfect palette for such wilderness adventures. Virtually every interruption in th pristine blanket at your feet—yes, droppings, too— holds a mystery waiting to be unlocked by young, inquisitive minds. Forgot to print out that field guide we discussed earlier? Smartphone web search to the rescue. While you’re at it, take close-up photos and have the kids start their own wildlife journals to match prints (and poop) to the animals that left them. Pocket a small measuring tape to have the children record the dimensions of the markings and make note of where they were found. Do those raccoon prints lead to or from water? Do those squirrel tracks disappear at the base of a mighty oak?

Sprawling spaces like Fontenelle Forest, Hummel Park, and area state parks offer a staggering array of snowy finds, but even the more expansive of city parks will reveal evidence of almost everything short of deer. Take along a thermos of hot chocolate and find a log to carve out some quiet time during your treasure hunt. Especially because the snow acts as an acoustic muffler, there is nothing quite so serene—even spiritual—as the dead silence of a winter’s morn. Be quieter still and you increase the odds of encounters with all manner of creatures. The awe-inspiring majesty of nature never hibernates. Introduce your grandkids to the wintry landscape, and soon there will grow in them a deeper reverence for the natural world and their special place in it.


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60PLUS style Story by Mary Anne Vaccaro needs replacing. Look over the things you want to keep. Coordinate them with what you have. If you realize there’s a pant or skirt you love that’s now missing a mate, add to your list these key “enabling” pieces to buy. • Don’t forget to go through your accessories to determine what to buy as you update your wardrobe. • If you have favorite sweaters and tops that need scarves, photograph them and refer to them on your phone when sorting through the dozens of possibilities you’ll encounter. • Now you’re ready to finalize the list of what’s in your sights. Be specific and detailed. • Dress for shopping! Wear clothes that are easy to get on and off. Basic black provides a good “grounding palette.” Wear minimal, if any, jewelry. • Do not carry a heavy handbag. Wear a lightweight cross-body bag so you can easily sort through racks with both hands. • Leave your coat in the car if possible. • Pay close attention to your list. Do not yield to temptation unless you know that any “off-list” items will be both right for you and a strong complement to your closet. • To avoid crowds, shop weekday afternoons. • Remember, most stores are good about returns. Take things home to try on at your leisure and to test with other pieces. Save your receipts and respectfully make any returns as soon as possible. And the most important rule of all? Never forsake quality for price. •

Stress-Free Style


How to Make the Most of Winter Sales


big retail sale months of the year. We’re lured into stores and onto websites by ads, coupons, and incentives of all kinds. They bombard us in print, on television, radio, and billboards, on our phones, and through every social media platform. A sense of urgency wakes us in the middle of the night so we can save big at that “Early Bird” 6 a.m. opening. We sometimes wait in line for a sale that disappoints. Once inside, cluttered merchandising can overwhelm us. We frequently end up compromising on sizes, and our search for sales associates is usually endless. That’s all part of the hunt, but most of us leave stores with merchandise we never intended to buy. It sits in our closets forever, often with tags intact, taunting us with “But I was a bargain!” Sale shopping for shoes is the worst! In-store shoppers make a mess of things, scattering shoes, tissue paper, and boxes everywhere. I feel terribly guilty every time I send S18  60PLUS 

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exhausted salespeople to the back room for yet another size to try. And if you buy sale shoes online, your savings opportunity hinges on the hope that they arrive absolutely perfect in every way. The risk factor is higher here because return shipping is usually not free. Repacking time and shipping fees can make the experience both futile and costly. And you still don’t have shoes. Online sales of any kind can be just as frustrating. Seems like almost everything I finally resolve to order is no longer available in my size. So why did I just waste hours searching my favorite sites on a quest for a “great buy” that’s “really me?” I can’t tell you that I have great strategies for online shopping, but there are some basic tips to ensure that your in-store adventures are successful and relatively stress-free: • Take inventory of your wardrobe. Go through your closet and get rid of everything that shows wear. Start a list of what

Mary Anne Vaccaro is a clothing and product designer and an image consultant to businesses and individuals. She is also a sales consultant for Carlisle and Per Se, New York.

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Where Love and Healing F low

January/February 2014 60 PLUS In Omaha  

January/February 2014 60 PLUS In Omaha

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