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Ryan McGaughey/The Globe

Ed Zylstra (left) and Gary Brandt stand in front of the playhouse they have been constructing in the driveway of Zylstra’s Worthington residence.

A sight for poor eyes Worthington’s Ed Zylstra completing playhouse project, with help, despite blindness By Ryan McGaughey rmcgaughey@dglobe.com Worthington


d Zylstra wanted to build a playhouse for his granddaughter, and hasn’t let being blind stand in his way. Zylstra, who lives along Worthington’s 11th Avenue, has been engaged in the project for roughly four months now. He’s getting considerable assistance from Gary Brandt, another Worthington resident who has been impressed with Zylstra’s abilities to overcome his disadvantages. This month marks the fourth birthday of Zylsta’s granddaughter, Hannah, one of two children of a daughter who lives in Baltic, South Dakota. After learning that Hannah wanted a playhouse of her own, Zylstra resolved to make it happen. One of the first things he did was get Brandt,

who he knew through his cousin and Brandt’s work at Pioneer VIllage, on board. “The conversation initially was him saying, ‘I hear that you do garden tilling,’” Brandt remembered last week. “Well, I’ve done it for a friend. Then that led to, ‘Well, would you like to sharecrop in my garden?’ Then he said, “I’ve got a shelf that I’m working on, but I can’t get it square.’ Then he concluded the conversation by saying, ‘By the way, I’m blind.’ “The shelf did need some squaring up,” Brandt added with a smile. “I will say that he does more seed in a row than most people do. His row ends up curving a little bit, so by the time he gets to the end there’s a lot there.” “That’s called contouring,” Zylstra interrupted, laughing. “The only thing was, it wasn’t on a hill.”

Earlier days

Zylstra attended college in Marshall and had difficulty finding jobs after his schooling. Eventually, he took a position as a darkroom technician at the University of Minnesota. “I could see some mobility-wise back then, so I thought ‘this is kind of crazy, sitting in a darkroom,” Zylstra recalled. “So my dad said, ‘Why don’t you come back to Worthington?” That return brought Zylstra into the realm of pig farming, in which he worked from 1980 to about 1997. “I called myself a swine nutritionist,” Zylstra said with a chuckle. “That’s what I told the Extension — because I fed pigs.” With his father getting older and the price of pigs proving much less conducive to making a living, Zylstra left farming.

After living on an acreage a mile and a half from his father’s place, he and his wife, Shirley, moved into town in 2001. By then, his vision was hindering him more than it did in his younger days. “It’s a progressive blindness,” Zylstra said. “I had pretty good mobility as I grew up into an adult. It was probably in ’92 that I went to cane travel. … Now, a lot is knowing my surroundings.”

A special build

Zylstra remembers doing some “rough construction” while working with his dad on the farm, but he said he believes in not rushing a job. ”My saying to Dad was, ‘If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, that means you don’t have Ryan McGaughey/The Globe time to do it right the secGary Brandt (left) and Ed Zylstra prepare to enter the ond time,” he said.

playhouse they’ve been building together for the past

POOR EYES: Page 3 four months.


2 Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Globe

Shannon Geisen / Forum News Service

The Hubbard Biking Group ventures out twice weekly for group rides. They also organize state and overseas biking trips.

Bikers adapt to continue hobby as they age By Shannon Geisen Forum News Service Park Rapids

Members of a northern Minnesota church see their cycling group expand in numbers and in destinations.


or nearly 25 years, a group of avid bicyclists have found friendship and adventure together. In 1995, 18 members from the Hubbard United Methodist Church signed up for a Netherlands bike tour. Hubbard is a lakeside village, six miles south of Park Rapids. Not only has the Hubbard Biking Group scheduled twice-weekly bike rides, they have traveled to Europe every year since – until 2020 when the pandemic hit. A trip to Germany this spring was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Predominantly seniors, the biking group gathers on Mondays and Wednesdays from May through September. Some riders are in their mid-80s, most are 65 and older. “We have a number of our riders go away for the winter, and they have been slow coming back this year. So every week there’s been somebody new coming back,” said Evonne Evans, who is currently the group’s volun-

VIDEO For video, see Hubbard biking group.

teer coordinator, along with husband Ray. “Some are just staying away,” Ray added, due to the pandemic. Over the years, the Hubbard Biking Group has expanded to include anyone outside of its church. There are about 70 people on the mailing list. “It was an instant success,” said Curtis Bakken, an original club member with wife, Ruth. The group rode “everything within a 100-mile radius” of Park Rapids. And everyone started buying better bikes. “We had so much fun doing that, we then started a fall bike ride,” Curtis said. The group takes a two- to three-day trip to another part of Minnesota. This year’s destination is Stillwater. In the past, they’ve traveled to Lanesboro, the Iron Range or the Twin Cities. Bobbi and Bill Zigmant’s first foray into biking began when they joined the Hubbard Biking Group. “We had the old Schwinn,” Bobbi recalled, before they upgraded to a Trek touring bike. They’ve been on 17 European, guided bike trips. “Italy, France, Portugal, Spain, Poland,” Bobbi said. “It’s wonderful. You fly into the big cities, then you are bused out and you are with people in the small communities. They interact with you.” Ruth agreed. She and Curtis have been on 33 biking trips -– Ireland, Hungary, Bavaria, New Zealand, the Czech

Republic, Norway. Biking through the countryside puts Americans in contact with rural Europeans. The locals are very welcoming, Ruth said. “The best part is the little villages and the cobblestone streets.” The Evans joined in 2012. They have embarked on bike-and-barge trips to France, Germany and Luxembourg. “You get off the barge in the morning. The barge goes downriver,” Ray said, then meets bikers later in the day. “The hotel just follows you down the river,” Evonne chimed in. Arnie and Sue Kuhn joined a couple years ago. Sue sings in the Hubbard United Methodist Church choir “and we recently retired, so now we can pursue all these activities,” Arnie said. Sue said they’ve taken biking trips through California and Vermont. “It’s a way of life. You feel like you’re not so decadent. You actually do some exercise,” Arnie said of incorporating biking into vacations. Sue recently had knee surgery, so she rides an electric bike to reduce any knee strain. The Zigmants transitioned to recumbent trikes about three years ago due to balance issues. “We are the future,” Bobbi quipped. Recumbent biking is “much easier, but you’re working different muscles,” she said. Because

Shannon Geisen / Forum News Service

Bill and Bobbi Zigmant cruise the trails on their recumbent trikes. They transitioned to this bike when keeping a balance became an issue. there is no downward pedal, Bobbi said you utilize your stomach/abdominal muscles along with your legs. “You can look around. You can see everything,” she added. A recumbent bike is about $1,000, Bobbi said, similar to a Trek touring bike. Road bikes – with all the bells and whistles – can be as expensive as $20,000. Another advantage: they can be folded up. “I can put these in the back of my Forester, both of them,” Bobbi said. “No screws; it’s all lever action. It’s 21 speeds, same as the regular bike.” The Zigmants organized the group rides for 14 years, from 1998 to 2012. Many members wear brightly colored shirts with the club logo. “Every couple of years someone will say, ‘Maybe

we should (print) a new shirt,’” Evonne said. Fellowship is important to the group. Each ride ends with a meal. “We’ll do a lunch picnic and socialize,” Ray said. Evonne noted the group tries to support local restaurants by eating lunch or dinner while social distancing. Larry and Karen Odegard have participated for a dozen years. “We’re not even close to the old-timers around here,” Larry said. “We’re getting up there now,” Karen said. But the Odegards agreed that camaraderie is a huge draw. “Fabulous people,” Larry said. “The social part of it is great. Just the regularity of it gets you out,” Karen added. Before each ride, they have a quick meeting to

discuss the route and future events. Before the kickstands go up, they lift their voices in a traditional song of praise: “Oh, the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord for giving me the things I need, the sun don’t rain and a good bike seat. The Lord is good to me. Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen.” The riders, generally totaling 20 to 30, divide into smaller clusters based on speed. “We’ve got a group that will go faster, a group that’ll go average and a group that will go slower,” Ray said. Each group carries first aid and bike repair kits. There is also a designated leader and “sweep,” who rides at the back of the group. “We’ve never, ever lost anybody,” Curtis said.

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POOR EYES From Page 1

Upon starting the playhouse project, Brandt mentioned that an acquaintance had a sawmill as well as the kind of interstate high voltage poles seen throughout the county. “They were cedar and pine … and that’s when it became the playhouse and this brainstorm,” Zylstra said. The slabs were taken off the cedar poles, Zylstra said, and a cedar plank fashioned out of the rest. That formed the basis for the playhouse’s construction, which began in June. “Gary went up north to his son’s cabin, so we took some time out,” Zylstra clarified. “We all have a life.” One time-consuming element of the work was running the cedar planks through a planer, which made them considerably smoother. Another important consideration for the duo was utilizing as many previously used materials as possible. “Gary and I both believe in repurposing stuff rather than it going to a landfill,” Zylstra explained. “Some … is from Highland Manufacturing, and some 2-by-3s that we made into studs would have gone to the landfill otherwise. “We’re into this repurposing, and let me say this: Three hundred Americans can handle

global warming more than one government. if everybody does their part — recycle, repurpose, don’t run your car half hour before you go. …” As far as what the playhouse has become, Zylstra admits that he and Brandt have wound up going “overboard” and that it could ultimately have multiple uses. “It’s 8 x 10 feet … and I figure that when it’s done as a playhouse, it can turn into just an ordinary shed,” Zylsyta said. “But we’re really doing it up. … The windows were Gary’s idea — they slide open — and he built the door there out of cedar. Then, he’s hinting that Hannah should have a mail slot.” “One thing I think I have left is I need to find or make secret hiding places so that Hannah has a way of putting a message to her mom or dad or Nolan (brother), and then notifying them that they can get the message out of their secret place,” Brandt added. “The secret place would be different for each member of her family.” “There are some knot holes here and there that you could stuff a note into,” Zylstra suggested.

Seeing their way through

Brandt was the principal at Central Elementary in Worthington, and retired upon the opening of the new Prairie Elementary in 2001. Zylstra credited

him with having multiple handyman-type abilities. “If he doesn’t know how to do it he’ll find out how, that’s for sure,” Zylstra said. “it’s been a good experience for me,” Brandt said of the playground project. “Ed, he’s intelligent, and we enjoy good conversations and humor. He’s also active in this, and he doesn’t wait for me to do something. …. On one of the last things we were doing, I was inside and Ed was outside cutting pieces on the miter saw.” So how does a blind man manage that? “This is where you literally use your head,” he elaborated. “I hold the miter saw down with my head and then feel the end of the board I’m going to cut. Then, then I push it up to the blade so I get the same length of board I wish to have.” “When he’ll measure something, he’s got the folding tape and he’s got two fingers … so sometimes he’ll say ‘it’s three folds and two fingers.’ Sometimes, it’s a fingernail. He’s usually within half an inch.” “Gary likes to get to within a 64th of an inch, and I’ll say, ‘I don’t think so,’” Zylstra said, smiling. Brandt related that Zylstra wanted to hatch some chicks this spring, but had difficulty with the candling process that shows how the eggs are developing, So, Brandt decided to assist with that effort.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020 3

Zylstra has even found ways to clear snow despite his lack of vision. “With my footwork … I can feel where I’ve been and not been,” he said. “I also put out a radio — if I get messed up, at least I can find my way back to the radio. I’ve got myself lost a couple of times pretty good, but I have Siri now and if I get really messed up I can call my daughters and they can track me.”

What’s in store?

The project has been a good way to pass time for Zylstra, whose wife died in February. Gary, meanwhile, lives with his wife of 53 years, Mary, near Chautauqua Park. As of last week, the construction duo was hoping to have the playhouse wrapped up in a week and a half’s time. “We’re adding electric to it now … and we’re insulating it and putting in a double wall for safety,” Zylstra said. “I have a solar lamp that’s going in, too. “We’re going to save the planet.” Zylstra said a friend, Randy Lubben, will assist in getting the playhouse to Hannah, who remains unaware of the upcoming gift. “I used up Gary’s summer pretty good,” Zylstra said “it was a bigger task than I probably had in my mind in a way, but it’s turning out just really nice. If anybody’s proud, we are.” WIth four months of work nearly done, is Zylstra already considering a next project for which he can enlist Brandt’s help? “I probably am, but I’m not going to say,” he said. “I’m going to hold that back.”

Ryan McGaughey/The Globe

Ed Zylstra points to a potential hiding place for secret messages he hopes his granddaughter will share with family members.

Ryan McGaughey/The Globe

The top portion of this playhouse hall has been fashioned with cedar, which comprises multiple other components of the structure.

Ryan McGaughey/The Globe



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A new exercise routine should begin with safe exercises like squats, wall push-ups, light weightlifting regimens and taking walks.

Five ways seniors can stay safe and active during COVID-19 B


y now, most seniors are aware that they’re among the most vulnerable demographic groups when it comes to contracting COVID-19. That said, a recent nationwide poll by Tivity Health, a national provider of senior fitness, nutrition and healthy lifestyle solutions, including SilverSneakers, the nation’s leading community fitness program designed for older adults, indicates many are probably not getting the exercise they need to maintain optimal health. In the poll, 46% of adult and senior respondents said the pandemic is preventing them from attending in-person exercise classes at

local gyms, although 84% noted they’ll return within a month once attendance is deemed safe by authorities. A core challenge is reduced gym access, as quarantines prove problematic for many older Americans trying to continue exercise regimens. Exercise remains critical for seniors to maintain a healthy immune system that’s able to fight off disease. Regular workouts can also increase balance and strength and help prevent falls. For seniors, falls are an all too common threat and crisis; Johns Hopkins University reports that 25% of adults 65 or older fall, and three million are treated in emergency rooms each year for injuries caused by falls.

“This pandemic has brought great challenges and stress for seniors. But the good news is, there are ways to exercise safely and maintain an active lifestyle,” Tivity Health president and CEO Richard Ashworth said. “Exercise is vital for maintaining optimal health, and through easy-to-access digital and in-person options, it is our hope seniors can continue or renew exercise regimens quickly and safely.” Maintaining regular exercise during COVID-19 need not be difficult. If you’re a senior wanting to maintain effective workouts each day, here are some tips you can follow even if you’re practicing social isolation. Start slowly. If you haven’t been exercising,

you’ll want to ease into your new routine gradually. Studies indicate just two weeks of inactivity (or a 75% reduction in daily steps) can decrease your muscle strength by 8%, while dropping 1,000 to 1,500 steps each day can both raise both inflammation and blood pressure. You should jumpstart your new regimen with safe exercises like squats, wall push-ups, light weightlifting regimens and taking walks (keeping distance from others for safety). Subscribe to a digital exercise program. You do not need to leave your home to exercise each day. That’s especially true if you sign up for a high-quality digital regimen that fits well with your exercise goals and preferences. In fact, 56% of seniors responding to the Tivity Health poll said their future workout plans call for participating in online classes two to three times per week. You may find SilverSneakers’ LIVE classes are your perfect

option; the instructor-led online exercise sessions are being offered to all SilverSneakers members. In addition, free Facebook Live classes led by SilverSneakers national trainers are broadcast multiple times a week. The national fitness membership organization designed the virtual series to help seniors stay in shape while still following precautions during the pandemic. Avoid prolonged sitting. Even if you must set a timer to remind yourself, take frequent breaks from sitting and engage in rejuvenating strolls — or simply take part in activities that involve standing. The point is to avoid being sedentary for long intervals of time. Use others as motivation. In the Tivity Health poll, 44% of responding seniors said they’re motivated to return to their fitness centers to see and socialize with friends. If you feel more motivated when not exercising all by yourself, you might optimize FaceTime, Zoom or even a quick phone

call to interact with fitness-minded others as you work out at home. Check out local fitness centers. Before attending local gyms, learn what they’re doing to keep their customers safe and to align with recommended CDC guidelines. If you feel safe enough to participate, exercise in open spaces where you can maintain six feet of distance from others. You might also check out low-intensity options such as water exercise classes, yoga or Tai Chi. Whether you’re staying at home or practicing safe social distancing while out and about, there’s no need to give up the exercise that can help you maintain optimal health during the pandemic. Take steps now to ensure you’re taking good care of yourself through age-appropriate workouts and movement. To check your eligibility and find a health plan that includes SilverSneakers, visit silversneakers.com.

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Active Life Winter 2020  

Feature stories on local seniors remaining active despite barriers. The Active Life section also includes resources for seniors to stay safe...

Active Life Winter 2020  

Feature stories on local seniors remaining active despite barriers. The Active Life section also includes resources for seniors to stay safe...