Category Archives: Community

Getting Older with Grace

Covered Bridge: How Do You Know You’re Getting Older?

When I started working in the Medicare industry 15 years ago, I was ignorant about Medicare and insurance of any kind really. It seemed like a growth industry to me.

15 year later, I have a much more personal interest in the subject, having quite a few family members over 65. This aging thing is not as easy as I thought it would be. Things change.

I’ve made progress in the meantime. I also used to think being online and connected was not that necessary. Now I couldn’t live without it. Please note, the perception that older people don’t like to use technology is false. According to Pew Research Center, 4 in 10 seniors own smartphones, more than double the share that did so in 2013.

I have an almost 8-month-old and an 8-year-old and have “mom brain” most days. I used to take extra time getting ready for a big event or even a regular day. When I was done, I would look in the mirror and say, “You look very well put together.”  Now, when I go through all the same steps, I look in in the mirror and say, “You look clean.”

When did I stop hearing, “You look great,” and start hearing, “You look great for your age”? Probably around the same time folks went from saying, “I like your new glasses,” to “Your new glasses take 5 years off your face.” Ugh.

I’ve learned not to ask anyone how old they are unless they are under the age of 12. Even then, I would think twice about it. If anyone forces you to guess how old they are, make a fair guess, and then subtract 15 years. No one ever complains.

The Population Reference Bureau says that from 2014 to 2060, the number of people age 65 and older in the United States will more than double from 46 million to over 98 million. Surprisingly, people over age 85 are the fastest growing 10-year age group of the older population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Aging is tough. Often, we have to forgo many of the activities of our youth, such as:

  • Driving a car
  • Living independently
  • Eating anything you want
  • Staying up all night
  • Getting a haircut
  • Worrying about the small stuff (Oh wait, that’s a good thing.)

While I still have a way to go before some of these activities are things I have to forgo, I try to remember those family and friends that are maturing and reaching a stage where they may have to give up some of these activities. I try to show as much grace and dignity to them as I hope someone will show to me. Maturing is tough.

 

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.

Winter Senior Games

Long View: Sack Those Winter Blues, Get Active at Winter Senior Games

When I was in high school, I had a crush on the hunky, curly-haired quarterback for the Iowa Hawkeyes, Chuck Long. Sigh, just saying his name takes me back to those days.

In my youth, sports of any kind ruled my world. Volleyball, softball, track and field, and basketball, I took a shot at all of them. I even earned a varsity letter for basketball in high school. I often say that the first thing God is going to let me do when I get to heaven is shoot the gap, slam through on the blind side, and sack the quarterback. But that quarterback will be someone I don’t like, like Tom Brady or Aaron Rogers, not Chuck.

Well, as it tends to happen, I grew up. I decided to become a Cyclone instead of a Hawkeye, got married, and raised a family. I stopped having crushes on college quarterbacks and started dreaming about minivans that could corner on a dime and the day my sons would stop taking swings at each other and just get in the car. Oh, and I went to work for Health Alliance, a company based in Champaign, IL, and full of Fighting Illini. Go figure. But I’ve always hung on to that love of sport. The body doesn’t always cooperate, but the heart is still alive and willing to give it a try.

February is a great month for all lovers of sport because Health Alliance is sponsoring the Winter Iowa Senior Games in the Quad Cities, and you are invited whether you’re an Illini, Hawkeye, Cyclone, or something else. You don’t need to be an Iowa resident to compete. In fact, competitors come from all over the United States. The only requirement is that you must be over 50 years old.

Still worried about the heart being more willing than the body? Don’t, everyone else is in the same boat because you compete with your own age group. Age groupings start at 50 and go up to over 90 years old. The playing field is even!

Registration is being taken for bowling, pickleball, swimming, table tennis, tennis, and all track and field events. Events will take place throughout the Quad Cities, but most will happen at Augustana’s PepsiCo Arena in Rock Island. Yes, that is an indoor track.

Here is the best part. Chuck Long runs the Iowa Sports Foundation, the sponsoring agency of the Iowa Senior Games! Sometimes he even comes out to run the 800 meters in his age group. Making one’s heart go pitter-patter is an aerobic exercise, don’t you know? Come out and have some fun and shake off those winter blues.

The Winter Iowa Senior Games will be held February 22 to 24 in the Quad Cities. Register for events at IowaSeniorGames.org or by calling 1-888-777-8881.

Reading this article too late for the Winter Games? The Eastern Iowa Senior Challenge happens in April in Cedar Rapids, and the Iowa Senior Games is later this summer in West Des Moines. Check their website for all available events and dates.

 

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.

Fond Memories of the Spirit of Christmas

Long View: Princess of Christmas Past

As a child, my favorite time of year was Christmastime. It was not just Christmas day, but the whole season surrounding it. The spirit of being joyful, grateful, loving, and caring was something I thought should exist all year long.

The spirit of giving was my favorite of all. Everyone felt like a prince or princess waiting to receive their heart’s desire. It gave me joy to give someone a gift and see the expression on their face when they opened it, especially when it was thoughtful or something they really needed or always wanted.

The season also came with beautiful and vibrant decorations. Some of my favorites were the candy canes and stockings. I remember the candy-filled, clear plastic candy canes with the solid red hook. They could be filled with any kind of candy, from gumballs to M&M’s or even Sweet Tarts or jelly beans.

I also remember the red see-through netted stockings filled with both candy and small toys. I thought to myself, “Why would they make a stocking where I can see the goodies in it but then tell me I can’t open it until Christmas?” It was too tempting to not try and sneak some candy out of it ahead of time. Although I was anxious to open it, the wait built patience. And patience is a virtue.

More of my favorite memories include choosing our real, live Christmas trees. My daddy insisted that we get a real tree and not an artificial one. “Nothing can replace the scent of fresh pine in the house,” he explained. 

Our tree was even more special because it was decorated with not only store-bought decorations of lights, bulbs, and tinsel, but also ornaments I had made at school. And the tree had to be as tall as the ceiling with either a shining start or an angel on top.

My most memorable times at Christmas were when my family came together at my grandma’s and granddaddy’s house on Christmas Eve. I got to see all of my cousins, aunts, and uncles. Of course there was lots of food. My favorites were the turkey, dressing, and peach cobbler.  Everything was homemade, and I could tell it was made with love.

It’s my goal to carry the spirit of being joyful, grateful, loving, and caring into the present and the future. With or without the candy canes, stockings, or decorations, the memories of family and love are most important to me.

The material things pass away. The candy is consumed.  The stockings are thrown away. The light bulbs eventually burn out. The tinsel gets tangled, and the pine needles on the real tree dry out. But memories of family love will continue to live in our hearts.

Everyone here at Health Alliance wishes you and your family a joyous holiday season and a very Merry Christmas. Share your memories with someone you love, especially those older princes or princesses in your family who have years and years of fond memories on their minds this time of year.

Sherry Gordon-Harris is a community liaison at Health Alliance. She is a wife and mother of 2 boys and enjoys traveling, collecting dolls, and hosting princess parties and princess pageants.

Family Time for the Holidays

Covered Bridge: If Only Time Stood Still

As a child with a birthday in December (of course shortly followed by Christmas), I can say I always wished the first part of December away. I was so excited about all the festivities to come that I merely wanted the days to pass until the real excitement began.

Even though I share a birthday with my twin sister and some of our presents consisted of sharing, I wanted nothing more than to see what gifts we might receive for our birthday. Fast forward 10 days, and all we wanted to see were the gifts we would receive for Christmas, hoping not to have to share those.

That’s usually the way kids work, right?

Now, as an adult, my daughter’s birthday is 2 days from mine, which means I care less about what I get and more about what we get to do for her. My husband and I rarely get gifts for one another. We find much more joy in giving to others than receiving ourselves.

These days, we look forward to making cakes for birthdays and favorite meals for our kids. We look forward to family coming to town to visit and trying our best to get thoughtful gifts for them that we hope they’ll enjoy.

We enjoy the extra company and chaos that ensues with it. We spend more time sitting around the table chatting with family and less time worrying about the cleanup of a meal we spent most of the day preparing. After all, it will be there tomorrow. Our family may not be.

It’s also important to remember that while some of us think of joy and family during the holiday season, others feel isolation and anxiety, and the shorter, darker days and cold weather don’t help. We often forget about those who may be living alone. I encourage you this holiday season to take an extra moment to make time for the ones who may need it more than you know.

During the holidays, which is oftentimes the only time we get to be with distant family, take the extra time to not worry about what can be put off until tomorrow. Spend it talking, communicating, and interacting. We rush through life as children to get to the next exciting moment, but what if the most exciting moments now are the ones shared over a meal and simple conversations?

Happy Holidays!

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.

World Kindness Week

World Kindness Week

It’s World Kindness Week, and it’s the perfect time to give back, give thanks, and do something nice for your loved ones or community.

Bring flowers to your grandmother or the nice older lady next door, have tea, and listen to some of their stories and memories. You’ll probably learn something and brighten their day.

Tea with Grandma

 

Write notes of inspiration and kindness on slips of paper and stick them in books you’re lending to friends or library books you’re returning for the next reader to find.

Notes of Inspiration in Library Books

 

Cook a meal for a friend of family member going through a hard time or even just a busy season at work.

Cook a Meal for Friends

 

Go to the nearest public park with friends and pick up trash or volunteer with a group to clean up alongside highways.

Picking Up Trash

 

Bake extra of your favorite dessert and bring them to work to share or deliver them to a friend who could use a nice surprise.

Bake for Others

 

Babysit your friend or family member’s kids so they can go out on a date night or make time for self-care. Or pet-sit while they go on vacation.

Pay for coffee for the car behind you in the drive-thru or dinner for a couple or family at the same restaurant as you.

Pay It Forward with Coffee

Care for Pets in Holidays and Hard Times

Vantage Point: Fur Babies

November, where did you come from? I swear it was just yesterday that I was stressing out about what I was going to buy to contribute for Thanksgiving dinner last year.

Full disclosure, I’m not a very good cook.

During the holidays, most of us get lists ready of everything we would like to accomplish before the festivities begin. Along with those lists, we still have to do our daily tasks, like taking care of our families and our pets. These four-legged children are a part of our families, and we want them to feel loved during the holidays and for the rest of the year.

Unfortunately, the holidays mean a stressful financial burden for many people. It never fails that life happens and that bad situations happen all at once. When dealing with your four-legged children, they might need some care during this busy season and cause extra expenses you are not expecting. Thankfully, our community has different resources to help support those unexpected situations.

The Wenatchee Valley Humane Society has many programs that can assist during the difficult times. One of the programs they offer is Pets for Life, which has the intent of “keeping people and pets together during the times they need each other most.”

This program can help board pets without cost if the owner can’t afford to do so. Typically, our seniors use this program when they need to be admitted for inpatient care and don’t have anybody to watch over their pets. Pets for Life can also help with the financial burden if your pet needs to be evaluated by a veterinarian, and it can also help supply food for your pets.

Another wonderful program the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society offers is a low-cost spay and neuter program to help low-income citizens spay or neuter their pets at a very low cost. If you or anybody you know could use these services, call the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society at 509-662-9577 or stop by.

Knowing that we have such an amazing place that can help with our pets offers peace of mind to get geared up for our busy season. The holidays are intended to be full of love and joy and spent with everyone you care about. This includes our pets, and thanks to the assistance of this organization, we can feel comfortable that our pets will be by our side.

Jessica Arroyo, born and raised in the Wenatchee Valley, is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance Northwest, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. During her time off, she enjoys spending time with her husband and infant son.

Honor a Veteran This Veterans Day

Covered Bridge: Honor and Comfort a Veteran

My aunt is a quilter. If you know a quilter or happen to be one yourself, you know that this is more of a way of life than a hobby.

Every important occasion in our family merits a quilt. Getting married? Quilt. Having a baby? Quilt. Everywhere you turn from in town to in the country, you see barn quilts on sheds, and those patterns inspire her.

November is an important month in our country because it’s the month we celebrate Veterans Day. How do you recognize Veterans Day? Of course my aunt would say, “I’ve got a quilt for that!”

The Quilts of Valor Foundation is an organization that seeks out veterans to honor by making and presenting them with a handmade quilt. Its motto is “Quilting to Honor and Comfort.” I like that. Here is a group of people with a passion for sewing something with their own two hands to make someone else feel better. To date, Quilts of Valor has given away more than 193,000 quilts.

Let’s go back to the question, “How do you recognize Veterans Day?” Or better yet, do you recognize a veteran?

We live in a time in our nation’s history when a veteran can look so many different ways. Our nation’s veterans are handsome 90-year-old WWII veterans, hardworking Korean War veterans, proud but quiet Vietnam veterans, or even the 25-year-old grandson or granddaughter of someone you know.

The men and women who serve our country have done so in my name, in your name. How can you recognize them today? How can you say, “I see you and understand what you mean to this country?” We can’t all make quilts. But we can buy cups of coffee. We can shake hands, or if appropriate, give a hug. We can all say thank you.

Here are some organizations that reach out to veterans. See if you can find one in your community and offer whatever special skill you have to their cause. If you bake, bake. If you woodwork, woodwork. Share yourself with a veteran so they know you care. It’s the very least any of us can do to honor and comfort the heroes around us.

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.