Are we ever too old to play?

Children have a full-time occupation. It’s called PLAY! Let them be occupied by it from their early years and into their twilight years.”  Vince Gowmon

It is widely accepted that Life Enrichment activities bring vigor and life to senior living, but, nonetheless, you may be surprised to learn what has been the most popular and well-received activity I have led over the years.

As Life Enrichment Directors we are taught that activities should be “age appropriate,” but exactly what does that mean?

Throughout my forty-four-year career in senior care, I have witnessed older people transformed through laughter and play. Of course, individual cognition must be considered, but overall most residents, regardless of cognitive abilities, respond in a positive manner to childhood games.  

Games, songs, and rhymes from our youth generally hold a special place in our memories.

Many of us can easily recall the words to a nursery rhyme but forget what we had for dinner the day before. I have found that most adults find comfort and pleasure when reminiscing about their childhood and the games they played.

I believe we all have an inner child that requires nurturing from time to time, and we must let that child play without judgment. The game doesn’t matter if it brings engagement, laughter, camaraderie and happy thoughts. I experience all these things myself right alongside residents as we play the most popular game.

I was hesitant to introduce this active game for fear of it being considered too childish for independent living residents. I purchased one large beach ball and decided to give it a try after we completed our balance class. Little did I know that it would grow into a twice-weekly occurrence and that I would need to purchase an additional ball to add to the excitement.

So, what is this most popular of games? Kickball!

Yes, kickball, the timeless playground favorite.

In our version, we deploy two large balls into a circle of residents who then hit, kick, punch, and bounce them back and forth. I play along and am able to see the years wash away revealing a room full of happy, laughing inner children. People are moving and stretching and having such a good time that the game’s energy carries on long after we finish. Players often recount their kickball exploits in the dining room and share another laugh with each other.

Since beginning this activity, our group has grown, and we now welcome between twelve and sixteen people each session. Residents have embraced kickball and I am so glad I decided to give it a try and let them judge its age appropriateness.

How about you?  Laugh.  Play. Embrace your inner child.

Leo Buscaglia figured it out when he said, “I am often accused of being childish. I prefer to interpret that as child-like. I still get wildly enthusiastic about little things. I tend to exaggerate and fantasize and embellish. I still listen to instinctual urges. I play with the leaves. I skip down the street and run against the wind. I never water my garden without soaking myself. It has been after such times of joy that I have achieved my greatest creativity and produced my best work.” 

Vanessa Uhrig, Life Enrichment Director

About the Author: Vanessa is a “farm girl”,  who was born and raised in Canby, Oregon, and now working at Shorewood Senior Living in Florence, Oregon.  She had a strong bond with her grandparents who taught strong work ethics, morals and the value of honesty. They provided her with love and respect for her elders from an early age. Her grandmother encouraged her artistic and creative side resulting in a passion for cooking, painting, quilt making, crocheting, drawing, crafts of all kinds and a closet full of “bits and bobs” that will be used someday. Prior to coming to Shorewood, Vanessa was a cook at an assisted living community. Vanessa lives in Florence Oregon and is enjoying everything it has to offer. 

Vanessa loves nature and all animals. She currently has two dogs and four cats, all rescued from the humane society. Vanessa is the proud mom of one daughter, Emily, who is, not only her best friend but also a scientist with a Ph.D. in Zoology. When she isn’t at work, Vanessa can be found busy outside in the flower beds or making something crafty. She is happy to be at Shorewood to share laughter, build friendships, and make a difference in the lives of the residents.

A Saga of the newer shoes – An Elder perspective

Harriet’s gym shoes began to disintegrate at exercise on Friday.  Small chunks just fell on the floor.  Friends recognized what happened before we did and handed some of the scraps to us, with comments about the age of the shoes. . . and us.  Well, we had two days to replace the shoes, before the next class.  Harriet really didn’t want to shop, but reluctantly agreed.

What a hassle for me, a man trying to find shoes for a woman, in a store with no help in sight.  If one considers size, style, brands, color, and price, there were overwhelming options. A friendly customer helped me because I couldn’t read the details on the boxes.  I picked out one that I thought might work.  Without a shoehorn, it took all my best effort to get it on her foot.  I was exhausted.

I searched further.  Same results.  I finally walked to the cashier and asked if someone could help.  A woman introduced herself and said the “shoe person” was out to lunch, but she would try.  That took another twenty unproductive minutes before the “shoe person” finally arrived.

Harriet was not at her best.  Her answers were “I don’t know” or “it doesn’t make any difference to me”.  About an hour later, she agreed to go with a pair: Black, Size 8.5, New Balance brand, Medium width, “Training” shoes.  Whew!

When we reached the cashier, she informed us that in the box were two shoes for the right foot.

The moral of the story:  If at 95, you want to buy new shoes for your wife, aged 96, you need a well-tempered sense of humor.  

(We returned them.  A pair of veteran SAS shoes has been drafted.  They just may last as long as we do)

About the author:  Richard Smith, Minister, and Community Leader

20161216_130223Richard and Harriet Smith have been part of the Florence, Oregon community for the past thirty years and live at  Shorewood Senior Living. Mr. Smith has been involved in countless projects, businesses, and groups.

His mother taught him that if you have leadership ability it will be discovered. There is no need to push yourself into it or brag about yourself. Mr. Smith believes there is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.

Mr. Smith attended Yale University where he met his wife. They were both attending the Divinity school there. He is a retired Presbyterian minister and has been married to his sweetheart for 68 years. They say, “Life is good basically – we both agree on that.”

In 1992 Mr. Smith was nominated for the First Citizen award for Florence in recognition for his work and contribution to the many groups and businesses.


If you are an elder adult or know an elder adult who has a story to share, please contact Jean Garboden at, or at 503-851-8668.  The voices of the elder generation can make us laugh, inspire us, and inform us!  We want (and we need) to hear from you!


Giving – perspective of a wise elder


We give, don’t we, for all kinds of reasons.

The doorbell rings or we are stopped at the grocery store and we make a token gift because we find it less embarrassing than saying “no.” And we don’t miss it.

Appeals for donations flood our mailbox weekly, if not daily, and we put them aside until, on impulse, we chose one or two and send a check fearful that by so doing our name will appear on some other mailing list, and we will learn of some other life-threatening cause. And life goes on.

As Christmas approaches, we check our card list to be sure that we don’t omit anyone who sent to us last year, or as we plan a small gathering we fit in the “Smiths” because we “owe them a favor.” And the world understands.

Once in a while, we are moved by the look in the eye of a starving boy in Somalia or the sobs of an elderly woman whose home has been destroyed by a hurricane and we feel uncomfortable in our comfort and want to lift their burden just a bit. And the world draws closer.

Occasionally, there emerges a desire to do something for someone for no reason except that we care: an anniversary or birthday, flowers to a friend, a computer for our daughter, a special surprise gift chosen with care for your spouse. And the world smiles.

Perhaps we give ourselves gifts, too, from time to time. Rewarding ourselves with chocolates or a steak dinner. And we feel we deserved it. And the world nods its head in approval.

But from time to time, we want to do something really significant. In our church or in our community: a new hospital or an addition and we stretch ourselves and give a bit more generously than usual and maybe then, we really are convinced that it is necessary and we celebrate the results. And the world is better for it.

Sometimes, we give until we can feel the impact on our own lives. A major purchase must be delayed or trip postponed, or the whole budget is pinched in order to tithe. And the world, if it knows and it seldom does, does not understand for it can relate to obligations and tit for tat and visible rewards but it does not comprehend the deep need each of us has to give. It makes us human.

Close to home

I am grateful. That, in itself, is a good reason to give. I am grateful that my dad taught me there are many good reasons to give: someone is hurting, seeing a child sitting in the wreckage of a hurricane, or a need just wells up within us and we want to respond. My dad taught me the fun of giving. Is fun the right word? Maybe it is joy, satisfaction, or even guilt. I think fun feels best.

When I was about 10. My dad said, “I think it’s about time you thought about giving regularly to the church.” I had a paper route making about $6 per month. A nickel a week sounded good to me. Then he talked about tithing. Ten percent! Sixty cents a month! That was a weekly movie! Or six ice-cream free milkshakes! But it made me feel like an adult.

I have never looked back.

At this season, especially, we are offered a myriad of opportunities to give. Some will be scams, so be careful, but most will be valid needs bringing health, wholeness, and hope.

There is one relevant to where we live. How do we recognize those who serve at our table, clean our rooms, fix our plumbing, and watch our safety? We need to put that in perspective. We are not encouraged to tip. But in our combined gifts we can recognize and thank those who enrich daily.

About the author:  Dick Smith, Minister, and Community Leader

20161216_130223Dick and Harriet Smith have been part of the Florence, Oregon community for the past thirty years and live at  Shorewood Senior Living. Dick has been involved in countless projects, businesses, and groups.

His mother taught him that if you have leadership ability it will be discovered. There is no need to push yourself into it or brag about yourself. Dick believes there is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.

Mr. Smith attended Yale University where he met his wife. They were both attending the Divinity school there. He is a retired Presbyterian minister and has been married to his sweetheart for 67 years. They say, “Life is good basically – we both agree on that.”

In 1992 Dick was nominated for the First Citizen award for Florence in recognition for his work and contribution to the many groups and businesses.


How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it

Giving a Dandelion to Senior
“One who knows how to show and to accept kindness will be a friend better than any possession.” – Sophocles

I am a Community Relations Director in an independent retirement community in Florence, OregonA very anxious family came to me looking for a place for their mother. Their mother’s experience in her last housing situation had left her feeling disrespected and devalued as a contributing elder citizen. The family was cautiously and with skepticism helping their mother make a significant move to another city.

We warmly welcomed this beautiful new elder into our community with open arms. I was visiting with her in her apartment, finishing up the paperwork, and her daughter and son-in-law arrived from out of town for a visit.

They expressed amazement at how simple the transition had been, and how open and loving the other elders and team members had been with them and their mother. I invited them to stay for dinner that night and they were surprised at the offer. They declined, so I brought them some coffee and water to relax and refresh after the long drive.

It was interesting to me that such small acts of kindness were received with awe and gratitude. Small things meant so much to them such as:

  • Walking into the community and team members introducing themselves, saying hello.
  • Team members coming up to the family to reassure them that their mom is doing great and telling a story they heard from her.
  • The invitation to the family to join the community residents for the ice cream social.

It not only made this very anxious family and our new resident feel good;  I noticed that it made all of us feel good too!

Research reveals that doing good deeds, or kind acts, for others can make anxious people feel better. For four weeks, the University of British Columbia researchers assigned people with high levels of anxiety to do kind acts for other people at least six times a week. The acts of kindness included things like:

  • Holding the door open for someone.
  • Doing chores for other people.
  • Donating to charity.
  • Buying lunch for a friend.

The researchers found that doing nice things for people led to a significant increase in positive moods and an increase in warm and caring relationships.

According to Dr. David R. Hamilton, acts of kindness create an emotional warmth, which releases a hormone known as oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and, therefore, oxytocin is known as a “cardio-protective” hormone. It protects the heart by lowering blood pressure.

So acts of kindness not only benefit those to whom we show kindness, but it is good for our health too!

Amelia Earhart said, “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.”  We have a whole grove of kindness growing here at Shorewood!

Guest author Belinda Shores, Community Relations Director at Shorewood Senior Living in Florence Oregon.

belindaI never thought I could love a job so much! To be able to come to work and put to use all of my favorite ideas every day is a joy!  It is the longing of everyone to be able to make a difference, and I know I do. Florence is a small town, and in my role I have the opportunity to create connections with businesses and causes in the community. I am honored to welcome and nurture relationships with families and elders who choose the Oregon Coast as their retirement dream place to live.  My husband and I  have lived in Florence for five years, where we love nature walks, strolls on the beach, boating and kayaking.  On the rainy days, we love to cozy up with a good book. Life is good!

What shall we do? Let’s do what is right, and proper, and good

Every morning at Shorewood Senior Living  in Florence Oregon, we start the day with our True North stand-up meeting.  It is my favorite time of the day!  It gives us a moment to pause, make direct eye contact with one another, communicate, laugh, focus on on our core values,  express appreciation for the work we do, and to seek solutions as a team.

Last week as we came together a staffing shortage on our dining services team was a hot topic. One server quit, and two others had given notice.  We had placed ads in the newspaper, Facebook, the unemployment center, and craigslist.  We only received three applicants. All three candidates were not qualified for the position and we knew they wouldn’t last long if we hired them.

We discussed the option of going ahead and bringing one of them on as a ‘warm body’ to just get us through until we could find the right person.  Being from a small town, we knew the candidate pool was small, and several people spoke up, saying they could see problems may arise if we selected the wrong person.

At Shorewood, we remind ourselves every day that our decisions are guided by goodness, loyalty, faith, and fun.  So, I asked the team, “What should we do? Is there no one else to choose from? Is this the only option?”

One by one each person on the team began to speak up.

“I’ll help!”

“Tell us the hours that need to be filled and we will step in and help.”

“We want to hire the right person.”

“Our team, our residents, and our community are too important to do something we know will not ultimately be good for Shorewood.”

Together we decided and committed to hiring the right person for the job. It was awesome to come together as a team like this. More ideas came out as to where to advertise for the position and how to spread it through word of mouth.

It was exciting to see what can happen when we evoke our core values, and focus on what is right, and proper and good. From a place of goodness this team stepped out in faith that if they do the right things, the right things will happen. They demonstrated loyalty to one another and to the residents in their commitment… and through it all, we are having fun!

This was a great step in our growth as a team as we came together to overcome an obstacle, knowing that we did the right thing for those we serve. This next person we hire will be the perfect fit for Shorewood!


BethwebbAbout the Guest Author:  Bethany Webb, Executive Director at Shorewood Senior Living in Florence, Oregon has worked in Senior Housing for 3 years. Bethany is inspired by  the elders she is honored to serve, and embraces her leadership role. Bethany recognizes that the responsibility of leadership is not to come up with all of the great ideas, but to create an environment where good ideas can thrive!  When not working, Bethany loves spending outdoor time on the Oregon Coast with her three daughters.

Visit us on Facebook to learn more about what is happening at Shorewood, a member of the Compass Senior Living family.