The Homewoods Way

I received a warm welcome from Homewoods residents when I joined the staff last April. It is the same welcome they give to every new person, whether a staff member or community member, who comes into our place.  People who come for tours and visits always comment on the friendliness and the “feel” of our place here.

As I have gotten to know our staff and residents this year, kindness, hospitality, and service have stood out to me as core values of this community. Those are three different ways of saying, we take care of each other.

In April we will be travelling to the Mennonite Village in Albany to participate in the annual Leading Age Volunteer Recognition Luncheon. Homewoods resident Colleen Mickelson is being recognized this year for the many ways she helps out around Homewoods. Colleen volunteers in the Mercantile, bakes cookies, greets visitors, and helps out friends and neighbors without fanfare. Like so many who live here, she gives from the heart because she enjoys being of service.

I have been blessed to get to know this Homewoods community over the past year. Sharing our lives with each other in this beautiful place is about as good as it gets. We are fortunate people and we know that we are living well.

Adapted from the April edition of “Looking Ahead with Laura” in the Homewoods newsletter.

The Power of Story and Creative Expression

Mixed Media Painting (Detail) by Choichun Leung / Dumbo Arts CenOne of the most popular program offerings here at Homewoods is our writers club that meets every Monday at 10:00 a.m. Those who participate in it say that they are having the time of their lives!  The group leader, Ann Staatz, taught journalism at Multnomah University for many years. She brings experience and encouragement to the group members.

In February three members of the writers’ club attended the Leading Age Writing Contest at Friendsview Retirement Center in Newberg. Homewoods resident Millie Sandwick was chosen to read a piece she wrote called The Streetcar. Millie is a long time resident of Milwaukie. Her story described the days when a streetcar provided transportation between Milwaukie and Portland, before the public bus system replaced it.

We are looking forward to a celebration of storytelling via the Homewoods Voices of Our Elders project to be held in June  in collaboration with WellArts and Rex Putnam High School. For the next two months students from Rex Putnam and Homewoods residents will be working on this oral history project. Elders are an undervalued resource in our community and we are eager to provide this opportunity for people to hear their stories.

Katy Liljeholm, the artistic director at Well Arts, describes the process of storytelling as  “stepping through circles of courage.” Art, she says, allows us to grow and learn rather than remain static. It provides new perspectives and new opportunities. Research has shown that the shift for the brain means movement from a “deficit model” to an “asset model” (Why Are Writing and Theater Part of Healthy Aging?, Well Arts 2013).


Spring’s Awakening

The lawn that rolls down to the Willamette River may still be soggy at Homewoods, but we are thinking springtime thoughts.

From the raised garden beds to the newly set rosebuds, we are seeing signs of spring everywhere. Here at our “home in the woods” we are continually renewed by the natural surroundings, the return of the birds, and by the smiles we see on the faces of our neighbors and friends during coffee hour.

Spring and the longer days lift our spirits. If you’re happy and you know it, scientists report that you are 65 percent more likely to live happily for the next five years.

Happiness leads to longevity. Many Homewoods residents find happiness in tending their raised gardens. They also find happiness in talking with neighbors, volunteering  in “Granny’s Attic,” sharing meals with friends, or reading in our library.

As we approach Easter and the spring season here are some simple tips for finding personal renewal:

Take your vitamins, especially Vitamin D. This vitamin boosts your immunity, promotes healthy neuro-muscular functions and protects you from some forms of cancer.

Cut (down on) caffeine. Coffee increases anxiety levels, and irritability. Instead of coffee, try green tea. It has one-quarter the amount of caffeine found in coffee and green tea is loaded with antioxidants.

Express simple spiritual gratitude. Think about all those small acts of kindness that make you smile. Writing a note to a friend, or just making a list of what makes you smile, stops us from taking the wonder of our world for granted.

Experience kindness by being kind. If you perform small acts of kindness, you will like yourself more and think of those around you in a positive way.

Appreciate the little things.  Rainbows, craft projects, a good joke, the beauty of nature, savoring a delicious meal — take the time to notice the everyday gifts of life!

Don’t forget to smile. The simple act of smiling is called facial feedback. Smiling sends a signal to your brain that you are feeling content, secure and happy.

The wisdom of retirement living

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, said, “Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and the end of human existence.”

In your retirement life, I believe your health; your attitude and everyday enjoyment of life are driven by wise choices.

We all have to make choices when we choose to retire. The obvious ones are ways to spend our time, how to maintain our health and energy and of course, how to have enough money in the golden years.

I believe that your retirement at Homewoods on the Willamette was a wise choice. Your decision to live in active retirement community is based on YOUR own wisdom. What do I really mean by that? Too often people discount their life experience and the learning required to be successful in your life.

Through all of your life stages you have made choices, some good, some you would rather not even think about. Give yourself a break, all humans make mistakes and it’s natural. The unrecognized wisdom is what you have learned by making choices that succeeded and the sometimes-uncomfortable lessons from the mistakes you have made.

We have all had successes and failures and learned from both.

  • We’ve been in control and sometimes not.
  • We’ve faced issues of right and wrong and the gray in between.
  • We’ve experienced a full range of emotions and their consequences.
  • We have learned from the positive and negative examples of the behavior of others.
  • We have laughed, cried, argued and loved.

I believe your experienced have created your own inner wisdom. May our community at Homewoods on the Willamette bring you with happiness, insight and joy.

Ready for a little fun? Click on this link for the “wisdom scorecard”.

I scored 3.9 on this 39-question wisdom scorecard, so I am “Moderately Wise.” I guess I have a lot more living and learning to do!