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Residents Move Into New Woodland Park Homes

December 5, 2017

Fifty-five VMRC residents will soon finish moving into newly constructed Woodland Park homes. Five additional homes and a community center have been built in the existing Woodland Park community, which is designed for individuals who need long-term care and want to live in a more residential home setting.

Each new home is approximately 6,800 square feet and provides living space for 11 residents. The homes complete the second phase of Woodland Park which originally opened in January 2013 with three homes. In total, VMRC now has the capacity to care for 85 residents in Woodland Park – a neighborhood of residences with private rooms and baths, a hearth den, sunroom and open kitchen. The houses feature front porches and courtyards for access to the outdoors.

“Their design is about improving quality of life and focuses on residents, their interests and pursuits to enjoy meaningful life – which is what we all want,” said Jonathan Hamilton, vice president for Supportive Living.

Woodland Park homes are licensed as nursing homes and staffed by certified nursing assistants who have additional training in CPR, first aid, house operations, culinary skills and safe food handling. A clinical support team of nurses, social workers, activities coordinators, therapists, nutritionists and a physician provide care in the homes to residents.

Woodland Park homes are named for the original members of the Virginia Mennonite Home corporate board from 1951: M.C. Showalter, Joseph A. Brunk, John W. Harman, Oscar Wenger, A.F. Burkholder, Harvey E. Yoder and Roy G. Wenger. An eighth house was named for the fourth president of Eastern Mennonite University and his philosophical contributions to aging services.

“We selected ‘Mumaw’ as the final house name after Dr. John R. Mumaw, a man who brought to this area from Denmark the concept of ‘normalization’ which means people want to age in an environment that mirrors as closely as possible patterns and conditions of everyday life,” said Judith Trumbo, president and CEO of VMRC.

The newly constructed Cline Community Center in Woodland Park offers space for social gatherings, private family events and VMRC campus functions. It is named for the family of Ralph and Anne Cline and their leadership and involvement in philanthropy and volunteerism in the Harrisonburg-Rockingham County community for decades.

Stay Healthy, Active this Winter

November 27, 2017

Illness is more common as the weather gets colder, but just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that you have to get sick. We offer eight suggestions to keep you healthy in mind, body and soul.


“Some people view exercise as a bad thing - something they have to do. Why not change your perspective?,” said Christine Schmidt, fitness manager at VMRC’s Wellness Center. “Remember when you were young and you couldn’t sit still and loved to move around and go play outside? As an adult, figure out what you enjoy so that you get hooked and want to do it.”

You can boost your immune system with exercise. Activities as simple as walking, cleaning your house, doing yard work and taking the stairs count as exercise.

The American Medical Journal considers “somewhat active” people to be those who take 7,500 steps per day and “active” people those who take 10,000 steps per day. An average person takes about 2,000 steps in a mile. The equivalent of walking three to five miles per day may seem like a lot, but those steps add up more quickly than you’d think - you can use a simple pedometer to keep track.

If you’re exercising outside this winter, considering doing so when it’s daylight so that you get the added benefit of Vitamin D. To be more comfortable, dress in layers - adding and removing them as you heat up and cool down so that you don’t get sweaty, wet and then cold.

Get Motivation From Others

“Incorporate your family and friends in your activities. Rake leaves with others, visit the local ice rink with your grandchildren or recruit your neighbor for a walk around your neighborhood,” said Christine.

Joining a Wellness Center like the one at VMRC gives you options to keep moving no matter what the weather, whether you prefer to exercise alone, with a partner or in organized group fitness classes.

“Couples who play together stay together,” said Christine, “but you don’t have to have a significant other to exercise. You could recruit a friend to be your workout buddy and hold you accountable when your motivation wanes, or sign up for a group class.”

Stay Connected

Fight seasonal depression by staying connected with old friends and family and cultivating new friends. Don’t let yourself get too isolated.

“Person to person interaction is very healthy,” said Christine. “Don’t underestimate the power of a hug or even just holding someone’s hand. That said, you can still stay connected over long distances. Learn to use technology like phones and computers to communicate remotely when you can’t be in the same place at the same time.”

Stay Hydrated

Many people don’t drink enough water when it’s cold. They’re simply less likely to feel thirsty. Yet hydration is key, even in the winter.

“The cold makes us shiver, and we use a lot of calories when we shiver and to keep ourselves warm. Cold will also dry out our skin,” said Christine. “Watch for signs of dehydration like cracked skin or lips, and drink plenty of fluids during and after exercise.”

Make Good Food Choices

Be mindful of what you eat, adopting a balanced and healthy diet. Eat the right amount so that you’re not over- or under-eating. Your body needs fuel and energy to maintain a normal metabolism and immune system.

“We all enjoy sweet foods, but are you consuming enough vegetables and fruit?” said Christine. “Too many desserts and alcoholic beverages can spike your blood sugar response and make you feel hungry.”

Get Plenty Of Rest

Get enough sleep so that you feel rested when you wake each day. If you’re tired and stressed, you’re at higher risk of catching a cold. This is because when your body is putting all it’s energy into staying awake or worrying after a poor night’s sleep, less energy is going into keeping your immune system strong.

Practice Good Hygiene Habits

Mom was right: regular hand washing will help prevent the spread of germs so you’ll be less likely to get sick. In between hand washings, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth or any open sores.

Cultivate Gratitude

Studies have shown that our health is not just about what we do or what we eat. It’s also about how we think. Cultivate gratitude to generate positive emotions and energy. Do simple things like say ‘thank you,’ and you’ll feel better.

How to Prevent Falls

October 26, 2017

Falls are the number one cause of injuries and deaths among older Americans according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over 800,000 patients per year are hospitalized at an average per fall cost of $30,000, mostly commonly due to broken hips and head injuries. Older adults and their caregivers can be proactive to reduce the risk of falling by taking the following steps.

Improve Your Environment

“Look around and evaluate your surroundings at home and other places you frequent. Eliminate trip hazards by cleaning up floor clutter and carefully routing cords,” said Heather Yoder, VMRC Wellness Center Program Manager. “Throw rugs, for example, are a big problem and often trip people.”

Good lighting is also important both during the day and at night. Using brighter bulbs and strategically adding a few night lights can dramatically improve visibility, especially when getting up to go to the bathroom at night.

“Stairs and bathrooms are high fall areas,” said Yoder. “Install good handrails along all of your stairs. You can even put them on both sides - they don’t always just have to be along one side. In the bathroom, add grab bars around and in the shower and toilet to reduce risk of falling in what tend to be wetter, more slippery conditions.”

Check Your Vision, Hearing and Medications

When you can’t see well, your balance is compromised. If you’re having trouble with your vision, don’t wait until it’s time for your regular exam to get help. Call your eye doctor and get checked for cataracts, glaucoma and other conditions which can affect your balance.

“Likewise, hearing is an important way we process information, and the inner ear’s vestibular system plays a role in balance,” said Yoder. “When you can’t hear well, you may not be able to hear where other people are, and you may be more easily startled and fall down.” Your regular medical doctor can check whether you have extra wax buildup in your ear or recommend further hearing testing and treatment as appropriate.

Dizziness is a common side effect of some medications, but even if you don’t see it listed your your medications’ labels, consult with your doctor or pharmacist. Sometimes dizziness isn’t caused by any single drug, but is the result of the interaction of two or more drugs.

Wear Proper Footwear

Wear shoes that fit your feet well. Shoes with laces may fit better and more snugly than slip-on shoes. Non-skid, grippy, rubber tread will also give you better traction, as will choosing shoes with low or no heels.


“As you get older, if you don’t use it, you lose it,” said Yoder. “Pick a type of exercise that you enjoy and which doesn’t cause you pain. Tai Chi, for example, has been proven to keep older adults stronger and more flexible because it gets them on their feet and gives them practice shifting their balance. Yoga is also a good way to increase muscular strength and improve balance. Or try walking, lifting weights or dancing.”

Not sure how to get started exercising? Visit VMRC’s Wellness Center where you can consult with a physical therapist or personal trainer who can not only help you identify what exercises are best for you, but also teach you how to do them. The Wellness Center also offers regular group classes on improving balance.

Ask For Help

“People with balance issues sometimes mistakenly think that they will be safer if they stay home,” said Yoder, “but then you become less active and weaker over time, and your risk of falling actually increases. Yes, you might have to plan ahead or be more creative about how you can get out and about, but it’s worth it.”

If you want to continue doing what you enjoy doing, you may eventually need help. Be assertive in asking your family and friends for assistance. For example, get someone to go with you shopping instead of going on your own. Or ask someone to help you with tasks like hanging pictures or going up on ladders.

Harrisonburg Among Best Places To Retire

October 12, 2017

Named as one of 25 “Best Places to Retire” in July by Forbes Magazine, Harrisonburg, Virginia is home to the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC). We asked some local experts what makes Harrisonburg such a good retirement location.

“There are two top reasons: a moderate climate with four seasons and a low cost of living,” said Peirce Macgill, Assistant Director of City of Harrisonburg Department of Economic Development. “But drill down deeper, and you’ll see that Harrisonburg has something for everyone.”

Located in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, Harrisonburg is a city that has a friendly, small town feel with many big city amenities. Its population is 52,612 within city limits or 131,565 total in the Harrisonburg Metropolitan Statistical Area*.

Harrisonburg is home to both James Madison University (JMU) and Eastern Mennonite University (EMU). Both offer a variety of educational and social programs for people over 50 as does Harrisonburg’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Photo courtesy of Eastern Mennonite University

“We have over 35 restaurants, several coffee shops, a variety of yoga studios, arts classes, craft breweries, cool boutiques, a food co-op, farmers market, post office and so much more that you can easily walk to within downtown Harrisonburg,” said Andrea Dono, Executive Director of Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance.

Harrisonburg boasts the first Culinary District created in the state of Virginia. It also serves as the retail center of the Shenandoah Valley.

The city hosts plenty of festivals. Among the best known are the Bach Festival, the International Festival and the Rocktown Beer & Music Festival. Several local theatres feature productions across a wide range of the performing arts, and local restaurants and bars support a thriving regional music scene.

Each month, locals enjoy participating in First Friday, when new art is placed in dozens of locations and people come out to stroll to those different spots to enjoy music, food and drink, and art. But at any time of the month, they can enjoy visits to the Virginia Quilt Museum or taking their grandkids to the Explore More Discovery Museum.

“Harrisonburg residents put a high value on maintaining a strong sense of community in a way that I never experienced living in other places,” said Dono. “Related to this is how people of all ages interact and spend time with each other. I’ll see people of different generations going to see a band play at Clementine or hitting a happy hour at a brewery. I like seeing a mix of Millennials and Boomers (and everyone in between) enjoying the same things together.”

Photo courtesy of the the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts

There are plenty of outdoor recreational opportunities, too.

“Harrisonburg has excellent walking trails, parks and botanical gardens,” said Brenda Black, Tourism and Visitor Services Manager at the Hardesty-Higgins House Visitor Center in Harrisonburg. “The nearby Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains offer plenty of recreation and outdoor activities.”

Dono said, “Harrisonburg is repeatedly recognized for its gorgeous road cycling and top-notch mountain biking amenities, and hikers, birders, naturalists and photographers also have no shortage of majestic places to discover in the surrounding mountains as well as at the Arboretum on JMU’s campus.”

Fortunately, retiring in Harrisonburg is more affordable than many places. “We have a 4% lower cost of living compared to the rest of the state,” said Black. “Unemployment is low, but there are plenty of part time employment and volunteer opportunities.”

And finally, there’s easy access to nearby cultural attractions, major cities and airports like in Richmond, Charlottesville and Washington, D.C.

“No matter what your tastes and speed are, Harrisonburg has something to offer everyone,” said Macgill.

*Population estimates for the city and MSA are from 2014. Learn more facts and figures about the area.

This article's lead photo is courtesy of Harrisonburg Tourism & Visitor Services.

Favorite Foods for Fall

September 13, 2017

Fall is one of the best times of the year for cooking and eating local produce. With the cooler weather comes harvest season and an abundance of fresh, healthy vegetables. So it’s easier to eat in a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly way.

“Eating local produce lowers your carbon footprint because the vegetables don’t have to travel as far to get to you. They also taste fresher - you might even be eating the vegetables on the same day that they were picked,” said Lauren Beach, a Registered Dietician at VMRC.

Typical fall produce includes bell peppers, acorn and butternut squash, green and red okra, beets, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and leafy greens like lettuce, kale, collards, spinach and chard.

VMRC gets much of its produce from its very own Farm at Willow Run, while individuals can source their own through local farmer’s markets. VMRC Chef Jeremiah Moyer is always cooking up new recipes to feature whatever has been freshly picked.

“You can do a lot with fall and winter squashes like butternut and acorn,” said Moyer. “Simply roast them with a little salt, pepper and oil, or you can make them a little sweeter by adding cinnamon and brown sugar. Some other favorite dishes are manicotti with butternut squash filling; butternut squash hash with red delicious apples, garlic, shallot and bacon; acorn squash stuffed with onions, peppers, a crab cake mixture and sausage; and butternut squash soup optionally including kale. As a starch vegetable, squashes are great for breakfast, brunch or dinner.”

A roasted vegetable medley is another excellent option because it gets a variety of nutrients into your diet. Simply cut up and mix some of the following: beets, squash, cauliflower, rutabaga, turnips, parsnips, carrots and regular or sweet potatoes. Then roast them together in the oven with some olive oil, salt and pepper.

Moyer’s beet salad has proven popular among VMRC residents. He first boils the beets, then roasts them with thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper before putting them over salad greens and topping them with a vinaigrette dressing.

“It’s important to have a rainbow of colors in the foods that you eat each day,” said Lauren. “For example, dark leafy greens are high in iron, and kale has lots of vitamins A and C.”

Kale can easily be turned into kale chips, and kale, chard and collards can all be sauteed. Then serve along with rice or pasta for a satisfying, hearty meal.

“One thing a lot of people neglect is turnip greens,” said Moyer. “They just cut them off and throw them away, but they are really good to eat. I like to braise them. I saute them in olive oil and after they wilt, I add water, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar.”

Last but not least are options for casseroles or quiches featuring ingredients like fresh swiss chard or spinach.

The abundance of produce in the fall makes eating it more affordable because large post-harvest supplies drive down prices. That means it can be a good time to stock up ahead of a long winter without fresh vegetables. You can process and freeze greens; make and freeze soup; or can a variety of vegetables to ensure that you’ll eat healthy all winter, too.

Make Decisions While You Still Can

August 17, 2017

Although 90 percent of people say that talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important, only about 27 percent have actually done so according to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Discussing topics like becoming incapacitated and dying can be difficult.

“Making decisions about end-of-life healthcare is important, and you need to do it before you get there,” said Mandy Slaubaugh, Social Services Manager for Complete Living Care at VMRC. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. You might get into an accident or become ill and not be able to make your own decisions. You don’t want your children or other relatives to fight about what to do with you. Making decisions ahead of time and communicating them to your loved ones is a gift to your family.”

Preparing an Advance Medical Directive (AMD) is one of the most important things you can do. It lets you state your wishes about what kind of medical treatment you would want if and when you are not able to make those decisions, such as when you develop a terminal condition or are in a permanent vegetative state. These directives typically address the following questions:

  • Should resuscitation be attempted?
  • Should life prolonging treatments such as nutrition, hydration and/or ventilation be given, continued or withdrawn?
  • Should treatment shift from the intention to cure to hospice or comfort care only?
  • Should a nursing home resident or someone ill at home be hospitalized?

Sometimes Advance Medical Directives will also address psychiatric issues and treatments.

In an Advance Medical Directive, you name one or more individuals to make those decisions on your behalf any time you are unable to do so - whether or not at the end of life.

“If you don’t name someone in advance, the law will decide who will make the decisions for you,” said Mandy. “In that case, that person may or may not make decisions in accordance with your wishes.”

Some people name a primary and secondary decision-maker - a good idea in case a primary decision maker is unavailable, unable or unwilling to fill that role. Others name two (or more) people to decide together, but that can lead to fighting between them if they disagree about what to do or not to do.

In the state of Virginia, two witnesses must sign an Advance Medical Directive (sometimes also called an Advance Directive for Healthcare) but notarization is not required. Requirements for such documents vary by state.

Another important document to prepare is a Power of Attorney (POA). It lets the person or organization you designate take care of legal, financial, insurance, business and/or medical matters on your behalf as you specify if you are unable to do so. For example, it can let a loved one take care of paying your bills for you while you are hospitalized.

POAs are legal documents which often but not necessarily prepared by lawyers and which must be notarized as required by state law.

“Once you’ve done your Advanced Medical Directive and Power of Attorney, make sure the person or people you have named in those documents know about them,” said Mandy. “Give copies to them as well as your family, friends, lawyer and doctor. If you know that you will be going in for treatment, give a copy to the hospital.”

For easier future reference, you can upload your Advance Medical Directive and declare your organ donor preferences on the following website: http://www.uslivingwillregistry.com/.

Advance Medical Directives and POAs remains in effect until you revoke them. You can change your mind any time and update your documents. You may have different wishes at different points in your life, or you may decide you would prefer a different person making decisions for you.


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“To be a participant in the Village has given me less stress in property maintenance and upkeep plus the bonus of more time to travel and offer some time in volunteer adventures.”

- Harley Showalter