Monday, November 26, 2012

The Other Side of Retirement

The Other Side of Retirement

One year, two years, three years and then you can leave your job and begin a new, exciting phase of life… retirement.  This is the aspect of retirement we see advertised in commercials offered by financial planning organizations,  insurance companies and even pharmaceutical companies,  to mention a few.  We can do a reality check.  What really happens in retirement and are we ready?  For the good times, of course we are. For the less than good?  Well, that takes some reflection.  The time after retirement can also be a time of loss.  Big losses like the death of a parent, the poor return on investments, the loss of our home, our health.  Rather than becoming depressed about what might happen and surrendering our normally positive outlook to morbid preoccupation we can take inventory of the personal (not financial) resources we have acquired over the years. They can get us through the hard times.

Viktor Frankl, a psychotherapist who experienced the horrors of a concentration camp during WWII in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, tells us the last free choice we have is that of choosing our attitude in any given situation.  He used his therapeutic skills to encourage fellow prisoners in finding a reason for living.  For Frankl it was the memory of his wife. We recently saw many  New Yorkers, perhaps ourselves among them, exemplify  the decisive choice of getting up, brushing themselves off with courageous determination  to rebuild a home,  get to a job or extend themselves to less fortunate neighbors during Hurricane Sandy.  Because life makes no promises, we can only be ready by schooling ourselves in ways of thinking that support us in even the most trying event. 

Another resource we can bring to life in retirement is our energy whether it be great or lessening.  It may be that after a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast our energy is at its peak.  That’s a good time to plan activities, make phone calls or tackle an unpleasant task.  A nap after lunch followed by 20 minutes of moderate exercise can be just the thing to bring us through the rest of the day with energy. 

Thirdly, staying connected to family and friends keeps us in touch with those we love.  We don’t need to wait for a return phone call or feel it necessary to plan a movie or lunch date.  It feels great just to have a long conversation without ending it with, “We must get together”.  In times like these when those we care about may live far away we’ll be happier knowing what’s happening with our children and grandchildren.  They will be grateful for this sign of affection even across the miles and we will be making use of our most powerful resource, our love for one another.

Image credit: Alamy/

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Power of Silence

There is a verse that comes down to us from Mikao Ushi, the creator of Reiki, the belief in healing energy.

Just for Today…

Be thankful for all blessings
Do not be anxious or worry about anything
Treat all living things with respect.
Be kind.

Given the frenetic world we live in, we might add, 
just for today, I will spend some time in silence.

Silence may not come easy.  There is little in our restless world to support being alone in a quiet place.  Some homes have the television on constantly a way of escaping silence.
We are familiar with the conflicting complaints, “It’s just too quiet,” and “Oh for some peace and quiet.”

Noise impacts us.  It affects our nerves, as many harried mothers can attest.  But beyond the home, street sounds in the form of boom boxes and construction drills have negative health effects on our nerves and even hypertension.  Exposure to the loud sounds of video games and music can affect hearing.  One survey showed that children between the ages of 6 and 19 evidence hearing problems as a result.

Can one deliberately create silence?  It may mean turning off the “talking heads” on television, no radio or telephone calls.  Imagine the discipline it would take to put off that first cup of coffee or refrain from CNN for the first 12 minutes of our day.  Janet Luhrs, pioneer of the Simplicity Movement suggests this in her book Simplicity Living Guide and Simple Loving.  The joy of emptying the mind has relaxed people from time immemorial.  No talk or noise to disturb our being alone without fear of a soundless few minutes.  You might receive answers to important questions or ideas for a project just by being in a listening mode. 

If possible, take a walk in the park attuned only to natural sounds.  The natural world is a wonderful place to experience a silence where we don’t analyze, remember, plan.  Acoustic Ecologist, Gordon Hempton, suggests that silence is an endangered species.  He defines real quiet as presence, not an absence of sound but an absence of noise.  He is author of One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Quest to Preserve Quiet.

From time to time it can be so sweet to hold oneself in a lone cocoon or stand with arms, ears and heart alert to the sounds of silence.

Image: WicketNox (Cory Brooke) on DeviantArt

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spices with More Than Just Great Taste

Eating fast foods has become part of the American Way. But as consumers become more aware of healthy eating, the food industry is changing and responding to new expectations.  Consumers may or may not be aware that some of the ingredients that make hamburgers and fries so tasty are actually full of nutrients.  The rich spices used to season to them are often powerful antioxidants.

Antioxidants inhibit oxidation of stored foods and remove potentially damaging agents in a living organism.  Oxidation produces free radicals, articles that fly around looking for something to attach to, such as cells and tissue.   Adding spices to fresh foods, especially dark, leafy colorful vegetables, provides a savory, nutritious boost to any meal.

So the creative cook, conscious of what to eat and what to avoid, sprinkles these same spices on healthfully prepared foods that mimic the great taste found in their favorite restaurants.

  • Craving a big cinnamon bun for breakfast?  To a slice of 9 grain bread, spread a thin coating of butter, then sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and a tablespoon of honey.  Toast for an aromatic healthful start of your morning.  In addition to its taste cinnamon has been used since ancient times to manage blood sugar levels, aid digestion and a help fight colds.  
  • For lunch, mix chili powder with your veggie burger before broiling and top it with avocado spread and multicolored peppers.  Chili contains the compound capsaicin that gives chilies their heat.  It is good for relieving pain, boosting heart health and is a good source for vitamins A and C.

  • For dinner, enjoy breast of chicken prepared with garlic sautéed with turmeric, the yellow spice found in curry. Turmeric contains curcumin.  Studies show that curcumin may inhibit the growth of cancer.  It is used as an anti–inflammatory in the treatment of arthritis and as a protection against Alzheimer’s  Disease.

  • Love your pizza?  Shake on some oregano to that delicious slice.  Oregano is a major source of thymol and carvacol, two antibacterial agents that fight off infection.
What do these simple meals have in common?  They taste good and are healthful choices.  We have become a spice nation, reaping benefits in more ways than one.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Grandparents as Caregivers and the Sandwich Generation

In a junior high school in the heart of the Bronx 15 years ago, nearly half of the African American students were being raised by their grandparents. Nobody asked why, nor was this alarming to any of the teachers or other students. While this anecdote isn’t the norm, the number of children being raised by their grandparents is growing. There are now about nearly 6 million children living in a grandparent’s house in the United States, a growth of over 50% from just 10 years ago.

                Traditionally, grandparents take charge of children in cases of illness, parental abandonment, teen pregnancies, substance abuse, homelessness, incarceration, death of a parent, child abuse and neglect, poverty and divorce. The recession of the last few years has increased the number of parents who are not able to provide for their children and since over 70% of the grandparents taking care of children own their home, most baby boomers are better off financially than the rest of the population, at least in the time being. However, in homes with only the grandmother as the caregiver, the average income is around $20,000 a year.

It’s hard to overstate the effect that raising children can have on a population that already has to deal with health concerns and planning for or entering retirement. With 20% of them living in poverty, some are unable to retire or have to retire later in order to make ends meet. When the need for grandparents being the caretakers comes suddenly, older adults do not have time to plan for the proper care or the financial logistics of taking care of a child. Many do not have power of attorney to make decisions for the child. Educational and medical consent laws differ by state. If the household has not had any children living in it for a long time, it may not be safe for small children. These are issues that may not be in the mind of an overwhelmed grandparent.

In a time when the “sandwich generation,” –characterized by middle age parents also taking care of their parents– is mentioned as a growing social problem, the issue of grandparents as caregivers is also a serious one.  There aren’t many programs aimed at helping them. Exacerbating the problem is that custodial grandparents tend to be on the younger end, and therefore are still at an age when they could be working themselves, creating a problem of child care. Even worse, a new trend is that of the “club sandwich,” described as people in their 50s and 60s who are tasked with taking care of three generations, and are stuck between their grandchildren, adult children and aging parents. The feeling of being closed-in from so many directions can lead to depression. There is a page on Facebook titled “Red Button Presents: The Sandwich Generation Discussion.” The administrator, who was part of the sandwich generation herself, did not have time to continue running the page and it has fallen into disuse. This small example shows how little time we may have for the things we like to do once we have to take care of another person.

One option for people in the sandwich generation with elderly parents is an adult day health care program, where their loved one can be picked up in the morning, spend the day at the day care facility, and be taken back home in the afternoon. This could alleviate the stress of having to care for multiple family members, especially if they are of very different ages. Home care services may also help, depending on the level of need. When children are not in school or still too young for it, a caregiving grandparent may get help from a child care program. Research shows that a child’s attachment to a parent or guardian will not be negatively affected by being in child day care as long as they have a loving caregiver.

According to a survey done by, 69% of caregivers say that caring for a loved one is their biggest source of stress. 3 in 4 caregivers have had to change jobs to better deal with their circumstances There are few programs to help those caring for their grandchildren or children and elderly parents. This CNN Money has a good list of online resources:

Additionally, there is legal, financial and caregiving support information for grandparents raising children here:

The New York City Department for the Aging has a Grandparent Resource Center:

                Here at Isabella Geriatric Center, we have Adult Day Health Care, Home Care and Child Day Care, all of which you can find at under the “Programs” tab.

Image originally hosted at


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Free Mammogram Screening on June 22, 2012

Visit Isabella on Friday, June 22, 2012  Starting at 8 am for a free mammogram screening. The screening Van will park in front of 515 Audubon Avenue, New York, NY 10040


All insurance plans accepted. Co-payments and deductibles are waived. FREE for uninsured women 40 and older. An appointment is necessary. Please call 1-800-564-6868
(Excerpt from
"Early detection of breast cancer with screening mammography means that treatment can be started earlier in the course of the disease, possibly before it has spread... Mammograms can be used to check for breast cancer in women who have no signs or symptoms of the disease. This type of mammogram is called a screening mammogram. Screening mammograms usually involve two x-ray pictures, or images, of each breast. The x-ray images make it possible to detect tumors that cannot be felt."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Donate an old MP3 Player and help bring healing music to our residents' lives

Music connects us…It’s a universal language

When music brings a smile, the tap of a foot, a clap or even a tear, a connection has been made!

Research has shown that music has a profound effect on the body and psyche. Particularly, it provides an excellent means by which to reach those residents who suffer from Alzheimer's and other dementias.

Please Donate New or Used MP3 Players/iPods.  

Your old or unused MP3 players could bring healing music to the lives of our residents.

By creating individualized playlists we can provide culturally relevant music, conjure memories of the past and promote individual expression.

For more information please call 212-342-9539.

Please drop donations off Monday through Friday between 9am and 5 pm at Isabella's Marketing Department located at 525 Audubon Avenue, New York, NY 10040.  
 During all other times you can leave your donation at our Security desk (at 515 Audubon Avenue)

2012 Edward J. McFadden Scholarship Awards

On the evening of Thursday, May 17, 2012 Isabella Geriatric Center celebrated the 15th Annual Edward J. McFadden Scholarship Awards Dinner.  The Edward J. McFadden Scholarship Fund was established by the Isabella Foundation, Inc., an affiliate of Isabella Geriatric Center, to benefit community youth.  

The fund provides college scholarships to outstanding students who reside in the greater Washington Heights/Inwood Community and have participated in voluntary community service. Students applying for this award must be current high school seniors living in the community of Washington Heights/Inwood (North of 155th Street to the tip of Manhattan) attending a school in NYC. 

Applicants for the scholarship must submit a written application, transcripts, letters of reference and an essay describing their community involvement and what it means to them.  In addition, the Scholarship Selection Committee must interview semi-finalists.  This year's committee consisted of six community leaders.  Councilman Robert Jackson, James Berlin of CB12, Carole Mulligan of CB12, Martin Collins from the office of Robert Jackson, and Andrew Rubinson of Grace Outreach, and Yokarina Duarte from the office of Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez.Gold award winners earned a scholarship in the amount of $2,000.  The silver award winners earned a scholarship in the amount of $1,000. 

This year’s recipients are: (left to right).

Gold Award $2,000
Anna Ziemski, Bronx High School of Science
Dashiell Lora, Frederick Douglass Academy 
Katherine Muller, Bronx High School of Science 
Zoe Wolfe, Hunter College High School 
Isabel DaSilva, High School of American Studies at Lehman College
Cristian Abreú, Central Park East High School                          

Silver Award $1,000
Geraldine Hernandez, Mother Cabrini High School 
Antonia Duran, Manhattan Center for Science
Mabel Torres, High School for Law and Public Service

Neighborhood students who will be high school seniors next year and who may wish to receive information on the scholarship may visit us at or emailing us at

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May is designated as National Asthma Awareness Month. The newest data from the CDC National Asthma Control Program, were released in the CDC report "Asthma’s Impact on the Nation". The report compares asthma prevalence by age, sex, race, and ethnicity in the United States and found socioeconomic and racial contrasts in asthma occurrence and management in children and adults. 

Help raise awareness about the seriousness of Asthma's impact.

To see the full data visit CDC’s Web site at:

Read the press release:

Monday, April 30, 2012

Isabella Participates in the new “Together on Diabetes” Program

Isabella is pleased to be working with the United Hospital Fund on a major new effort to combat Diabetes in Washington Heights and Inwood.    “Together on Diabetes” is a partnership of community based organizations, businesses, health care providers, the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene and the New York City Department for the Aging.  This public-private initiative is funded for a period of three years with major support from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation.

Twenty –six million people in the United States suffer with diabetes and more than 1 in 4 seniors in Northern Manhattan must cope with the disease every day.   Diabetes is responsible for more than 1 in 5 hospitalizations every year and is a major cause of amputations, blindness and kidney failure.  While diabetes is serious, with the right mix of self-care, medical care and community support, anyone afflicted with the disease can lead a healthy and normal life.

“Together on Diabetes” is a central resource for seniors with diabetes.   A Diabetes Support Team, staffed by knowledgeable professionals, meets with each individual to conduct assessments, determine the right kind of care and provide individual follow-up.  As part of “Together on Diabetes” individuals have access to Education and Support Groups, Nutrition and Cooking Classes, Self-management Programs, Coaching, Exercise and Care Coordination. 

On Friday, January 29th, 2012, Isabella sponsored an initial education workshop as part of its programming for the Institute for Older Adults.  Representatives from the United Hospital Fund, the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, Neighborhood Diabetic Supply, City Harvest and other community groups presented information on the care and treatment of diabetes.  Attended by many community residents, this workshop helped seniors understand symptoms, warning signs and remedies that may enable them to cope with diabetes.

For more information about how the “Together on Diabetes” can be of help to you, call 1-855-585-5888.

By: Betty Lehmann

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Healing Power of Wellness Activities

Residents of Isabella are enjoying a new Wellness session designed especially for them by Ray Centeno, Isabella’s Assistant Controller who is also a Reiki Master Candidate and a Certified Meditation Instructor.

During the weekly session, Ray employs a variety of customized modalities which are aimed at engaging the senses so that the whole person – body, mind and spirit- experiences relaxation and peace.

As participants gather in a semi-circle, the room is filled with soothing ambient music.  The first activity is Hara Breathing.  Ray guides the group into following their breath down the center of the body to the tummy. This technique, also called “Belly Breathing”, can effectively lower blood pressure.

Physical relaxation movements follow. Ray guides the group in slow movements of the neck, chin, shoulders, arms and legs from side to side. The objective is to produce comfortable muscular stretches.

During the Mantra-intonations segment, residents easily repeat the vowel sounds Kay-eee, Om, Er and many others.  Ray explains the awakening effect these sounds have on the thymus and pituitary glands. The enlivened glands, in turn, generate relaxation and wellness throughout the body.

With eyes closed participants are invited to use their imaginations during meditation. “ Imagine the word PEACE floating in the air before you.  Imagine PEACE traveling to all parts of your body.  Become the word PEACE.”

During a segment of Chi-gong (an ancient Chinese system of body movement and relaxation), in an exercise called the Swimming Dragon, participants are asked to visualize that they are swimming in the sea while they serenely extend  arm strokes into the imagined peaceful waters.

Rebecca Hernandez, Finance Cashier and also a Reiki Master Candidate, sometimes assists Ray. She offers the residents Reiki energy healing movements.

The session concludes with Ray and Rebecca inviting participants to join them as they perform gentle choreography designed to stimulate wellness movements.

One resident’s response reflects the smiling group. “I feel very good, very relaxed.”

Why does Ray Centeno conduct meditation for Isabella residents?

“I recognize that the Creator has given me certain abilities. It is clear to me I must share these abilities with humanity. During sessions, I am often moved to tears when I see the residents smiling and attempting to emulate our movements; they are joyful and happy.  Life doesn’t get any better than this.”

By: Angela Menghraj

Monday, April 2, 2012

Choose Longevity

Remember the last time you and a friend had a conversation about growing old?  Did it go something like this, “I really don’t want to live to be 100 frail, sick and suffering from dementia.”  Would you re-consider  if at 100 your mind, body and spirit were all sound?  If you had no trouble getting on a bus or shopping  for groceries or holding a conversation?
 There are places in the world where people live to be over  100 and lead vibrant, active lives and in good health,  too!  These places are called “Blue Zones”, a term originated with Dr. Dan Buettner, author of  “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest”. Where they live contributes to their longevity, but it’s not so much the climate, although these are likely to be moderate to warm.  It has more to do with the culture, the way these folks live their lives.What characterizes these healthy elders?  Involvement with families, social activities and being a part of their community, a diet consisting mainly of plant food and legumes, and lastly and not least  important, they are physically active.  It sounds simple enough.   Here are some ideas for creating a regimen for people living in New York City and who want optimum health to increase their longevity.

 1) Family lives far away?   Make that weekly phone call;  spend some time listening rather than talking.  Tired of always being the one to call?  Don’t stand on ceremony.  Call anyway.Send birthday cards with little personal notes.
 2)  Buy produce at Fresh Food Markets.  Is a bunch of Swiss chard too large?  Share it with a    neighbor.  She probably will be happy to share her kale.  Select one or two meatless days a week.  Substitute beans and a tasty cream or tomato sauce with whole wheat pasta.
3) Be active with people.  Join a local chorus.  The leisure club at your house of worship welcomes new comers.  Visit the neighborhood senior center with a friend.  Visit your neighbor who is now living in a Nursing Home.
4)  Keep  your  body moving.  Join a local gym (a number are covered by insurance plans). Tune into “ Sit and Be Fit” on cable TV for chair exercises.    Watch TV marching in place behind a chair, or work out with weights while sitting.  Finally, walk, walk, walk.  Start with 20 minutes a day and gradually work up to half an hour.
The next time someone asks if you want to live to 100 years.  Consider  the possibility and what it would take to make it happen.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

An Act of Kindness

Lucia Bennett visits her uncle regularly. He lives in Isabella and enjoys the special time he spends with his niece. Over time Ms. Bennett noticed the residents who didn’t seem to have visitors. Her heart went out to them and she came up with an idea to make their holidays happier. Ms. Bennett approached her church members, friends and family for donations to create a gift package. She then purchased hand and foot cream to present to men and women residents who might be missing their loved ones during the holidays. Volunteer seniors helped her make up 100 packages which were distributed to residents. Upon receiving a package, one resident exclaimed, “Who did this?” A hug expressed her happiness. Another resident was so thrilled she pressed the gift to her heart.
Lucia Bennett plans more of the same gift-giving for Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day, too. 

Isabella appreciates the generosity of family and friends who think of ways to make our residents feel at home.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Love is Ageless

This a comforting thought for people who tend to hesitate to entertain the possibility of love after reaching a certain age. When does the possibility of enjoying a special relationship based on mutual caring stop in deference to a number? Does the day a person turns 50, 60, or 70 usher out loving connections with the opposite sex?

Evidence gives the lie to this point of view in the actual experience of people over 50. In fact, the latest boomer trend is to use the Internet to find a special someone via technology. According to a recent AARP poll in the last three years there has been a 39% jump in people over 50 seeking companionship through the Internet. The category most clicked on the AARP website is the love and relationship forum.

Literature tells stories of later life romances. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson is a recent, delightful story of a retired British Major and his attraction to and pursuit of Mrs. Ali. Neighbors in the small inbred village in rural England judge the match to be unsuitable. This tale of modern love between mature adults befuddles his son who is as uptight as the neighbors about this “unusual relationship”.

What attitudes can get in the way of accepting oneself as beautiful and desirable? Why do we think wrinkles, a double chin and gray hair are barriers to a relationship? One of the benefits of having added some years is that we stop being dazzled by face and figure, and look instead at the love-filled soul that gazes ardently back at us. There appears a new wondrous possibility - a possibility of feelings that goes far deeper and can be more powerful than the draw of the physical. Love and passion when one ages, can potentially reach levels of depth that younger people rarely discover.

Of course there are the necessary precautions to consider as you pursue a romantic interest. Age isn’t a protector; the same advice given to younger people holds true for mature adults. To protect you and your partner, use condoms. According to the National Institute on Aging about 19 percent of all people with HIV/AIDS in this country are age 50 and older. Because older people don't get tested for HIV/AIDS on a regular basis, there may be even more cases than currently are known. Getting to really know a prospective partner cannot be underestimated and is the first step, a prelude to healthy intimacy.


Photo: "Inseparable"Painting by Aubrey Cummins