How to Analyze if a Retirement Community is Alive and Well


Today’s Retirement Communities are more like cruise ships than nursing homes! It’s a lifestyle of fun, food, adventure, and entertainment day after day. The funny thing is that it also reflects what doctors’ advise- socializing, good food, rest, exercise, and reducing your stress. Hmmm!
Who would have guessed! Many residents’ health indexes improve.

Retirement Communities offer a new lifestyle by breaking free from the clinical institutional structure of a nursing home and moving toward life on a cruise ship!  Activity Programs are a key part of the recipe of “living it up.” So how do you evaluate an Activity Program for quality?  What to look for:

·        Number of people-The size of the community can impact the quality of the Activity Program. You need enough people to have a robust schedule of events.

·        Number of events- How many events are available every day? Are there Blank Days? For example, many communities don’t have anything happening on the weekends.

·        Are there activities inside the community as well as outside the community? Are there day trips with destinations like public gardens, museums, theatres, baseball stadiums, casinos?

·        Are there options for people with less physicality or very physically fit? Are there options for people with no cognitive loss or some cognitive changes in their brains?

·        Is there diversity in the type of activities? Are there activities for Heart (Socials and Support groups), Mind (Adult Learning Opportunities), Body (Exercise Programs), Spirit (Religious and Spiritual gatherings)?

·        Is there recognition of cultural and ethnic differences?

·        Are there activities that your family or friend can share in?

·        Do the Residents inform the plan? Or is this the same program that was developed five years ago?

·         Is there an program evaluation done? Do Residents get a chance to evaluate the quality of the Activity Program?

As the industry advances, so do the expectations. In addition to entertainment events and parties, self-development has become an added component: exercise programs, classes, etc… This is a thrust of moving participants from observation (on the sidelines) to involvement (on the court). Today, an even higher standard of participation is sought after by seniors. Leaders in the industry talk about engagement. Engagement is being involved and sharing your passion. Aliveness is a measure of joy, contentment, and participation in day to day life with others. It’s all about living life your way.

Article Provided by:

Jane Meyers-Bowen
Garden Court Retirement Community


Getting Your House in Order


By Jane Meyers-Bowen, MN

Most of us don’t know much about senior living and care, until we are confronted with a parent whose physical, emotional or cognitive health changes. Be the change rapid or gradual- when the denial melts away and the recognition of the stark reality happens, families often find themselves overwhelmed with the decisions that need to be made and the changes that need to be implemented.  They often find themselves ill prepared to do the tasks at hand. Facing a whole new language, dealing with decisions that feel like- high stakes- as you are dealing with peoples’ lives with medical, legal, financial, and family ramifications.

Having worked in the senior industry for over 10 years and a former RN,  I have often thought it would be great to write a Caring for Senior Parents for Dummies Manuel  as a way to get your arms around this new role and set of responsibilities.

Long before an emergency… to get started- build a binder with some important information that they may only have or know.  Don’t wait. This could save you hours and hours of time and frustration and in some cases may prove to be critical information for health and well being. This information can be sub-divided into Vital Statistics, Medical, Financial, and Legal Information.

Vital Statistics. Recently I was helping a resident to tap into the VA Aid and Attendance Benefits that she qualified for from her second husband’s service to whom she was married to for 56 years.   The application requires a copy of the divorce decree of her first husband and the second marriage certificate of his wife’s second marriage.  Sounds easy but it’s not. The internet has increased accessibility and ease in ordering some documents, however. Start early,  gathering documents not only of your birth parents birth, marriage, divorce certificates but military discharge papers, naturalization and former marriages, divorces etc.

Medical Information.

Many times family think they know about their parents medical histories but often they learn that they don’t know ie. childhood illnesses and early history of surgeries.  A solid medical history, list of current medications, doctors-primary physician and specialists, dentist, eye doctor with phone numbers can be important during an emergency.  Copies of Medicare and secondary  insurance cards ,the Long Term Care Insurance Policy and Power of Attorney documents  and Polst Form. 

What are some of the decisions that you, your siblings, and parents must be prepared to make?

·        Is it time to change to doctors that are more attuned to geriatric needs?

·        What are your parents:

               Hospital Preference?

               Retirement Community and Assisted Living Preference?

·        Determine how to Fund care? Long Term Care Insurance?  Private Funds?  Military Programs?   Family Contribution?

·        Who will represent your parents interests- Medically?* And financially?  Do they have Power of Attorney Documents that comply with Washington State laws?

·        *What are your parents Advance Directives?  Things have changed in this department.  Medic One no longer looks at Living Wills. In the State of Washington EMT’s and Hospitals require a Physician Signed POLST form that defines the medical intervention wishes of a person. 

·        What is the Funeral Home Preference? Funeral and Burial  Preferences?

This information gathering process will greatly assist you and your family for being ready for what lies ahead.

If your church or community organization would like Garden Court to provide a Complimentary Lunch and Learn Presentation including  Getting Your House in Order Pamphlet give us a call 425 438-9080.


Back to the Future

By Jane Meyers-Bowen

When your adult children move back home- often it is not necessarily met with overwhelming excitement by either party. Personal boundaries, privacy requirements, financial issues, and lifestyle preferences can all be sources of friction. 

However, when your parent, who lives across the country, moves back to the neighborhood to be close to family- it can prove to be one of the most joyful experiences for you, your family and your parents if well planned out. 

Let’s Get This Straight

The same sources of friction present when adult children move in with their parents can be issues between an adult child and one’s parents if the shoe is on the other foot.  But if addressed early with a frank discussion, you can avoid tarnishing a very wonderful journey (that may not last very long).

Where to From Here?

One of the mistakes that seniors make is they move in with their children. Living with adult children is often described by seniors as lonely.  Others have felt absorbed into their family’s life and not really living their own life. It can make sense if financial conditions require such a move. But if the resources are available, moving into place where seniors are with others of their own era where they get to enjoy the history, music, values, and entertainment that they relate to.  Retirement Communities have flourished as they are attuned to the needs of seniors who are still very much engaged in life and are looking for a more vibrant lifestyle and yet a safer one. Our residents tell us their health indexes exactly improve even within a short time of moving into.

First Things First

One of the mistakes that adult children make is to expect their aging parents can manage all the decision making, organization and management of a move- if it is from across the street or across the country.   In fact, the best way to execute a move may be very different than one would think.  Although counter intuitive, moving your parents first into where they are going to be living out the next chapter in their lives, then dispose of property and extra belongings through gifting, selling or donating.  This strategy reduces the wear and tear on them and the family as well.

Mission Possible

So once the decision has been made to move by family and mom and dad, it is time to do some “recon.”  One of our recent new resident’s son and daughter in law went into motion at this point. They went out on a search with a list of retirement community options -close to their own home- that met their mother’s requirements. First they came into our community  through the front door. They loved what they heard and what they saw. But then… they went undercover to make sure that what we said we were all about was for real. They kept saying this is such a happy place! Happy Residents!  Happy Staff!  Once they were convinced they had made the right decision they booked a flight for mom from southern California and a U-Haul and the plan was in moving plan was in motion.

A lot of Moving Parts

The biggest job of moving (other than moving the grand piano) is the sorting part…what am I taking with me, giving away, selling and donating? If you are looking at a 40-60 year accumulation of stuff this can absolutely overwhelming- too much for one senior to do even two seniors.  

Sometimes families discard old furniture thinking that it is cheaper or better to buy new things forgetting that familiar things can provide a sense of comfort in new surroundings.

A floor plan of the new apartment and a measuring tape can save a lot of time and frustration. Many backs and tempers suffer from trying to fit 3000 square feet of stuff into a 900 square ft apartment.  Extra or over sized furniture or furnishings can prove to be a fall risk.

No Looking Back

Many seniors that have been living alone and somewhat isolated approach the idea of moving into a community with a lot of anxiety.  It may have been years since your senior has lived with a spouse or in a community living situation- be it college or the military. They may have lost some of their social confidence which causes them to wonder if they will be accepted, if their clothes are presentable, and if they will find new friendships.  Family support can be valuable the first couple of weeks if that is spending a few nights with them, sharing some meal times and activities, and just being in the common areas to mingle and visit while they gently move into the fold.  On the other hand, it is important to remember that too much sheltering can send the wrong message and even interfere with their getting to know new people.

Seeing your parents launch a new start, develop a life and a community can be so fulfilling. The best gift a senior can give their family is a happy and fulfilled life.


Mental Toughness for Older Adults!

Mental Toughness for Older Adults!

Jane Meyers-Bowen MN

Although many fear that aging with bring with it a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease  Based on data for Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and older, Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia had been diagnosed in only 8 percent of white older adults, 11 percent of African-Americans and 12 percent of Hispanics.

For those without dementia, brain health is something that is moving to the forefront in the national conversation. With all the research about Traumatic Brain Injury in sports, many of our ideas are changing.  When I was in nursing school decades ago, if someone had a stroke there was little hope for life without disability. Today stroke treatment within the golden hour  can reverse or prevent brain damage with the use of  the powerful clot-busting drug known as tPA (short for tissue plasminogen activator), if given within the first few hours after a stroke.  The whole field of rehabilitative medicine has proven that 90 year old bodies can build strength, use and agility. Who knew? Lifestyle can have a profound impact and aging your brain.

We witness older adults living alone in their homes will present bodies that have decompensated gradually over time. If it hurts to move, it’s the human condition to not move. Going to the store, preparing healthy food, staying in touch with friends become taxing.  Without exercise, good food, and being connected with others we pay a price. Those dynamics begin to grind away on one’s body, mind, and social confidence.

Moving from the home you raised your children in, planted your prize winning roses in, and celebrated life’s joyful occasions, can feel like you are letting go of all that matters. Yet, putting yourself in a healthier environment can save the quality of your life. Retirement communities offer the lifestyle that the doctor orders- healthy food, exercise, socialization, and reduced stress. 

Mental Toughness requires one to focus outward on the challenges that must be handled. The research based thought calls it RESILENCY.   If it is making lemonade out of lemons, keeping a positive sense of self, and staying focused on the problem to solve rather than the emotion surrounding the problem. In my family we call it “going down the rabbit hole” which takes you deep into nowhere. New self talk like- “change is good” and “this will be a great journey” keeps your stress down which is correlated with brain health.  All kinds of good things are ahead. A resident who moved into Garden Court said, “when I was living at home I was focused on everything I couldn’t do anymore. Now, I focus on all the things I can do.”

Know that there are always trade-offs.  There can be a lot of living left in life. Live it Well.

Garden Court Retirement is locally owned and managed and located in south Everett.  It  has been awarded Best in Senior Living in the greater Seattle area and in the top 1% of retirement communities in the country. Tours are available 7 days per week. Call 425 438-9080.

Making the Most of It!



Jane Meyers-Bowen, MN

Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays come and go. Often it is a time when members from all generations gather. The focus is usually what is happening in the present time- marriages, births/deaths, moves, & graduations and of course the football game on TV.  

But as the evening relaxes, it may be a time to explore older generations’ personal stories. Many older adults may discount that their lives as not being too exciting.  But who they are, how they lived, what they survived, what they valued most about their parents and siblings, and what were their life changing moments spoken in their own words can be so rich and inspirational.

Having the conversation as well as capturing the discussion on camera and recorded voice creates a treasure for the next generation.  Sometimes we wait too long or make assumptions that we know more than we really do.

Turning the Tables

 It may be also an opportunity to share what were the things that you valve about them i.e.  How it felt learning to ride your bike with their steadying hand?  How a couple of words of support changed your mind if you were smart enough to go to graduate school. The pride you felt seeing your parents in public modeling   positive classy behavior.  The safety you felt staying overnight with your grandparents. Their patience with you learning to drive. The lessons you learned from them about work, marriage & parenting.

When I started scrapbooking I quickly learned that it’s the story that matters most.  Of the current generation of Great Grandparents many of whom lived through Model A cars, World Wars, The Great Depression, the Space Age and into the Digital Age. They have something to say to you. 

I did an intergenerational co-learning project with high school seniors a few years ago. This Senior to Senior Project was fascinating. The focus was about The Great Depression. Young adults were riveted with the stories they heard about how they survived.  The gift that they gave to the older adults was a multimedia presentation integrating the images, music, and their stories.  Each group walked away different with a full heart.


Big Dips and Sharp Turns

Facing an urgent and unavoidable need for change can either be good for yourself, or the people you love. Can it be frightening, stressful, sad, depressing, or all of the above? Absolutely, but that’s why humans came up with denial to shelter us from emotional pain.

These moments in life are few, but they can prove to be a time of great growth, excitement, and opportunity to enrich your life. Many times we gain increased self-confidence, love for others in our lives, and trust in the goodness that surrounds us. It was once said to me, “that these moments are those in which we feel most alive.”

Changes in health, job status, friendships,and marriages are a part of life. We tend to be cavalier about it, until it happens to us. Then it is a catastrophe! So, I respect the intensity of these experiences at a very personal level.

When I owned a Career Guidance company for over 20 years, I worked with thousands of people in making successful job and career changes. I often met with people within a few minutes of receiving the news that they got laid off! At first they were in shock, then through the next hour they jumped from panic, to anger, depression, relief, excitement, and back to shock and denial. We called it an “E Ticket Ride,” which referred to the most thrilling rides in Disneyland. (Those rides have the Big Dips and Sharp Turns).

However, I found that being with them during the early moments of facing this urgent and unavoidable need for change, was a pivotal time and many times determined the success of their efforts of managing this important job change. If people went home and took the weekend to think about it, within a few days their fear would be running the show.

It’s Time to Change Lanes

We all want to be in control in our lives. Although we don’t really have control over much of our life, we do have control over how we respond to whatever shows up in our life.Learning how to face those urgent and unavoidable need for change moments requires letting go of paralyzing fear. Holding on to fear, ruminating in it, justifying it, is a luxury as it delays coming to grips with reality. This only drains you of the energy you need to take steps to move forward in a positive direction.

Three important truths to focus on during this time, that are empowering:

1. There are always options.

2. You always have a choice.

3. Stay in action.

A common situation we come in contact with when dealing with seniors, is when your doctor tells you that you are no longer safe living alone in your home. Life just lowered the boom! Bang, seniors go through their “E Ticket Ride.” Thirty years ago Seniors had 2 options at this point: move in with their children, or go to the nursing home. Today, Seniors have a whole host of options, some fit better for those than others. It’s important to get educated on what’s available. Often seniors tell their families, AFTER they move into a retirement community, “why didn’t you make me do this earlier?”

You do have a choice, but know that the longer you wait and dig your heels in, often the fewer and fewer options people have. So, if your home is filled with stairs, your vision is declining, or you are experiencing an increased number of falls, every day you are at greater risk of injury and greater risk of debilitating injury. Many people go home from the doctor’s office to think about things, which is a good thing! However, sooner than later that THINKING turns into WORRYING. Next time you find yourself in a similar situation, try replacing your worrying with planning. In doing so, you can take on the dragon and start to feel safer, stronger, and even excited!!

For more information please contact Jane Meyers-Bowen at 425-438-9080.