Improving the latter years of life

Activities at senior living residences include trivia games and trips to the beach

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Maggie Lou Heltzel enjoys challenges, most any games and mingling with people.

She is among the participants in beanbag baseball at Columbia Ridge Senior Living, in Washougal.

Heltzel, 86, also enjoys playing bingo and exercise “sometimes.”

One of her baseball teammates, Herman Baltz, exercises five days a week, plays bingo and enjoys a modified version of bowling at Columbia Ridge.

“I joined in everything I could,” he said. “I’m pretty busy.”

Baltz, 95, said his hobby is putting together 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles.

Michelle Kendoll, activity director at Columbia Ridge, said the programs there are designed to meet needs in multiple areas — physical, social, spiritual, creative and mental.

Examples include exercise classes, walking clubs, ice cream socials, Bible studies and connecting residents with local churches, arts and crafts, gardening and music. There are trivia games, reading groups and outings to the beach, local restaurants, museums, special events and concerts.

Some of the residents volunteer to read with second-grade students at Woodburn Elementary School, in Camas.

“One of the biggest causes of depression in seniors is as a result of isolation, living alone and not [being] able to connect with friends and family as they once could,” Kendoll said. “By giving them opportunities to stay active in the community, they are able to stay healthier and happier and hopefully make some memories.”

There are 65 residents at Columbia Ridge.

Kendoll said participants in the “country drive” outings enjoy seeing familiar sights as well as how things have changed.

“Those that are new to the area like getting a feel for where they are living,” she said. “We do live in the most beautiful part of the country and just getting out and seeing it up close is good for everyone.

“For this generation, their entertainment was just going out for a ride,” Kendoll added. “They did not have the electronics or the canned entertainment options that we have now. It also is a source of conversation between folks on the bus. They get to know a little bit more about each other as they sit on the bus and share their stories.”

Activities for residents of Mountainview House in Camas include taking bus trips to area stores and concerts, playing bingo and pinochle and doing crafts.

There is also a garden on site, with blueberry, strawberry and raspberry plants.

“They are already seeing the raspberries showing up on the table,” said Diane Puckett, meaningful pursuits coordinator at Mountainview House.

One of the residents and her friends recently held a garden party in the courtyard.

“The residents enjoyed that,” Puckett said. “The residents care about each other. The residents’ families have gone to school with each other pretty much, and their children and grandchildren have grown up together.”

An old fashioned tea was held for Mother’s Day, at Mountainview House. Similar to an English tea party, it included tea cakes, snacks and prizes.

“It was a packed house,” Puckett said. “It involved their families, some of their friends and some of the community.”

For Father’s Day, there were hamburgers, hot dogs, prizes, drawings, families and some friends.

“We like to party here,” Puckett said.

Also in June, “Little League Week” was held, involving T-ball players and other children playing beanbag baseball in the courtyard.

“They sang ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame,'” Puckett said. “The seniors were challenging the kids.”

Live music and karaoke are available, as well as Bible studies and woodworking. There are exercise and physical therapy options, as well as presentations on health-related topics, such as fall prevention, diabetes and nutrition.

On Saturday, Aug. 16, there will be a “Senior Fair and Family Day” at Mountainview House.

The community party will include barbecue, live music and a fun house and Wii competition for children. There will also be Camas-Washougal firefighters and a fire truck, as well as arts and crafts vendors.

David Sweet, community relations manager at Mountainview House, said it is extremely important to have a close knit community.

“Everyone looks after each other,” he said. “We want to keep them stimulated and engaged, because we know there are health benefits with that.

“All of that enhances their quality of life,” Sweet said. “It also provides peace of mind for their family members, that their loved ones are being well looked after.”

Pets are welcome at senior facilities

There are 27 residents at Mountainview House, plus two small dogs, a cat and two turtles.

“We also have several dogs that come visit with family members of residents,” Sweet said.

At Columbia Ridge, cats and dogs are allowed as long as residents can care for them, according to Executive Director Lucy Warren.

Harold Robertson and Bettie Brock enjoy sharing their space with “Callie.”

“She is one spoiled cat,” Brock said. “She came as a stray [when we lived in a condo, in Washougal].”

“She adopted us,” Robertson said.

“She adopted him,” Brock said. “She spends a lot of time on his lap.”

Callie has been part of the family since 2007. Her estimated age is 12.

“She owns the place,” Robertson said. “I’m hers.”

Brock said Callie spends most of her time eating and sleeping.

“She’s part of the scene and kind of makes it more of a home,” she said.

The cat’s bed is a window cushion in the family room.

“We used to have deer here,” Brock said. “Now, she sees passersby.”

Robertson and Brock both graduated from Camas High School in 1940.

Pat McLennen, another Columbia Ridge resident, enjoys having her cat, “Monica,” with her.

“She was born in a woodpile on my son’s farm in Hockinson,” McLennen said. “The barn cat had kittens, and they were all named after characters on ‘Friends.'”

Monica is 12 years old now.

“She is a companion,” McLennen said. “She talks to me.”