|July 27, 2016||Wife Attends Art Therapy Classes with Husband Who is Living with Dementia||no comments|
|July 06, 2016||Cynthia Fisher Showcases 75-Plus Years of Gardening at Annual Garden Show||no comments|
|May 18, 2016||Residents at Woodland Pond Work to Keep America Beautiful||no comments|
|April 01, 2016||Woodland Pond Raises Money for American Heart Association's Local Chapter||no comments|
|April 01, 2016||Health Alliance and Woodland Pond Complete Planned Separation||no comments|
|December 21, 2015||Families in Need to Receive Gifts from Altruistic Seniors at Woodland Pond||no comments|
|December 01, 2015||Seniors Participate in Tai Chi, Water Aerobics, Chi Kung, Yoga and More to Stay Flexible and Main...||no comments|
|December 01, 2015||Woodland Pond Resident Shares Korean War Experiences and His Thoughts on Veterans Day||no comments|
|October 20, 2015||Woodland Pond to Host Kaleidoscope of Arts Show and Sale||no comments|
|August 31, 2015||Woodland Pond Residents Discuss Dating in Retirement and Celebrate Romance Awareness Month||no comments|
Charles Martin, or “Marty” as many know him, has never been much of an artistic person. A life-long sports enthusiast, fan and participant, Marty had an eye for sports and writing, and these passions would deliver him the promotion of a lifetime. He became a night news sports editor at Newsday, putting him in charge of the copy desk which was under nightly pressure to meet deadlines with both punctuality and perfection. After a fruitful career no one predicted that Marty would be diagnosed with dementia. As it progressed it became clear that Marty was not able to read a paper anymore, nor does he care about watching television sports for any length of time. These days he will watch tidbits of Yankee games with his wife, Pat, and he has recently dabbled in art therapy. Artistic skills run in the family and though he and Pat have always had an appreciation for art, Marty was never one to pick up a pen or paintbrush to let his creativity flow. After moving into Garden View at Woodland Pond, the memory care neighborhood in the senior living community, Pat thought it would be helpful for Marty to explore the art and music programs to see if they might engage him on a different level. Though Pat lives in an apartment in independent living, she spends much of her time with Marty attending therapeutic classes focused on the arts and music.
“At first, Marty wanted nothing to do with the art therapy classes and would simply leave the room when the therapeutic art instructor, Michelle Eddison, began,” said Pat. “I never pressured him to stay, so I would do something else with him. In time, Marty actually stayed to see what was going on. During one session, Michelle brought bendable wire for us to experiment with, and some ladies started making jewelry. Others were fascinated by how malleable the wire was and had fun bending it into new shapes. Marty pushed his wire over at me and said ‘you do it.’ So I bent it into a shape and passed it back to him. We started this little back and forth game and when we stopped I noticed he was intrigued by what others around us were doing with the wires. He was content watching them.”
Recently, Eddison brought a large collection of photos, images and clippings for residents to create collages to hang on their doors. This was a part of the Family Collaborative Art Project, and family members were encouraged to attend and participate with their loved one. During this project, Eddison assisted residents individually, helping them choose those pictures that reflected their lives. Marty’s collage features a picture of a large tiger cat, baseball images and a cartoon of three kids jumping in the waves at the beach. Pat explained that Marty once rescued a cat and kept it, served as a sports editor for lengthy period of time and that they took their kids to the beach to camp each summer when they were out of school. All of these images spoke to him and conjured up old memories. Oftentimes those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia lose the ability to verbalize their feelings, memories and ideas, so therapists look to other outlets to aid with communication and expression.
“One of the most heartwarming moments for me was when Woodland Pond welcomed young students from a local church into the community to help residents plant flowers and paint the clay pots,” said Pat. “I’ve found that seniors in memory care really connect with younger children. On this day Marty painted his pot and chose the flower he wanted planted in it and put it in his bedroom. When our 14-year-old grandchild visited, he showed it to her so she could see what he had made. He was extremely proud of his pot and plant. It touched me to see that flicker of pride and happiness in his face. When she came back for another visit to celebrate Father’s Day, she brought a bigger clay pot with a heart she had painted on it as a gift for him. She was inspired to create a similar pot, a gift she knew he would like. These little moments are extremely meaningful when the disease has progressed this far.”
Each resident is unique and each is stimulated by different materials, environments and activities, so Eddison plans a variety of projects for them. Marty may not always participate, but he does enjoy watching others.
“This disease returns those affected by it to a childlike state. It’s important to engage seniors living with Alzheimer’s or dementia and encourage them to do stimulating activities that improve their quality of life,” surmised Pat. “Culture and art have always been an integral part of our lives. Some of our family members are in the art field, and Marty and I have a genuine appreciation and fascination with different styles of artwork from a broad range of cultures. Growing up, Marty was a drummer in grade school, high school and college. While Marty studied journalism at Northwestern he also played in symphony and marching band and was in a dance band. He has a real passion for music, favoring jazz and swing. It is uplifting for him. He enjoys those occasions when musicians and musical therapists come to play and get the residents involved with items from their rhythm baskets. It’s inspiring to see him so happy and stimulated by the group activities.”
Marin Lott, health center activities coordinator for Woodland Pond, initiated many of the art and music programs for the healthcare services division. She enjoys coordinating an annual art show and collaborating with Eddison on the various art projects throughout the year. They are always on the lookout for projects and methods to fit the changing needs of Garden View residents. Each week Eddison coordinates large displays of the artwork in the Garden View dining room to showcase everyone’s work. The team members and residents’ loved ones hope that seeing the displays sparks some sort of memory for the residents.
On August 24 at 2:00 p.m., Garden View will host its third annual Art Show in the Woodland Pond Health Center Great Room. The showcase will feature artwork created by residents from both Skilled Nursing and Garden View who participate in art therapy. The art show was conceived to celebrate everyone’s artwork and instill a sense of pride and accomplishment in what they have done throughout the year. The showcase is open to the public, and it is sure to inspire all who attend. The theme of the art showcase is “When a Seed Turns into a Garden.”
“We have to learn to accept them for who they are now, even though it can be so hard when we remember how they once were,” said Pat. “We don’t know what goes on in their minds most of the time, and it would seem that they are in their own world. It’s a world that we have a hard time reaching or grasping, but through music and art we are still able to communicate and express. The thing I love about Woodland Pond’s approach to memory care is that the staff is focused on providing personal care, and they do that by addressing everyone by name and showing them the utmost respect. It is so important to preserve their dignity. I can say with full confidence that I feel that I made the right decision by moving Marty into Garden View. Every night when I go to bed, I know he is getting the best care and quality of life, and that this is what is best for me, too.”
“Over the years, I have seen people who are unable to articulate their feelings convey their emotions and struggles through their art,” said Lott. “During art therapy, we focus more on the process than the finished product. This opens people up to explore, experiment, and just have fun. Some residents have never had involvement with art supplies during their lives, and after a few sessions they are experimenting with colors, shapes and textures and commenting on each other’s work. Each person is different. Some enjoy participating in a group, and others enjoy doing art projects individually. If an art class is being held when families visit, they usually join in on the fun. Art bridges the barriers that Alzheimer’s creates and gives families a way to reconnect by working together on a project. These are things that make life enjoyable. Together we create a sense of community, a joyful atmosphere, and feelings of accomplishment and pride from creating something beautiful.”
Cynthia Fisher has been gardening for more than 75 years, and is now focusing her energies on perennial gardens, as she loves seeing new plants bloom every month. From January, when pussy willows and Lenten roses break through the snow to the Chrysanthemums that bloom in November, she loves being consistently surprised with new growth in her gardens. She and her husband recently moved to a cottage at Woodland Pond, after living on an 80-acre farm for the last 47 years. Fisher has transplanted many of their farm’s plants that she nurtured during that time – such as her daffodils, irises and peonies – to her new garden. She even has an heirloom pink lilies-of-the-valley that has been passed down for many generations by her English ancestors who settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1639. Since moving to Woodland Pond, Fisher has added red and yellow climbing roses to the mix. Fisher recently shared her garden and newly added climbing roses during Woodland Pond’s Fifth Annual Garden Tour.
“When plants do well and take off it’s a very exciting for me” said Fisher. “I love to propagate plants – it’s not nearly as much fun if you just buy them. I prefer to nurture them from the very beginning when they are seeds or cuttings. It’s a continued experiment, which keeps it entertaining and fulfilling. I like to share my garden with others as well, so they may experience some cheer. I swap plants with my neighbors so we can try growing new things in our gardens, and I give flowers to fellow neighbors in the community that I think would enjoy receiving them. Back in colonial times, when there were no plant nurseries or seed catalogues, people simply traded and shared plants from their “friendship gardens.” My heirloom pink lilies-of-the-valley were given to me by my paternal aunt.
Fisher’s love for the outdoors and growing things was imprinted on her at the age of two, when her parents spent a summer canoeing and camping in the pristine lake region of Canada with her two triplet sisters and her three older siblings. Although she lived in a high-rise apartment in Queens, New York, for most of her childhood, she started gardening during WWII in an empty lot that had been converted into a “victory garden.” Later, at New York City’s High School of Music and Art, she and her identical triplet sister both won the prestigious Westinghouse Talent Science Search. In college, she majored in biology at the University of Wisconsin, and then went on to earn a Master of Science and Ph.D. in biology at Rutgers University. She also attained a postdoctoral fellowship in the newly-established Rutgers Medical School.
There was not much time for gardening in those busy days, but when she and her husband moved to the Hudson Valley and bought an 80-acre farm, she suddenly had endless space in which to experiment with perennials, fruit trees and shrubs. Her mark is still embedded in the property. She acknowledges that bringing all her flowers and “black gold,” also known as well-rotted horse manure, to Woodland Pond has been hard work. However, she is enjoying the process of transforming her back yard into a flourishing garden. She is also happy with the design of the cottages, as it allows abundant natural light to spill into her indoor garden in which orchids, cacti and hoya bloomed for the first time. The feelings she experiences in her garden run from pure joy when she watches the growth and beauty of her plants to pure frustration when creatures like bugs and deer consume her hard work.
“One of the fun elements of gardening is being reminded of loved ones and friends who have contributed to my garden,” said Fisher. “With a Christmas check from my older brother, I bought a yellow climbing rose for the split rail fence along our back yard. I have named this plant for him. The heirloom pink lilies-of-the-valley remind me of my father’s family. My grandson, who also has a passion for gardening, gave me a package of Shasta daisy seeds last year. We planted the seeds together, nurtured the tiny seedlings and this year they are two and a half feet tall and covered with hundreds of white flowers. When I see those, I am reminded of him and the memories we shared bringing the seedlings to life. It is heartwarming when you associate people with the plants.”
In addition to private gardens, such as Fisher’s, the garden show also showcased The Resident Community Garden and The Memory Care Garden, which groups of residents tend together. This event is sponsored by The Garden Committee and it is held for fellow residents, their friends and families.
“We are genuinely a community here, and because my neighbors are much closer than the neighbors we had around the farm, I am able to swap flowers and gardening tips with them,” said Fisher. “I‘ve been inspired by fellow residents’ gardens with elaborate displays spreading over their patios and porches. We also have many bird feeders and compare which types of birds are stopping in which gardens. I am a retired biology professor, so experimenting in the garden is a longtime passion of mine. On my wish list for Woodland Pond is to add a red bud tree at the head of the Branche Trail. This type of tree is covered with lovely lavender flowers in May, and the heart-shaped leaves would provide shade to those who sit on the bench at the trail head.”
“There are so many talented gardeners that live in our community, and more than 60 participated in this year’s garden show,” said Michelle Gramoglia, executive director of Woodland Pond. “Just like Cynthia’s, each garden has its own stories and rich histories. Not only was the tour a time to feast our eyes upon the natural beauty that embodies the yards of the cottages and the common spaces in the community, it was a time to reminisce and share meaningful stories with each other. We are so thankful that we have many residents who strive to make Woodland Pond the beautiful place that it is.”
Residents of Woodland Pond at New Paltz, a premier continuing care retirement community, are participating in green programs that conserve resources and energy, repurpose materials and reduce damage to the environment. Many of the residents started and continue to support environmental programs. These active residents encourage fellow seniors to keep the community clean and make a conscious effort to keep America beautiful. Residents recently celebrated National Keep America Beautiful Month this past April, and they acknowledge that these programs help them fulfill their goal of making a positive impact the environment.
“Here at Woodland Pond we are grateful for Interfaith Earth Action's efforts to nurture and heal our environment,” said Steve Kohn, a resident of Woodland Pond, member of the Interfaith Earth Action Committee and of the Woodland Pond Interfaith Committee. “I am an active participant in the green programs, and I am an advocate for the environment. I want to keep the world beautiful, clean and healthy for my grandchildren. Each of us can play a part in preserving and healing our environment.”
Currently, Woodland Pond residents are focused on making every day Earth Day by participating in the abundance of conservation programs available at Woodland Pond. Residents have access to recycling bins and take part in a composting program through Community Compost Co., in New Paltz. Since September 2015, residents have helped keep 20,000 pounds of compost from ending up in garbage dumps.
Woodland Pond at New Paltz has taken the following steps to alleviate deterioration of the environment and reduce the use of water, energy and other resources the community:
• Has not used pesticides since its opening in 2009
• Placed washable HVAC filters in all apartments
• Uses environmentally-safe detergent for all laundering
• Uses a battery-recycling program for staff and individual residences
• Uses non-toxic cleaning products in common areas
• Uses recycled toilet paper and paper towels
• Uses low-VOC paints in common areas, apartment homes and cottages
• Uses LED and CFL light bulbs in common areas, apartment homes and cottages
• Has installed low-flush toilets, low-flow showerheads and low-water-usage washing machines
“We encourage residents to decrease the amount of trash by suggesting that they bring plastic, reusable containers from home for leftovers, as well as use reusable cups for coffee, tea, water and any other beverage,” said Sarah Hull, resident services director for Woodland Pond. “Every little bit makes a difference, and we have noticed a substantial reduction in the amount of to-go containers and throw-away cups being used. More residents are doing their part to lessen their impact on the environment. I am proud of Woodland Pond’s continued efforts to help keep American beautiful.”
The zealous residents and staff of Woodland Pond at New Paltz have been vigorously working to raise money for the Dutchess-Ulster Chapter in support of the American Heart Association’s annual fundraising campaign. Their efforts began last month and will continue until the end of this month. An estimated 83.6 million American adults have one or more types of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Of these, 42.2 million are estimated to be 60 or older. A couple weeks ago, the senior living community hosted an all you can eat five dollar pancake breakfast in the bistro where they raffled off fun prizes, all of which were generously donated by local businesses. Their last event was a hearty St. Patrick’s Day Bake Sale on Friday, March 18.
“It is heartwarming to see the residents and staff come together for such a wonderful cause,” said Sarah Hull, resident services director for Woodland Pond. “We have made tremendous headway in supporting our local American Heart Association chapter. Our goal is to raise $3,000 by the end of March. Last month, we made substantial progress toward our goal through our two pancake breakfasts, which netted an amazing $930.00. We also started an employee-focused effort that gave team members the opportunity to wear jeans for two weeks straight if they contributed $20 to the cause. This netted in an additional $565. We are getting closer and closer to achieving our goal!”
Woodland Pond has also placed buckets at both reception desks for people to donate their spare change. Wanting to give everyone the opportunity to donate via online outlets, the senior living community also has a team page where people may make contributions online. Those wishing to donate may do so by going to www.dutchessulsterheartwalk.org. From there they may select “Find a Team” and then type in Woodland Pond.
“Everyone has been so enthusiastic about giving back and making a difference,” said Michelle Gramoglia, executive director of Woodland Pond. “We are being spirited by wearing red and sharing news of all of the events we are doing with our families and friends. It is inspiring to see everyone come together for such a worthy cause. There’s no limit to what we can do as a team!”
In January, Health Alliance Inc., and Woodland Pond at New Paltz announced a plan to seek approval from the New York State Department of Health for a corporate separation. That approval has now been obtained, and along with approvals from a wide variety of stakeholders, the organizations have announced the separation is complete.
“This moment is definitely bittersweet for Woodland Pond,” explains Michelle Gramoglia, Woodland Pond’s former executive director, now president and CEO. “We are excited to move forward with our vision to improve and expand the services available to seniors in the mid-Hudson Valley. We could not have reached this point without the support of HealthAlliance, which helped our community establish itself as a leading senior residential and care provider.”
The separation means that while HealthAlliance was formerly the sole corporate member, or active corporate parent company of Woodland Pond, Woodland Pond will now operate as a self-sponsored continuing care retirement community. Health Alliance Inc., will carry on as the sole corporate member for a number of other acute-care organizations in the Hudson Valley and Catskills area.
Both organizations demonstrated that this change in ownership would not negatively impact either organization financially, operationally or from a governance perspective. For Woodland Pond especially, the focus of the stakeholders during this process was on financial stability and outlook in light of the separation.
In the early years, HealthAlliance provided financial support to Woodland Pond as the community opened and attempted to reach a level of occupancy that would allow its cash flow to be stabilized. Beginning in April 2012, Woodland Pond achieved sufficient occupancy levels to become self-funded, and cash flow support from HealthAlliance ceased. Occupancy levels are currently exceeding projections, and cash levels for operations and future needs remain stable, paving the way for the completion of this separation.
“This is a great day for Woodland Pond,” said HealthAlliance president and CEO David Scarpino. “Rather than just a separation, we see this move as a celebration of Woodland Pond’s coming of age and its passage to total self-sufficiency. Congratulations to its staff, its management and especially its board of directors. They have all done a magnificent job in steering Woodland Pond to this new chapter.”
Specifically, the Woodland Pond board, through this reorganization, has gained a number of powers formerly held by the HealthAlliance board. These include the ability to appoint the president and CEO and all board members, the ability to approve changes in ownership and the incurrence of corporate debt, and the approval of all operating and capital budgets. “We look forward to enhancing the role of our board,” says Beverly Finnegan, chairwoman of the Woodland Pond board. “We have taken our role as a board very seriously to this point, and are thrilled to take this significant step and assume the responsibilities that go along with it.”
HealthAlliance, for its part, is focusing on strengthening healthcare delivery for the residents of Ulster County. Strategies include a substantial investment to transform its Mary’s Avenue Campus in Kingston into a single, state-of-the-art hospital and to redevelop its Broadway Campus into a “medical village.” Once approved, the planned Mary’s Avenue and Broadway campus transformations will be the most comprehensive construction and facilities renovations and conversions in the 122-year history of the two hospitals.
Both organizations will pursue potential affiliations, as appropriate.
“I am confident that HealthAlliance and Woodland Pond will continue to support each other for many years to come in our visions of bettering care for our residents and improving the quality of life for many along the way,” Gramoglia adds.
For seniors that lived through the Depression era—and even through the most recent recession—going without, or with very little, is something they understand. This is a generation that grew up humbled by the experiences that shaped them. Feeling a sense of connection and comradery, residents at Woodland Pond eagerly gathered a myriad of gifts and donations for two local families in need who are participating in Family of New Paltz’s Adopt-A-Family program. Brightly colored toys, warm clothing, family games, music players, video games, jewelry, shoes and more have been heaped underneath the community’s holiday tree. For these altruistic seniors, getting these two families just one gift was not enough, so they splurged.
“You can actually see how giving back brings so much joy to the residents and how happy they become when thinking about a young, appreciative child opening a gift they hand selected,” said Sarah Hull, resident services director for Woodland Pond. “They put a lot of thought into the gifts and are pleased to help those in need.”
Between the two families, residents purchased gifts for a total of five children: a five-month-old, a two-year-old, a five-year-old, a seven-year-old and an eleven-year-old. The residents bought everything from baby toys to puzzles, Barbie dolls, action figures and electronics. The meaning of Christmas is true and dear to their hearts, and they enjoy spreading love, peace and joy. They hope that through their actions, the children learn how wonderful it is to help others in need when they have resources to share.
“The residents are not only happy to give the kids a good Christmas, they’re happy to ease the stress that comes from not being able to provide for one’s children on Christmas,” said Michelle Gramoglia, executive director for Woodland Pond at New Paltz. “Families can now focus on what truly matters without stressing about how they will make Christmas happen. We are happy to assist these families and spread some holiday cheer. We have a jolly bunch of holiday cheermeisters here within our community, and I am inspired by their generosity.”
Residents at New Paltz’s Woodland Pond are ageless, and they are not slowing down anytime soon. Even though most have retired, they are allocating their extra time to maintaining and improving their physical health, volunteering and engaging in social activities. Some of them are even leading fitness classes and encouraging others to get or remain fit. Priding themselves on being part of an active senior living community, residents and team members ensure that there are plenty of opportunities for fitness and social engagement. The resident-led classes add another dimension to the experience in the community, and they’re a nice complement to the classes designed by the life enrichment team. Dee Snowden, a Woodland Pond resident and former teacher and aerobics instructor, assists in leading the Strength Training Plus class.
“The Strength Training class was started by two other residents, and I started filling in for them and then eventually took over,” said Snowden. “I’ve recently incorporated other exercises that focus on flexibility and balance, hence the name change from Strength Training to Strength Training Plus. The class is predictable, so I call on participating residents to help lead it. I was an aerobics instructor for 20 years, mainly for older adults, so my experience helps me in leading this class. I understand that everyone has different physical needs and limitations. People can do the class as directed, all may modify and make adjustments as needed to be as effective as possible, ensuring they do not overdo it. It’s so important to stay as active as possible. If we didn’t stay strong and flexible we would not be able to do as much as we do.”
Snowden was a school teacher/educator for most of her career, and before she retired from teaching she decided to become a certified aerobics instructor. The class she currently leads at Woodland Pond lasts an hour and is held twice a week. The class combines upper and lower body work using free weights if people choose and other movements to improve flexibility and balance. In addition to leading the strengthening fitness class, Snowden participates in other wellness classes such as chi kung, yoga and tai chi. In the past she has also participated in chair yoga and water aerobics, both of which cater to a variety of physical needs and have been designed for a range of abilities.
“In addition to Dee’s class, we have a resident-led water aerobics class,” said Sarah Hull, director of resident services at Woodland Pond. “I have never seen a more active group of seniors. It is really inspiring. We have residents who meet regularly to walk or hike outdoors, and when it is cold, they meet indoors to take advantage of walking routes within Woodland Pond. One resident spent some time developing a variety of maps of different routes and distances for these indoor walks. We have residents that participate in all kinds of awareness walks, such as the Alzheimer’s Association Walk and the Heart Association Walk. Many residents walk their dogs year-round and use them for motivation to stay fit. Some swim laps in the pool, some residents ride their bikes, others jog on the treadmills and some simply strength train. In addition to exercise, residents engage in other types of physical activity like volunteering with United Way to pull weeds, wash chairs and organize its library collection. We provide numerous options to residents. Retirement should be fulfilling and rewarding in new and different ways.”
Wanting to keep her energy up and her body strong, Snowden leads an active lifestyle and makes a point to work out four days a week. She understands that it can be difficult to stay motivated, especially when you feel too tired. However, she noted that most people will state that they don’t feel like working out before the class, but by the end of it they feel better and are glad they did it. Snowden attributes her increased energy and stamina to working out regularly.
“In addition to participating in fitness classes, it’s healthy to be involved in other activities or groups,” said Snowden. “I volunteer to lead a singing activity with residents in the health center, which requires me to walk around and be active. I also attend a watercolor class, sing in the chorus, participate in committees, play cards and much more. Woodland Pond is highly diversified, and I feel we are all involved in one thing or another, some of us multiple things! Woodland Pond provides many opportunities, and residents that do participate benefit greatly. Residents are encouraged to maintain strength and improve balance to prevent falls. The best exercise program, whether it is something you do on your own or something you do with a group, is the one you enjoy most!”
“We have such a phenomenal group of residents within our community,” said Michelle Gramoglia, executive director of Woodland Pond. “The residents have done a wonderful job of creating and leading all kinds of special groups, classes, projects and committees. They put their heart, soul and energy into many things that make our community a better place and contribute to their personal wellness. Every day our calendar is packed full of interesting options that cater to seniors and encourage living an active lifestyle. We have discussion groups, foreign language classes, shopping outings, happy hours, workshops, movies, concerts, committees, dancing and more. I personally enjoy seeing the residents get involved in the wide variety of activities and take advantage of new things they may have never experienced before.”
Woodland Pond at New Paltz is home to more than 60 veterans. John Decker is one of them and is one of the few Korean War veterans, as many of the other veterans served during World War II. Veterans Day for Decker is a time of reminiscing and reflection, which he shared with fellow veterans at the community’s Veterans Day celebration. Earlier this year, Decker had the pleasure of reuniting with his executive officer, whom he had not spoken to in 60 years. The two met for lunch at Woodland Pond last summer and were featured in the senior living community’s monthly newsletter. On Wednesday, November 11th, Woodland Pond held a special day of recognition to honor veterans and their spouses. There was a display of honor in the Independent Living Lobby throughout the day, and a recognition program was held in the Health Center’s Great Room.
“It was incredible getting to see and speak with the executive officer whom I served under in Korea,” said Decker. “He called me out of the blue and we set up a time to do lunch. We enjoyed catching up, swapping life experiences and reminiscing about Marine Corps life in Korea. I had started out as a captain and retired as the rifle company’s commander. I had 250 men under me who had rifles and other heavy weapons. We set up camp as the war ended and were responsible for monitoring the prisoners of war as they were brought back and exchanged. These men were so happy to see us and to be back in American care.”
When the prisoners of war were returned to Decker and his men, many were malnourished, had been tortured or physically, mentally and verbally abused. Some of them came back with injuries they received from their captors and diseases from being detained in unsanitary conditions. Decker said it was humbling seeing those men crossing the line and rejoicing at their newfound freedom. Decker served in the active Marine Corps from 1953 to 1955 and was in the reserve until 1967.
“Veterans Day brings back a lot of memories, and we all share our experiences with one another,” said Decker. “We have men here who were prisoners of war, veterans who fought in major battles and even a man who was lost at sea for three weeks. It is mind-blowing to me, and I am thankful that I did not face similar circumstances. It is fascinating to hear how they survived. Veterans Day is the perfect time to remember what soldiers went through, the sacrifices that were made and the hardships that were endured. Even though my men and I arrived at war’s end in 1953, we served in Korea for two more years helping prisoners of war board boats returning to America. The summers were brutally hot and the winters were piercingly cold. There were no showers or toilets, and we had rats running over our sleeping bags at night. The living conditions were miserable, but you did what you were called to do. You did not have a say in your destiny. You just learned to follow orders.”
Many WWII veterans are in their 90s now, and Korean War veterans are not far behind. It is only a matter of time before we lose the opportunity to hear their stories first-hand. Decker believes that Americans should never forget any war or those who served. He feels that people should also pay tribute to the families of veterans who had the toll of war wear on them as well. He and other veterans at Woodland Pond were eager to attend the Veterans Day celebration and enjoyed reflecting on their experiences together during a time of camaraderie.
“We are privileged to hear the stories of veterans who live in the Woodland Pond community,” said Michelle Gramoglia, executive director of Woodland Pond at New Paltz. “It is rewarding to have the opportunity to pay tribute to their sacrifices and celebrate the freedom we have today because of their courage. It was fascinating to see all of their medals, awards, uniform pieces, photographs, newspaper clips, letters and more on display in the Independent Living Lobby. It was like an interactive museum where we could hear the stories first-hand.”
On Saturday, October 24 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Woodland Pond residents and team members are eager to open their doors to showcase the wide range of original crafts, books, photographs, needlework, woodworking, ceramics, paintings, handmade American Girl doll clothes and much more for purchase and on display at the community’s annual Kaleidoscope of the Arts show and sale. Some of the pieces were made long ago and have a rich history or story behind them. Others were recently created, either by artists who have pursued lifelong artistic passions or decided to dabble in something new. Oftentimes residents have found time in their retirement to dive into something new that has always artistically intrigued them, so they have explored that creative endeavor. That, or they are aspiring artists who enjoy creating in a challenging medium, implementing a unique design or really exploring their imagination, so they set to create something truly outside-the-box. The residents are excited to share their artwork, their stories and their sources of inspiration with all attendees.
There will also be a children’s “make and take” crafts for children to do with their families or with the residents. There will also be a bake sale in the art studio and gift baskets to be raffled off in the hallway outside the performing arts center. All proceeds from the bake sale and raffle will be donated to the Woodland Pond Foundation, which serves to make the senior living community a better place for all who reside or visit there. This event is free and open to the public. Woodland Pond at New Paltz is located at 100 Woodland Pond Circle (Off of North Putt Corners Road) New Paltz, NY 12561.
Three years ago, Vivian Stoner asked John Fracasse if he would like to accompany her to a Valentine’s Day dance, and he accepted. The two are residents at Woodland Pond at New Paltz and did not expect to date in retirement. Now considered an “item” at the senior living community, John and Vivian have led the way in encouraging other seniors to date–people who may have originally felt that they were too old. In recognition of National Romance Awareness Month, Vivian and John want to share their story, perspective and advice in the hope of letting other seniors know that it’s never too late, and you’re never too old to start dating or to begin a relationship. Vivian says it makes her feel like a kid again and believes it to be very healthy. She loves the butterflies she still feels around John.
“I never thought I’d have these feelings again,” said Vivian. “When he holds my hand, I feel sparks fly. We went to that Valentine’s Day dance on a whim, and I would have never guessed fate would bring us to where we are today. At the celebration, we discovered that we both love to dance, so we started the party on the dance floor, and soon other couples were joining us. Beyond dancing, we learned that we had many of the same interests, and our relationship grew from there. It’s funny, because neither one of us was looking for anything, but over time our friendship bloomed, and now we are “going together.’”
“I ran into Vivian and got to know her when she was walking with her grandchild,” said John. “A few weeks later, she asked me to the dance, and then I followed up with her to see if she would like to join me for lunch in Newburg by the waterfront. I took her to my favorite restaurant because I wanted to share something special with her. It’s nice being able to share experiences with someone. We are both so comfortable with each other; it feels like we’ve known each other our whole lives. We work as a team, too, which is also important. We like to stay active and are very involved in the community. She puts on several dances every year and DJs for them. I help her by advertising and arranging refreshments supplied. I like to put on a Super Bowl party, and she helps me with that as well.”
Vivian and John are involved in each other’s family events as well. John says that Vivian is a most caring person who does a lot for everybody and always puts others first. Both agreed that they never thought they would date after their spouses passed. They were both caregivers and endured a lot of pain during that chapter of their lives. It has been said that people find love when they are not looking for it, and both John and Vivian agree with that. They enjoy each other’s companionship and are happy to have someone to laugh with, travel with, create new memories with and be silly with as well.
“I feel like I’ve become alive, and I’m having the most wonderful time in my life right now,” said Vivian. “He’s my best friend. I love when he holds my hand and gives me hugs. We never let the stigma of being too old stop us from dating. What’s funny about this whole situation is that he lives right across the hall from me, so when we started dating we joked about the 252 steps it would take to get to each other’s apartments. After we started dating, we noticed other residents giving the dating scene a go and to their delight, finding someone they cherish spending time with each and every day. The important thing to remember while dating is to be yourself and don’t hold back. If you want to spend time with someone, hug them or hold their hand, just go for it. Don’t be afraid or worry about what others think. Do what you want to do, and don’t look back. If you want to go to dinner with someone, just ask. If you want to see a movie with someone, just ask.”
Vivian and John enjoy doing a lot of the same activities. The two love to travel and have been to Texas, Louisiana, Colorado, Wyoming, Tennessee, South Dakota and the Jersey shore. They plan to visit Italy later this year. The two also enjoy camping in cabins, spending time with each other’s families, country music and more. John is a firm believer in compromising. He says that sometimes you will want to do different things but that it is important to compromise. Sometimes he will do something he doesn’t want to do because he knows it means a lot to Vivian, and likewise with her.
“Our children joke that we are never around because we stay so busy, but they are happy we have found this camaraderie with each other,” said John. “Vivian has brightened every day since I met her. I call her in the mornings once I see that her shade is up, as that’s how I know she’s awake. When her phone rings, I’m sure she knows it’s me.”
“I just think John is so cute, and I love hearing from him first thing in the morning,” said Vivian. “Dating is more fun when you get older. You can get away with more silly things. Moving to Woodland Pond was the best move of my life. Ever since I moved in I’ve been having fun every day, and meeting John was the icing on the cake. When I moved here, my whole life changed. Fate is an extraordinary thing. One day you’re doing your same routine, and then bam! You acquire a feeling you didn’t think you’d have again. At one point I thought I would never date anyone, and then my attitude changed after I met John. If you keep living and meeting new people, life just may surprise you.”
“Vivian and John are the perfect example of how you can find happiness at any point in your life,” said Michelle Gramoglia, executive director of Woodland Pond at New Paltz. “They are an inspiration to us all because they don’t hold back and they don’t let what others think get in the way of their happiness. I’m tickled that they hit it off at one of the community’s Valentine’s Day dances. That means a lot to the staff who plan these events in the hope that residents will get to know each other more, build lasting friendships and even relationships down the road.”