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by Bonnie Carroll

While recovering from surgery I was confined to bed for a long period of time, and I once again began using my meditation tools to keep calm and carry on. I've learned from experience that meditation can help with recovery, and managing stress when working through pain.

Meditation has been used for centuries by people in India as a spiritual ritual for serenity and good health, and the benefits are far beyond just feeling better. Meditation is the practical method for taking control of your day, your thoughts, and your anxiety — and  has been scientifically proven to achieve this. Countless studies and reports from people who use this healthy tool confirm the benefits of taking time to meditate each day to improve learning, memory and to reduce stress.

How do we learn to meditate for good health? Well, for beginners it's best to carve out 10 minutes a day in the morning or at bed to sit quietly and learn to meditate in a way that works for you. Set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes and plan it into your daily routine. Ideally, you will begin to spend twenty minutes per day and in no time you will begin to experience the rewards; one of which is lower blood pressure.

Taking a meditation class can be very helpful, and classes near you can be found online, or using a meditation CD to help you get started can be beneficial. Whether you take a class or begin from home, learning to meditate effectively involves learning how to breathe correctly. Meditating on the breath is not something you have to think about, you are already doing it, but focusing on your breath brings you into the now, because your breath is in the present moment, and by controlling it you will learn to focus and control your mind.

To prepare for a 10-minute meditation focusing on the breath try these tips below. Relaxation is the key word here.

  • Sit comfortably crossed-legged on a cushion, on the floor, or in a chair with your feet planted on the ground.

  • Relax your hands on your knees.

  • Allow your spine to lengthen out, keep your shoulders relaxed, and let your chin fall slightly forward.

  • You may close your eyes or allow your fix your gaze on the ground.

  • Breathe normally.

  • When you breathe in, think about your breath moving from your nostrils, down into your lungs, and into your stomach.

  • Breathe out, and track your breath moving out of your body.

  • If you find your thinking distracting you, focus on your breath again.

Keep it simple and follow a routine daily. Practice makes perfect when it comes to meditation. Don't be discouraged if your mind drifts, just keep trying to come back to your breath. Eventually, it will all become rote and you will experience the rewards of calming your own overactive mind to experience healing peace.


Blues on the Bayou

Benefitting the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission

Saturday, October 1, 2016, at 2:00 p.m.

We are going to jazz it up with the rhythm of the blues!  This year, we will honor Silvio Di Loreto with the Leni Fe Bland award.  Our annual benefit will be held at the historic Rancho Dos Pueblos featuring Santa Barbara’s best Silent Auction with exclusive experiences and adventures. You will enjoy a sumptuous Big Easy supper presented by Lorraine Lim Catering.  All proceeds will benefit our Homeless Guest Services and 12-month Residential Recovery Programs.

Click here and make your reservations today:  BUY TICKETS!



Heathrow Airport has declared itself the world's first dementia-friendly airport after launching a program that will train airport staff on how to help travelers suffering from cognitive decline.

Air travel can be a stressful experience for even the seasoned frequent flier. But add to that anxiety the complexities of dementia, and traveling can become an exercise in fear and frustration, says the Alzheimer's Society in the UK.

To put them at ease, all 76,000 staff members working at Heathrow Airport will be trained on how to support these fliers --  most notably security staff. Passing through security has been identified as a particularly stressful part of the airport experience. Security staff will be trained on how to identify potential fliers with dementia and reduce anxiety during this step of the process.

Likewise, frontline staff who work regularly with passengers with "hidden disabilities" such as autism, hearing and visual impairments and dementia, will undergo in-depth training, while designated quiet lounges will help affected passengers find calm.

The program is also part of the Prime Minister's 2020 Challenge on Dementia, which encourages businesses to become "dementia-friendly".

Dementia is a worldwide concern, with the planet's aging population projected to bring the number of people living with the condition from 47 million today up to 135 million by 2050.

This is a unique and innovative program that falls in line with a bigger airport trend: health and wellness.

One of the popular programs being copied at airports around the world is the introduction of yoga classes, to help harried travelers decompress and relax before boarding their flight.

Yoga classes are offered at airports in San Francisco, Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago O'Hare, Helsinki and Heathrow.


Cat Johnson's picture

By Cat Johnson


Seniors Reinvent Aging Through Cohousing & Senior Villages

They’re supposed to be the golden years; a time of happiness and prosperity. But for many seniors, the post-retirement years are not so golden. Many live in isolation, watching their abilities, well-being and independence slowly dwindle away to the point where, after a lifetime of self-determination, they’re in the dreaded position of being a burden. It’s an image that fuels many a sleepless night.

In a time of sweeping funding cuts to senior services—the recent federal budget belt-tightening cut 23.5 percent from the Community Development Block Grants program which funds many senior programs—the message is becoming clear that we need to take aging into our own hands. And we’d better hurry because the number of seniors is about to skyrocket. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1990 there were 31 million Americans over 65. In 2009 there were 39 million. By 2050, the senior population is expected to double to 79 million, which raises the question: if we can’t afford to support seniors now, what will we do then?

The good news is that this way of thinking (and aging) is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Aging is transforming into something that looks a lot less bleak and a lot more golden. Seniors are looking to themselves and each other to create networks of mutual well-being, support and friendship; transforming aging from a slow march to the grave into a joyful, community affair.

Photo courtesy of Beacon Hill

It Takes a Village

In the late 1990s, a group of friends in Boston realized that if they didn’t take their senior years into their own hands, somebody else would. “I never wanted to go to a retirement community,” says Susan McWhinney-Morse. “I call it warehousing the elderly. And there were a lot of people who felt the same way; that if we don’t do anything, there won’t be anything for us.”

McWhinney-Morse and her like-minded friends brainstormed creative ways that they could stay in their homes and continue to be active participants in life. They spent two years talking to service providers about everything they could possibly need, organizing their ideas into plans and laying the foundation for what would become the first senior community of its kind, Boston’s Beacon Hill Village. “The idea began to form that everything we need in our older lives is here,” says McWhinney-Morse. “The question is how to put it together in a way that is manageable. We decided that we would become consolidators of services.”

The concept of a village is simple, practical and visionary. For an annual membership fee that averages about $600 per person (with discounted fees for lower income individuals), members are able to stay in their own homes, living their lives as they see fit as part of an extended network that provides social events, meet-ups, discussion groups, fitness classes, field trips and more. Unlike other social organizations, villages take the notion of independence and security to the next level and provide members with a phone number for everything they could possible need that they can’t manage on their own. Whether they need a ride to the grocery store, someone to change a light-bulb, a plumber, help with paperwork, a daily check-in, help navigating the world of service providers or anything else, members can call the village.

Photo courtesy Avenidas Village

Villages provide access to just about anything their members may need. They pre-screen vendors, organize volunteers, arrange group discounts and manage appointments and bill-pay for those who have concerns about money matters. They are member-driven in their approach (members-helping-members is a big part of village life) and hold the vision of connecting trusted service providers with seniors looking to age safely and happily in their homes.

“Members tell us when we’re doing everything right and when we’re not,” says Vickie Epstein, the Program Director at Avenidas Village in Palo Alto, Calif. “This is all about them and how they want the village to look and feel,” she continues. “We are there for them whatever the issue is, be it small, medium or substantial.”

“I came from a small town, where most of the people knew me and my parents,” says Dorothy Batt, a member of SAIL (Supporting Active Independent Lives), a village in Madison, Wisc. “If I needed something, I knew who to go to. Retirement is like a foreign country, where you don’t really know the rules,” she continues. “SAIL has been a godsend.”

Steadily growing in popularity, villages are popping up all over the country and now number over 60 with 600 more in the works. As funding for senior centers and senior services goes the way of the chopping block, community-minded villages have created a new model for aging that relies on good, old-fashioned community to enrich the lives of seniors, putting to rest many of the concerns of members and their families alike.

“Once you retire, you can see a little bit down the road and it’s like being in a boat,” says Batt’s husband Jim. “When you’re working there are a lot of ports that you can travel to. But when you retire, you’re looking for a place that you can put into and have some security.”

“People are excited and want to move to where villages are,” says Rita Kostiuk, National Coordinator for the Village to Village Network, an organization that provides resources, support, ideas and best-practices to villages at all stages of development. “I think [the village] benefits the whole person; mind, body and soul. As we educate the federal government on how well it’s working, we’ll start seeing even more.”

Silver Sage Cohousing in Boulder. Photo courtesy McCamant and Durrett Architects and Wonderland Hill Development Co.

Our House

Bringing the notion of community living home, a concept known as cohousing is emerging as a cost-effective way to create lives of sharing and connectedness. Cohousing originated in the 1960s in Denmark, and was brought to the U.S. by Charles Durrett, who observed while studying in Copenhagen the communities created through cohousing..

“On my walk to the train station every morning and afternoon I noticed that there was no life in a lot of the buildings. Then there was this cluster of houses that people seemed to know each other and would sit down and have a cup of tea and a conversation,” he says. “People would come and go from this building that apparently no one lived [in] but everyone lived [in].”

Durrett had stumbled upon cohousing: a collaborative living arrangement in which a cluster of individually owned homes are centered around common areas, with residents actively creating and participating in all aspects of community life and where the security and connectedness that spring out of community living are held in the highest regard. Each individual house has all the amenities of home, but the common areas also have full kitchens and gathering areas for get-togethers (both planned and spontaneous) and regular group meals, which are a central part of cohousing life. Unlike members of a commune, the residents do not have a shared economy or set of beliefs. Cohousing communities thrive on diversity.

Cohousing has become a way for people to bring the warmth and sense of connectedness of neighborhoods and small towns into what has become increasingly isolating modern-day life. And while intergenerationalism is a key element of the cohousing concept, senior cohousing has emerged as an affordable and life-affirming way to age at home. The natural communities that are created with cohousing provide a sense of belonging, safety and fun that elders living alone or in institutions generally don’t enjoy.

Durrett, who authored The Senior Cohousing Handbook has, along with his wife and architectural partner Kathryn McCamant, consulted on the design of over 50 cohousing communities. He explains that seniors are also drawn to the smaller footprint that cohousing leaves on the planet. “You have one of a lot of things [like lawnmowers] instead of 20 of a lot of things,” he says. He also points out that the keys to a longer and healthier life, which include staying active and staying connected, are a natural extension of cohousing.

With nearly 120 cohousing communities around the U.S. with hundreds more in development, and thousands of communities worldwide (including hundreds of senior communities), cohousing is a practical and fast-growing model for what aging at home and in community can look like.

Photo courtesy of Beacon Hill

Aging 2.0

The good news is that a growing number of today’s seniors have set a plan into motion and provided us with a new vision of aging. And the even better news is that the boomers are coming, and they have never been content to simply accept what is handed to them.

“I think it can only get better as the boomers age,” says Jim Batt. “They’re more skilled at making a community than any generation.” Then he adds with a laugh, “Even though the changes in music weren’t welcome by me, I recognize the contributions of that particular generation and see that they will be carried forward into the future.”

And in the End

While villages and cohousing provide a much-improved model of what aging can look like, there will always be individuals who need more care and medical assistance than either of these options can provide. But being part of a community of support means that difficult decisions about end-of-life care don’t have to be made alone.

“We’re going to be here for you as needed, and when that time comes to find another level of care, we’re here for you then, too,” says Epstein.

“Senior cohousing always plans a common caregiver,” says Durrett. “An hour or half an hour a day; whatever is needed.” And if and when more care is needed, cohousing provides a built-in community of concerned, committed and creative problem-solvers to figure out the next step.

New Tricks

The idea of aging in community feels to me like a breath of fresh air and presents a very welcome alternative to senior isolation or institutionalization. Whether or not this model is a good fit for you and yours, one thing is certain: we can all rest a little easier knowing that there are more options for healthy and happy aging than ever before, thanks to a handful of thoughtful, committed people who are changing the world and showing us how to age gracefully together.

Additional resources:

Additional research by S. Millavise.



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© 2008 Bonnie Carroll, All Rights Reserved