Category Archives: From Growing to Golden

“From Growing to Golden” encourages people of all ages to expand their horizons. Knowledge is the foundation for growth in every stage of life. Learn something new, share it with others and see where it takes you!

Life with Perfect Harmony

How music benefits health and happiness in those who are aging and their caregivers

Masonic Village resident Elaine Lukens and Ann Dinsmore, music therapy supervisor

Masonic Village resident Elaine Lukens and Ann Dinsmore, music therapy supervisor

by Megan Leitzell, public relations intern

Whether it is heard on the radio, as background in a film or performed live, music can encourage positive feelings, tell a story and even promote better health. Although it is good for all ages, music can particularly help keep an aging brain and body healthy.

The powerful field of music therapy uses music interventions to accomplish individualized goals while building therapeutic relationships. Exposure to music therapy can keep the brain healthy and exercised, giving the benefits of better memory, mental sharpness and even happiness, according to the American Music Therapy Association.

“Music provides very specific therapeutic benefits for older adults, supported by growing research in the areas of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia,” Ann Dinsmore, music therapy supervisor at Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, said. “Music acts as a motivator; it stimulates and relaxes, and it triggers many memories. When other functions have failed people, music still provides an outlet for expression.”

First established in collaboration with Elizabethtown College and with a resident donation, the Masonic Village Music Therapy Department recently celebrated its 15th anniversary. The five certified music therapists in the department work closely with students and volunteers of all ages to promote wellness for residents each day through the therapeutic use of music. Home caregivers can also use music therapeutically.

Dinsmore suggests the following ways that caregivers can use music to benefit their loved ones:

  • Find and play music that will bring back positive memories for them, taking into consideration their preferences, which are usually established between the ages of 15 and 30, and their life experiences.
  • Active music making through playing with instruments, household objects or anything that makes an interesting sound can open a new avenue for creativity.
  • Singing, humming or chanting along with music can help with relaxation and breathing.
  • Conducting with arms, fingers or a “baton” while following the beat of the music engages and increases the oxygen level to the brain.
  • Use musical dynamics, such as music with soft tones, constant harmonies or music with nature sounds to encourage relaxation and deep breathing meditation.
  • Use music for stretching and exercising, such as dancing, foot tapping and arm movements. Change tempos based on moods, tolerance and energy levels when you begin, and be sure to create “warm up” and “cool down” exercises before and after each session.
  • It is never too late to learn or relearn an instrument or singing technique. Keep the brain active by uncovering a vocal score or sitting down at a keyboard to practice and learn music again, or for the first time.

The incorporation of music therapy techniques provides benefits for the caregiver as well as the recipient.  The caregiver can enjoy relaxation while sharing common experiences and creativity with loved ones.

The Power of a Flu Vaccine

By Kelly Weaver, assistant executive director, Masonic Village at Lafayette Hill476226765

So, who believes in the power of the flu shot?  Some are staunch supporters who believe receiving a flu shot wards off the virus, while others feel it is a bunch of hogwash – who is right?

A little homework on my part revealed some interesting statistics drawn from Masonic Village at Lafayette Hill’s health care center:

  • In the winter of 2010-2011, approximately 50% of our staff were immunized, and we experienced two flu outbreaks amongst residents.
  • The following winter, 2011-2012, we again had a 50% staff immunization rate, but there were no flu outbreaks (few cases were observed across the entire country, according to the Centers for Disease Control).
  • The winter of 2012-2013, we experienced one flu outbreak. The staff immunization rate again was about 50%.

This past winter, 2013-2014, Masonic Villages mandated flu shots for employees, and our immunization rate was 97%. We are proud to say there were no flu outbreaks in the health care center! Each year, we were successful in achieving a very high resident immunization rate (close to 100%, less the handful of folks with allergies, etc.), so that figure has remained somewhat constant. The staff immunization rate, however, was significantly different this past year than it had been prior, and despite the many reports that our neighboring facilities were experiencing flu outbreaks, we remained healthy!

Any new believers?

Flu season typically starts in October. Whether you work in a health care setting or plan to visit any hospitals or long-term care communities in the near future, it’s time to consider getting a flu shot. Even if you feel healthy and do your best to prevent the spread of germs, there is a chance you could catch the virus and not realize it. Symptoms may not appear for up to 48 hours, at which point you’ll already be contagious. A minor inconvenience for the receiver, a flu shot may greatly benefit those who are more vulnerable.



The Dirt Behind Detoxing

By Hilary Gillette, Penn State University dietetic intern, Masonic Village at Elizabethtownjuice

Juice cleanses, lavender and Epsom salt baths, detox teas, and Jillian Michaels’ “detox water” – our society has turned into one which heavily emphasizes detoxing our bodies.

Detoxing is defined as removing a poisonous or harmful substance from the human body. It was historically used to describe the rehabilitation process for drug and alcohol users. “Detox” has more recently expanded into usage for other “toxins” we are exposed to daily. We eat, breathe, clean the house, drive, take medications, and use beauty products, all which expose us to these toxins.

There are thousands of detox products on the market, ranging from teas and supplement capsules to pads that attach to your feet to “pull” toxins out. Hundreds of books are published on detoxing, including recipes and daily menus to follow.

 Juicy Details

Detox methods have been around for many years, although a relatively new concept earning publicity is “juice cleansing,” in which a juicing machine extracts juice from fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Juice cleansers aim to rest their digestive systems and streamline energy into using the abundant nutrients found in fruit and vegetable juices to flood their body, forcing toxins out.

Juice cleanses, however, result in a void of valuable nutrition. Calorie intake is low, and there is minimal fiber and little to no fat or protein. Juice cleansers often experience flu-like symptoms or achy muscles, which detox creators claim results from toxins leaving the body. Registered dietitians (RDs) explain it as a simple lack of energy and nutrients. The lack of calories going in causes a sense of hunger, leading to junk food cravings like pizza or ice cream (those aren’t detox foods, right?). Long-term juice cleanses also impact your wallet. The amount of produce needed to complete a juice cleanse adds up quickly, not counting the cost of a juicer.

 Smooth Operator

Try blending fruits and vegetables in a blender so you get the juice plus all the fiber removed in juicing. This will help you feel full longer and allows you to incorporate protein and fat into smoothies to balance your diet. Blending should be done as an addition to a balanced diet, not a replacement for extended amounts of time.

The body is a natural detoxing machine. Your kidneys, liver, intestines, lungs, skin, lymph, and blood will do the detox work for you by sorting good nutrients from harmful chemicals and absorbing only what is best for your body. Some toxins may sneak in, but your body knows how to fight them off.

So what can you do to help? Keep your body healthy! Provide it with great nutrition and drink plenty of water. Get sufficient sleep and exercise, and reduce stress. A detox drink will not hurt every now and then, but keeping your detox organs healthy is the best form of detox you can possibly do.

A Cultural Journey – Eden Alternative®

By Rev. Tim Reichard, director of pastoral care, Masonic Village at SewickleySturgeon Health Care Center

The director team at the Masonic Village at Sewickley started the Eden Alternative® journey in 2008, when we met to prepare for the cultural changes to come, and were certified as an Eden facility in 2010. Implementing the Eden Alternative® has brought significant changes in how we provide care to residents and families.

Empowering Staff and Residents

Eden isn’t something that’s “once and done.” It inspires the daily life of how care is provided in the community. It influences all aspects of resident care, from food service to nursing care, from spiritual care to activities, from facility management to human resources. It has united all the departments together with a shared focus of providing the highest quality of care and addresses the three plagues that affect aging residents in long-term care facilities: boredom, helplessness, and loneliness.

Residents provide input into the care they receive through resident council meeting. Activities include: daily neighborhood programs; outings to theater, baseball, dining, fishing, and bowling; music therapy; weekly Catholic Mass and Protestant worship; pet therapy; and more. Food service provides residents with 18 menu choices, à la carte breakfast and flexible dining schedules. Eden culture change also has significantly impacted how medical care is delivered. There are multiple bathing options (shower, spa, etc.), medication serveries in rooms, permanent staff assignments that help build relationships, and electronic medical records documentation, just to name a few.

Eden is about paying attention to the little things that are important to residents. We recently purchased iPads so residents can have “face-time” with their families. One resident was able to speak with her son and his family in Singapore, and it was the first time she’s ever seen several of her grandchildren. It’s also about relationships. One of the housekeepers knew a resident was in the process of dying and came in on her off hours to sit with the resident.

The New Sturgeon Health Care Center – Eden by Design

Recently, we completed a major renovation of the Sturgeon Health Care Center, doubling the square footage without increasing the number of beds. The care center is divided into eight neighborhoods, each having their own care bases, lounge, and dining areas. Sixteen residents comprise a neighborhood.  This renovation has made the center more “home-like” with beautiful exterior surroundings and internal areas that are aesthetically pleasing. All of the rooms are private; however, shared-private rooms only share a bathroom. Residents can decorate their room to suit their tastes.

(Check out the summer issue of the Village Voice for more information about the new Sturgeon Health Care Center.)

We are excited about the changes that have come with implementing the Eden Alternative® philosophy of care and are committed to providing even better care as our Mission of Love continues.

Charitable Giving News

By Alvin H. Blitz, Esq., chief gift planning officer, Masonic Charities

 The On-again Off-again IRA Gift 123087362

Our friendly folks in Washington are now considering resurrecting the IRA Charitable Rollover again. This tax provision permits an IRA owner who is age 70 1/2 or older generally to exclude from gross income up to $100,000 per year in distributions made directly from the IRA to certain public charities, which includes any of the Masonic Charities. The proposal being advanced by the Senate Finance Committee would be effective for all of 2013 and 2014.

Since the distribution given to charity is never included in income, it is especially attractive for individuals that do not itemize their deductions or have sufficient income that they do not need to use their required minimum distribution from their IRA. Furthermore, on May 28, the House Ways and Means Committee approved a similar provision to make the extension permanent. Passage of either of these provisions by Congress will probably not occur until after the November elections.

Masonic Charities’ gift planners will be monitoring these provisions throughout the year.

Estate Planning – Inheritance Tax

For Pennsylvania residents, the inheritance tax has few exemptions, and it taxes almost all assets held at death except those assets held jointly between a husband and wife and life insurance proceeds. The rates for Pennsylvania inheritance tax are as follows:

  • 0 percent on transfers to a surviving spouse or to a parent from a child aged 21 or younger;
  • 4.5 percent on transfers to direct descendants and lineal heirs;
  • 12 percent on transfers to siblings; and
  • 15 percent on transfers to other heirs, except charitable organizations and tax exempt institutions and government entities.

Remember to update your estate plan regularly, especially if you have moved to another state or have experienced a significant family event, such as a death in the family. If you live in a state other than Pennsylvania, please check with your attorney, or Masonic Charities’ gift planners would be glad to provide information on your state’s inheritance or estate tax law.

If you would like to receive any future notifications on the enactment of proposed legislation or any other charitable giving updates, please contact the Masonic Charities’ Office of Gift Planning by visiting

The Not-So-Lazy Days of Summer

By Donna Culbertson, administrative assistant, Masonic Children’s Homekids racing

Summer is officially here, which means our staff need to come up with activities for their boys and girls to keep busy. Many of our house parents are creative when it comes to planning activities.

They organize competitive sporting events like kick ball, bean bag toss and baseball to name a few. A volleyball net is set up during the summer months for the children to enjoy a challenging game with staff or peers. Our basketball courts are always available, and they are used by everyone. When you visit our campus, you will also see boys and girls riding bikes, skateboarding, roller blading, jumping rope, swinging on swings and playing all sorts of outdoor games.

Visiting the local parks and getting their feet wet in the creek looking for crayfish is one activity the boys enjoy, while others like taking a bike ride on campus and visiting the Farm Market.

A scavenger hunt was organized by our social worker that taught our youth some history about the Masonic Village campus, while also encouraging physical activity. They walked the entire campus to locate various landmarks and clues to answer the questions they were given.

A camp fire pit was just installed this year, and the children enjoy evenings around the fire toasting marshmallows and making s’mores. Many of our children have said this is one of their favorite things to do with their friends and staff. They enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and getting to know one another.

Our youth like reading over the summer, attending various camps that stretch their imagination, volunteering their time, working at various businesses and playing organized sports. Some kids are also learning to garden with Mr. Tarman, a resident of Masonic Village at Elizabethtown.

We are looking forward to a day trip to the beach in August, a visit to Hersheypark, Barnstormer’s and Phillies baseball games, and a trip floating down the Juniata River. These events are all due to the generous support of our donors.

Summer is an exciting time at the children’s home – full of new adventures and experiences. Let the fun begin!

Nutrition at a Different Level

By Stacy Schroder, M.Ed., director of wellness and prevention, Masonic Village at Elizabethtown 

Stacy Schroder accepts the 2013 Gold Well Workplace Award presented to Masonic Village at Elizabethtown by The Lighten Up Lancaster County Coalition.

Stacy Schroder accepts the 2013 Gold Well Workplace Award presented to Masonic Village at Elizabethtown by The Lighten Up Lancaster County Coalition.

Earlier this year, I listened to numerous cutting edge leaders at the Future of Nutrition Conference through the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.

Topics included:

  • Epigenetics
  • Food Addiction
  • Brain Health
  • Digestive System
  • Gut Microbiology
  • Planetary Health and Consciousness

This group of individuals inspired me to think on a different level about how food and nutrition affect every part of our body, mind and spirit. Some of the highlights included:

  1. Our genes are our genes BUT … did you know we can turn them on and off through lifestyle? Through good nutrition, eating whole foods, positive thoughts and feelings, reducing stress and creating a healthy environment, we do not have to be slave to our family’s health history! Epigenetics is gaining recognition and is exploding with research. Think twice about what you are choosing to put into your body, how you are acting and how you choose to let the stressors in your life affect you, and you can avoid certain diseases.
  2. Many people are addicted to sugar and processed carbohydrates which have been proven to cause many diseases (cancer, dementia, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, etc.). They also cause food addiction which is equated to cocaine addiction. Even though for many years we have heard that fat in our diet is the culprit for us being overweight, it is not. The obesity in our country is from refined sugar and processed carbohydrates.
  3. Our GUT is THE determinant of our health. We need to get more good bacteria in to our digestive system and eat the right foods to be healthy. Prebiotic and Probiotic supplements are rising in the health industry because we are not getting enough good bacteria into our gut. You can get “good bugs” through food, too! Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, cheese, yogurt, etc., have these naturally-occurring good bacteria. If your gut is healthy, your brain and immune system will be healthy as well.
  4. We cannot be healthy without hope, happiness, nutrition, physical activity, relationships and spirituality. Centenarians have been studied around the world, and they have discovered a common thread. They all live in clans or tribes, they practice meditation and prayer together, they eat whole foods, and they have meaning and purpose in their lives.
  5. Toxins in our environment and what we expose ourselves to cause diseases. The average woman puts 180 toxins on her body every day, and the average male puts over 80 toxins on his body every day. We need to choose skin care products that are toxin-free, as our skin is the largest organ of the body, and everything we put on it is immediately absorbed into your system. Environmental toxins are all around us. We can start to eliminate many of these by choosing “green” cleaning products, non-toxic fabric and non-toxic cookware. Toxins build up in us over time so we may not think we are hurting ourselves, but we are slowly causing disease to occur in our bodies.
  6. Brain health is directly linked to what we eat, stress, our feelings, our thoughts and our happiness. Every thought we have changes the chemistry in our bodies. Positive, happy thoughts produce hormones that support health. Negative, stressful thoughts create hormones that over time build up in our systems never flushing out and create disease. Changing our thoughts can change our health!

Contact me if any of this triggers your curiosity! I have resources available to you.



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