Getting older makes you more and more ‘real’

NIAGARA, Wis. — I recently read an excerpt from “The Velveteen Rabbit” written by Margery Williams that brought tears to my eyes. Here it is:

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you become Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

What a wonderful way to view the aging process. We are not old or worn out or used up; we are simply becoming more and more “real” as we have experienced the ups and downs of our lives. We have spent a lifetime learning, working and giving of ourselves to our family, friends and co-workers. It is okay if, as a result, we show a little wear. It is a sign that we have really lived.

Aging is not for the faint of heart. As hearing and memory fade, eyesight dims, joints ache and we visit the bathroom more than any other room in the house, we wonder if this is simply a bad day or a “new normal” to which we need to adjust.

Getting older can seem daunting, and aging can bring about unique health issues. It’s important to understand the challenges we will face — or are facing — as we age, and recognize that there are preventive measures we can take to place ourselves on a path to healthy aging.

1. Chronic health conditions

The National Council on Aging has determined that 92 percent of seniors have at least one chronic disease and 77 percent have at least two, with heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes being among the most common ailments. It is important to meet with a physician for an annual checkup, to maintain a healthy diet and to keep an exercise routine in order to help manage or prevent chronic illness. Obesity is the culprit as we age, but we can prevent the scale from creeping up on us by eating quality food and less of it.

2. Cognitive health

Cognitive health is defined as a person’s ability to think, learn and remember. The most common cognitive health issue facing seniors is dementia, which causes the loss of those cognitive functions. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. We can avoid the onset of those chronic health conditions that have been found to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. These include substance abuse, diabetes, hypertension, depression, HIV and smoking. While there are no cures for dementia, physicians can prescribe a treatment plan and medications to slow its progression.

3. Mental health

A common mental disorder among seniors is depression, which often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Because depression can be a side effect of chronic health conditions, it helps to manage them. Improving living conditions and increasing social support from family, friends or support groups also can help treat depression.

4. Physical injury

Falls are the leading cause of injury among the elderly. Because aging causes bones to shrink and muscle to lose strength and flexibility, seniors are more susceptible to losing their balance, bruising and fracturing a bone. Two diseases that contribute to frailty are osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. However, falls are not inevitable. In many cases, they can be prevented through increased physical activity that improves balance and practical modifications within the home. Be sure to wipe up any spills in the kitchen and bathroom and get rid of throw rugs — both are major tripping hazards.

5. HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases

While sexual needs and ability may change as people age, sexual desire doesn’t disappear completely. Seniors are unlikely to use condoms, which, when combined with a weakened immune system, makes the elderly more susceptible to contracting HIV. Late diagnosis of HIV is common among older adults because its symptoms are very similar to those of normal aging, making it more difficult to treat and prevent damage to the immune system.

6. Malnutrition

Malnutrition in older adults often is underdiagnosed and can lead to other elderly health issues, such as a weakened immune system and muscle weakness. The causes of malnutrition can stem from other factors common in the aging population such as depression, alcoholism, dietary restrictions, reduced social contact and limited income. Committing to small healthy changes in diet, such as eating better and less saturated fat and salt, can help. Also, if preparing healthy meals has become difficult, check into the many local meal services for seniors.

7. Sensory impairments

Sensory impairments, specifically vision and hearing loss, are extremely common in seniors. While the expense of keeping our eyes and ears healthy can be a challenge, the cost of ignoring these deficiencies as they begin to occur is even greater. Our vision and hearing abilities will keep us safe as we age; it is important to protect them so they can protect us.

8. Oral health

Often overlooked, oral health is one of the most important issues for the elderly. Problems such as cavities and tooth decay can lead to difficulty maintaining a healthy diet, low self-esteem, and other health conditions. Oral health issues associated with older adults are dry mouth, gum disease and mouth cancer. Preventive dentistry means one visit to the dentist each year for cleaning — problems caught early are much less expensive to manage.

9. Substance abuse

Substance abuse, typically alcohol or drug-related, is becoming more prevalent among seniors and is often overlooked in medical check-ups. Additionally, older adults are often prescribed multiple prescriptions to be used long-term. It has been found that substance abuse typically results from someone suffering mental deficits or taking another patient’s medication due to their inability to pay for their own.

10. Bladder control and constipation

Incontinence and constipation are both common with aging, and can impact older adults’ quality of life. In addition to age-related changes, these may be a side effect of previous issues mentioned above, such as not eating a well-balanced diet and suffering from chronic health conditions. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help avoid these health issues. Also, there are effective medical treatments available we should not be embarrassed to discuss our symptoms with our doctor.

This list may seem daunting and a little depressing. But it is important to accept the fact that with increasing age comes the natural wearing out of our bodies. But, like any often-used machine, preventive maintenance is important. Armed with a little knowledge and will power, and a regular dose of assistance from our physician, we have the ability to live comfortably throughout our senior years.

And, we can take solace in the fact that, like the Velveteen Rabbit, we have earned that gray hair, fading vision and those stiff joints by living a full life and being well loved.






Scenes and sounds, 11:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

Sunday: Mimosa, 11:30 a.m.; ring toss, 1 p.m.; dunking donuts, 2 p.m.; church, 2:15 p.m.

Monday: Room visits, 10 a.m.; staff/resident trivia contest, 11 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; ice cream social, 3 p.m.

Tuesday: Crafts, 10:30 a.m.; car wash/root beer floats, noon to 4 p.m.

Wednesday: Room visits, 10 a.m.; rosary, 10:30 a.m.; tiki bar, 1 p.m.; Golden Throats, 2 p.m.

Thursday: Reading buddy,11 a.m.; Bible study, 1:30 p.m.; bingo with Carol/guess how many; “Lawrence Welk,” 5 p.m.

Friday: What’s cooking, 11 a.m.; cookout, noon.; Catholic Mass, 2 p.m.; sing along, 2:30 p.m.; happy hour, 3 p.m.

Saturday: Meet and greet, 10:30 a.m.; daily newspaper, 11 a.m.; spinning records, 1 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.

Iron County 

Medical Facility

Crystal Falls

Exercise: 11 a.m., Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Sunday: One-to-one church visitors, 8:30 to 11 a.m.; room visits, 9 to 11 a.m.; high rollers, 10 a.m.; bingorama, 2 p.m.; Church of Christ, 3 p.m.

Monday: Memory books, 9 to 10:30 a.m.; bowling banquet, noon; room visits, 1 p.m.; VFW bingo, 2 p.m.; Sunshine Club, 2:30 p.m.

Tuesday: CF library, 9:30 a.m.; book club, 10 a.m.; Catholic Mass, 10 a.m.; cookie bake-off, 1 p.m.; wildlife film, 1:30 p.m.; current events, 2 p.m.; comedy movie, 6 p.m.

Wednesday: Storytelling, 10 a.m.; resident appreciation celebration, 2 p.m.; night bingo, 6 p.m.

Thursday: Puzzler, 9:30 a.m.; bowling, 10 a.m.; travel film, 1:30 p.m.; United Lutheran Church, 2 p.m.; happy hour with karaoke, 2:30 p.m.

Friday: Crafts, 9 to 10:30 a.m.; Ottawa Lake, 10 a.m.; room visits 1 p.m.; pass the prize, 2 p.m.; musical movie, 6 p.m.

Saturday: Puzzler/you be the judge, 10 a.m.; geri-gym, 11 a.m.; intergenerational social hour, 2 p.m.



Wet your whistle: 9:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

Exercise: 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

Movie: 10:45 a.m. daily, and 3:15 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Popcorn Day: every Friday.

Sunday: Mother’s Day social, 9:30 a.m.; Mother’s Day fun facts, 10 a.m.; company’s coming room visits, 1:30 p.m.; Protestant church, 3 p.m.

Monday: Did you know?, 10:15 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; po-ke-no, 5:45 p.m.

Tuesday: Trivia 10:15 a.m.; Lutheran church, 2 p.m.; movie and manicure, 5:45 p.m.

Wednesday: Sharpen your senses, 10:15 a.m.; monthly birthday party with Jim Edberg, 2 p.m.; flip five, 5:45 p.m.

Thursday: Crosswords, 10:15 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; magic moments, 5:45 p.m.

Friday: Finish lines, 10:15 a.m.; Catholic Mass, 2 p.m.; chips and chatter, 2:30.

Saturday: Current events, 10:15 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.

Maryhill Manor

Niagara, Wis.

Rosary, 8:30 a.m. Sunday through Friday.

Sunday: Catholic Mass, 9 a.m.; Mother’s Day social, 10:15 a.m.; music bingo, 1:30 p.m.; Protestant service, 2:30 p.m.

Monday: Wii bowling, 10:15 a.m.; jokereno party, 2 p.m.; movie, 6:15 p.m.

Tuesday: Men’s breakfast, 7 a.m.; dance prep/trivia, 10:15 a.m.; bingo bash, 2 p.m.; Yahtzee, 6:15 p.m.

Wednesday: Dance prep/getting pretty/sing along, 10:15 a.m.; monthly birthday party with Ray and Mindy, 2 p.m.; Chaplet of Divine Mercy, 3 p.m.; root beer float social, 6:15 p.m.

Thursday: Catholic Mass, 9 a.m.; dance prep, 10:15 a.m.; drive-in movie, 2 p.m.; spring dance entertainment, 6:30 p.m.

Friday: Bag toss, 10:15 a.m.; happy hour with Ray and Mindy, 2 p.m.

Saturday: Baking, 10:15 a.m.; pamper and polish, 2 p.m.; bingo, 5:45 p.m.

Victorian Pines

Iron Mountain

Juice time, 10 a.m. Sunday through Saturday.

Exercise, 11 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Shopping days: 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, must sign up.

Sunday: Bible study, 1:30 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Monday: Bingo, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Tuesday: Music with Crystal, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Wednesday: Music with The Girls, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m. 

Thursday: Trivia, 2 p.m.; rosary, 3 p.m.

Friday: Ladies tea, 2 p.m.

Saturday: Movie and popcorn, 2 p.m.

Florence Health Services

Florence, Wis.

Morning news, 6 a.m. daily.

Beauty shop open on Tuesday and Thursday.

Sunday: Bingo 10 a.m.; manicures, 2 p.m.; kings’ corners, 6 p.m.

Monday: Bingo, 10 a.m.; apple pie party, 2 p.m.; reminisce, 6 p.m.

Tuesday: Chair exercise, 10 a.m.; music with Larry J., 2 p.m.; social hour, 3 p.m.

Wednesday: Manicures, 10 a.m.; travel party to Japan, 2:30 p.m.

Thursday: Pastor Jason, 10 a.m.; manicures, 2 p.m.; coffee break, 3 p.m.; trivia, 6 p.m.

Friday: Catholic Mass, 10 a.m.; “Wheel of Fortune,” 2 p.m.; flippo, 6 p.m.

Saturday: Bingo, 10 a.m.; movie with popcorn, 2 p.m.; reading, 6 p.m.

Pinecrest Medical Care Facility


Sunday: Grace Church, 10:15 a.m.; ball toss, 10:30 a.m.; Lutheran service, 2 p.m.; life stories, 3:30 p.m.

Monday: Life connections, 9:45 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; worship and communion service, 1:30 p.m.; rosary, 2:30 p.m.; bean bag toss, 3:30 p.m.; checkers, 6 p.m.

Tuesday: Casino games, 10:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; bingo, 1:45 p.m.; Pictionary, 3:30 p.m.; book cart, 6 p.m.

Wednesday: Western Day cookout, 11:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; country ho-down, 2 p.m.; one-to-one visits, 6 p.m.

Thursday: Nursing home week at casino, 10:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; cards, 3:30 p.m.; trouble board game, 6 p.m.

Friday: Catholic Mass, 10:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 a.m.; luau party, 2 p.m.; one-to-one visits, 6 p.m.

Saturday: Karaoke, 10:15 a.m.; cards, 10:30 a.m.; ice cream social, 2 p.m.; reminiscing, 3:30 p.m.


Note: All centers ask for 24-hour advanced reservations for lunch. If you have meals delivered and will not be home, notify the center.

Alpha-Mastodon Center


Meal at noon every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Amasa Center


Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Lunch at noon.

Bingo on Tuesdays.

Free meal drawing on Thursdays.

Breen Center


Meals Monday through Friday.

Pasty sale every third Saturday of the month — except on holidays.  

Cards and games available 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 2 p.m. 

Hostess on duty Monday through Friday.   

Treats and coffee, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Center retail store is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday; volunteers and donations are welcome.

Birthdays acknowledged every day.

Evening meals are on the first and third Thursday of the month. Salad bar opens at 4 p.m., with dinner at 5 p.m. Donations are $4 for those 60 and older and $5 for 60 and younger.

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen


Suggested meal donations: $5 older than 60; $6 younger than 60; $1 extra for takeout.

Call the center by 1 p.m. with name and number of people to reserve meals.

Open: Monday through Wednesday, soup and salad bar at 4:30 p.m., with dinner at 5.

Monday: Soup, salad, cabbage rolls and homemade dessert.

Tuesday: Soup, salad, beef roast, potatoes, gravy, carrots, and homemade dessert.

Wednesday: Soup, salad, chicken parmesan, noodles, vegetable and homemade dessert.

Mondays: Basket weaving after dinner — all are welcome for dinner and/or class. Beginners can make their first basket with materials provided.

Crystal Lake Center


The center is closed on weekends.

Monday: Woodcarvers, 10 a.m.; mahjong in dining hall, noon; Les Artistes Art Club, noon; bridge club, 12:15 p.m.

Tuesday and Thursday: Pinochle, 12:30 p.m.

Thursdays: Two-person team cribbage from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: Billiards, 9:30 a.m.

Wednesday: Spinning Spools Quilters Guild, 1 p.m., crafters, scrapbookers and others also welcome; knitting and crocheting class, 1 to 3 p.m.

Friday: Smear, 12:30 p.m.

Last Saturday of the month: Music jam starting at 1 p.m. Admission is free. 

Dances take place from 7 to 10 p.m. on the second and fourth Fridays of the month. Admission is $6; coffee is free. 

The Photo Club meets 1 to 3 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month.  

The kitchen currently is closed due to plumbing issues. Meals are being served at the Breen Center. Christine McMahon has information for all meals and can be reached at 906-774-2256, ext. 235. For transportation, call Buzzin’ Around Town at 906-282-0492. Rides are $3 for age 60 and older, $3.50 for younger than 60. 

Transportation is available from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Felch Center


Meals served at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Wednesday.

Bingo after lunch on the first and third Wednesday of each month.

A congregate jigsaw puzzle is done daily.

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County, Wis.


Director: Tiffany White

Suggested donation for seniors older than 60 is $4 per meal. Residents younger than 60 must pay $7. Reservations and cancellations needed 48 hours in advance.

The ADRC can assist area seniors and those with disabilities with transportation Monday through Friday. Transportation reservation should be made with meal reservation.

Fence Center/Town Hall


Meal at noon Wednesdays only. Reservations are requested. Cribbage and cards are available.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall


Home-delivered meals are available as always. Meal is served at 11:30 a.m. at the center on Friday only. 

The meal site is temporarily closed Monday through Thursday due to a staffing shortage. 

Tipler Town Hall


Lunch served at noon on the second Thursday of the month.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora


Meal served at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday. Transportation arrangements can be made to and from the meal site.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska


Meal is at noon Monday through Friday. Suggested donation is $3 for age 60 and older and $7 for those younger than 60. Morning coffee is available daily.

Fifteen games of “fun bingo” are played each Tuesday and Friday, along with a 50-50 drawing.

Tuesday: Bingo, 12:45 p.m.

Wednesday: Cards played in the afternoon. Call ahead to see if a game will be going on.

Friday: Bingo, 12:45 p.m.

Monday through Friday: Walking in the gym, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. A treadmill also is available.

Enjoy friendly interaction with other crafters.

Iron River Center


Meals served 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; a $4 donation is encouraged from those 60 and older, and a $5 payment is required from those younger than 60. Thursday meal, 3:30 p.m. soup, 4 p.m. salad bar, with dinner at 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Home-delivered meals are available — call 906-774-2256 and speak to Christine Tramontine at ext. 235 or Stephen Hodgins at ext. 230.

Menu for the week of May 13:

Monday: Mushroom cheese burger, seasoned fries, California blend vegetables, fruit and milk.

Tuesday: Pizza, tossed salad, fruit and milk.

Wednesday: Sweet and sour chicken, rice, oriental vegetable roll, fruit and milk.

Thursday: Lasagna, wax beans, breadsticks, dessert and milk.

Saturday, May 18: Pancake breakfast, 8 to 11:30 a.m., $5.

Niagara Northwoods Senior Cafe and Center

Meal site manager: Corrie Maule, 715-251-1603

Senior center director: Jill Anderson, 715-251-4154

Noon meals served Monday through Thursday. Transportation is available to the meal site for those living in the Niagara, Wis., area. Any senior groups that would like to use the meal site as a meeting place are welcome — come for lunch and then stay for a meeting or social time. Wii games, cards, puzzles and board games are available to play. 

Those who have not been at the meal site/senior center are invited to give it a try. Those who haven’t been here in a while are encouraged to come back.

Norway Center

Director: Susie Slining


Monday through Thursday: Meals served at noon, with salad bar. Soup also is available at 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Milk, juice, bread, fruit, tea and coffee served daily. Meal donation is $5. Reservation for the meal should be made in advance.

Two special-themed meals take place each month on Tuesday, with bingo, prizes and a 50-50 drawing.

Two evening meals offered at 5 p.m. on the first Monday and third Wednesday of the month, with bingo, prizes and a 50-50.

Menu for the week of May 13:

Monday: Breaded pork chop, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots, soup and salad bar, fruit juice and dessert.

Tuesday: Fish patty on a bun, potato wedges, winter blend vegetables, soup and salad bar, fruit juice and dessert.

Wednesday: Noon meal — Chicken chop suey over rice, mixed vegetables, salad bar, fruit juice and dessert.

5 p.m. — Barbecue rib dinner, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables, soup and salad bar, fruit juice and dessert.

Thursday: Birthday Club — Ham, scalloped potatoes, green beans, soup and salad bar, fruit, juice and birthday cake.

Monday: Morning center board meeting at 10 a.m.

Wednesday: Blood pressure clinic, 11 a.m. to noon.

Wednesday: Bingo and prizes after supper.

Cards are played daily after the noon meal.

Craft and exercise classes: Mondays and Thursdays.

Ceramic and art classes: Wednesdays.

Note: File of Life packets available at the center.

Sagola Center


Meals: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 11:45 a.m. Cards: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Commodities every other month and quarterly commodities are every three months. A puzzle table is available to enjoy. Volunteers are always welcome. 


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