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Memories help us better relate to changing times

It occurred to me today that I have been writing this column every week now for six months. In searching for a topic for this week, I noticed how much of what I have already written contains personal memories or the memories of someone I have interviewed. I have written about childhood memories of my grandmother’s kitchen, and I have shared memories of neighborhoods in which I grew up along with my grandparent’s farm. I recalled humorous stories of my “survival jobs” in my early years of marriage. Most recently, after attending my 50th high school class reunion, I shared memories of growing up through the unrest of the 1960s.

I also interviewed and chronicled the memories shared by others. John Moddie shared his story of fighting, and subsequent capture, during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. And Arletta Johnson Mysembourg told her story of growing up Swedish in Kingsford.

Along with this weekly column, I update the activity calendars for the area senior living facilities. I have noticed how many of them schedule an organized time for reminiscing. It seems our memories hold a significant level of importance for us, and it made me wonder why. While we all have them and share them, do they have a deeper importance or therapeutic value? And is there any inherent value in remembering things that are not so pleasant? It turns out our memories provide us with important links to our past that help us to better understand our present and face the future without fear.

Author Patrick Morley said, “A man’s most innate need is his need to be significant, to make a difference, to find purpose and meaning.” Those who listen to our memories are like a mirror — reflecting and affirming our lives. This act of sharing helps us to feel good in so many ways. In retelling a story, we relive those happy days for ourselves. Our memories also help us to understand why we made the various choices that have led us to our present day lives. And sometimes they give us confidence to face the future. For example, my husband and I have enjoyed remembering our early years of marriage because no matter what challenge emerged in later years, we could always say, “Well, at least it was not as difficult as working third shift at the frozen foods plant, or flipping pizzas for the bar crowd until 3 a.m.”

While we all live in the present, we are part of a rich history that deserves to be shared and preserved so we can help ourselves and future generations relate past to present. I still remember some of the stories my grandmother shared about growing up on her family’s farm. One of my favorites was how, after working hard to build a new barn, one of her brother’s dreamed about it. We always laughed so hard when grandma remembered how her brother hollered in his sleep, “I have the barn stuck in my pocket, and I can’t get it out!” It also gave us a look into her past and helped us understand the roots of her hard-working ways. And it showed us that working hard brought results, whether they be a new barn, a pantry full of canned garden produce or something we may want for ourselves in the future. Lesson number one: if you want something, you work for it, and good things happen.

We all have memories, and the longer we live, the more time we have to build them. The professional term for remembering is “life review.” As Kristine Dwyer states in her article for Today’s Caregiver, “Life review offers a chance to re-examine one’s life, pursue remote memories, recall past events and accomplishments, and seek personal validation.” So, as long as we can remember, we know who we are because we know where we came from, and we can have confidence in the future.

Life review is an active process that can be very therapeutic as we get older because as we age, we begin to lose the very things that served to give us self-definition. We lose spouses, family, friends, careers and our homes — all those things and people who helped us know ourselves. As we age and lose our memories, however, we also lose the sense of who we are in this world. And that loss of self can be very frightening.

Alzheimer’s and dementia are two cruel thieves of memory that occur way too often in too many elderly people. I have watched dementia steal my mother’s memories and sense of self for about five years now. While it is sad for me, it is frightening for her. She wonders all the time — often as many as a dozen times during my one-hour visit — where she is going to sleep that night … in a room in which she has lived for the past seven years. I have watched her slowly retreat from the many social activities offered by Maryhill Manor, lose interest in television, lose her ability to read, refuse to eat and search for words to express her thoughts or to ask questions.

She no longer has connection to the woman she was who loved farm animals, sold homegrown vegetables door-to-door from her wagon as a child during the Depression, spent hours reading, graduated from business college early, lost her husband after five years of marriage, raised four children on her own, and ran a very busy office at Ripon College. She doesn’t remember all of her hard work and the influence her determination and stamina had on her children and, consequently, her grandchildren.

So, because I struggle to make our visits pleasant for her, I was relieved to have found this article on life review. It offers ways to communicate with loved ones like my mother so that her remaining days are as meaningful as possible. Here is what I learned.

— Ground my conversations not in my present but in her past, using triggers that stimulate all five senses. Memories of our car rides on the way to the farm, the old jukebox songs she taught us, stopping for ice cream cones, and going to hear symphonies at the college should all be talked about often, along with the many papers she typed for college students and the emphasis she always placed upon a good education. She did her job — ours was to do our homework.

— Review her photo album often and remember her jitterbug days and working years and all of the mischief we got into as kids. Bring familiar objects from her past. Prepare a “memory box” of them.

— Listen to the classical music she enjoys.

— Hold her hand often as we visit, because touch is very important.

The article also said to imagine the storehouse of one’s memories as a locked box, its contents accessible only with a key, and that key is hidden in the entanglement of dementia. It further suggests that perhaps through asking questions, a duplicate key can be made that allows the flow of silent experiences to come forward once again. Life review concentrates on early memories that remain vivid when recent events fade. It also allows a person to return to a time in their life when they were active, healthy and productive.

As my mother’s caregiver, I can help her now by reminding her of the specific good she has done in her life and how her positive example will resonate through generations of family members to come. We struggled as a single-parent family in the “Ozzie and Harriet” days of the 1950s, but we did not suffer thanks to my mother’s dedication to us and the vision she had of our futures long before any of us could imagine them for ourselves.

SENIOR LIVING

FACILITIES

Freeman

Kingsford

Scenes and Sounds, 11:30 a.m. Sunday through Saturday.

Sunday: Ring toss, 1 p.m.; dunking donuts, 2 p.m.; church, 2:15 p.m.

Monday: Room visits, 10 a.m.; brouhaha, 11 a.m.; library cart, 1:30 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; ice cream social, 3 p.m.

Tuesday: Crafts & gardening, 10:30 a.m.; reminisce, 1:15 p.m.; Kentucky Derby, 2 p.m.

Wednesday: Room visits, 10 a.m.; rosary, 10:30 a.m.; room visits, 1 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; movie and popcorn, 3 p.m.

Thursday: Reading buddy, 11 a.m.; Bible study, 1:15 p.m.; bingo with Carol, 2 p.m.; afternoon visitor, 3:30 p.m.; “Lawrence Welk,” 4:30 p.m.

Friday: What’s cooking? 11 a.m.; 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.; oldies but goodies, 1 pm; bingo, 2 p.m.; evening news, 6 p.m.

Iron County 

Medical Facility

Crystal Falls

Sunday: One-to-One church visitors, 8:30 – 11 a.m.; room visits, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.; hangman, 10 a.m.; afternoon matinee with popcorn, 1:30 p.m.; Church of Christ, 3 p.m.

Monday: Crafts, 9 – 10:30 a.m.; resident council, 10:30 a.m.; exercise, 11 a.m.; room visits, 1 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; Sunshine Club, 2:30 p.m.; bonfire, 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday: Book club, 10 a.m.; prayer, 10 a.m.; mystery ride, 1 p.m.; travel film, 1:30 p.m.; ventriloquist show, 2 p.m.; western movie 6 p.m.

Wednesday: Community breakfast, 9 a.m.; storytelling, 10:30 a.m.; exercise, 11 a.m.; pass the prize, 2 p.m.; night bingo, 6 p.m.

Thursday: Puzzler, 9:30 a.m.; bowling, 10 a.m..; Bible study, 1 p.m.; wildlife film, 1:30 p.m.; United Lutheran, 2 p.m.; happy hour, 2:30 p.m.

Friday: Crafts, 9 to 10:30 a.m.; exercise, 11 a.m.; mystery ride, 1 p.m.; room visits, 1 p.m.; “To Tell the Truth,” 2 p.m.; drama movie, 6 p.m.

Saturday: Puzzler/scavenger hunt, 10 a.m.; geri-gym, 11 p.m.; intergenerational social hour, 2 p.m.

ManorCare

Kingsford

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

Exercise: 10 a.m. Sunday and Monday, Wednesday thru Saturday.

Movie: 10:45 a.m. Sunday thru Tuesday & Thursday thru Saturday and 3:15 p.m. Monday thru Saturday.

Popcorn Day: every Friday

Sunday: Just jokes, 10:15 a.m.; company’s coming room visits/outdoors, 1:30 p.m.; Protestant church, 3 p.m.

Monday: Did you know?, 10:15 am.; bingo, 2 p.m.; pokeno, 5:45 p.m.

Tuesday: Singing with Cindy, 10 a.m.; Lutheran church, 2 p.m.; movie and manicure, 5:45 p.m.

Wednesday: Table talk, 10:15 a.m.; Manor Care annual picnic, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Golden Throats music, 2 p.m.; flip five, 5:45 p.m.

Thursday: Crosswords, 10:15 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; crazy for cards, 5:45 p.m.

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

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.; help your neighbor, 10:15 a.m.; music bingo, 1:30 p.m.; Protestant service, 2:30 p.m.; Christian fellowship, 5:30 p.m.

Monday: History of Elvis, 10:15 a.m.; jokereno, 2 p.m.

Tuesday: Resident council, 10:15 a.m.; prayer shawl, 1 p.m.; Elvis show with Jan & Gino, 2 p.m.; Yahtzee, 6:15 p.m.

Wednesday: Protestant service, 9 a.m.; short stories, 10:15 a.m.: jokereno, 2 p.m.; Chaplet of Divine Mercy, 3 p.m.; campfire/ Ray & Mindy 6:15 p.m.

Thursday: Catholic Mass, 9 a.m.; Scattegories, 10:15 a.m.; courtyard social, 2 p.m.; Whammo, 6:15 p.m.; music in the park – the Steenos, 6:30 p.m.

Friday: Ball toss, 10:15 a.m.; Elvis Presley trivia, 10:30 a.m.; happy hour with Ray & Mindy, 2 p.m.

Saturday: Crafts, 10:15 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; pamper and polish, 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 Chris & Larry, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Wednesday: Catholic Mass, 2 p.m., refreshments, 3 p.m. 

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

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

Saturday: Movie and popcorn, 2 p.m.

Florence Health Services

Florence, Wis.

Morning news, 6 a.m. daily.

Beauty Shop open Tuesday and Thursday

Sunday: Bingo, 10 a.m.; movie and popcorn, 2 p.m.; reminisce, 6 p.m.

Monday: Bingo, 10 a.m.; music with Poppa Hoot & Patti, 2 p.m.

Tuesday: Music with Stephen Orester, 10 a.m.; phase 10 cards, 2 p.m.; social hour, 3 p.m.

Wednesday: Manicures, 10 a.m.; music with Jan & Gino, 2 p.m.; room visits, 3 p.m.

Thursday: Pastor Jason, 10 a.m.; horseshoe races, 2 p.m.; trivia, 6 p.m.

Friday: Catholic church service, 10 a.m.; shuffle board, 2 p.m.; flippo, 6 p.m.

Saturday: Bingo, 10 a.m.; getting to know you, 2 p.m.

Pinecrest Medical Care Facility

Powers

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: Outside social, 10 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; worship and communion service, 1:30 p.m.; rosary (second), 2:30 p.m.; bean bag toss, 3:30 p.m.; checkers, 6 p.m.

Tuesday: Fair Outing – All day.

Wednesday: Outside social, 10 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; Jim Clement, 2 p.m.; one-to-one visits, 6 p.m.

Thursday: Outside social, 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.; bunco, 2 p.m.; social circle, 3:30 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.

SENIOR CENTERS

Note: All centers ask for 24-hour advanced reservations for lunch. Those who have meals delivered who will not be home should notify the center.

Alpha-Mastodon Center

906-875-3315

Meal at noon every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Amasa Center

906-822-7284

Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Lunch at noon.

Bingo on Tuesdays.

Free meal drawing on Thursdays.

Breen Center

906-774-5110

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. 

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.

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

906-875-6709

The center is not just for seniors – bring a friend!

Suggested meal donations: $5 for age 60 and older; $6 if 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: 4:30 p.m., soup and salad bar; 5 p.m., dinner

All dinners include the soup and salad bar, homemade dessert, tea, coffee and milk

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

Menu for the week of Aug. 12:

Monday: Meat loaf, baked potatoes, veggies;

Tuesday: Pork stir fry, fried rice;

Wednesday: Hot turkey sandwiches, mashed potato, vegetables.

Crystal Lake Center

906-774-5888

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, 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.

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, and 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, and $3.50 for younger than 60. 

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

Felch Center

906-246-3559

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.

715-528-4890

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.

Menu for the week of Aug. 12:

Monday: Crispy chicken, potato salad, green beans, pears;

Tuesday: Cheeseburger on a bun with lettuce and tomato, baked beans, tater tots, fruit;

Wednesday: Country-style ribs, sauerkraut, baked sweet potato, green beans, brownies;

Thursday: Swiss steak, scalloped potatoes, broccoli, plums;

Friday: Beef noodle casserole, vegetable medley, dark green salad, fruit;

Other assistance includes: information on aging, benefits specialist, and caregiver support.

Fence Center/Town Hall

715-336-2980 — RSVP for meal at 855-528-2372

Meal at noon Wednesdays only – menu under the Florence Center listing. Reservations are requested. Cribbage and cards are available.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall

RSVP for meal at 715-528-4261

Home-delivered meals are available as always. Meal is served at 11:30 a.m. at this center Monday thru Thursday. 

Menu for the week of Aug. 12: 

Monday: Brat on a bun, sauerkraut, macaroni and cheese, three-bean salad, pears;

Tuesday: Baked fish, baked sweet potato, cauliflower, fruit;

Wednesday: Porcupine meatballs, mashed potatoes, beets, watermelon;

Thursday: Cooks Choice – entrée, dark green veggie, fruit;

Friday: Beef stew with vegetables, biscuits, fruit cocktail.

Tipler Town Hall

715-674-2320 – RSVP for meals.

Serving lunch at noon on the second Thursday of the month – menu under Florence Center.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora

715-589-4491 – RSVP for meals

Meal is served at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday – menu under Florence Center. Transportation arrangements can be made for the meal site.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska

906-498-7735

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.

Iron River Center

906-265-6134

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 at ext. 230.

Menu for the week of Aug. 12:

Monday: Pizza, cottage cheese, fruit, milk;

Tuesday: Chicken breast sandwich, tater tots, California blend vegetables;

Wednesday: Philly steak sandwich, spaghetti salad, fruit and milk;

Thursday: Beef stroganoff, noodles, green beans, roll, dessert, milk.

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. Senior groups who would like to use the meal site as a meeting place are welcome — join us for lunch and then stay for a meeting or social time. Wii games, cards, puzzles and board games are available to play. 

Norway Center

Director: Susie Slining

906-563-8716

Monday through Thursday: Meals served at noon, with salad bar. Soup also is available at 11 a.m. on 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 drawing.

Tuesday: CSFP (Green Card) Food Distribution from 8:30 to 9 a.m. in Old Northland Building

Menu for the week of Aug.12:

Monday: Ham and cheese slider, stewed tomatoes, salad bar, fruit, juice, dessert;

Tuesday: Meat loaf, baked potato, winter blend veggies, soup and salad bar, fruit, juice, dessert;

Wednesday: Chicken Caesar wrap, fries, emperor blend veggies, salad bar, fruit, juice, dessert;

Thursday: Birthday Club – Italian sausage roll-up, broccoli, garlic bread, soup and salad bar, birthday cake;

Craft and exercise classes: Mondays and Thursdays.

Ceramic and art classes: Wednesdays.

Note: File of Life packets available at the center.

Sagola Center

906-542-3273

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.

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