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5 Ways to Combat Loneliness in Seniors

We all experience loneliness at some point in our lives, but as we age we have an increased risk of experiencing loneliness. In fact, an estimated 13.8 million seniors live alone, according to a report by the Administration for Community Living’s Administration on Aging of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Chronic loneliness is the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact. As an older adult, this can increase your risk of dementia by 50 percent.

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What Contributes to Senior Loneliness and Isolation?

Senior isolation is unfortunately a common occurrence. Many older adults live at home alone, often after the loss of a loved one. Reduced mobility or lack of physical exercise can also cause seniors to become housebound or get out less. Without frequent visits from family or friends, feelings of isolation can sink in and keep you from living your fullest, most vibrant life.

How To Reduce Senior Loneliness and Build Genuine Connections

The “epidemic of loneliness” is considered a public health concern. In May, a Surgeon General Advisory highlighted the dangers of loneliness, especially senior loneliness.

“Our epidemic of loneliness and isolation has been an underappreciated public health crisis that has harmed individual and societal health. Our relationships are a source of healing and well-being hiding in plain sight – one that can help us live healthier, more fulfilled, and more productive lives,” said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy in the advisory.

Here’s the most important thing to remember: you’re not alone. Your neighbor down the street may be having those same feelings of loneliness and isolation, just waiting for someone to knock on their door and say hello. Building genuine, human connections is one of the most powerful ways to overcome loneliness. Here are five ways to do just that and find joy, purpose and new friendships later in life.

1. Reduce isolation by getting to know your neighbors

Putting yourself out there to meet people in your community isn’t easy, but the benefits can be life changing. Staying connected with your neighbors doesn’t require any grand gestures, either. The report also discovered that performing small acts of kindness like offering advice to new neighbors, helping bring in groceries or just waving hello as you walk by can reduce the likelihood of feeling lonely.

2. Fight loneliness by getting involved in the community

Everyone has unique skills and talents they can offer their community. Maybe it’s a green thumb, an artistic side or simply a passion for pitching in wherever help is needed. Volunteering is a great way to do just that while also making new friends. Search online or ask a neighbor about volunteering opportunities in your community like tending to local gardens, tutoring kids after school or helping put together care packages for those in need.

3. Prevent senior isolation by getting and staying active

It’s no secret that keeping your mind and body active has major health benefits for older adults, but if done in a group, it’s also one of the most effective ways to fight loneliness. Finding the motivation to get and stay active, though, isn’t easy. The thing to remember is, having an active senior lifestyle doesn’t mean you need to hit the gym and work up a sweat every day. Activities as simple, easy and fun as joining a neighborhood walking group or, if immobility is an issue, working on a puzzle with a friend can help improve your overall well being while also keeping you connected to others.

4. Feeling lonely? Ask for help

Sometimes the hardest thing to do when we’re feeling lonely is to tell someone. It can feel like you’re being a burden. Or maybe you were raised to rely on yourself, not others. For those that bravely take that first step toward seeking help, though, there are all sorts of great resources available that can help you cope. The Social Isolation and Loneliness Outreach Toolkit from the National Institute on Aging and Connect 2Tools from AARP are good places to start. If you’re experiencing symptoms of senior depression alongside feelings of loneliness—like loss of appetite or lack of energy—also consider contacting a mental health professional who can offer guidance and coping strategies.

5. Move into a senior living community

It’s only natural that living alone can lead to feelings of loneliness, especially if you have lost a spouse. The desire to maintain independence and remain at home as you age is common amongst older adults, but isolation can be a dangerous side effect.

That’s where senior living communities come in. Life in a senior living community not only promotes your health and wellness, but also encourages socialization. With a lifestyle that provides you with more choices and more comfort, you have more time to pursue your passions. Senior living communities give you opportunities to know your neighbors, get involved, and stay active.

The Five Star Difference: Goodbye senior loneliness, hello life

At Five Star, helping our residents find joy, purpose and friends they can call family is our mission. Our innovative LifeStyle360 wellness program is designed to connect residents and combat loneliness by offering enriching and engaging activities for residents. Don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what one resident had to say about how moving into a Five Star community helped her overcome her loneliness and live life to her fullest.

“This has been a huge blessing in my life. I found myself being very lonely and not eating well while living alone. My friends and family suggested I take a look at [Five Star] and it has been the best decision. I have made so many friends. I’ve gotten healthier with all the dining options. I go to many activities, especially Bible study. Anything I need they take care of. The community is so clean and inviting. I never want to leave here and wish I had moved sooner.”

To learn more about how life at Five Star Senior Living is can be the antidote to senior loneliness and isolation, contact one of our senior living experts or find a Five Star Senior Living community near you.

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Common Mental Health Issue for Older Adults

Mental health in older adults – a common problem commonly left untreated

As we age, our lives are filled with life changing experiences that can affect our mental health, like being diagnosed with a serious illness or coping with the loss of a loved one. Some people learn to live with these changes. For others it can be challenging and create feelings of isolation and depression.

Mental health is especially important for older adults as they experience a lower rate of help for mental health conditions. According to the World Health Organization, over 20 percent of adults aged 60 and over suffer from mental health issues—most commonly depression, dementia, and anxiety.

Mental health in older adults is often under-identified by both older adults and their health care providers. The stigma of mental health conditions can also make people reluctant to seek help when they need it.

It’s vital to close this gap in mental health care for older adults and to raise awareness. Here are several ways to recognize what affects mental health in older adults, common symptoms and issues, and how to get help when you need it.

Common life changes that affect senior mental health

Seniors can experience common mental health issues like depression and anxiety, but are also more likely to experience mental health issues more common later in life like declining cognitive abilities. Here is a list of common life changes that seniors experience and can affect their mental health.


Losing a family member or friend is one of the most difficult events someone can go through. As people age, they are more likely to experience the loss of a loved one. Everyone grieves differently. They may cry, be angry, isolate themselves or feel empty and drained.

Serious illness or injury

Whether it’s an illness or an injury, a serious diagnosis can put an older adult’s mental health at serious risk. Older people are more likely to receive such a diagnosis as they age like reduced mobility, chronic pain, and terminal illness. A person’s mental health has a direct impact on their physical health.

Financial changes

When someone retires they may experience a drop in their regular financial status and this can create stress in a person’s life. Seniors often have to live on a tighter budget and their daily lives might be disrupted. These major changes can cause a lot of complicated emotions which can lead to mental health issues.

Moving to a new home

After years of filling a home with memories and warmth it can be hard to leave. Stressors of leaving due to financial issues, retirement, or because of physical needs can all add up to affect an older adult’s mental health.

Elder abuse

Seniors can experience abuse through a person’s deliberate acts or negligence. This can take many forms such as physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Abuse can have an immediate and detrimental effect on a senior’s mental health and wellbeing.

The most common senior mental health issues and their symptoms


One of the most common mental health issues in seniors, depression is a persistently miserable mood or loss of interest in activities that once brought joy. Symptoms are wide-ranging, but can include apathy, difficulty getting out of bed, trouble sleeping, social isolation, and hopelessness. If left untreated, depression can lead to a poor diet and thoughts of suicide.


Commonly misattributed as a disease, dementia is a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, and make decisions to the point where it interferes with an older adult’s ability to do everyday activities. Symptoms of dementia include cognitive and mental decline, confusion, personality changes, memory loss, and jumbled speech. People experiencing dementia are often unable to live alone as they can not before activities of daily living.


A common reaction to increased stress, anxiety is the feeling of fear, dread, or apprehension. It is often a normal emotion when faced with a major decision, test, or event, but can be an indicator of an underlying disease if feelings are all-consuming and interfere with daily living.

Bipolar disorder

Believed to be caused by a combination of genetics, environment, and brain structure, bipolar disorder, bipolar disorder can cause manic episodes of high energy that last days followed by depressive episodes of low energy and low motivation. Episodes can also be associated with suicidal thoughts.

Why mental illness in older adults goes untreated

Mental illness in older adults can go untreated for a number of reasons. People with mental health issues often don’t seek treatment due to stigma and fears of being treated differently leading to shame. Another reason older adults can go untreated for mental health illnesses is the misconception that depression and anxiety are regular signs of aging, when, in fact, they are just as serious for older adults. Ageism in healthcare can also lead to over-treatment and under-treatment of seniors.

How to get help for senior mental health issues

The mental health of older adults can be improved by promoting active and healthy lifestyles. At Five Star Senior Living communities offer residents a chance to meet other seniors, participate in enriching programs, and reimagine aging. Plus, with our fitness and rehabilitation partner, Ageility, physical wellness can help support emotional wellbeing.

Five Star team members are always there to support your needs, both big and small. We offer the highest level of service so there’s always an activity to enjoy or an event to attend for a chance to find love and connection, discover a community near you today.

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Depression in Older Adults – Symptoms, Risks, & How to Get Help

Having a bad day or feeling down once in a while is a normal part of life, but having these same feelings day in and day out is usually a sign of something worse—depression. In older adults, depression is not just being melancholy, having “the holiday blues”, or being upset at the loss of a loved one. It’s a very real, but treatable, medical condition.

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Senior depression is not a normal part of aging, but older adults are at higher risk for experiencing depression. According to the Centers for Disease Control, depression in seniors can often be misdiagnosed due to healthcare providers mistaking depression symptoms as a natural reaction to illness or other life changes.

While seniors are at higher risk for depression, the vast majority of seniors are not depressed. Additionally most seniors see improvements in their symptoms when treated with antidepressant drugs, therapy, or both.

Here are some tips to recognize depression in older adults and how to get help:

Symptoms of Depression in Older Adults

It isn’t always easy to recognize the signs of depression in older adults— you may notice a plate of empty food or a loss of interest in hobbies that were once pleasurable. One of the biggest tell-tale signs of depression is prolonged feelings of sadness or anxiety that can last for weeks. Older adults with depression may also be experiencing:

  • Feelings of guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, sadness, or pessimism
  • A lack or loss of interest in activities that once brought pleasure
  • Decreased energy
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts

Common Causes of Depression in the Elderly

The exact causes of senior depression are unknown, but experts believe it may be caused by a combination of factors in a person’s life. While it’s important to know the symptoms of depression in older adults, it’s just as important to know what can put someone at risk for experiencing depression. Each person is different, but here is a list of potential factors that can contribute to depression in older adults:


As adults age, their worlds can feel increasingly isolating. Partners and loved ones can pass away; neighbors, friends, and family may move; and the ability to physically leave home may become more difficult.

Medical issues

Older adults may struggle after a medical procedure or illness. A surgery that doesn’t allow a person to be as active as they once were or an illness like cancer, stroke, or chronic can contribute to feelings of helplessness.

Traumatic or stressful events

Major traumatic events in a person’s life can happen when they’re least expecting it. Seniors can be victims of abuse, experience the death of a loved one, or have financial problems that can all affect their mental state.

Using alcohol or drugs

Certain medications can cause changes in a person’s behavior and mentality. It’s always best to talk to your doctor about how your medications are affecting you or a loved one. Alcohol consumption can also lead to similar emotional changes.

How to Help Seniors with Depression

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to help and support seniors with depression. If you are concerned about a loved one who may be experiencing depression here is a list of ways you can support them:

Talk it out

Communication is key. Having a one-on-one conversation with a loved one is one of the best ways to know what’s going on with them. Sometimes just venting can help an older adult, other times you may find they need help, but are struggling to ask for it. Either way take some time to discuss what is happening in their life.

Frequent check-ins

Moving to a senior living community is a major change for an older adult. One way to make them feel more at home is by making frequent visits or phone calls. Set up a schedule and carve out time to let your family member know you’re there for them. Simple questions like “how are you doing?” and “what did you do today?” can go a long way.

Schedule activities

If you’re able to visit in-person, spend time playing games, going for walks, or venturing out into the local town. Set up an activity like going to a museum, a new restaurant, or seeing other friends and family to give the older adult in your life an event to look forward to.

Accompany them to see a health care provider

Approach this subject delicately, as your family member may be hesitant to seek help. By offering to join an older adult to an appointment, you can show that they’re not alone no matter what they’re going through. This can also be an important step for your loved one to be diagnosed and, if needed, treated.

The Benefits of Finding a Community

Moving to a senior living community can also have numerous benefits for an older adult with depression. Communities like Five Star Senior Living offer a welcoming atmosphere that brings older adults together to make new connections and stay active with a suite of programs and activities.

AlerisLife and Five Star Senior Living communities believe a person’s quality of life is ageless. At Five Star Senior Living communities, we offer a wide range of senior living options built with a high level of service and sense of community.

Contact us to find a senior living community near you.

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The Top 5 Best Dogs for Seniors

Dogs make great companions for seniors. With their fun, loyal, and cute personalities, dogs are a joy to share a home with and provide many health and emotional benefits to their owners like lowering blood pressure while raising “feel-good” serotonin chemicals in the brain. Plus, being a pet parent in retirement provides plenty of perks for the dog by having an owner with a more flexible schedule and the ability to be at home most of the day. But with so many different dog breeds to choose from, how can you know which dog is best for older adults?

With so many dog breeds that come in all shapes and sizes it can be a challenge—and important—to know which dog is the best dog for you and your living situation. Luckily, certain dog breeds have traits that fit perfectly alongside an older adult’s golden years.

Overall, the best dog breeds for seniors have lower energy levels and are smaller in size. This is especially true for seniors that may have downsized their lifestyles to live in a home at a senior living community. To find out the best dog for your lifestyle we’ve compiled our top picks for the best dogs for seniors:

The 5 Best Dogs for Older Adults

Pugs — The Best Dog for a Quiet Retirement

An ancient dog breed once favored by Chinese Emperors, a pug will leave you feeling like royalty when it’s by your side. Pugs are small dogs that weigh between 14 to 18 pounds, can live for up to 15 years, and have either light brown or black fur. Known for their loyal and loving temperaments, pugs are an easy dog to take care of and require no special grooming. Pugs are great for older adults because they don’t need a lot of exercise, love to cuddle on the couch, are easy-going, and gentle. This dog is great for someone who likes to relax at home and enjoy a quiet retirement.

Greyhound — Best Dog for Older Adults Who Love Big Dogs

Being the fastest dog breed by a country mile, greyhounds may not be the first dog you think of when it comes to companions for older adults. Greyhounds are a large breed that can weigh up to 70 pounds and live up to 13 years. Greyhounds come in a variety of colors such as tan, brown, black, and red. Ironically, gray is the rarest greyhound color and is referred to as “blue.” While their size and racetrack reputations are no joke, greyhounds are one of the most calm and gentle breeds around. They are not the high energy dogs many think they are. A greyhound is a great dog for older adults because they enjoy walks as much as they enjoy lounging on the couch. This dog is perfect if you want a breed that is large but easy to handle.

Miniature Schnauzer — Best Dog for Active Seniors

The Miniature Schnauzer is a German breed of small dog bred by farmers. The breed can weigh up to 20 pounds and live for up to 15 years. The breed comes in black, salt and pepper, black and silver, and in rare instances red. With a strong, outgoing, and energetic personality, miniature schnauzers are great for a senior who is more active and would enjoy frequent walks or trips to the park. As an added plus, this breed is low-shedding and hypoallergenic, but they have a double coat of fur which requires regular brushing or professional grooming.

French Bulldog — Best Dog for Seniors Who Love to Have Guests

Cute, humorous, curious, and playful, the French bulldog hits all the marks when it comes to a great canine companion for older adults. This breed is small, but can weigh up to 28 pounds and live for up to 12 years. Equipped with distinct bat-like ears and an even disposition, seniors looking for a dog that will entertain them as well as their friends and family should look no further. Their adaptability and easy trainability make them a perfect fit into any living situation.

Pomeranian — Best Dog for Apartment Living

At three to seven pounds, the fluffy Pomeranian is an ideal dog for older adults who live in more compact quarters. These puffball pets are loveable, sweet, and make for the perfect dog to sit in your lap. Pomeranians are also known for their long life spans which are up to 16 years. Seniors who enjoy grooming their dog will find joy in brushing the Pomeranian’s furry coat. An all-around adaptable dog, this breed is active, but can be exercised with both indoor play and outdoor walks. Highly intelligent, the Pomeranian will master tricks and commands before your eyes with ease.

The all-around best dog for seniors

For older adults looking for one breed that checks just about every box, the pug is our number one pick. With its relaxed temperament, charming looks, and easy trainability, this breed will make a great addition to any senior’s home. Want to go for a walk in the morning? Want to relax on the sofa and watch a movie? The pug can do it all at your pace.

Finding a Dog-Friendly Senior Living Community

If you live at a senior living community, make sure to check if pets are allowed. At Five Star, we welcome your pet with open arms!

Many of our pet-friendly communities offer trails and other green spaces for you to enjoy the fresh air with your furry friend. Plus, if you’re out on a community excursion or outing, we allow dog walkers to access our buildings during the day.

Love dogs, but not ready to make the full commitment? We’ve got you covered! Five Star’s exclusive Lifestyle360 programming includes pet therapy activities so you can enjoy cuddling with a therapy dog to add a little extra joy in your life.

Enjoy Retirement With Man’s Best Friend at Five Star Senior Living

Studies show that spending quality time with animals can be good for your health by lowering blood pressure and adding joy and purpose to each day. Five Star is reimagining aging for older adults. With senior living communities in 28 states, Five Star offers a quality of life that’s ageless.

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AlerisLife’s Five Star Senior Living and MIT AgeLab announce OMEGA scholarship recipients

Five students from across the country were each awarded $5,000 toward their college tuition as part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab’s OMEGA scholarship, an annual program sponsored by Five Star Senior Living, a division of AlerisLife.

What is the MIT OMEGA Scholarship?

The OMEGA scholarship—which stands for Opportunities for Multigenerational Exchange, Growth, and Action—recognizes students for their impeccable leadership efforts in their local schools and communities to foster intergenerational connections. Additionally, each of the five scholarship recipients will receive an extra $1,000 to support their programs.

2022 OMEGA Scholarship Winners

Through their efforts, each scholarship recipient has made a positive impact on older adults, some working directly with Five Star Senior Living communities. The 2022 OMEGA scholarship winners are:

Maya Lall, senior, Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Md. Maya founded and serves as executive director of “Students Supporting Seniors,” which provides older adults with technology support through video demonstrations, virtual and in-person troubleshooting, and technology courses at local senior living communities, including Five Star Premier Residences of Chevy Chase.

Cora Funk, senior, Valor Collegiate Academy, Nashville, Tenn. After attending a 2020 OMEGA Summit at Five Star’s Fieldstone Place, Cora developed “Students Connecting with Seniors,” a club connecting local high school students with older adults in the Nashville community. SCS primarily partners with FiftyForward, a local nonprofit organization.

Maya Joshi, senior, Walter Payton College Preparatory High School, Chicago, Ill. Maya is the president and founder of a chapter-based nonprofit “Lifting Hearts with the Arts,” which connects older adults and youth for arts-based one-on-one activities as well as group programming including trivia, art lessons, and tai chi.
Steven Yang, senior, Wayzata High School in Plymouth, Minn. Steven is founder and president of “Zenith,” which trains high school student volunteers to teach tai chi classes in local residential and assisted living communities.

Michael Wilson, now a student at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre Haute, Ind. Michael coordinated a local chapter of the Arizona Old Time Fiddlers Association. His program, “Bridging the Gap through Music” fosters intergenerational interactions through acoustic music jams and performances. He is also a lead speaker, singer, and mandolin player in an intergenerational band “Six Gal ‘n Hat,” which often plays music for older adults in local events.

Creating opportunities for Students and Seniors

Sponsoring the OMEGA scholarship is one of the many ways AlerisLife and Five Star continue to provide services to the lives of older adults.

“At AlerisLife, and at each of our Five Star communities, our mission is to enrich and inspire the journey of life, one experience at a time,” said Zehra Abid-Wood, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Transformation at AlerisLife. “This exceptional group of students has displayed great empathy, respect, and leadership by spearheading initiatives in their communities to better the day-to-day lives of older adults. Their innovation and commitment to building intergenerational friendships is admirable and consistent with our company’s mission and values. We are proud to support the MIT AgeLab’s OMEGA scholarship awards program and look forward to following each of these students’ continued success.”

Explore Senior Living Options with Five Star

AlerisLife and Five Star communities believe a person’s quality of life is ageless. Our Five Star senior living communities offer a wide range of senior living options built with a high level of service, sense of community, and true independence.

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Fran Healy, WWII Veteran Shares His Story

Most people can’t tell you they landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day, fought at the Battle of the Bulge, or earned a Bronze Star for their courage during World War II. Cornelius Francis Healy isn’t most people.

Fran, as he’s more commonly known, is 101 years and six months old. He spoke about his life from his home at The Gables at Winchester, a Five Star senior living community in Winchester, Mass.

A call to duty

Fran Healy grew up in North Cambridge, Mass. or—as he puts it— “Tip O’Neill country,” referring to Thomas O’Neill, the former Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives who served during the Carter and Reagan administrations.

Fran was drafted into the war toward the end of 1942, but he almost never left Massachusetts. He was allowed an exemption as the head of his family, helping support his widowed mother and two younger sisters. But feeling duty-bound to his country, Fran decided to enlist.

After his training, he was put on a convoy headed for England.

“The first day I remember it was only one or two ships, the next day a couple more, and about the third day we had about a dozen,” Fran said. “We were surrounded by U.S. destroyers who could drop it on the German submarines if they spotted them.”

While in England, Fran’s unit was attached to the Army’s 29th Infantry Division, known as the “Blue and Gray Division” for its blue and gray service badge. The unit was to become part of the largest seaborne invasion in history.

“They sent all these troops down to England, these fellows thought they were going to get 30 days off, but they were reassigned,” Fran said. “They were reassigned all right.”

The invasion

In their preparations for D-Day, Fran’s Major informed his unit they would be part of a provisional machine gun group after a large shipment of brand-new, heavy-duty half-track vehicles with mounted .50 caliber machine guns did not arrive in time for the invasion.

Fran spent the two nights before the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion with no sleep, one while he waited to board a ship and the other while he crossed the English Channel. With bad weather overhead, Fran and his unit landed on Omaha Beach. By the time he stepped foot on the sand, the German defenses had been silenced and the fighting moved inland.

“There was no front line, everyone was out of position. The 82nd Airborne, none of them landed where they were supposed to,” he said. “It took a day or two for everyone to get back to their units to form a front line.”

Despite the extensive planning that went into D-Day, Allied troops were caught off guard by French hedgerow country, mounds of earth topped with branches and shrubs. These property markers stalled tanks and slowed the Allied advance.

Fran and his unit were headed to the French crossroads town of Saint-Lô. Due to the dense hedgerows, the 20-mile journey took them six weeks to hack and fight through. As U.S. soldiers moved inland, they were bombarded with German 88mm anti-tank artillery guns.

“It was awful,” Fran said.

Finding the courage

At one point during the trek, a shell exploded between Fran and another soldier. Fran wasn’t hurt, but his companion was hit with shrapnel.

“Here I am with a guy bleeding pretty badly, no first aid handy, but I spotted a rogue convoy about 900 feet away. So, I picked him up, half dragged him, half walked him,” Fran said. The convoy said medics would arrive in five minutes, so Fran waited and got his companion on a truck even as artillery shells blasted all around them.

After weeks of battling through hedgerows, Fran and his unit arrived at a hill on the outskirts of Saint-Lô. Fran volunteered to join a patrol to warn another unit of an impending artillery attack from the Germans. The volunteer patrol navigated the downhill terrain at night and delivered their message but were exposed by the sunrise on the way back. Under heavy machine gun fire from the Germans, Fran made it back to his unit in one piece.

Fran’s courageous act with the volunteer patrol earned him a Bronze Star, awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces for heroic achievement in a combat zone.

Once he reached Saint Lô, Fran’s unit pushed onward to pursue the Germans. He arrived in Versailles when Paris was liberated at the end of August. “We spent about a day or two there in Paris. You’d think the war was over the way they celebrated,” he said. “It was for them.”

The final push

The unit pushed toward Belgium over the next four months and there were even a few weeks of relative quiet that included a Thanksgiving dinner. But “all hell broke loose” on Dec. 16, 1944, when the Germans launched their last major offensive campaign on the Western front known as the Battle of the Bulge.

“The weather was terrible. The clouds were hanging so low. It was snowing all the time for that whole week,” Fran said.

After about a week of fighting, the skies began to clear and air support arrived. Even after several decades, Fran’s fondness for the P-51 Mustang hasn’t faded. After Christmas, Fran witnessed his first dogfight, a close-range fighter aircraft battle.

“We were watching them up in the sky and one fellow was watching with a pair of binoculars and said, ‘hey there’s a plane up there with no propeller.’” That plan turned out to be the German Messerschmitt Me 262, the world’s first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft.

Life after the war

Fran rode across the Rhine River into Germany as the war came to a close. When his unit came to the Elbe River in April of 1945, the Allies were planning how to divide up post-war Germany.

Fran ended his service by tallying points that soldiers earned toward discharge. He was eligible in September of 1945. Life back at home was difficult.

“When I came back home it was frustrating. I felt lost, I didn’t feel comfortable anymore. My family walked on eggshells and we didn’t know what to talk about,” he said. “It took me a long time.”

Fran eventually became a licensed civil engineer for Massachusetts and worked on the construction of all the major highways. He married Margaret “Peggy” Cummings, with whom he had corresponded with through the war. The couple raised three sons, Paul, Don, and Kevin. Peggy died in 1986 and Fran never remarried.

A home with The Gables at Winchester Senior Living Community

As a widow, Fran lived on his own for nearly 40 years. He moved into assisted living at The Gables three years ago and says it’s the best decision he’s ever made, in fact. He wishes he had moved in a lot sooner.

“Everyone takes such good care of me here,” he said.

In his free time, Fran loves to keep active and exercises three times a week. Each night he has dinner with the same three ladies he met on his second day after moving in.

“It’s great here,” he said. “Best thing that ever happened to me.”

Fran never discussed his experience during the war until he was in his 80’s. His apartment at The Gables is decorated with accolades, letters from Presidents, invitations, press coverage, and other wartime recognition. Plus, he’s got plenty of objects of grandfatherly and great grandfatherly love from his four grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

On Fran’s 100th birthday, The Gables held a parade outfront of their building with friends, family, other veterans, firefighters, police, and more. As a Five Star community always committed to its residents, The Gables is installing a flagpole near its main entrance and will hold a special Veterans Day ceremony to celebrate its arrival.

“I think about it every day,” Fran said of his time in the war. “It never goes away. Sometimes different events come back during the day. 78 years ago, but like it was yesterday.”

Assisted living at Five Star can open a world of possibilities for you or your loved one. Trade in household chores and errands for stress-free living and enhanced independence. Find out what assisted living—and all our other living options—are all about.

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A lifetime of love

Seventy years ago Dwight D. Eisenhower won the U.S. presidential election, the average cost of a house was $9,000, and Don and Charlene Hietman got married. The Heitman’s, who are in their late 80s, celebrated their 70th anniversary last month at their home at Five Star Residences of Dayton Place in Denver, Colo.

The celebration

The couple celebrated their seven decades together by taking a limousine with their three adult sons and their wives to an Italian restaurant.

“I thought it was a delivery truck,” Don said of the limousine. “When you got inside of it, it was beautiful.”

The next day was a big anniversary party with over 70 people at Dayton Place, complete with a barbecue surrounded by family, friends, champagne, and cake.

The couple was especially appreciative of LifeStyle 360 Program Director Katelyn Buschman, who helped organize the party and made everything run smoothly.

“It’s our family here. Our boys are working and they are busy with their lives so the people here are our second family.”

How they met

When asked about how they met, Don didn’t miss a beat.

“Well it happened on the fourth of April, 1948,” Don said. “Many years before you were born.”

The Heitman’s, who hand off story details as seamlessly as two jazz musicians handing off solos, are both from neighboring small towns in Ohio. Charlene said she was 13 years old at the time when her friend asked her to accompany her to a downtown shoe shine shop to meet up with her boyfriend and some of the other boys who worked there. Don, who was 15, was among the other boys.

“[Her boyfriend] was going to get her something at an ice cream store a couple doors down so Don went with,” Charlene said. “They brought back Drumsticks. Don handed me my Drumstick and then as I started to take it he jerked his hand back with it. We all laughed of course and I got my Drumstick,” Charlene said.

From there, the two began spending time together going to the movies, riding bicycles, and skating.

“We just seemed to click,” Charlene said. “He was very shy and so was I, we were very young.” The next fourth of April, a year to the day after they met, Charlene received a dozen roses. “Here I was, a 14 year old with a dozen roses,” Charlene said. “I told him that sealed his fate. He wasn’t going to get away.”

On the fourth of April, 1951 the young couple got engaged during Charlene’s senior year of high school. While their actual wedding anniversary is June 7, the couple still celebrates April 4. Charlene’s mother, who liked Don, said the only requirement was Charlene needed to graduate high school. Her graduation was on a Tuesday and the following Saturday the couple got married.

Two weeks after getting engaged, Don left town for the AirForce. A bit of a surprise decision, Charlene said it ended up being one of the best decisions Don ever made. Don spent 28 years in the service and the couple lived in Colorado and Italy.

Their home at Five Star

The couple have lived in a cottage at Dayton Place for the past six years and have enjoyed every minute of it.

“We love it. No steps, that’s a big thing, and we have a beautiful front porch that we call our garden room,” Charlene said. “We can sit out there especially in the afternoon and enjoy the flowers that we bring.”

Some of their favorite community activities are movie nights, pizza nights, the scheduled outings, and spending time with other residents. The couple also likes to enjoy their porch with their miniature Australian shepherd, Mollee. “She’s dedicated to the two of us,” Don said. “She’s really Charlene’s dog because she follows her all over.”

The secret recipe

Their advice for younger couples? Never go to sleep mad or upset, spend lots of time together, and never forget to say “I love you.” “You’ve got to love each other,” Don said. “That’s the most important.”

Having spent the majority of their lives together, Don and Charlene agreed they just love each other’s company. That’s not to say they don’t have their boundaries.

“The only thing I don’t like is going shopping,” Don said while laughing. “I tell her ‘I’ll drop you off and I’ll wait in the car.’”

The Heitmans were humble as they reflected on their decades together. “I guess 70 years is a long time,” Charlene said while laughing. “We’ve just gone one day at a time.” “We’re working on 71 right now,” Don added.

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Father’s Day with Dad in Assisted Living

Are you celebrating Father’s Day with your dad at his assisted living community this year? No matter your father’s mobility level, there are Father’s Day activities for senior living residents that are sure to help him feel loved and celebrated. From day trips like museum tours and baseball games to planning a special Father’s Day celebration at the assisted living community, we’ve put together some ideas to help you make this Father’s Day one he’ll remember for years to come.

The Best Father’s Day Activities for Dads in Assisted Living

  • Decorate his room – if staying in at the assisted living community, can make it feel special having family decorate his space
  • Bring him his favorite food or a restaurant meal – if he can’t leave the property, bring him something he loves from his favorite place that he doesn’t get to go to
  • Make a scrapbook together – rather than bringing one to present to him, bring supplies and sit together as a family and look through pictures, reminisce and assemble the book together
  • Play family-friendly games – board games with the grandkids, lawn games if the weather is nice and celebrating outside, etc.
  • See what the team at the assisted living community might already have planned. Many assisted living communities, like Five Star Senior Living, offer special activities to celebrate the dads and grandfathers in residence on this special day. From movies to barbecues, games and karaoke contests, you may discover activities that every age can enjoy.

Put on a family talent show or singalong with the grandkids

A Father’s Day celebration doesn’t have to be elaborate or involve a road trip. Let the grandkids put on a skit or sing songs. The play can be as involved as they want, with costumes and set design, or can be as simple as the kids singing some of your dad’s favorite songs with help from your iTunes downloads.

Create personal Father’s Day tributes

You might also consider creating a slideshow video of favorite family moments – including past Father’s Day celebrations. With a laptop, a little bit of tech savvy, and an hour or two of free time, you can easily produce a video of favorite family photos. Set the slideshow to one of Dad’s favorite songs, whether he prefers golden oldies or classic rock, and let the images kick off an afternoon of reminiscing and storytelling.

If your dad is mobile and comfortable leaving the property, try these Father’s Day day trips for senior living residents:

1. Take Your Dad out to a ball game

Minor league ball games offer major fun for the whole family – at a fraction of the price of a major league baseball game. This allows you to share the special experience of a ball game with Dad without so much overwhelm and waiting in lines. To avoid the crowds, show up just after the first inning begins and leave before the bottom of the ninth.

2. Visit a museum

Is your Dad interested in military history? Airplanes? Natural science? Whatever his interests, he’s sure to love discussing them with you and his grandchildren. Take the whole family to a museum and listen as your Dad shares his own stories of years passed.

3. Go to the movies together

Don’t overlook a family movie outing. Whether a recent blockbuster or a classic movie from when your dad was younger, sharing the experience of watching a movie with family can provide an engaging and comfortable activity to share. If Dad would prefer to stay at the community for Father’s Day, find out what movies the assisted living community has coming up. You may not have to leave to view a family favorite classic. Just remember to ask if you should bring your own snacks or if the community is providing popcorn.

Additional tips for planning a safe and memorable Father’s Day in an assisted living community

Plan ahead for your father’s special needs

While your father might enjoy a short day trip, he may also get tired spending too much time outside, especially if your travels put you in the center of large crowds. Expect to spend no more than two or three hours away from home. You can always continue the celebration back at his assisted living community by enjoying a meal together or playing games in one of the common areas.

A Father’s Day celebration doesn’t have to be elaborate or involve a road trip. Let the grandkids put on a skit or sing songs. The play can be as involved as they want, with costumes and set design, or can be as simple as the kids singing some of your dad’s favorite songs with help from your iTunes downloads.

You might also consider creating a slideshow video of favorite family moments – including past Father’s Day celebrations. With a laptop, a little bit of tech savvy, and an hour or two of free time, you can easily produce a video of favorite family photos. Set the slideshow to one of Dad’s favorite songs, whether he prefers golden oldies or classic rock, and let the images kick off an afternoon of reminiscing and storytelling.

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7 Thoughtful Mother’s Day Gift Ideas for Seniors

Whether it was fixing you chicken noodle soup on sick days as a kid, being your biggest cheerleader at your college graduation or volunteering to take the grandkids for ice cream over the holidays, you’ve always been able to rely on your mom for love and support. You may appreciate it even more Mother’s Day Gift Ideas for Seniors now as a mom, yourself. Figuring out what to give someone who’s given you so much, though, isn’t easy.

With Mother’s Day approaching, you might feel overwhelmed trying to pick out the perfect way to say thank you, especially if Mom is a senior and already has so much. Though it truly is the thought that counts, here are seven creative, thoughtful and easy Mother’s Day gift ideas for seniors from our Senior Gift Guide eBook to help you get inspired and show mom just how much she means to you this Mother’s Day.

1. Family photos

A photo of the family is a perfect senior gift idea that will be treasured for years to come. It’s versatile, too—for example, you can incorporate the photo into personalized gifts, like comfy throws, photo books, mugs or calendars with birthdays and special dates highlighted with family pictures. Visit your local CVS or Walgreens for options.

2. Crochet tools

Not only will you likely end up with a slew of handmade blankets and scarves, but the hobby provides a range of sensory stimulation for older adults. If they’re a beginner, a basket of crochet hooks, yarn and scissors, plus a handy guide, is a great start.

3. A group or partner fitness class

Working out is more fun with a friend or family member, so give the gift of fitness to both your loved one and yourself. Exercising together means more time spent together, and more accountability, too. Of course, not all fitness programs are ideal for older adults. Check out Ageility Rehab & Fitness, which offers individual, partner and group senior fitness programs specifically designed for older adults. Or find a fitness trainer who has experience with seniors.

4. Journal

Penning thoughts and experiences is a great way to keep the mind sharp, not to mention it leaves a legacy. Keep your family’s story alive for future generations with The Story of a Lifetime, a book that asks hundreds of questions about all of life’s great relationships, milestones and traditions. Also check out The Best Journal Ever, a daily positivity journal for happiness, wellness and self-care, or 642 Things to Write About, which offers prompts for writer’s block.

5. Homemade gift cards

Remember when your folks smiled as you presented them with cards you made as a kid? You know, the ones where you promised to do the dishes, mow the lawn and handle any other chores? Those handmade cards are a great Mother’s Day gift idea guaranteed to still make them smile today!

6. Birdfeeder

Birdwatching can have a positive effect on the mind and engage the brain. A birdfeeder can make a great Mother’s Day gift for seniors, and for an extra special touch, get a bird feeder that’s custom engraved. Then, hang it in an ideal spot where they can see from a window.

7. Tablet

A tablet computer will keep your loved one connected to you, allow them to follow the news and stories that matter to them, offer some fun games to play, and is a nifty way to listen to audio books. Plus, being a tech-savvy tablet user is the perfect way to stay in touch with the grandkids! Five Star Senior Living—Where Every Day is Like Mother’s Day

No one deserves a break more than moms. That’s why, in a Five Star Senior Living community, they can finally kick back, relax and let someone else take care of those pesky chores for a change. We handle those, along with providing transportation and dining so moms can spend more time doing the things they love with the people that matter most. Now that’s the Mother’s Day gift that keeps on giving!

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How Seniors Can Find Purpose After Losing a Loved One

Chances are if you’re an older adult, you’ve had to cope with the loss of someone close to you. It may be the loss of a parent, the death of a spouse or the loss of dear friends. From graduations to honeymoons to nights full of joy and laughter, each left an indelible mark on your life and their absence can lead to feelings of profound sadness, grief and loneliness. The loved ones you surround yourself with give your life purpose. Without them, it can be much harder to find.

That’s why it’s so important, especially as an older adult, to be part of a community that provides meaning, deep connections and a sense of belonging. All are shown to have numerous physical and mental health benefits, especially when coping with the loss of a loved one. Living in community is also one the best ways to combat senior isolation and loneliness so you can live your fullest, most vibrant life. Struggling to find community and purpose after a recent loss of a loved one? These five tips can help.

1. Be creative

When grieving the loss of a loved one, there’s much satisfaction to be found in creating something from scratch, whether it be painting a watercolor or building a birdhouse. Even if you feel you don’t have the skill or talent, just the act of creation can help cultivate a curiosity and joy and keep your body and mind active. Creating can also be a powerful tool for expressing your grief and remembering the ones you love through activities like putting together a photo album of memories or cooking their favorite dishes.

2. Stay active

It can be difficult to imagine going about your regular activities without your loved one by your side. Yet, maintaining a routine of practices you enjoy like yoga, walking or gardening can give you a reason to get out of bed and out your front door each morning. Active living can also have many life-changing benefits that encompass the five dimensions of wellness—physical, intellectual, social, emotional and spiritual.

3. Explore hobbies

It can be easy to feel guilty for wanting to do the things that make you happy after a recent loss. It’s important to remember, though, that you can give yourself permission to pursue your passions. Grieving the loss of a loved one can hold you in place and keep you from the fulfilled life you deserve. Give yourself time and space to heal, but also explore your interests and find renewed purpose in enjoying the hobbies, old and new, that excite you.

4. Get involved

Losing a loved one can make you feel disoriented and like you’ve lost a sense of purpose. Serving others by volunteering your time to local organizations is a powerful way to find purpose by becoming a valuable member of your community. Consider your talents, experience and what you enjoy. Maybe after school tutors are needed at the local school or ushers at your favorite concert hall. Volunteering is a rewarding and fulfilling experience, and a great way to honor and contribute to the groups and organizations that were close to the hearts of loved ones you’ve lost.

5. Seek relationships

You’ve spent decades forming strong, deep relationships with the ones you love. That makes losing them that much more difficult to bear. As a senior, it can also feel like you’re past the time of starting new relationships and putting yourself out there wouldn’t be worth the trouble. Here’s the thing: there are many lonely older adults like you in need of a friend to lean on and celebrate life’s joys with. Invite your neighbor on a walk, join the local church choir or try dating after the loss of a spouse and you’ll soon discover that there’s no age limit on building genuine human connections.

Five Star Senior Living: Where Helping You Find Your Purpose is Our Passion

You shouldn’t have to cope with losing a loved one alone. At Five Star, you’re surrounded by friends and neighbors who have been through the same struggles and can help walk alongside you on the hard days, as well as celebrating the good ones. Our innovative LifeStyle360 wellness program also offers plenty of opportunities for residents to explore hobbies old and new, be creative, and keep their mind and body active. Find a community near you to learn more about Five Star offers a vibrant, fulfilled life full of friends who become family.

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