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Up, up, and away

Maria Armstrong knows a thing or two about travel. Originally from Wisconsin, Maria has lived in North Carolina, California, and Honduras. She lived in Michigan where she earned a Masters degree before moving to Colorado. She now lives at Five Star Senior Residences of Dayton Place in Denver.

Having traveled so much on land, Maria set her sights on the air. She took a class on hot air balloons 25 years ago, but her maiden flight was canceled. Never giving up hope, Maria, 77, submitted a request to go up in a hot air balloon as part of a Lifestyle 360 program her community was running in October. Several months later in May, Maria’s dream came true and she was able to soar the skies in a hot air balloon for over an hour. An avid photographer, Maria was able to get some shots of her adventure.

We interviewed Maria to ask about her flight and what’s next on her adventure list.

How do you like living at Dayton Place?

At Five Star It’s fine. I have a two-bedroom apartment. The good thing is I can have my dog, Ogie, and cat, Molly, here. That’s very important to me. They have a lot of activities going on. Some of which I don’t go to, but at least they’re available.

How was the flight?

It was so much fun, I had a great time, took some pictures, and the day was cloudy which was okay because it wasn’t really hot. We went north and then kind of circled around and came back.

How long were you in the air?

About an hour. It was a good ride. I’d taken a hot air balloon course years ago, but wasn’t able to go up to fly. This was my second chance to do so.

What interested you in going up in the hot air balloon?

I think it was just on my bucket list so I did it. I had the opportunity to do it so I did.

Did you celebrate after?

We had champagne after the ride. That’s sort of the normal thing to do.

Are there any other things on your bucket list?

I used to own horses, but I never got up to Rocky Mountain Park. I’d like to go up there and do a trail ride. That would be super fun although I’m sure I’d be sore for a week after. When I lived in Honduras I had my own horse and the people thought it was so funny to see an American girl riding a horse through the capital city. I was too young to drive so to go anywhere I had to ride a horse.

Are you scared of heights at all?


Any advice to someone thinking about going up in a hot air balloon?

Don’t be afraid of heights. You have to stand up the whole time.


Maria’s aerial adventure is a testament to never giving up on her dream. Do you have your own bucket list? Maybe you want to make a Baked Alaska, write a short story, or see the Grand Canyon. No matter what your dreams are, it’s never too late to pursue them.

Price vs Value: The Bargain that is Senior Living Communities 

Do you remember the last time you dined in a fine restaurant? (Think hard; we know it’s probably been a while!) After the meal, when you were presented the bill, chances are you didn’t complain, “Hey, I could have made this meal at home for a lot less!”

That’s because you knew you weren’t just paying for food. You were also paying for someone to shop for the freshest ingredients, someone to transport them, someone to stock them, someone to prep the food,  someone to cook and make it scrumptious, someone to take your order and bring it to you, someone to clear the table and haul the dishes to the kitchen, and someone to wash those dishes and put them away.

When you think of it, with so many people working for you, the price you paid for that meal was a bargain—especially if the food was incredible and the service made you feel like royalty.

It’s the same with the cost of a senior living community. When people first consider senior living, where monthly costs can range from $2,000 to $10,000 depending on the level of assistance needed, the price may seem high. When compared to living home alone with needed services, however, it’s a bargain. Here’s a closer look.

Senior living is not just about housing

“The house is paid for.” When a loved one’s mortgage has been paid, families may ask why they would pay for housing elsewhere. And, if an older adult is reasonably self-sufficient, family members may be able to pitch in and help out. Most seniors living alone, however, will eventually need to hire a home care agency to assist with tasks such as transportation, grocery shopping, housekeeping, and personal care. Consider the added expenses a senior will likely incur as they grow older, such as:

  • housekeeping
  • lawn care
  • utilities
  • insurance
  • security system
  • snow removal
  • appliance repair
  • private duty caregivers

These costs can add up quickly. For example, hiring a home health aide and homemaker services in 2020 cost on average more than $9,000 per month.

Added to caregiver expenses are necessities many older adults living alone incur, such as:

  • Home remodeling and modification costs (building a ramp, installing a step-free shower, and adding bedside and bathroom grab bars)
  • Transportation costs, whether a private car or transportation service
  • Medical alert systems
  • Costly deferred maintenance on expensive systems, such as a roof or HVAC

Senior living communities: much more for less cost

Now consider the “menu” that comes with living in a senior living community:

  • A private apartment or suite (for assisted living, designed with safety features such as grab bars, a step-in shower, an emergency call system, and an accessible floor plan)
  • Amenities and services to make daily life easier, including housekeeping, laundry, maintenance, and all repairs
  • In assisted living communities, licensed caregivers onsite around the clock to assist with activities of daily living
  • Nutritious meals and snacks, often prepared by or under the direction of a chef (Five Star communities are known for their signature dishes!)
  • Life Enrichment programs with a full complement of social, cultural, wellness and spiritual programs
  • Utilities, cable, and local phone service (and sometimes basic internet)
  • Transportation for resident outings and individual resident appointments
  • An onsite beauty salon/barbershop for convenience
  • Concierge services for tasks like delivery signing, transportation arrangements, and more

All of this is delivered at a rate well below what these services would add up to if obtained separately by a homeowner. For example, the average monthly cost of living in an independent living community ranges from $2,000 to $5,000.

The intangibles: safe and happy

Last, although home is where people who have a choice often say they want to stay, it may not be the best choice for older adults living alone. Depression resulting from loneliness and inactivity resulting from isolation pose real health risks to aging adults. Living alongside other active seniors can mean a safer and happier life all around. That’s a real benefit of senior living communities such as Five Star neighborhoods. We hear residents say every day, “I wish I had made this move years ago!”

Why not take a look at Five Star Senior Living—where the food is incredible and the service makes you feel like royalty? Find out if there’s a Five Star Senior Living community near you!

Know the Warning Signs of Common Types of Cancers

Almost everyone has been touched by cancer in some form. It’s hard to escape it. A loved one, friend, colleague or neighbor is likely battling it right now.

February is National Cancer Prevention Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about the steps you can take that may help to prevent cancer and the importance of early detection.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the most common type of cancer is breast cancer. 234,000 people are diagnosed with it each year. It is followed by prostate cancer and lung cancer.

Overall, the top 12 forms of cancer are:

  • Bladder Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Colon and Rectal Cancer
  • Endometrial Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lung Cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Thyroid Cancer

Warning Signs that Might Indicate Cancer

While every type of cancer is unique, there are some overall symptoms that need to be shared with and followed up on by a physician. They include:

  • Extreme fatigue that doesn’t improve with rest
  • Unintended or unexplained weight loss
  • Fever
  • Pain that doesn’t go away such as a headache or backache
  • Changes in skin color
  • Sores that won’t heal
  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits

The good news is that many forms of cancer can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

5 Steps You Can Take Today to Prevent Cancer

  • Eat a Healthy Diet: We’ve all heard this one over and over. A healthy diet is one of the first lines of defense against cancer. Health experts say 70% of the immune system lies in your stomach. The American Cancer Society’s Healthy Eating Resource Center is a great place to learn more.
  • Get Moving: A sedentary lifestyle puts you at higher risk for a variety of health problems ranging from cancer to diabetes, high blood pressure and even depression. The weekly activity goal for healthy adults is 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity.
  • Kick the Habit: If you are a smoker, make 2016 the year you finally kick the habit. Smoking cessation programs have come a long way in recent years. Talk with your family physician about which one might be best for you or a senior you love.
  • Be Safe in the Sun: Most of us know a “healthy glow” really isn’t healthy at all. Melanoma is one of the fastest rising forms of cancer is the U.S. Try to avoid being out in the sun between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm when UV rays are strongest. When you are outdoors, wear sunscreen and reapply it often. Wear a hat that shields your face, sunglasses, and a loose fitting, long-sleeved shirt.
  • Stay on Top of Health Screenings: Follow your doctor’s orders when it comes to cancer detection. Routine screenings like a prostate exam or a mammogram save lives.

    The American Cancer Society has a free resource you can download. Guidelines for Early Detection of Cancer can help you learn more about your risk factors and how to spot potential problems early.

How Senior Living Can Help Older Adults Stay Healthier

<!–[CDATA[Having a close circle of friends is important at any age. But those bonds are especially important as we age. In fact, research shows that a strong social network of family and friends helps promote successful aging.
According to research conducted by scientists at Adelphi University, older adults who have close personal relationships are less likely to suffer from health conditions such as depression and obesity.
But as we grow older, our social circles often become disrupted. Retirement can lead to relocation to a warmer climate. Close friends may go through a divorce or pass away. And an older adult may experience the loss of a spouse.
These losses can impact both the size and quality of an older adult’s relationships. Research from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP) shows that adults between the ages 75 and 85 have smaller social networks.
If building new friendships is a challenge for you or an aging Indiana loved one, senior living can be a solution.
How Senior Living Helps Older Adults in Indiana
Here are a few ways senior living communities help older adults rebuild important social networks.
Life Enrichment Programs
A commitment to life enrichment is a core component of senior living communities. At Five Star Senior Living, we focus on the five dimensions of wellness as we create programs and activities for our residents:

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Intellectual
  • Social
  • Spiritual

We call this program Lifestyle360.
Residents have an opportunity to participate in activities ranging from book clubs to Chair Yoga.
If you or your senior loved one is feeling lonely, a senior living community can help expand social networks and find new passions.
Supportive Social Environment
When it comes to maintaining relationships, where you live matters. An environment that makes it easier for seniors to connect and engage with each other another is another positive part of a senior living community.
Common areas and community living rooms encourage social interaction. These shared spaces provide seniors with both a feeling of home and an informal place to connect with one another.

Close Proximity to a Peer Group

Living in close proximity to older adults who may be experiencing similar ups and downs in life can also promote healthy aging. Sharing troubles with other seniors can help boost mood and lift the spirit. And having friends nearby not only encourages close relationships, it can also lead to a healthier lifestyle including fewer incidences of obesity and a healthier heart.
How Adult Children Can Encourage a Senior Loved One
Building new friendships can take time and confidence. An older adult who may have always relied on the comfort of a long-standing social circle may feel intimidated meeting new people. A senior living community can provide the space they need to create new relationships. 

Test Your Stroke IQ

Yet, many stroke risk factors can be controlled with a healthy lifestyle.

Test your stroke IQ with this quick quiz. Then put your knowledge in action to help reduce the chance of a stroke.
Quiz to Assess Your Stroke Risk

1. The following conditions are risk factors for a stroke:

A. Heart disease
B. High blood pressure
C. High cholesterol
D. All of the above.

Answer: D, all of the above.

Diabetes and sickle cell disease are also conditions that can contribute to the odds of having a stroke. Closely monitoring the conditions listed above and keeping them in check by exercising regularly, eating healthy, and taking medications as prescribed can reduce your risk of stroke.

2. True or False: If you’ve already had one stroke, or even a mini-stroke, your odds of having a second stroke increase.

Answer: True.

The chances of having a stroke increase after a first stroke. It’s important to follow your doctor’s orders and take any necessary medications to reduce the risk. You may also reduce the chance of a second stroke by eliminating some of the risk factors that caused the stroke.

3. True or False: Family history is the single most important risk factor for stroke.

Answer: False

Age is the number one uncontrollable risk factor for stroke. The odds of having a stroke double with each decade after the age of 55. Additionally, high blood pressure is the single most important controllable risk factor, according to CDC statistics.

4. The following activities can help reduce the risk of a stroke:

A. Eating foods high in fat and cholesterol
B. Never drinking alcohol
C. Quitting smoking
D. All of the above

Answer: C

Smokers may increase their odds of having a stroke to six times that of non-smokers, making smoking one of the highest risk factors for a stroke. Even if you’ve always smoked, you can reduce your risk of a stroke by quitting today. 

A healthy diet, which limits foods high in fat and cholesterol, may also reduce the risk of stroke. 
5. The following are stroke symptoms:

A. Difficulty speaking
B. Drooping face
C. Numbness or loss of strength in one arm
D. All of the above.

Answer: D.

These are all symptoms of stroke, sometimes remembered by the acronym FAST: Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty. The final “T” stands for “Time to call 9-1-1,” which is the best action to take if you believe a loved one is having a stroke.

Get Help After a Stroke at Five Star

Five Star Senior Living’s Lifestyle360 program combined with our healthy meals make it easier for residents to reduce stroke risk factors and enjoy the best possible quality of life. Call today to learn more.

6 Steps to a Safer Bathroom for a Senior

New York Times wrote, “The smallest room in the house can be a dangerous place.”

Bathroom Injuries by the Numbers

Each year, approximately 235,000 people over the age of 15 visit the emergency room for injuries caused by bathroom mishaps. As people age, they are more likely to suffer an injury in the bathroom. More than 81 percent of these injuries are caused by falls.

And for seniors, the most likely place to fall is near the toilet.
According to the report, 19.3 percent of injuries amongst people aged 65 to 74 took place on or near the toilet, rising to 36.9 percent over the age of 85.

How can you reduce the odds of a bathroom injury for yourself or a loved one?
Fall risk in the bathroom improves if you implement a few prevention tips.

1. Install grab bars

Prevent injuries where they are most likely to occur by installing grab bars near the toilet, as well as inside and outside of the tub.

2. Make the shower and tub safer

Install non-skid mats on the shower or tub floor.

You might also consider a shower stall that eliminates the lip at the edge of the shower and uses a shower seat to lower the risk of a fall.

3. Make sure the floor is slip-proof

Carpeting the bathroom floor could be the safest option for seniors, but wall-to-wall carpeting in the bathroom can also harbor dangerous mold and mildew.

Compromise by using non-skid area rugs and ensuring the edges are not frayed or damaged. Wipe up any spills on hard surfaces immediately to prevent slipping.

4. Install a raised toilet seat

A raised toilet seat, like the kind you may find in handicapped bathrooms, can make it easier for seniors to get up and down. Installing one in your senior loved one’s home reduces the chance of a fall in this high-risk area.

5. Make sure the bathroom has adequate lighting

Falls often occur when we can’t see properly. This problem can be compounded in seniors with glaucoma or cataracts, both of which can make a space look darker than it really is.

Ensure the bathroom has adequate lighting. Consider installing an illuminated light switch that makes it easy to turn on overhead lights, even in the middle of the night. Or place bathroom lights on motion sensors so they turn on the second someone enters the room.

6. Use contrasting colors

While stark white fixtures on white tiles walls may look pristine and beautiful, contrasting colors make it easier to avoid accidents. Choose a brightly colored shower curtain that is different from the walls and easy to spot. Use different color tiles for the shower threshold than the floor.

Stay Safe at Five Star Senior Living

From the ground up, Five Star Senior Living communities are designed with safety and comfort features for seniors. The environment helps to prevent falls in the bathroom and all throughout the community.

Schedule a private tour of one of our communities to learn more today!

The Differences Between Independent Living and Assisted Living

Sometimes the search for senior living can leave an older adult and their family members questioning what type of community they really need. Is an Independent Living community, offering a wide variety of life enrichment programs and freedom from household chores, the best fit? Or does a loved one need the added support and care for activities of daily living (ADLs) provided by an Assisted Living community?

Although some senior living communities, including Five Star, offer both popular types of senior housing in one location, it can help to understand how they differ in meeting the unique needs of aging adults at different stages of life. Here’s a closer look.

What is Assisted Living?

Assisted Living refers to a community for older adults who need a little extra help with activities of daily living to live their most independent life. This help may include:

  • Support with personal care needs, such as bathing, grooming and dressing
  • Medication reminders—coordination and supervision
  • Nutritious meals and healthy snacks, including the ability to accommodate special diets like low-salt, gluten-free and diabetes-related
  • Help with toileting and continence care
  • Housekeeping, laundry, trash removal and maintenance

Assisted Living Is Not a Nursing Home

a group of friends having lunch outsideEqually important is understanding what Assisted Living is not: It is not a skilled nursing facility, also known as a nursing care center or nursing home. Nursing home residents usually have more complex medical needs. This generally means they require skilled care delivered by nurses, physical therapists and other medical professionals.

Some Assisted Living communities do offer the option to add additional services as needed. Within a Five Star community, you can scale Assisted Living services up or down as you or your loved one’s needs change.

Another type of Assisted Living community is called Memory Care. Memory Care communities support people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. As with Assisted Living, Memory Care is not a nursing home; however, caregivers have undergone specialized training and there are targeted programs for residents, such as Five Star’s Bridge to Rediscovery.

Assisted Living Amenities

Assisted Living communities often provide transportation for residents to visit local attractions or to go shopping. The best Assisted Living communities also provide residents with a variety of educational, social and wellness programs, included as part of the monthly fee. Games, movie nights and exercise programs can be part of everyday life—just as they are in Independent Living communities.

What is Independent Living?

Independent Living communities, sometimes called retirement villages, are communities open to senior residents only. They are often a good fit for older adults seeking freedom from the burdens of homeownership. Because housekeeping tasks and maintenance chores are handled by team members, residents have more time to fully enjoy their retirement.

An Independent Living community nurtures an older adult’s interests and hobbies. These often include hosting travel groups, life-enrichment activities, continuing education classes and wellness programs. Many Independent Living residents spend time volunteering in the community or for area nonprofit organizations.

Independent Senior Living Amenities

Like Assisted Living, Independent Living communities typically provide a number of amenities and services for one monthly fee. For instance, electricity, climate control, television, phone and Internet access costs might all be included as part of the rental fee.

Some Independent Living communities, such as those within the Five Star family, provide many extras for residents. These includes housekeeping, laundry, on-site dining, and transportation as part of the monthly fee. Our Independent Living communities also provide the option of adding Assisted Living services as needed. All of this makes an Independent Living community a simple and cost-effective senior housing solution.

Comparing Independent Living and Assisted Living Communities

In short, an Assisted Living community may be the best choice if you or your loved one needs some help with daily activities but not continuous medical care or supervision. An Independent Living community may be best for those who don’t need extra help but are ready to move on from home ownership. Whether Assisted or Independent Living is the right solution for you or a family member, Five Star offers activities tailored to individual interests and ability levels—everything one could want to maintain a vibrant and healthy lifestyle.

Learn More About Senior Living Options

To learn more, visit our Senior Living Options page. You’ll find additional information and resources to help determine what type of senior living best suits your needs. Meanwhile, why not learn which Five Star community options are near you?