Wit and Wisdom Blog for Atria Senior Living

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a new view on growing older

Dancing at 100: Señorita Estallita Fulla Suga


Posted on October 16, 2020 by Mari Evans


“A firecracker.” “The life of the party.” “Señorita Estallita Fulla Suga.” Estelle Reiff goes by many monikers, which only makes sense for a woman who has played many roles in her long life – an accomplished dancer, teacher and mother. The beloved resident of Atria Forest Hills, a senior living community in Queens, New York, turned 100 in September, and continues to make a difference in the lives of those around her.

“I danced all my life – all I can remember is dancing

Estelle Reiff was born in 1920 in Nashville, Tennessee, and started dancing at age five. By the time she was 10, she and her brother had formed a vaudeville act called “The Peppiest Pair.” Following a brief stint as a fashion deco model in the late 1930s, Estelle performed in local shows before joining the dance troupe of the renowned Mexican comedian and actor Cantinflas, with whom she traveled throughout the U.S. and Mexico in the 1940s.

In 1948, Estelle married Benjamin – also a dancer – and they settled in New York City, where she opened her own studio and worked alongside luminaries such as Gwen Verdon, Peter Gennaro, Bobby Van, Debbie Allen and Debbie Reynolds. Throughout her career, she danced tap, jazz, ballroom and especially Latin dance (hence the Spanish-styled nickname she gave herself: “Señorita Estallita Fulla Suga.”)

Estelle later served on the board of directors for the New York Society of Teachers of Dancing and was part of a local Hadassah group for more than 30 years, performing at fundraisers. She was also the senior dance instructor for the New York City Department of Education’s Adult Education Program for Dancing, working in the evenings with her husband at Flushing High School for more than 25 years.

In her early 70s, Estelle noticed there were not nearly enough dance programs tailored to seniors, so she set out to be part of the solution by teaching dance at a number of senior centers throughout Queens. She was a long-term participant at the Peter Dellamonica Senior Center, part of the Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, where she danced every chance she got. According to her son, even a cane – and then a walker – couldn’t keep her in her seat.

“The furthest thing from a wallflower”

Estelle continued teaching dance for Dellamonica when she scheduled a tour of Atria Forest Hills in the fall of 2018. Since she’s been at Atria, she’s continued to contribute and inspire others in a different way.

“She really is a mother figure to everyone in the building,” said Beth Levi, the community’s Engage Life Director. “She’s the furthest thing from a wallflower. She needs to be social. You miss her presence when she’s not there.”

Before the pandemic, according to Levi, Estelle showed up to every program or party at the community. “If she missed anything, she’d be mad.” She treats everyone with respect and kindness, and even people her age seek out her advice. “I’m the 100-year-old encyclopedia,” Estelle said, laughing.

As her son Alan (pictured above) puts it, “just play music and see what happens. She will grab onto anyone close by to move her legs and wiggle her hips in a swirl of joyful movement recalling a lifetime of dance.”

 

To learn more about how Atria Senior Living is helping residents and families stay connected, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.


Category: Active Aging, Wit & Wisdom

Gratitude for Team Atria


Posted on October 9, 2020 by Mari Evans


Putting in extra hours. Making trips to the store for essentials. Setting up Zoom calls to help families and friends stay in touch. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Atria employees have gone above and beyond to help residents feel safe, connected and engaged. In turn, residents and families have been inspired to express their gratitude for the kind, caring, dedicated members of Team Atria. We’re honored to share some of their thoughtful words here.

 

To learn more about how Atria Senior Living is helping residents and families stay connected, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.


Category: Active Aging, Community, Our Team, Wit & Wisdom

In peak condition


Posted on September 24, 2020 by Mari Evans


Nearly every morning, Lauren Freifeld, Executive Director of Atria Woodlands, a senior living community located in Westchester County, New York, watches one of her residents walk by her window. “He’s a doer,” she laughed. The resident she’s talking about is Jerry Levine, who turns 91 this year and walks miles every day.

That level of activity should come as no surprise for a man who, in August 2012, became the oldest “46er” on record. A 46er is a mountain climber who has scaled all 46 of the High Peaks of the Adirondacks. Here’s how he did it.

Getting there together

Jerry was born in the Bronx, but he and his wife raised two sons in Peekskill, a town in Westchester County about an hour north of New York City. One of their sons, Peter, went to a summer camp in Upstate New York when he was a teenager. There, he discovered his love for rock climbing and hiking, and he encouraged his dad to go with him on climbing trips.

Soon Peter and Jerry were taking on the Adirondacks together, or Jerry hiked with Peter and his friends. “He made a lot of friends at the camp and they used to come along,” Jerry said. “To this day, I know a lot of those people, and it’s still very nice to see them.” When Peter was in high school and college, he and Jerry would hike one or two mountains a year, with long interludes in between. After Peter accepted a job in California, they had less opportunity to hike together. In 2000, Jerry had a heart attack and stopped climbing.

Seven years later, Jerry’s cardiologist told him he could climb again if he monitored his heart rate. So Jerry called Peter. He wanted to climb all 46 peaks.

“Something I never, ever thought I could do”

Jerry was in his 70s when he decided to be a 46er. So far, he had climbed 23 mountains, but it had taken him decades to do it, and he wanted to check off the remaining 23 – which, according to Peter, were also the hardest 23 – in just a few years. “It was something I never, ever thought I could do,” Jerry said.

Nonetheless, they made it work. Between 2009 and 2012, from May through October, Peter would fly in from California to meet Jerry and hike together. Jerry had become close to Peter’s camp friends after decades of hiking with them, and on the day Jerry scaled Whiteface Mountain – the last of the 46 peaks – around 50 people celebrated with them on the summit. Jerry said, “They waited until I reached the peak, and I couldn’t believe who was there. I said, ‘Wow! You’re here! You’re here!’”

Today, Peter lives in California, but he still flies to New York to visit his parents, who have lived at Atria Woodlands since January 2020. They moved to Atria because Jerry’s wife needed more assistance than Jerry could provide. The support Atria gives his wife has allowed Jerry to have peace of mind – and that helps him stay active. He doesn’t climb mountains anymore, but he and Peter cherish the times they scaled new heights together.

“Hiking was just something we both really loved to do,” Peter recalled. “Yes, becoming a 46er at his age was a monumental feat, but spending that much time together has enduring value both for the parent and for the child. Everyone should do something like that with their parents.”

 

To learn more about how Atria Senior Living is helping residents and families stay connected, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.


Category: Active Aging, Wit & Wisdom

8-28 Blog

Staying safely connected in a world with COVID-19


Posted on August 28, 2020 by Mari Evans


COVID-19 has forced all of us to rethink how we interact with the world and each other. Still, staying connected remains vital to our well-being.

At Atria Senior Living, we believe people belong together. By making adjustments to Atria’s Engage Life® events program, team members continue to offer residents creative new ways to learn, engage and connect, safely.

Connecting across generations

Through a phone-based “reflecting and sharing” program, residents are sharing their unique wisdom with younger generations. Each week, they reflect on a current topic affecting society then share their collective insights over the phone.

In one recent example, residents who worked as teachers offered advice to parents teaching their children at home and professional teachers instructing students online during the pandemic. Soon, residents will reflect on the importance of voting and why younger generations should be encouraged to exercise their right in the upcoming elections.

A second wisdom-sharing program coming soon is a phone pal partnership with the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), where high-achieving students will be matched with older adults who have professional experience in their fields of interest.

These partnerships present valuable opportunities for diverse generations to connect from a distance over similar interests and benefit from each other’s perspectives.

Innovating to engage

At the onset of the pandemic, Atria communities were equipped with conferencing phone lines. The ability to dial in from the safety of their apartments has enabled residents to join neighbors for group sing-alongs, book clubs, art appreciation programs, word games, lectures and Broadway performances, to name a few. Many communities provide handouts to serve as visual aids.

Since residents aren’t gathering for group classes and events, Atria is bringing those experiences to them. Doorway and mobile cart events have inspired endless creativity. Staff have organized guided “paint and sip” workshops, container gardening and travel adventures via video, food samples and music. The popular Positivi-Tea program encourages residents to explore topics in the field of positive psychology while they sip a nice cup of tea.

Staying strong

With many gyms closed and exercise classes canceled, it’s no secret staying fit has been a challenge for many of us.

While Atria staff offer regular hallway workouts and outdoor walks at communities where local and state regulations permit, many will soon launch a new fitness challenge to further motivate residents. Small clusters of communities will compete against other groups to achieve their exercise goals and earn rewards and recognition.

“Exercise has been the most important, and probably the hardest, program to develop overall,” said Atria’s Vice President of Resident Engagement, Christy Phillips. “We’ve gotten really creative with helping residents maintain their physical strength.”

Celebrating resilience

Speaking of strength, Atria residents have persevered through world wars, economic depressions and personal challenges. They have so much to teach others and their resilience is a tool Catherine Schneider, Atria’s Director of Resident Well-Being Curriculum, hopes residents are willing to share.

“We’ve developed a program to collect the wisdom behind the ways residents have learned to cope during difficult times,” said Schneider. “After all, we’re going through this together. It’s an opportunity to share stories and learn from each other.”

 

To learn more about how Atria Senior Living is helping residents and families stay connected, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.


Category: Active Aging, Community, COVID-19, Seniors and Technology, Wit & Wisdom

Volunteering-Benefits-Older-Adults

Five Ways Volunteering Benefits Older Adults


Posted on February 26, 2018 by Atria Senior Living


If you have ever worked in a soup kitchen, donated blood or spent a Saturday afternoon cleaning your local beach or park, you know volunteering is good for you!

People enjoy doing things that bring more meaning and purpose to their lives. Older adults are no different.

Here are a few of the benefits volunteering offers older adults who want to lead active, healthy lifestyles:

  1. Healthy body, healthy mind - Studies show volunteering is good for both our bodies and our minds. Among other benefits, volunteering can reduce stress, improve mood, help prevent loneliness and lower the risk of developing high blood pressure. So, for older adults with physical ailments, volunteering can actually make you feel better.
  2. Trying new things - Volunteering allows older adults to stay active. Whether reading to school children, visiting with patients in the hospital or baking dog treats for a local shelter, volunteering offers an array of opportunities to try new things.
  3. Leaving a legacy - Older adults often think about how they have contributed to the world and what mark they will leave behind. Volunteering gives a sense of purpose, while simultaneously making a positive difference in the world by improving the life of another.
  4. Connecting with others - Forging connections with people is part of what makes us human. Volunteering provides more opportunities to connect with different types of people. Atria communities are always in search of intergenerational opportunities for residents, such as working in a community garden with a group of Eagle Scouts or writing cards to soldiers with a local youth group.
  5. It’s enjoyable - When an Atria resident who volunteers at the library was asked why volunteering is important to her, she said, “It’s fun, and it gives me something to do.”She’s right; being a small part of something much larger than yourself is just plain fun.

Category: Active Aging Tags: , , , , ,

Setting Goals and World Records: Meet Atria Darien’s Inspiring Rowers - Atria Senior Living Blog

Setting Goals and World Records: Meet Atria Darien’s Inspiring Rowers


Posted on January 17, 2017 by admin


A buzz was building within Atria Darien. Waldo, Sally, Sid, Dick, Paula, Lois, David and Dotty had been looking forward to this day for weeks. Months earlier, rowing had never even entered their minds. Searching for the next fitness adventure for their residents, Atria reached out to Veterans’ Rowing and Kayaking and introduced the sport to them. After weeks of practice and setting higher and higher goals for themselves, they discovered a love of rowing. Today, this inspiring group of residents is not only gaining strength and reaching fitness goals, but is also setting world records.

This is their story.


Category: Active Aging Tags: , , ,

Achieve Your New Year’s Goal Point by Point – Atria Senior Living

Achieve Your New Year’s Goal, Point by Point


Posted on January 3, 2017 by Billie Jean King


Billie Jean King is a winner of 39 Grand Slam tennis titles, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a champion for social change and equality. She serves as Atria’s Well-Being Coach.

There’s something about the arrival of a new year that motivates us to become better versions of ourselves. The excitement of starting with a clean slate inspires us to make positive changes in our lifestyle like becoming more fit and committing to spend more time with the people we love. (more…)


Category: Active Aging Tags: , , , ,

Theres No Age Limit to Making a Difference - Atria Senior Living Blog

There’s No Age Limit to Making a Difference


Posted on November 29, 2016 by admin


Science shows that volunteering is good for you. Not only does it make you feel good and help you to live longer, 96% of those who volunteer say it enriches their sense of purpose in life.

It is almost impossible to visit an Atria community and not find residents involved in some sort of civic engagement. We call our events program Engage Life® because that’s exactly what we’ve designed it to help our residents do every day, in the company of friends. (more…)


Category: Active Aging Tags: , ,

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