On one of the nicest days of the year to date, more than 100 seniors gathered in the Lakeshore Medical Center lobby for the annual Senior Springfest. The free program, organized by Weiss Memorial Hospital and Home Instead Senior Care, included fitness and art classes, yoga instruction and taste tests. Seniors could also register for free massages, haircuts and manicures.
“Spring is a time to feel refreshed and renewed,” said Caren Perlmuter, vice president of outreach development and geriatric services at Weiss. Perlmuter organized the event, and added, “The temperatures are rising and the flowers are blooming—a perfect time for seniors to feel revitalized with new beauty and health routines.”
Dr. Martin Siglin, geriatrics physician at Weiss, greeted attendees at 9 a.m. during his keynote address. “Welcome, this is a feel good day for everybody!” he said. “Every day, we need to feel in the moment. We need to smell the flowers, look at a tree, and listen to the birds around us.”
He went on to discuss health concerns particular to seniors—among them stress, depression and memory loss. The proteins in our bodies, Dr. Siglin explained, constantly break down, repair themselves and break down again in an aging cycle that eventually doesn’t hold together so well. Keep your mind active, he said, by learning a new language, writing with your non-dominant hand, playing Scrabble or working a crossword puzzle.
After Siglin’s talk, the crowd broke off into their scheduled classes, where they could learn about things including various ways to keep your mind active. Laurel George, from the improv group Funny Bones, ran a session called “Laughter Yoga.” The couple dozen participators laughed a deep “ho-ho-ho-ha-ha-ha!” as they stood and reached their hands upward.
As giggles carried throughout the lobby, George encouraged the exercisers to take their “laughter vitamins,” and to share the invisible treats with their neighbors. “Here, here! Try one of mine,” said a woman with bright red curly hair, turning to her neighbor and holding out an imaginary bottle.
Next, George encouraged participants to throw pies at the people around them, fluff each others’ auras and roar like lions. “We are going to be roaring with laugher. We are a pride of lions. Our manes are fluffed,” she said, as people moved their hands like paws and stuck their tongues out.
Upstairs in the art therapy room, people wrote wishes for themselves or messages to their family on tiny pieces of paper, wrapped the paper around a stick and then wrapped the stick in colorful yarn. They were making wish sticks—a core art therapy project.
“An art therapist may use the creative process to help you get in touch with emotions, thoughts, or issues that you’re not so good at expressing verbally or that you’re not in touch with,” said Sue, the art therapist leading the session.
She encouraged the artists to place the sticks where they would see them daily, as a reminder to make their wishes or messages a reality. Bright sunlight filled the 8th floor room overlooking the lake, and the dozen people working chatted and laughed as they picked the perfect color yarn. Sue went from person to person, helping one woman add a charm to her stick and another finish wrapping.
“My fundamental belief of art therapy is that it helps you exercise your mind. If you’re not actively creative every single day, you’re not using that part of your brain, and that’s the part of your brain that keeps you vibrant and aware,” Sue said.
By late morning, the breakout sessions had ended, and people returned to the lobby to sample lentil stew, tofu-broccoli stir fry and a vegetable platter. Joann Joyce, a young-looking senior, watched the food line grow as she sat sipping her stew. She had heard about the Springfest through the Weiss newsletter, and said she thought the fest was a “great community event.”
“Fortunately, I’ve never aged before. This is my first time going through it—a first and last time learning experience,” Joyce said, her eyes crinkling as she laughed.