An avid volunteer who relishes assisting Connecticut veterans is striving toward getting stronger and steadier so he can return to active duty at the Veterans Administration healthcare facility in Newington. Before his first debilitating fall while shoveling snow in January 2017, Joseph O’Brien was volunteering four days each week, escorting veterans to and from their appointments and assisting them wherever needed.
Sisters enjoy life to the fullest at Arbor Rose
NEW BRITAIN - Sisters Betty Hebert and Margaret Plocharczyk held hands as they sat side-by-side on Margaret’s couch in her Arbor Rose apartment. Even after 93-plus years together, they still find plenty to talk about though they are just as happy enjoying each other’s company in silence.
As the sun streamed through the window on a recent afternoon, they chatted about their artistic interests. Betty showed a visitor one of her autumn landscape paintings while Margaret cradled a favorite doll that she had created from liquid porcelain.
In addition to their family lives and successful careers, they both enjoyed activities at the New Britain Senior Center. One or the other got involved in classes and just about every artistic pursuit - crafting, painting, needlework, making greeting cards, knitting and more.
Doll making really “spoke” to Margaret, who at age 96 is the older sister. From a large family, “I never had a doll,” she recalled. Betty, who was often sick, had dolls. Maybe that is why when Margaret discovered doll making at the senior center, she couldn’t be stopped. She made 20 of them, all different sizes, types and costumes, meticulously painting the details. At Arbor Rose, 18 of them are on display. Her favorite may be the one wearing a dress crafted from Margaret’s own bridal dress that she wore on her wedding day in 1948.
Both sisters liked to paint as well. Margaret has a photo album that showcases her many artistic creations. During the 2019 Assisted Living Week, their paintings and dolls were much admired when they were displayed at the residents’ art and collections show.
New Britain natives, the two women have been residents there for several years – Betty came first in 2015 and Margaret moved in in 2018. Their apartments are just down the hall from the other in the independent and assisted living community located at 975 Corbin Ave.
Even though they already knew some of the residents, it took several months for it to feel like home, Margaret said. However, they both knew they made the right choice. In addition to seeing each other or chatting daily, they occasionally attend the same events and see each other when dining. “They take good care of us here. If we need help, they are there. We feel safe,” Betty said.
Arbor Rose, which is affiliated with Hartford HealthCare Senior Services, offers independent and assisted living with memory care on the campus of Jerome Home, located at 975 Corbin Ave. in New Britain. For more information about Arbor Rose at Jerome Home, visit jeromehome.org.
— Margaret Plocharczyk & Betty Hebert
Family grateful for mother's transition of care
Marie Jakubowski, 91, felt lonely living by herself in her Berlin home after her husband died and began finding it challenging to handle the daily tasks. Her family, familiar with the great reputation of Arbor Rose at Jerome Home, felt that the assisted and independent community would be a perfect new home.
The New Britain location was convenient for family members and they had friends whose parents already lived there. They had no qualms about moving their mother to Arbor Rose even during the pandemic. Marie transitioned well and became excited about life again, getting involved in every activity. The family appreciated the ongoing communication about the community and their mother.
When her health began to decline, Marie transitioned to Jerome Home where she could receive a higher level of nursing care. With the community still not admitting in-building visitors, she enjoyed the window visits with her family. When her heart began to fail her, Hartford HealthCare at Home Hospice personnel were right by her side. Through the Compassionate Care program, her family was able to visit her.
Marie had a great quality of life right up to the end thanks to the continuum of care that started at Arbor Rose, according to her family. “This was the best thing we ever did. It gave her a great quality of life,” said Ron Jakubowski, one of her sons.
Families stay in touch during the pandemic
When COVID-19 “arrived” in the state, Jerome Home was already prepared. Janet Parent Marino, of New Hampshire, was concerned about not being able to visit her mother and the isolation. Her 88-year-old mother, Jeannine Parent, buckled down for the duration and relayed to her daughter all Jerome Home staff was doing to keep residents safe. They soon mastered virtual calls. “It has been frightening for the whole world,” the daughter said. But she knows her mother is safe at Jerome Home and the family has since made several patio visits. “Everyone has been stellar. It has made my life easier.” To learn more about the safety protocols at Jerome Home and Arbor Rose, click here: https://www.jeromehome.com/safety-protocols-at-jerome-home-and-arbor-rose/
New friends made at Arbor Rose
Ann Duncan and Ken Leslie moved into Arbor Rose one day apart in 2018 but they didn’t meet until they were sitting in the courtyard last summer. They soon learned they had much in common – both were widowed, both had children and grandchildren, both loved the outdoors. Now they are pursuing mutual interests including exercising at GoodLife Fitness, doing jigsaw puzzles and reading – all while observing social distancing… and wearing matching masks. Even with the restrictions during the coronavirus, living at Arbor Rose at Jerome Home has not been hard, they said. And their friendship has helped. “It’s much better than living alone as I was,” Ken said. “Here, they can’t do enough for you. I’m more than pleased I moved here.”
‘Living the GoodLife’ Member Profile: Joe Porcaro
By Maquita Sellers, exercise physiologist, GoodLife Fitness, Jerome Home
How long have you been in the program and how did you start?
My participation in the GoodLife Fitness program started approximately three and one-half years ago. Previously, I exercised at the Hospital of Central Connecticut for seven years.
What has been your biggest accomplishment since starting and what are your future goals?
Self-imposed goals that were established included replacement of muscle mass due to normal aging, and improved posture and balance. Significant accomplishments have been no reduction of daily activities and tasks as I have aged. Continue with the same lifestyle as during your younger years. There is a general feeling of well-being.
What is your favorite part about the GoodLife Fitness Program?
The program of GoodLife Fitness includes a regimen of exercises that are customized for the individual person by an exercise physiologist. These regimens are revised every 10 to 12 sessions. I enjoy the challenges of the new exercises and their continual upgrade.
How do you define “wellness”?
My definition of “wellness” is the physical and mental ability to enable an active and robust lifestyle. I intuitively believe that the complete range of benefits derived from exercise have yet to be scientifically discovered. Wellness is also coupled with weight as based on body mass index. Consistent nutritious and healthy eating is imperative. “We are what we eat.”
What advice would you give to new or prospective members of the GoodLife Fitness program?
There is a certain level of mental inertia that exists prior to the start of an exercise program. Each prospective participant of GoodLife Fitness should attempt to prevail over this inertia. Allow yourself to start. You will accomplish more than you could ever have anticipated. Your body will take control and the mental inertia will disappear.
What is your recipe for healthy aging?
Healthy aging is the awareness that we are responsible for both our physical and mental well-being. We should continue to maintain our overall health as we age. Attention to body weight and diet is essential.
What motivates you to “Live the GoodLife”?
Self-motivation and a sense of responsibility to family and society are strong reasons to live the “GoodLife”. Active participation with my children and grandchildren is possible due to over 10 years of physical exercise. Hiking, horseback riding, zip-lining, rope courses, swimming, Segway and other family activities have occurred. Exercise enables wonderful memories with family.
— Joe Porcaro
Mother and daughter turn to GoodLife Fitness for improved health
Dynamic duo Donna and Julianne Joseph are no strangers to wanting to look and feel their best. As a former and a current cosmetologist, these New Britain residents have always been committed to maintaining their personal appearance. So it’s no surprise that they apply the same principals when it comes to their health and fitness.
After experiencing a fall while working that resulted in a broken femur, Donna recuperated for three weeks at Jerome Home, 975 Corbin Ave., for extensive in-patient occupational and physical therapy rehabilitation. After completing home care services Donna then transitioned to outpatient physical therapy rehabilitation. Upon completion of the 10 weeks of manual therapy, stretching, strengthening, balance and gait training, she was able to progress from a walker to ambulating without a device. During her outpatient physical therapy she was instructed and became proficient in a home exercise program and she was referred to GoodLife Fitness, where she has been a dedicated member for the last two years.
GoodLife Fitness, a program of Hartford HealthCare, is geared toward the older adult to build energy, strength and endurance for an active lifestyle. An exercise physiologist works one-to-one with each person to improve muscular strength, balance, cardiovascular health and self-esteem, while reducing the risk of falls and injuries.
Since joining GoodLife Fitness at Jerome Home, Donna has made tremendous progress towards achieving her initial goal of increasing her lower body strength and feels that she is able to do activities that she couldn’t do prior to her injury due to the increased range of motion she’s developed. While on her road to recovery, Donna recruited a familiar face to join her in the program: her daughter Julianne.
Because Julianne owns and operates a successful hair salon and is constantly on her feet, she found it essential to increase her flexibility and cardiovascular endurance in order to do her job well.
Although she isn’t the typical senior participant that the GoodLife Fitness program targets, Julianne says that she “prefers the pressure free environment and personalized approach offered with this program, unlike other large commercial gyms which can often intimidate their members.” Between the constantly challenging workout routines and the supportive staff guiding her every step of the way, Julianne feels as though she has come far in her goals since the start of her fitness journey, and continues to strive for more success.
Hartford HealthCare offers GoodLife Fitness at eight locations. For more information about GoodLife Fitness at Jerome Home, call 860.356.8247.
Article by Maquita Parker, exercise specialist, Jerome Home
— Donna and Julianne Joseph
Jerome Home provides continuum of care through healing process
Jean and Wayne Grass still smile at each other when they recall meeting as teenagers on the high school track in the mid-1950s. He remembers the coat she was wearing and she remembers thinking, “He’s cute.” He was impressed by her athleticism when he saw her playing softball.
Something must have clicked: this New Britain couple has been married for 51 years. However, the last several years have been extremely difficult for the both of them as Jean was incapacitated by a degenerative spine condition. She became totally bed-ridden. “I had to do a lot for her,” Wayne recalled.
After having a successful complicated back surgery at Hartford Hospital, Jean, a retired paraprofessional, recuperated for seven months at Jerome Home where she first received extensive in-patient physical rehabilitation. Wayne and their daughters were by her side every day.
She credits her recovery, in part, to Jerome Home’s in-patient and out-patient physical and occupational therapists, including Lori Lyons. “The therapists are fantastic. They got me started on my recovery,” Jean recalled. Jerome Home, located at 975 Corbin Ave., was able to offer a continuum of care even after she was discharged.
She made slow but steady progress and eventually transitioned to GoodLife Fitness, the individualized exercise program designed to build strength, mobility and flexibility. First in a wheelchair, she progressed to a walker and now a cane. “I am working on getting my balance back and hope to start walking without a cane,” she said as she stepped toe-to-toe, testing her balance. GoodLife Fitness exercise physiologists, Angela Duval and Maquita Parker, have been by her side as she improves.
“It’s a good program, they don’t give you more than what you can do,” she said. “But exercise is good; I have to keep going for it.”
Wayne, who was having problems with his right knee, also joined GoodLife Fitness where on a recent morning he was on the treadmill talking about Jean’s progress. He jokes that now he has problem finding his wife in the supermarket because she zips away pushing the shopping cart. “I can’t stay down. I have to keep moving,” she said.
“Now she’s very independent. She’s done very well,” he said. “She’s just exceptional coming back from all of this.” They now have an eye on resuming traveling, a love of theirs, and being able to do more with their family. It’s a life journey that they plan on continuing indefinitely. After all, he still wears the watch that Jean gave him when he left for three years of military service before they were married – “Jeannie loves Wayne,” the inscription reads.
GoodLife Fitness, an individualized exercise program geared toward the older adult, has eight locations, including Jerome Home. For more information, visit https://hhcseniorservices.org/health-wellness/goodlife-fitness. To reach the Jerome Home location, call 860.356.8247. Jerome Home offers skilled nursing, short-term rehabilitation, residential care, memory care and assisted living, and is a not for profit member of Hartford HealthCare Senior Services. For more information about Jerome Home, visit jeromehome.org or call 860.229.3707.
— Jean and Wayne Grass
Volunteer turns to GoodLife Fitness to get back in action
“I am not a veteran myself but I really enjoyed interacting with them and helping them out,” said O’Brien, a retired postal clerk and motor vehicle inspector.
Even a year after his terrible accident, the incident is vivid in his mind. A series of falls over the course of two days resulted in serious injuries to both his legs. Following surgery at Hartford Hospital, O’Brien recuperated for five months at Jerome Home, located at 975 Corbin Ave. An integral component of his treatment plan was inpatient therapy. “They took very good care of me,” O’Brien recalled. He also became something of a celebrity with nearly everyone greeting him by name even now.
Upon his discharge, the New Britain resident continued his outpatient rehabilitation at Jerome Home’s GoodLife Fitness center, which is designed for older adults. Under the direction of an exercise physiologist, O’Brien has been working on building his core strength, balance and stamina through twice-weekly exercise sessions. “He is doing a great job and continuing to improve,” said Maquita Parker, BS, the exercise professional who works one-on-one with O’Brien.
“I was very active before. I liked going to festivals and fairs, and walking the Farmington River Trail – I’d like to do the whole trail in segments,” the 68-year-old said.
“I want to get back to normal and return to the veterans’ hospital,” he said. Parker has no doubt that with his determination and continued improvement, O’Brien will accomplish these goals.
GoodLife Fitness, a program of Hartford HealthCare Senior Services, is geared toward the older adult to build energy, strength and endurance for an active lifestyle. An exercise physiologist works one-to-one with each person to improve muscular strength, balance, cardiovascular health and self-esteem, while reducing the risk of falls and injuries. For more information about the GoodLife Fitness program at Jerome Home, call 1.860.229.3707. For more information about GoodLife Fitness, which operates at eight locations, visit https://hhcseniorservices.org/health-wellness/goodlife-fitness.
— Joseph O'Brien, Jerome Home GoodLife Fitness
GoodLife Fitness supports member in weight loss journey to better health
It was the fear of stroke that motivated Berlin resident Pattie Wheeler to get fit. Stroke has impacted both sides of her family and she was afraid that if she continued her sedentary lifestyle that she could be next, placing the burden of her care on her husband and other family members.
Because she was overweight and out of shape, Wheeler, who just turned 70, wanted to start an exercise program, but not join a traditional gym. “Because of the difference in age, I would feel very uncomfortable with 20-year-olds,” she recalled. “I had gone to gyms before but never stayed with it. I needed someone to help and guide me. Doing exercises incorrectly can cause serious injury and can be worse than not exercising at all.”
Friends who work at the Jerome Home in New Britain told Wheeler about the GoodLife Fitness program which focuses on guided, individualized exercise. There, her exercise physiologist developed an exercise plan concentrating on building her core strength, stability and range of motion. During the past two years, she has worked out twice weekly at the GoodLife Fitness, a Hartford HealthCare program.
Wheeler knew that she needed a total lifestyle change which included eating a more Mediterranean diet of fresh fruits and vegetables and limiting processed foods. She also began walking regularly. “My physician was all for it. She’s very happy that my blood pressure has gone down,” she said, adding that her physician receives regular updates from her exercise physiologist.
Since joining GoodLife Fitness, Wheeler has also lost more than 35 pounds. “I was on track for a knee replacement but after losing the weight and working out to strengthen my leg muscles, my knee doesn’t bother me anymore.” Her better health has made it easier for her to pursue the social activities she enjoys and stave off depression, a problem that she knows can challenge many inactive seniors.
Wheeler has realized great success by supplementing GoodLife Fitness with proper eating and increased activity. Her personal exercise physiologist has given her the confidence in knowing that she’s exercising correctly to lead to optimum results. “I’m very comfortable here,” she said, adding that she has encouraged a friend to join.
GoodLife Fitness is an individualized exercise program geared toward the older adult to build energy, strength and endurance for an active lifestyle. An exercise physiologist works one-to-one with each person to improve muscular strength, balance, cardiovascular health and self-esteem, while reducing the risk of falls and injuries. GoodLife Fitness has seven locations in central Connecticut. To learn more about GoodLife Fitness at Jerome Home, contact Maquita Parker, 860.356.8272.
— Pattie Wheeler, Jerome Home GoodLife Fitness
GoodLife Fitness Member Proves Fitness Continues Even at 90+
Berlin resident Ruth Day easily lowers herself to the floor of the GoodLife Fitness Center at Jerome Home in New Britain and positions her body to perform a plank, a core strength exercise. With her forearms, elbows and toes bearing her weight, from head to toe she is as rigid as a board, barely showing any exertion as she counts for 30 seconds.
“Great job, Ruth,” said Robert Schmelzer, exercise physiologist, as he reviewed her individualized exercise plan that also includes lunges, leg stretches and walking on the treadmill at her twice-weekly sessions. “Ruth is really impressive; she is the epitome of core strength.” The plank is hard for many people, noted Robert, so the fact that Ruth can do it is truly remarkable because she is older than 90.
“I don’t remember when I started going to the GoodLife Fitness Center or even how I heard about it. It may have been after my third heart surgery,” said Ruth, who actually was the Jerome Home activities director years ago. “But I’ve always loved exercise and have always walked.” She also played tennis and took yoga when she was younger.
GoodLife Fitness focuses on improving participants’ strength, mobility and balance, often to levels that they thought were in the past. “Regularly working with our exercise physiologists in developing an individualized routine using proper technique and exercise progression has proven to be a key component to what enables our clients to successfully age in place,” Schmelzer explained.
Ruth agreed. “It’s very helpful to me. If I miss a time, I immediately think about when can I make it up.” The program also provides socialization. For a time, Ruth brought one of her friends who uses a wheelchair.
She looks to Robert to keep her progressing through her 12-session cycle of exercises. “I showed my heart doctor my program and he said it was perfect. It has definitely increased my strength and stamina,” she said.
Ruth, who has become something of a celebrity, was featured on FOXCT “Healthier Connections.” She recommends GoodLife Fitness and encourages others to stick with it on a regular basis. Robert is a very knowledgeable instructor who has a wonderful way with people of all abilities, she said. “He makes each person feel special, and is very patient and encouraging.”
Her dedication to a healthy lifestyle has enabled her to remain independent and active in her church and community service. “I try to be ever thankful.”
For more information about GoodLife Fitness at Jerome Home, call Robert Schmelzer, exercise physiologist, (860) 229-3707.
— Ruth Day