Saturday, May 30, 2015

GSN: Planting the Seed with Senior Gardeners

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Golden Slippers Network
May 27, 2015

Photo credit: Golden Slippers Network

Nature heals. Nature rejuvenates. Nature connects us to our roots.
After a stressful day, a walk in the garden quiets the heart and restores a sense of peace. But the benefits don’t end there. According to the National Gardening Association, nearly 80 million Americans love nothing more than to sink their hands into the dirt and plant or weed a garden during their leisure time.
As we age, our abilities may wane a little, but gardening is an activity that can actually restore cognitive, physical, psychological and social skills in the elderly. Pam Welsch, greenhouse coordinator at the Special Tree NeuroCare Center in Romulus, Michigan, has worked with the elderly as well as other age groups in need of rehabilitation for nine years. She has been a certified nursing assistant since the 1970s. Today, she works at Special Tree’s 1,700-square-foot greenhouse, open year-round. The greenhouse has eight raised beds, built to be easily accessible for those using wheelchairs or simply to eliminate the need for bending. Other raised beds are on wheels so that they can be moved inside for gardening on rainy days.
“Gardening offers many benefits for seniors,” she says. “It begins with daily exposure to sunlight, because many people, especially seniors, don’t get enough vitamin D. Being outside in the sun is one of the only ways we can get vitamin D, and that helps keep our bones and immune systems strong.”
Welsch lists other benefits of gardening:
  • Cognitive—Gardening develops new skills as well as restores past skills, helps develop focus and concentration on the task at hand, and strengthens decision-making and planning skills.
  • Physical—Gardening provides moderate aerobic exercise and improves flexibility while enhancing gross and fine motor skills.
  • Psychological—Gardening gives the gardener a sense of self-worth and accomplishment, promotes positive attitude, and provides a sense of responsibility over an ongoing project.
  • Social—Gardening can improve social interaction when done as a group activity, bringing isolated seniors outside to work toward common goals. It is beneficial, however, when done alone, too.
“The sensory benefits are wonderful for seniors, too,” Welsch says. “With many seniors suffering from dementia and memory loss, flowers have a way of bringing back positive memories. And the greenhouse is just a beautiful place, filled with beautiful scents.”
Working in gardens often restores pleasure in living, Welsch says. Working with plants has been shown to reduce stress and lift depression. Association with nature, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, has also been shown to reduce pain while calming agitated behaviors, even reducing the need for medications.
“Part of the therapeutic effect is the emphasis on ...


Monday, May 18, 2015

Between the Lines: Politics and Community

by Zinta Aistars
for WMUK 102.1 FM

Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guest: Adam Schuitema 

Adam Schuitema with daughter Elizabeth

Haymaker is a fictional town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula created by Grand Rapids author Adam Schuitema. Haymaker is also the title of Schuitema’s newest book, published in April 2015 by Switchgrass Books. And, haymaker also refers to a forceful blow. All apply to the story.

The book was inspired by a 2014 NPR news story about a small town in New Hampshire that was taken over by a group of libertarians. That led to something of a civil war among the townspeople and the “outsiders.” Schuitema’s Haymaker illustrates what can happen when change is forced upon people, even with "good" intentions. Schuitema says he chose Michigan’s U.P. because it’s an area he knows well from his travels, and because “Yoopers,” are known for their rugged individualism.

Haymaker opens with town resident Donnie Sarver throwing a haymaker in his annual fist fight with some unfortunate who's decided to ...


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Between the Lines: Great Lakes Adventure

by Zinta Aistars
for WMUK 102.1 FM

Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guest: Loreen Niewenhuis

Loreen Niewenhuis

Her Keen boots slouch comfortably in the closet, shoelaces untied. This is not the first pair of boots Loreen Niewenhuis wore on her series of three thousand-mile hikes, but, at least for a while, it will be the last. For her next great adventure, Niewenhuis is measuring distance by words instead of miles. She's a scientist, a hiker, and a writer.

In 2009, as Niewenhuis felt the nest about to empty with the departure of two nearly grown sons, and her marriage coming to what she refers to as a "planned conclusion," Niewenhuis had a midlife crisis.
“It wasn’t that it was such a traumatic time,” she says. “But I imagined my younger self and how she would have seen me today. I made my midlife crisis into a midlife adventure.”
So began the first thousand-mile hike around Lake Michigan, resulting in the first of Niewenhuis’s adventure trilogy, A 1,000-Mile Walk on the Beach. She began walking in Chicago and ended there seven months later, taking occasional breaks along the way, walking mostly alone. Her two sons as well as friends and relatives joined her here and there, “But I hiked alone about 80 percent of the time.”
Niewenhuis grew up in the Detroit area and has lived in Michigan most of her life. “Once a summer, my parents took the family to Lake Michigan. There weren’t sandy beaches like that on the east side. And the dunes. The dunes! I thought, this is amazing! That was the lake I grew up on.”
Niewenhuis has a graduate degree in science and she has worked in a hospital laboratory, in animal research, and on a bone marrow transplant group. She turned her passion to writing while raising her sons and returned to school to earn another master’s degree, this time in the fine arts.
A year later, Niewenhuis headed out on her second thousand-mile adventure, chronicled in A 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Walk. She had thought about her second adventure while she was still on her first. There’s an addictive quality to pushing one’s comfort zone, she admits, and an addictive quality to Michigan’s Great Lakes. She wanted more.
“I wanted to ... "

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Between the Lines: Indie Books and Writers

by Zinta Aistars
Host of "Between the Lines" on WMUK
Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate

Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guest: Jim Donahue, owner of Battle Creek Books, and Sandy Carlson, Battle Creek author

Independent booksellers and local writers: it’s a literary marriage made in book heaven. The owner of the new Battle Creek Books, Jim Donahue, and “tween” author Sandy Carlson from Battle Creek are in full agreement.

Donahue opened the doors of his bookstore in April. After more than 30 years as a physician specializing in geriatrics at the VA Hospital in Battle Creek, the Brooklyn, New York, native decided it was time for a career change. Donahue says he believes his store can join the national resurgence of independent bookstores. And he says that includes a beneficial collaboration with local authors like Sandy Carlson.

Carlson is a retired elementary school teacher who writes historical fiction and fantasy for kids aged 8 to 14. She now tutors dyslexic children and speaks at schools to encourage reading and an enjoyment of the art of storytelling. Her books include The Town That DisappearedWar UnicornLogging WinterTales of the Lost SchoonerStacks of FlapjacksWildfire; and Star Opening.

“I must have called Jim three or four times before he even opened the bookstore,” Carlson laughs. She says local authors are always eager to establish a good business relationship with local booksellers. Having an “indie” in town gives authors a venue for book sales and author events. Those events give bookstore owners increased traffic.

The two see reading trends from sometimes similar, and sometimes opposing viewpoints. Carlson says, as an author ...