Seniors take wing

Roger Fenton, left, gets ready to take off from the Auburn Municipal Airpot in a 1942 Boeing Stearman military trainer plane piloted by Darryl Fisher. COURTESY PHOTO, Kevin R. Knox

Foundation honors elderly military veterans with flights in an historic, open-cockpit, two-seater biplane

Invited to soar the sunny skies in a open-cockpit, vintage biplane last Friday, Steve Dyke and several Auburn-area seniors jumped at the chance.

For Dyke, who has spent a lifetime in aviation, foremost as an air traffic controller, the front-seat view of the Green River Valley from 1,000 feet above the ground took him back to his days in the Air Force and Air National Guard.

“Absolutely wonderful,” said the 76-year-old man, who grew up in the Midwest before embarking on a long and rewarding career that embraced the wonders of flight. “It was very comforting, knowing I had the power there, which a lot of these planes don’t have.

“I’m always leery about abrupt changes,” said Dyke, having lunch after his nostalgic flight from the Auburn Municipal Airport, “but this particular aircraft had the weight, it had the power and the stability to handle just about anything. It was very comfortable, very nice. Wonderful airplane, wonderful flight.”

All courtesy of Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring seniors and United States military veterans in long-term care facilities. Since its launch in 2011, the Reno, Nev.,-based foundation has flown more than 3,000 “dream flights” throughout the country.

The foundation, composed of volunteers who donate their time and talents, relies on donors to cover the cost of flights, which are offered at no charge to seniors and U.S. military veterans in retirement communities.

At the controls of the 1942 Boeing Stearman military trainer plane was Darryl Fisher, who established the foundation and works in the senior-living industry. Fisher, who grew up in a family deep-dyed in aviation tradition, listened to passengers’ stories before helping them climb into the biplane. Tightly strapped into the cockpit, some goggled, and each wearing a head-set, guests enjoyed a 15- to 20-minute flight through Auburn skies.

Fisher also signed commemorative hats and took photos with the grateful, grinning seniors afterward.

“Our foundation’s mission is to give back to those who have given,” Fisher said.

The flight was part of Village Concepts’ Project Bucket List. Guest passengers represented Village Concepts Retirement Communities of Auburn and Enumclaw.

For Roger Fenton, of Auburn, it had been a long time since he sat in such a two-seater. Fenton, who served in the military, began flying small planes when he was 13, growing up in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“I enjoyed it,” Fenton said. “It’s just a noisy military trainer (used to train World War II pilots).”

Don Ollivier, 80, of Auburn, was a control tower operator in the Army before fulfilling a 30-year career as a mechanic and plumber for Boeing. He had flown and worked on many airplanes, big and small, but nothing quite like the vintage ’42 Spearman.

“It was fantastic,” he said of the flight. “It’s just a different feeling than what I’ve known before.”

Enumclaw’s Bette Guenther, 82, has ridden in a hot-air balloon, but she never imagined taking flight in an historic biplane.

“No, it wasn’t (on my bucket list), but it ended up being on it,” she said. “It was absolutely wonderful.”

Flying in such a plane had been one of 90-yearold Bob Stygar’s unrealized boyhood dreams.

“I never had a chance to do it,” said the Enumclaw man. “It was great, a lot different than anything I’ve flown … the wind blowing in your face.

“I’d like to do it again.”

Seniors peruse pot for pain

Discussion at the Evergreen Market on Monday covers how cannabis derivatives can relieve aches and pains

Bonnie Kosco discusses with Auburn senior citizen Joanne Harries, foreground, how a marijuana-infused lotion has helped relieve the pain of her arthritis. ROBERT WHALE, Auburn Reporter

Sure, there are a lot of potheads and stoners out and about.

But deep-six the notion that today’s marijuana is all about, only about, getting high. So yesterday, dude.

As Eric Gaston, owner and co-founder of Evergreen Market, informed the handful of senior citizens from the retirement home Village Concepts Brannan Park who’d accepted his invitation to drop in Monday and learn about cannabis, today’s stuff is about so much more.

“The variety of products available in Washington state today is mind blowing,” Gaston said.

Indeed, cannabis in its capacity to relieve aches, pains and stress – all of those maladies of keen importance to senior citizens – can be found in skin creams, foods, pills, oil-based tinctures, mixers to make drinks with, smokeless devices, and everything in between.

None of which, Gaston noted, involve harsh smoke or the old roach clip.

Gaston is keen on educating people to whom marijuana is a great unknown. To that end, he has a special employee at each of his stores in Renton and Auburn called “the educator,” whose only job is to “deep-dive with customers” and help them learn about cannabis.

That’s what educators Elan Gratrix and Esther Wacheke did Monday, fielding questions, talking about products.

Bonnie Kosco, afflicted with arthritis, said she had endured painful cortisone shots in her fingers, which sometimes worked, sometimes didn’t. When her doctor told her, ‘no more shots, next time it’ll be surgery,’ she began looking for alternatives.

What she found was a lotion called “Dose,” which provides her with relief without any semblance of a high.

“I use it when it becomes painful, and when I need it, I reapply it … and it’s successful,” Kosco said. “I might also mention that because you might try it, and you might go, ‘I don’t know if that works,’ don’t give up. Go to another item, and you might find the success you’re looking for.

“The other thing that converted me was I’d never had a problem sleeping before, and then a couple of years ago, I’d go to bed for an hour, wake up, toss and turn for two or three hours, and it was just awful. I hated it,” Kosco said, noting another sans-buzz product that has provided her the sleep she needs without any lingering sensations in the morning.

Senior Joanne Harries wanted to know if cannabis could do anything for her bad knees, and if so, could she travel with say, a topical cream, without hassle from the legal establishment?

Bit risky, said Wacheke: one is only legally protected within the state of Washington.

“There goes my Canadian trip,” Harries said, throwing up her arms.

But Wacheke, keen to save Harries’ good times, volunteered that that same knee-pain relieving product can also be found in Canada.

“I’m not giving my good money away to the Canadians!” Harries objected to laughter. “I’d need that to get out of jail!”

Eric’s Heroes: At 104 years old, meet the newest member of the Hooligans bike club

PORT ANGELES, Wash. — It was a long lifetime ago, and he drove an Indian motorcycle with his wife on the back and his two little girls in the sidecar. The girl on the right, the one with the curly hair, loved it. And she never, ever forgot it.

At the Park View Villas Senior Living Home in Port Aangeles, Elgin Skewes eats lunch with her friends. And maybe if you look hard enough you can see that she was the little girl with the curls. The man with the Indian was her dad.

Elgin is 104 years old. She’s seen enough of life that she doesn’t have time for small talk. We asked her if she was looking forward to her birthday.

“Heavens no…why would I be looking forward to that?” she said.

We asked about her favorite part of the day.

“Going to bed,” Elgin said.

But if you ask about motorcycles, she lights up.

“I was raised on one. I was on a motorcycle before cars. And then they got a car when I was eight, and I swore I’d never ride in a car. Just motorcycles. I changed my mind,” Elgin said.

The last time she road on a bike?

“Oh, when I was about eight,” she said.

That was 96 years ago.

For the lucky ones, long after the flesh wearies of life, the soul thirsts for more.

“I was sitting up there with her and I had asked her, ‘What do you want to do now? Want to go on a Harley Ride?’ and she said, ‘Oh, you can do that?’ and I said yes, I can have 15 bikes out here and give you a ride. She said, ‘Oh, let’s do it!’ And that’s where it began,” said Diana Crawford, a member of the Hooligans Bike Club.

Her name is Elgin. She is 104 yrs old. She was born to be wild. And, she just joined The Hooligans motorcycle gang. Need I say more?

So Crawford made some calls, and on a quiet Saturday as the residents rested, the Hooligans made their presence felt at the Park View Villas.

And out came Elgin. She wanted noise, and noise she got.

It was then that this stoic, tough old bird started to cry. A big guy approached and took a knee.

There were formalities to be taken care of…Elgin received her “Harley Mama” patch, her new road name.

Elgin was outfitted in leather chaps and a jacket. She was fearless.

Her new brother hoisted her up and dropped her onto the Harley, like a queen being placed onto a litter.

It was obvious to all of the Hooligans: Elgin Skewes hadn’t seen enough. She hadn’t done enough. Not even after 104 years.

The engines roared and off they went…and the ladies left behind at the Park View Villas looked on in wonder.

They traveled in a pack and Elgin felt the wind in her face and the vibration of the Harley…and she soaked it in…they way one does when you’ve missed something for the better part of a hundred years.

Later on, back in her room watching TV, thinking back to her ride with the Hooligans…the lady known now as “Harley Mama” said the most extraordinary thing.

“I’ve got to figure what to do next? What can you suggest besides running with the bulls?” Elgin said.

Elgin Skewes. 104 years old. Still thirsty.

Village Concepts urges safe practices among heat wave

Residents at Spiritwood at Pine Lake receive hydration station.

Village Concepts, a third generation family owned business, is proud to help seniors live their best lives in retirement and assisted living communities throughout Washington State. As temperatures rise across the state, senior citizens in particular are at risk for dehydration. Michelle Strazis, Executive Director of Spiritwood at Pine Lake retirement community in Issaquah, advocates for seniors and staff to stay safe during the hot months and keep themselves hydrated.

Strazis knows the importance of acting mindfully in the heat, especially when it comes to the wellness of their senior population. By strategically placing a “Hydration Station” in the bistro and memory care areas, residents and staff will be reminded to be proactive in combatting growing temperatures this summer.

“The hydration stations are so important to our community staying safe during these hot months, ” Strazis said in a press release. “We’re making sure everyone can enjoy the sunshine without worrying.”

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 40% of heat-related fatalities in the U.S. were among people over 65 and dehydration is one of the 10 most frequent diagnoses responsible for hospitalization.

Spiritwood at Pine Lake is committed to providing comprehensive information and education to ensure that seniors are protected through this heat wave. The suggestion below by the CDC should be practiced and taken into consideration among all households, especially with a senior citizen:

  • Drink fluids throughout the day to keep the body balanced, including 8 oz. of fluid following medication.
  • Take it easy. Seniors need to be reminded to not overexert themselves, especially in high temperatures.
  • Know the warning signs of heat-related illness. When a senior shows signs of dizziness, nausea, headaches, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, fainting and/or breathing problems, you should seek medical help immediately.
  • Stay indoors during the hottest part of the day – Avoid direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. during high temperatures. Staying indoors, preferably in an air-conditioned environment or near a fan, will help keep the body cool.
  • Make phone calls. If you can’t check on a senior in person, call periodically throughout the day and offer them verbal reminders to stay cool and hydrated.

Village Concepts manages 17 communities, and aims to keep its residents and staff well informed and safe during the hottest times of the year. Spiritwood at Pine Lake knows a simple fan or Hydration Station can make all the difference.