Monday, December 5, 2016

Walkers in the Bingham Gym

Last week saw the first walkers taking advantage of the new walking program for seniors at Gould Academy's Bingham Gym. This week the gym will be open for walking on Tuesday and Thursday (December 6 and 8) from 1:30 - 2:30 pm. Now that there's snow on the ground come and check it out! Please bring a pair of gym-type shoes to wear - street shoes are not allowed in the gym.

Because of Gould Academy activities, after this week the walking program will take a break until January 10. For more information contact Jackie Cressy (, 824-0508).

Chorus Line: Laurie Winsor and Judy Whitman are cute enough to be in a chorus line, but they're in a "Walking line" at the Bingham Gym at Gould Academy.   photo Eunice Ruby

John Holliday joined the walkers Thursday. photo Eunice Ruby

The gym is connected to Bingham Hall at Gould, the door to the right.  Rosabelle Tifft found it! photo Eunice Ruby

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Monday, November 21, 2016

From the Brown Bag Lunch Discussion on Civil Discourse

by Brendon Bass

Following our country's long and contentious campaign season, November 16th's Brown Bag Lunch discussion focused on civil discourse. The 14 participants shared constructive and creative responses they'd heard or thought over the previous week, noted local community-building opportunities, and shared ideas on what steps could be taken next. They also contributed to a list of online resources to be shared via email. If you missed the program but would like to receive or contribute to this list, please contact Nancy Davis ( or 381-1110). Let her know, also, if you have ideas for related Brown Bag Lunch discussions.

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Senior College Players Celebrate 10th Anniversary This Weekend

by Rosabelle Tifft

Ross Timberlake, well-known for his acting and playwriting, wrote and is directing a play in a unique format to highlight and celebrate the tenth anniversary of the players. Jack Kuchta assists as facilitator. The play, “Thank You and Good Night,” introduces you to the Senior College Players as they've never been seen before.

Ross said, “Over the past ten years we’ve appeared as various characters in plays, but we’ve never played ourselves. We not only face the challenge of playing ourselves, but we face another challenge as we get into character in a number of “skits.” These skits, or vignettes, taken from a number of favorite plays, are interwoven throughout the play.

Here are the remaining skits not previously mentioned in previous posts:

“Cornbread and Beans” finds Tineke Ouwinga and Norman Milliard as two very different persons on a blind date.
Tineke Ouwinga & Norman Milliard  photo Bob McCartney

Two ditsy women, played by Carole Timberlake and Tineke Ouwinga, hold up a bank so they can get a date with the bank manager, played by Tim LeConey, in “Creative Dating.” Caught in the confusion are bank teller, Pat McCartney, and customers Mark Antell, Barb Dion and Arita Zitoli.
Carole Timberlake, Tim LeConey,  Tineke Ouwinga in front;  Mark Antell,  Pat McCartney in back.  photo Bob McCartney

“The Trial of Goldilocks” presents a different twist to this traditional story and features Norman Milliard as Goldilocks who steals the show from Mama Bear, Carole Timberlake; Papa Bear, Jack Kuchta; and Baby Bear, Arita Zioli. Tineke Ouwinga plays the narrator.
Carole Timberlake, Arita Zitoli, Jack Kuchta, Tineke Ouwinga and Norman Milliard.  photo Bob McCartney
In the closing scene, the entire cast members are still debating TV live screening versus radio and arrive at an unexpected conclusion.

First row from left:  Carol Timberlake, Jim McLean, Rosabelle Tifft and Tineke Ouwinga.

Standing (from left)  Arita Zitoli, Jack Kuchta, Norman Milliard, Roberta Taylor, Mark Antell, Tim LeConey, Carol Campbell, Pat McCartney, Ross Timberlake, Lorrie Hoeh and Barb Dion.  photo Bob McCartney
Don’t miss the performance, which will be held on Friday and Saturday, November 18 and 19, at the Gould Academy McLaughlin Auditorium beginning at 7 pm.

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Senior College Players Present Unique Anniversary Play

by Rosabelle Tifft 

Be ready for some surprises as the Senior College Players present their 10th Anniversary play, written and directed by Ross Timberlake, on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 18 and 19, at the McLaughlin Auditorium beginning at 7 pm.

You’ll see all cast members participating as their Radio Theater (WMSC) is given the mandate to become a live TV show and the Readers will have to act. Then the fun begins. Narrators, soon to be TV anchors, Jim McLean and Rosabelle Tifft, announce vignettes in the midst of humorous banter as cast members slip in, and possibly out of character.
Rosabelle Tifft and Jim Mclean. photo Bob McCartney

Here are a few of the vignettes you’ll see:

  • What’s on TV” finds narrator Jim McLean challenged by the TV remote, and changing channels to the delight of the audience as Roberta Taylor, Arita Zitolli, Barb Dion and Rosabelle Tifft turn their commentary into a hilarious show.

    Roberta Taylor, Arita Zitolli, Barb Dion and Rosabelle Tifft. photo Bob McCartney

  •  Little Something for the Ducks” features Mark Antell as a depressed elderly gentleman who thinks he has nothing to live for. A caring elderly woman, played by Lorrie Hoeh, offers hope that better days are coming.

    Lorrie Hoeh and Mark Antell.   photo Bob McCartney
  • The Challenge of Bureaucracy” shows a frustrated elderly woman, played by Rosabelle Tifft, dealing with three government officials over her lost Social Security check. Officials are played by Pat McCartney, Barb Dion and Mark Antell.

    Mark Antell, Pat McCartney, Barb Dion and Rosabelle Tifft.   photo Bob McCartney

Be sure to watch next week’s blog for more details on this special Anniversary Play.

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Our Thanks for "One Today"

(Thanks to Beth and Walter Brough for allowing us to reprint the following letter from October 27th's Bethel Citizen.)

We have just returned from one of the most inspirational, uplifting, hopeful afternoons of our octogenarian years.

Take the words of our remarkably gifted inaugural poet, Richard Blanco, and his poem "One Today;" take the incredible musical creativity and determination of our own Tom Davis; take the generosity of the Gem Theater owners, and the other donors and sponsors and contributors of all kinds (thanks Congo Craftsmen); and take the amazingly talented singers and musicians from our own community - and what you get is WOW!

It was an afternoon of tears and tissues and tremendous gratitude and pride in this wonderful community, where we live "life the way it should be." At a time that is so contentious, unsettling and disturbing, we are given back hope for one ground, one sky, one country, one people all pulling together to make this one better world. It was a performance that should be heard across the country.

Our thanks to each and every one of you for giving acclamation to the power of poetry and music.

Beth and Walter Brough

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Senior College Players Rehearsing Anniversary Play

by Rosabelle Tifft

It’s the tenth anniversary of the Senior College Players and something special and unique has been planned.

There will be only one play, but it will be interwoven with vignettes from a number of plays over the years. Players selected these plays from some of their favorite roles and are enjoying rehearsals as they recall these fun scripts.

Ross and Carole Timberlake in “Postcards from Sicily.”

Ross Timberlake, well known to Western Mountains Senior College members for his acting, directing and play writing, has written and is directing a special script to honor the work of the past ten years.

“Postcards from Sicily” by Jules Tasca is one of the comedy vignettes. It features Ross and Carole Timberlake as a husband and wife traveling through Sicily. You’ll enjoy their hilarious antics as they both show very different opinions about their wild adventures.

Carol Campbell in her role as a mime.  Photos by Norman Milliard.
 Another vignette features Carol Campbell re-playing her popular role as a mime in “The Essence of Mature Sensuality” by Patricia Puckett and Douglas Hill.

Watch the blog for more clues about this upcoming fun-filled anniversary play, and plan to join one of our performances scheduled for 7:00 pm on November 18 and 19 at Gould Academy’s McLaughlin Auditorium.

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Follow-up to the Brown Bag Lunch Discussion on Clean Elections

by Nancy Davis

The recent Brown Bag Lunch discussion centered around public financing of election campaigns, a.k.a “clean elections.” After much thoughtful discussion of the topic, facilitator Brendon Bass introduced an equally compelling discussion on the topic of rank choice voting, which is referendum question # 5 on November 8. Brendon has suggested the following internet links on these 2 topics: Ranked Choice Voting:; Maine Citizens for Clean Elections (MCCE):

If you’d like to dig deeper on this critical election, you may read unbiased information on many national and state candidates by consulting Project Vote Smart ( In addition to critical presidential and legislative decisions, there are some important referendum questions on the ballot. For more on these six issues:

Participants in the Brown Bag Lunch were inspired to continue the discussion. Whether or not that happens, the next Brown Bag discussion will be on Wednesday, November 16, on the topic of “American Political Society.” What hope is there for our American society? How can we be agents of change in the civil discourse that surrounds our political environment? The discussion will be strictly non-partisan and will reference the frustration many of us feel at the tenor of dialogue and resulting dysfunction of our political system. But only briefly, as the main focus will be on moving into positive action each of us can take. More information to follow. As always, please contact Nancy Davis if you plan to attend (now is not too early), so we have enough seating (; 381-1110). Please remember to RSVP; it is very helpful to us!

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Monday, October 10, 2016

Dementia Conversations: Breaking the Ice with Empathy and Finesse

by Mary Haberman
On October 7, 2016, Western Mountains Senior College’s To Your Health offered the third in its series on dementia.  Open to the public and held at the West Parish Congregational Church, the program’s presenter was Mark Pechenik, Director of Community Outreach and Engagement for the Maine Alzheimer’s Association.

Sensitive Issues addressed:
  1. When is it time to stop driving? (Everyone’s fear)
  2. The need to see a physician for a firm diagnosis.
  3. Reviewing and perhaps relinquishing control of financial and legal matters.

Strategies and Approaches:
Pechenik focused his presentation on methods used to overcome the most common hurdles faced by caregivers.  He prefaced these suggestions with the caution that, first and foremost, planning - detailed planning - should be worked on sooner rather than later.  “Don’t wait for a crisis. Have the conversation early and involve family whenever possible.  Be specific, honest, and patient.”

Listen closely and respond:
Remember that loss of independence, isolation, and not wanting to burden family are early-stage worries.  Appeal to the patient’s sense of responsibility to family and community when suggesting the need for often drastic changes.

Don’t become an adversary.  Go with the flow.  Keep notes and be specific. Reach out to family, friends, community and utilize the many dementia-related resources available.

Pechenik ended his presentation with a description of many initiatives taking place in Maine, and his Association’s hope for a cure by 2025.  He added that Alzheimer's and all dementias must be “brought out of the shadows.

The Western Mountain Senior College To Your Health presentations are a community service offered in collaboration with the Bethel Family Health Center, MSAD#44/Continuing Education and the Maine Alzheimer’s Association.

Sandra Seaver, Carlie Casey, Charleen Chase, Mark Pechenik, speaker, Carol Bailey, Andrea Bennett.  photo: Judy Whitman

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Painting With Words

Western Mountains Senior College's own Ruth Bebko is a newly-published author! Painting With Words is a lovely collection of poetic pieces about nature, travel, dogs and home; some are limericks, some serious, many are poignant. If you'd like to check out Ruth's book there's a copy in the Bethel Library. Meanwhile, here's a taste!

Captain Sicily’s Britches 

Bulletproof and olive green,
finest wool I ever have seen.
“Army Issue” sewn inside.
Worn with valor and great pride
            by a Captain Sicily,
native son of Italy.

Why don’t they show signs of blood or tear
(signatures of combat wear)?
Perhaps they’d been cast
             as battle lines passed - 
by the bed of some maid
on whose bosom he laid.
Or could they’ve been new? 
Or just dropped in the loo?

They sure showed up strange
in the Clothing Exchange.
How’d they make it to Bethel?
There’s no way to tell –
             but they’ve ended up snug
             in my new braided rug.

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

From Dump to High Tech - a Tour of the Lewiston Recycling Facility

A group from Western Mountains Senior College - Peter Gartner, Mary-Ellen Gartner, Jim Rector, Kay Larson, RoseMary McLean and Jim McLean - toured the Lewiston Recycling Facility on September 19. It was an informative, interesting trip -- the facility can process 22 tons of waste per hour. For those who could not make the trip because of the date change, stay tuned.  There may be a repeat open house in the near future.

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Monday, September 12, 2016

Be a friendly persuader...

by Eunice Ruby

Do you have a friend who doesn't know about our very own Western Mountains Senior College--or needs a gentle push to take a course?  Talk to them!  Share their email and mailing addresses with us so we make sure they have the new brochure!  Bring them to one of your classes as a guest.  Encourage them to take a one-day class such as Isn't It Just a Dirty Old Mill Town? (a walking tour of  Rumford) or Medical Grand Rounds.  

Some courses are still open:  Drawing and Painting, Senior College Players, Making Your Personality Work For You, Digital Devices Part 2 and Creative Writing.  

(Guests are welcome at extended classes.  Just alert Irene Kuchta at 201-788-8817 or
Thank you!  We look forward to making new friends!

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at


Photos from the Ancestral Androscoggin Esker Field Trip

Who knew that visiting local gravel pits could be so interesting? 25,000 years ago, when the glacier covered where we live, melt-water flowed into crevasses and created a raging river flowing through a tunnel in the ice. The tunnel was partially filled with rock debris that washed in, and the river tumbled it along, turning it into sand and gravel. When the glacier retreated the sand and gravel were left behind, forming an esker. Here are a few photos from Saturday's field trip along the Ancestral Androscoggin Esker with Bob Elliott.

The group. We began the trip on Route 5 along the Ellis River north of Rumford Point, about a mile north of Route 2. You can see the mix of sand and rock in the background, just as it was left behind by the glacier, then exposed by excavations to build roads and bridges, etc. Photo: Wendy Hutchins.

Layering in rings of the sand that filled the depression where an ice block melted, creating a kettle on the east edge of the esker. Because of the excavation, we now see the kettle-fill in cross-section.
Photo: Pat Stewart.

Little Davis Pond, a kettle pond across Route 5 from the gravel pit. Kettles formed where partially buried ice blocks melted to form a depression in the outwash. Kettles are more often found on the west side of glacial valleys than on the east side. The ice on the east melts faster because that side of the valley gets more of the sun’s heat during the day. Photo: Pat Stewart.

Going into the woods at the base of the esker to at least look up at it, about .4 mile north of Route 2. Photo: Pat Stewart.

Just off Route 232 at the south end of Milton Village, Bob showed us an unusual example of a section of the esker that contains a lot of finer sand. He explained how there were hurricane-force winds blowing off the glacier toward the oceans and the Great Plains, picking up and depositing the finer particles. Some of those finer particles ended up in the melt-water and thus in the esker. Photo: Pat Stewart.

Along the Whale's Back on Route 232 in Woodstock. Just right of center in the distance is the farm across the valley, at the top of the first hill along the Gore Rd., headed toward Locke Mills. Below that in the bottom of the pit is the bucket loader used to work the gravel pit. Photo: Wendy Hutchins.

A closer view showing the excavator and sorter in the Whale's Back gravel pit. Notice the pile of fine sand in front of the sorter. This is the sand that your town will use for treating roads next winter!  
Photo: Wendy Hutchins.

Last stop of the trip. Descending into “The Amphitheater” in Bryant Pond, a perfectly round kettle. Back in the early 1900s it was equipped with benches and a stage for high school graduations and concerts, etc. Photo: Pat Stewart.

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Sunday, August 28, 2016

New WMSC Board Members to Be Elected at Annual Meeting

At the Annual Meeting and Potluck Supper on September 7 we will say thank you to retiring WMSC Board members Mary Haberman, Bonnie Marien and Norman Milliard, all who have served as officers and directors for the past six years. We will then elect four new members to the WMSC Board: Brendon Bass, Susan Herlihy, Peter Musso and Eunice Ruby. We asked each of them to write a few words of introduction. Here's what they have to say.

Brendon Bass

Jean and I first came to Bethel as co-pastors of the West Parish Congregational Church. The talented, loving people of this community and the beauty of this area also led us to retire here.

Senior College's offerings, and especially its fun and involved people, help me feel that there's still a lot to learn and great folks to learn with.

We like to travel, make and enjoy music, hike, and of course spend time with our families. Also, I am concerned to improve democratic governance, increase justice, and reduce global warming.

Susan Herlihy

Along with family, the mountains, rivers, skiing and community involvement make up my core. The Bethel/Newry area offers all of those, and the addition of WMSC some years ago certainly increased the vibrant volunteer opportunities as well as the learning and entertainment options. I'm glad to lend some energy to the organization.

Peter Musso

My first trip to Maine was a ski trip to Sunday River in 1983 with my partner Norman Milliard. I fell in love with the area, and in 1985 Norman and I purchased the house we are living in presently. We joined Senior College in 2009 when Norman retired from the Postal Service. We both felt the need to get more involved in the Bethel area and that Senior College would be a great opportunity for us. Besides skiing I enjoy kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, snow shoeing and cross country skiing, and I like to think of myself as an amateur artist.

Eunice Ruby

My husband and I came to Bethel three years ago after our son and daughter-in-law convinced us we would love it here. I grew up in Newton, Massachusetts and have lived in New York City, New Orleans, Memphis, Orlando, Houston and Minneapolis. I wasn't sure about living in a small town. Well...this girl has been totally surprised. The opportunities offered by the Senior College, the amazing people who teach the courses, the camaraderie and effort put forth by members of the organization almost put a spell on me. I feel like I've fallen from a steady, calm path toward old age into a hotbed of fun and ideas.

My background is editing, in book publishing and education, and co- ownership of a prime steak house. I love to read biography, and if I ever finish the great, ponderous Alexander Hamilton, other genres of literature as well. I've always been interested in politics; this election has spurred me to finally volunteer. If it's new, I love it; if it's a challenge, I'm on it. Of course, nothing beats having fun with my family.

Brendon Bass, Susan Herlihy, Eunice Ruby and Peter Musso
For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Remembering Ruth Barrett

by Barbra Barrett

Our dear friend, Ruth Barrett passed away peacefully on Monday, August 15. Ruth moved to Bethel in 2003 from New London, NH to be close to her family. Her life was enriched by the circle of friends that she made through the Western Mountains Senior College, her memoirs group and her bridge group.

Her family is planning a memorial service for Saturday, August 27th at 1:00 pm at the West Parish Congregational Church in Bethel. Because of Ruth's love of gardening and flowers, the family requests that Ruth's friends each bring a few blossoms from your gardens or from the wildlands nearby to fill the vases in the sanctuary. Ruth would love the wild and spontaneous bouquet this will create. After the service the family invites you to attend a gathering of friends and family at the Mill Hill Inn to celebrate her life. In lieu of flowers, they have requested that donations be made to Western Mountains Senior College in her memory. If you have any questions you may contact Ruth's daughter-in-law Barbra Barrett (

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

New Approach to the Brown Bag Lunch Discussions Series

by Nancy Davis

We will be continuing the Brown Bag Lunch series in the fall, with two already-scheduled sessions at the Bethel Inn. This is an opportunity to discuss a topic of general interest in an informal small group setting. The second of the two sessions has been developed, but the October session will begin a new approach. In the future, we will not be determining topics months ahead; instead, we hope that people will come forward with a willingness to facilitate the discussion and an interesting idea to be pursued. Topics may center around current issues, fun activities, or regular classes that take place during that term - or even a class coming up in a future term. Maybe you have an even different idea! You don’t need to do the logistics; Nancy Davis will take care of that. Please contact her with an idea you’d be willing to pursue. To jog your memory, here are some topics from the past: American Society: Distrust and Fear; How Do Your Remember the 60’s? World War II Stories; Gardening to Benefit the Community.

Tuesday, 10/18, 12:15-1:30, Bethel Inn Library: Have a new idea you might like to flesh out? Contact Nancy

Wednesday, 11/16, 12:15-1:30, Bethel Inn Library: What hope is there for our American society? How can we be agents of change in the civil discourse that surrounds our political environment? This will not be a political discussion – hence, the post-election date; rather, it will focus on the over-arching political nature of our society (and perhaps others world-wide).

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Jackie van Leuven

by Ellen Crocker

Our friend and colleague Jackie van Leuven passed away on July 22 at the age of 82. She was a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, with a degree in fashion design. Her last position before she retired was with Levi Strauss, where she designed custom-fit jeans for women.

Jackie was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at the age of 9. Because of her vigilance in managing this disease she outlived her estimated life expectancy by 40 years. And despite her health challenges, she lived life to the fullest.

In 1998 she moved to Bethel, where her life-long friend Marlene Engdahl had also retired. She was active in Senior College, in the Congregational Church, and in her neighborhood, where she visited and brought food to needy neighbors.

Jackie loved to travel and took numerous trips with her daughter Juliana and with a cousin. And in 2007 she joined a Senior College trip to Greece along with Ellen Crocker. She was an ongoing participant in the drawing and painting class with Suzanne Taylor. Suzanne writes, “Jackie was a faithful member of the Art Class since the beginning. Although she was already a professional artist, she remained modest about her accomplishments. In spite of her physical difficulties as time went on, she never gave up, and she was an inspiration to us all.”

Jackie is survived by her three children and three grand-children, a sister. a brother-in-law and son-in-law. A celebration of Jackie’s life was held at West Parish Congregational Church on August 6.

We will all miss her cheerful demeanor and her welcoming smile.

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Friday, July 15, 2016

Remembering Betsy Kilkenny

by Kathleen DeVore, Norman Milliard and RoseMary McLean

Betsy Kilkenny, facilitator of last winter's Kings and Queens of England course, passed away suddenly on July 6. Betsy's home was in Doylestown, PA, but she was an avid skier and spent her winters at Sunday River. She came to WMSC a year ago when she joined the Canterbury Tales class. After one of those sessions she mentioned to the Program Committee that she might have a class to offer - The Kings and Queens of England. And what a class that was! Her detailed knowledge of the royal families made them come alive and seem like old friends.

Norman Milliard recently commented that Betsy's Kings and Queens class was so wonderful because she had such enthusiasm for teaching a subject she obviously enjoyed. She knew the subject matter thoroughly and presented it in such an infectious manner that it drew everyone in. Each class never seemed long enough to get in all the material that she wanted to share. It was almost as if she had lived in that era and had been reborn in the future.

Betsy was in turn a flight attendant, mother, and high school social studies teacher. Her love of travel and adventure, combined with her unbridled energy prompted her to explore the world, making many new friends along the way. Among her pursuits were skiing, the cello, scuba diving and dog rescue.

Betsy was a member of Sunday River's Prime Time Ski Club. The club is putting together a memory book for Betsy's family, and they have invited members of the Kings and Queens class to participate. If you have recollections, stories, poems, sketches, photos, etc. that you wish be included in this memory book send them to Suzie DuBois (16 Ledgefield Circle, South Portland, Maine 04106, 207-712-6661, The deadline is Monday, August 1.

Betsy had planned to teach another course for us next winter. It is our great loss that this will not happen.

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Tribute to Elise Caswell

by Kathleen DeVore and Diane McMahon

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Elise Caswell, poet, artist, and WMSC member. Elise was a regular member of the Drawing and Painting class, where her fun-loving spirit and creative energy captivated us all. Elise facilitated two writing classes for WMSC, “Wild Writes” and “Cut and Paste Poetry,” both of which were well received. She was a passionate lover of Earth and Mother Nature, as evidenced in her life and poetry. Last summer a dozen or so of us attended Elise's first (and only) poetry reading in Bethel, where we were deeply moved by the beauty, sensitivity and depth of her words.

Elise had just dropped off her "Parliament of Owls" series of paintings for the Shy, Novice and Closeted Art Show when she died suddenly. To honor Elise's life and creative force, Janet Willie is dedicating this year's show to her. You can visit the show on Saturday, July 2 from 9:00 – 4:00 at 18 High Street, Bethel.

A celebration of her life is being planned by her husband, Steve, and their sons Will and Sam. We will announce details when they become available.

Elise was truly a free spirit, and we will miss her terribly.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Age-Friendly Community Project Celebrates First Anniversary

by Nancy Davis

Remember these WMSC programs a year ago? One was on Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal and the other explained the Village to Village concept and other approaches that in some communities are helping seniors stay in their homes and communities at the end of life. From that humble beginning emerged a planning team of nine individuals, leading Bethel through the process of becoming a member of AARP’s Age-Friendly Community Network, administering and analyzing a community survey and conducting two public meetings aimed at engaging community members in the movement. An important decision was made, and AARP and town leaders officially approved the inclusion of the communities of Greenwood, Newry and Woodstock in the project. The team was expanded to include four representatives from those communities – a new model that AARP has heartily and publicly endorsed.

On Thursday, May 19, 5:00-7:00 p.m. at the Alliance Church in Bethel there will be a Public Celebration of the Age-Friendly Community Project’s first year and planning for the future. Some important projects have been identified from the ideas suggested through the survey and in a variety of meetings. Ambitious plans for improving transportation services are underway, as are Tech for Seniors classes at the Bethel Library. The team is looking for people to help with several other short- or medium-term projects, including: creating a directory of services in the community (hard copy and online), setting up a daily call/check-in system, pursuing using existing venues for a Community Center facsimile (with later exploration into building a Center). And more! Please attend this important get-together to see what’s happening and lend your voice. (New information from the planning team is inserted weekly in the tab at the top of this blog page.)

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Monday, April 18, 2016

Move It or Lose It

by Marvin Ouwinga

On April 7 between 4:30 and 6:30 at the Congregational Church in Bethel about 30 participants enjoyed a wonderful, fully involved, series of health inducing exercise sessions led by three experienced local fitness trainers. This session was introduced by Dr. Catherine Chamberlin of the Bethel Family Health Center and sponsored by the Western Mountains Senior College. Dr. Chamberlin first introduced Betsey Foster who holds weekly classes in Tai Chi and Qigong at the Ripley Building of Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway. Betsey explained how the ancient arts of Tai Chi and Qigong stimulate the internal organs and help deal with chronic conditions such as arthritis and COPD.      

Next Patti Truman, a Zumba instructor and personal trainer, rolled away the rugs and led us in a fast paced Zumba dance workout. This was an excellent aerobic exercise. Patti has a studio called Leapz and Beatz at 208 Grover Hill Road in Bethel where she holds classes during the week. She is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer. Call her at 824-3259 or use the Leapz and Beatz Facebook page to make an appointment.

After all that exercise Karen Swanson, a yoga teacher with 20 years experience, showed us how to relax with slow movements and deep breathing. She set a warm, comfortable tone with music and gentle instructions. Karen offers classes and private sessions at her home studio and in the Methodist Church annex on Main St. in Bethel.

Tai Chi with Betsey Foster

Chair Yoga with Karen Swanson

Zumba with Patti Truman

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Maintaining Digestive Health

Roberta Balon
Roberta Balon (Androscoggin Valley Hospital) spoke on digestive health at the latest To Your Health presentation, “Is Your Tummy Talking to You?” The large group in attendance learned that the health of your digestive system is affected by what you eat, the medications you take, and your level of stress, all of which can change the balance between good and bad bacteria in your gut. If you are having digestive issues, chances are this balance is off.

You can increase the presence of good bacteria in the digestive tract by eating foods that contain probiotics (friendly bacteria and yeasts) such as milk, sauerkraut and live-culture yogurt. Prebiotics are foods that form good bacteria when they are broken down. These are plant-based foods rich in fiber such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Eating a diet rich in probiotic and prebiotic foods is essential to good digestive health.

Taking an antibiotic medication may be necessary, but it can negatively impact the bacterial balance in the gut. Taking a probiotic supplement can prevent this – take the probiotic for twice as long as you take the antibiotic.

How about eating gluten-free? The gluten-free diet is on everyone's radar, but for most of us it provides no benefit. There are three groups of people who should avoid gluten: those with Celiac disease, those who are allergic to wheat, and those who have a gluten sensitivity. Otherwise save your money!

The next To Your Health presentation, “Move It or Lose It!” will take place on Thursday, April 7 from 4:30-6:30 pm at the West Parish Congregational Church in Bethel.

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Dr. Daniel van Buren Speaks on Atrial Fibrillation

Last Thursday, February 4, Dr. Daniel van Buren spoke at a To Your Health presentation on Atrial Fibrillation (AF). AF is an abnormal heart rhythm affecting 33.5 million adults in the U.S., with 5 million new cases each year. Seven percent of everyone over the age of 65 is affected.  AF is responsible for 15% of all strokes.

Individuals with AF have a problem with the heart's electrical system. Very simply, disorganized electrical activity in the upper chambers causes the lower chambers to beat erratically. Blood is not pumped properly, which results in the formation of clots, hence the greatly increased risk of stroke.

Symptoms of AF include palpitations, shortness of breath, racing heart, general malaise and fatigue. Some experience no symptoms at all. AF is diagnosed with an EKG. Dr. van Buren described the EKG as showing a heartbeat that is “irregularly irregular.”

Because of the increased risk of stroke, medication that inhibits clot formation is usually prescribed. Traditionally that drug has been warfarin. But warfarin requires a great deal of tweaking and monitoring, which has led to under treatment. Newer drugs are now available that have proven to be at least as effective as warfarin, at least as safe, and do not require constant monitoring. The downside with any blood thinner is the risk of bleeding, but in the case of preventing stroke the benefits outweigh the risks.

An interesting new development is the Watchman Device. Most clots form in the left atrial appendage. The Watchman Device is inserted over the opening to the appendage to prevent blood from entering and clots from forming.

Jackie Cressy, Jan Stowell, Dr. van Buren and Rosabelle Tifft.
The thirty-five people in attendance asked many questions, which Dr. van Buren graciously answered.

The next To Your Health presentation, “Is Your Tummy Talking to You?” will be held on Thursday, March 3 from 4:30 – 6:00 at the West Parish Congregational Church.  It is free and open to the public.

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at