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Vital Seniors Add Life to Their Years

Spending a few minutes with Beverly/Morgan Park resident Carl Spencer can make a person feel like a winner soaring across the finish line. At 86, his personal energy and zest for life are positively infectious, and challenge common ideas about octogenarians. The number of Illinoisans over 85 is growing rapidly, and by 2020, is expected to increase by 36 percent.





In a study published by the American Psychological Association, Yale School of Public Health, Professor Becca Levy and her colleagues concluded that older people with positive perceptions of aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those with negative images of growing older.


Compact, strong and impeccably dressed, Spencer loves a good story and a good challenge. His spirit and strength are remarkable, and his determination to remain independent, happy and active at every age is typical of today’s senior population. Although there is no such thing as the fountain of youth, there are many things that people can do to add life to their years. 


Spencer and his wife, Elaine, have decided to move into the new Smith Village, so they can stay in the community. The fact that every detail of this new lifestyle option encourages continued vitality appeals to people like the Spencers. Smith Village’s 152 independent living apartments, situated along Western Avenue between 112th and 113th Places, will be ready for occupancy in early 2007.


Exercise at Every Age


To say that Carl Spencer has always been physically active is something of an understatement. He has been a cyclist for 70 years. For some people, winning scores of races as a young man would have been the end of the story, but for Spencer the adventures continued.


In his 50s, Spencer helped commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps by biking across the country from Coney Island, NY to San Diego, Calif. in 26 days. For his efforts on behalf of the Marines, and for his remarkable athletic achievements, he will be honored this month at the 3rd Annual Beverly Hills Cycling Classic on Fri., July 8. He still bikes an average of eight miles a day.


Spencer’s athletic feats are beyond the abilities of most people half his age, but regular exercise, even at modest levels, has significant health benefits. Exercise decreases the risk of a number of chronic diseases including coronary artery disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, pulmonary disease and cancer. In addition, exercise can boost energy and improve emotional and cognitive health. 


Smith Village will make it easy for residents by providing a top-notch health and wellness center offering exercise classes and expert advice designed specifically for the needs of seniors. Additionally, outdoor walking and social activities help maintain a healthy level of activity.


It Takes a Village

Despite his remarkable athleticism, if you ask Spencer the secret to his continued vigor, he claims that it is in his connections to the people around him.


“If I can have a chance to make someone else be a winner, then I remain strong myself,” he said. He and Elaine maintain an active role in the community, and plan to continue to do so when they move into Smith Village. They also stay busy visiting with friends and family.


Being a part of a vital and active community has been shown to help maintain health during the aging process. Connections to friends, families and neighbors can enhance the process of staying engaged in the world, remaining physically active and finding intellectual stimulation easier.  


At Smith Village, residents can stay connected socially through activities as well as in casual settings like a sun-filled atrium, hair salon, gardens, library, club and game rooms or one of the three dining areas.


Challenge Your Mind to Stay Sharp

Learning new things is possible at every age and seeking out intellectual challenges offers important benefits. With the change in responsibilities that comes with retirement, people often discover untapped talents.


Extensive scientific research has shown that remaining mentally and physically active has significant benefits. Dr. Sangram S. Sisodia, Thomas Reynolds Sr. Family Professor of Neurosciences Director, Center for Molecular Neurobiology at the University of Chicago, published a paper in March 2005 which documents how living in an enriched environment actually changed the brain pathology of mice, reducing factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease.


“This finding goes back to the old idea of ‘Use it or lose it!” and affirms that using your brain keeps it more active,” Sisodia says. “It’s more common sense than anything, but what we didn’t previously appreciate is that it might affect the pathology that is characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.”


Intellectual challenges can take virtually any form. Seniors may chose to learn a new activity by taking a class, learning a new art form, playing bridge, doing puzzles or joining a book club. Anything that is interesting and forces seniors to use their minds in a new way also yields important health benefits.


The new Smith Village will offer a number of opportunities for seniors to learn and grow. Education and discussion groups, bridge lessons, computer classes, fine arts programs, day trips, worship services and a full slate of activities are planned to suit a wide variety of interests. The Beverly Arts Center and Saint Xavier University also are nearby for exciting opportunities in the arts or continuing education courses.


The $65 million Smith Village, which is being constructed on the current site of the Washington and Jane Smith Community, is the largest development project in the history of  Beverly/Morgan Park. Sponsored by Smith Senior Living, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to serving the lifestyle, housing and healthcare needs of seniors for nearly 80 years, the new community will provide independent living, assisted living, memory support and skilled nursing care with large apartments and a host of services and amenities. 


For more information call 773-881-4950 or visit www.SmithVillage.org.