Are you getting enough protein? Too much?

How obsessing over protein could be harmful to your health

By Rashelle Brown for Next Avenue


Credit: Thinkstock

If you’re like me, you often find yourself confused by how many health headlines contradict one another. Lately, I’ve found this to be true where protein is concerned, particularly the protein needs of adults aged 50 and over.

In one study, published Jan. 1, 2015, in the American Journal of Physiology’s Endocrinology and Metabolism, scientists split 20 adults aged 52 to 75 into one group that consumed the U.S. RDA recommended level of protein, and another group that consumed double that amount, measuring levels of whole body protein at the beginning and end of the trial. While both groups maintained a positive protein balance (their bodies synthesized more protein than they broke down), the higher protein group ended up with a higher overall protein balance than the lower protein group. The news media jumped all over this, proclaiming that older adults should double their protein intake if they want to live long, healthy lives.

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Meet RaShelle Hensley, social services director

Hensley, RaShelle c 07-2014-2When RaShelle Hensley was about 7 years old, her parents became foster parents. About two dozen foster children cycled through their home over the next four years.

The experience inspired RaShelle in part to become a social worker herself. Since 2006, she has been director of social services at Salina Presbyterian Manor.

When she first applied for the job, RaShelle wasn’t sure she was prepared to work with older adults. Her clients had been mostly mothers and children. But after a few weeks at Presbyterian Manor, she said, “I realized this was where I was supposed to work.” In senior living, RaShelle said, it has been easier to nurture relationships, and the slower pace helps.

“My job is all about building those relationships and keeping the lines of communication open, and encouraging people to come to me if there is a concern — not just with families, but with residents and the nursing staff. They’re the ones I depend on to follow through on a lot of things,” she said.

Social workers play a vital role in senior living communities. They serve as a liaison between a community and residents and their families. They help people transition to life in the community after a move. Sometimes, they just listen.

Margaret Presley, who taught RaShelle at Bethany College, remembers a time when RaShelle was uncertain that she could do social work or work with anyone but children. But since then Margaret said she has enjoyed watching her blossom. “She would periodically consult with me about ethical or other problematic matters. I always felt that she was on the mark with her judgment,” the professor said.

RaShelle is waiting to hear if she has been accepted into the master of social work program at the University of Kansas. “I feel like with my masters I will be able to go further and add more support,” she said. “Mental health with the elderly is a hot topic. I want to have more skills and the knowledge base to address any mental health issues my residents have.”

If accepted, RaShelle will begin studies this summer at KU’s Johnson County campus. She said the Saturday classes will fit into her routine of traveling to Lawrence most weekends to see her three sons and her grandson (“who is perfect,” says the proud grandma).

In her admissions essay, RaShelle reflected on how her childhood experience influenced her: “I learned a lot about empathy, compassion, and respect for diversity as my parents cared for children of different races, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Clearly her family influenced those children, too. About two years ago, one young man reconnected with RaShelle’s family. He first came to their home when he was two, and her parents stayed close with his mother and him until they moved away. “He has been through a lot of stuff, but he seems to have turned it around,” RaShelle said. “It was goosebumps after all those years.”

Capitol contribution

DSC01710-2For 15 years, a sculpture of a Kansa Indian has adorned the Kansas Capitol dome, and Salina Presbyterian Manor resident Jack Gillam helped put it there. Jack created the original drawing for “Ad Astra” for his good friend, Salina artist Dick Bergen.

Dick was exhibiting his work in 1989 at Crown Center in Kansas City when he was approached by “Topper John,” a Kansas City attorney who was president of the Kansas Art Commission. He asked if Dick had entered the competition to create a sculpture for the capitol dome in Topeka. Dick didn’t know about it, so Topper John sent him the materials.

Dick researched state capitol domes, and his favorite was Nebraska, which features a farmer sowing wheat by hand. He decided his statue would show purpose and action. Dick also learned the Kansa Indians were the original people of the Topeka area, and he developed the vision of a Kansa Indian shooting an arrow toward the north star.

DSC01716-2Dick’s son, Richie, became the model for the artwork. Richie stood on a stool with a toy bow and arrow pointed skyward while his dad took photos from every angle. Jack Gillam, then a principal at Jones Gillam Architects and Engineers, created the drawings from Dick’s photos.

The bronze sculpture went on a statewide tour in a truck provided by Long-McArthur Ford and a large trailer from Donahue Trailer. Dick and Jack vividly remember a stop at the School for the Blind in Wichita, where students studied “Ad Astra” with their hands. More than 20 years after the start of the project, the completed piece was installed on the dome in fall 2002. Gov. Bill Graves, also of Salina, accepted the statue, which is just over 22 feet tall, weighing 4,420 pounds.

Dick’s most recent sculpture is “The Last Cowboy,” completed in 2016. He and Jack continue their longtime friendship and enjoy one another’s company.

Notes from the heart

DSC01721-2Mary Johnson has been painting since the age of 12. She enjoys producing beautiful works and has participated in our annual Art is Ageless exhibit. Recently Mary made a generous gift to Salina Presbyterian Manor of her painting “Tulips” for use in our Notes from the Heart project. Thank you, Mary.

Chaplain Mary Bridges started Notes from the Heart to extend our mission into the Salina community. Presbyterian Manor residents and other volunteers gather to write supportive messages on cards. Then, the notes go to Tammy Walker Cancer Center for their Wellness Totes, which are given to cancer patients. We also made comfort pillows for this project.

Mary suggested to then-marketing director Kim Fair that our volunteers use our own Presbyterian Manor cards for Notes from the Heart. Kim suggested Art is Ageless artwork and offered to go through prior years of photos. When she opened 2013 photos, the winning painting “Tulips” by Mary Johnson caught her eye. It was colorful, but calming and uplifting. Chaplain Mary liked it, too.

2017 Presbyterian-Manor-Notes-From-the-Heart-Card-2Pronto Print added Notes from the Heart at the top of the artwork and printed the folded cards. On the back is text that acknowledges the cards are Salina Presbyterian Manor, and Mary is credited as the artist. A limited number of cards may be purchased at this year’s Art is Ageless exhibit, March 7-9.

Mary has taken art classes over the years and has tried different techniques of her own. When she lived in Brookville she had a studio behind her house. After moving to Salina she converted a large room in her basement to a studio.

In addition to painting, Mary also crochets, draws and sculpts in clay. She painted murals on her grandchildren’s bedroom walls, from Bambi to the Dukes of Hazzard, and she has given many artworks to friends and family over the years.

Senior artists invited to enter Art is Ageless®

Basic RGBSalina Presbyterian Manor is now accepting entries for the 2017 Art is Ageless competition and exhibit. Entry forms are due March 1; artwork may be delivered March 2-3. The exhibit will be from 1 to 4 p.m. March 7-8 in the lower level activity room. A reception with the artists will take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 9. For more information, contact Jenni Jones, 785-825-1366, or

Chaplain: Mary’s Musings


By Mary Bridges, Salina Presbyterian Manor chaplain

Thirty years ago I was invited to join a group of Lutheran women from all over the United States. Our purpose was to study issues involving “Peace with Justice.” I didn’t have a clue what that would involve or even what it meant. All I knew is I would be spending a week in Phoenix during the coldest part of winter.

The scripture that guided this group was Micah 6:8, which is one of the most popular verses among both Jews and Christians promoting social justice. “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

During my time with this group I visited homeless shelters, safe houses for abused women and children, and Humboldt Park in Chicago, which at that time had more gang-related violence and murders than anywhere in the city. During this experience I began to look at our world through a different lens and listen to news in a new way. In 1992, I traveled to the Middle East and spent a month in Ramallah, on the West Bank. Here I experienced a never-ending war, and because of my time there with the Palestinian Christians, I underwent extreme security measures at the Tel Aviv airport when returning home. After an exhaustive search I was found to be bomb free and allowed to board my airplane.

In my quest to learn more, I learned how important it was to become an advocate and a voice for those who had no voice. I’m sure you have all heard people say, “I’m just one person, what can I do?” I think this story answers this question:

“‘Tell me the weight of a snowflake,’ a coal mouse asked a wild dove. ’Nothing more than nothing,’ the dove answered. ’In that case I must tell you a marvelous story,’ the coal mouse said. ‘I sat on a fir branch close to the trunk when it began to snow. Not heavily, not in a raging blizzard. No, just like in a dream, without any violence at all. Since I didn’t have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,471,952. When the next snowflake dropped onto the branch — nothing more than nothing, as you say — the branch broke off.’ Having said that, the coal mouse ran away. The dove, since Noah’s time an authority on peace, thought about the story for a while. Finally, she said to herself, ‘Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come to the world.'” — Source unknown

Metaphorically, welfare is like giving Band-Aids to people after they’ve had a trauma. Justice is seeking to prevent those traumas from happening in the first place. And over the years, many people have leaned toward each of those two things. People like Florence Nightingale and Mother Teresa excelled in personal acts of charity and mercy, and people like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Micah and Martin Luther King Jr. focused on prophetic calls for social justice and transformation.

I am still learning how to help others and advocate for those who have no voice, or for those whose voice isn’t being heard. I’m blessed to be part of the Social Services department here at Presbyterian Manor, and I am still learning much from our RaShelle Hensley, who is an amazing, caring social worker. I believe that those words from Micah were the first written job description for social workers. But we can’t wait for others to do all the work.  We are called to be that “one snowflake” that changes our world.
This is your job description, too: To love KINDNESS, to do JUSTICE, and to walk HUMBLY with your God.

How to prevent a real life nightmare at life’s end

A Next Avenue Influencer in Aging urges conversations around death

By Barbara Coombs Lee for Next Avenue


Credit: Thinkstock

Editor’s note: This article is part of Next Avenue’s 2015 Influencers in Aging project honoring 50 people changing how we age and think about aging. 

To my everlasting shame, this boomer spent many of her formative years as an ICU nurse, thoughtlessly pushing tubes down the noses and pounding on chests of dying patients, torturing them with electric shocks, instead of allowing death to come peacefully.

The tragic reality is people who do not communicate their values and priorities for end-of-life care often pay dearly for this failure, by enduring futile, agonizing tests and treatments that only prolong the dying process. It is equally important for people to empower a loved one in writing to be their decision-maker if they are unable to speak for themselves.

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Making communities friendlier for those with dementia

Making Communities Friendlier for Those With Dementia

That’s the goal for the ambitious Dementia Friendly America initiative

By Beth Baker for Next Avenue


Credit: Courtesy of Paynesville (MN) ACT on Alzheimer’s Caption: Volunteers pass out laminated bookmarks with the 10 signs of Alzheimer’s at the local supermarket

Can a strong community network help ease the challenges faced by people with dementia and their families? That’s the hope of a national volunteer-driven initiative known as Dementia Friendly America (DFA), announced at the White House Conference on Aging in July.

“Our goals are to foster dementia-friendly communities that will enable people who are living with dementia and their care partners to thrive and to be independent as long as possible,” says Olivia Mastry, who’s guiding the effort. “The side benefit is that it’s beginning to normalize [Alzheimer’s], to reduce the stigma. It’s created an environment that’s allowed people to talk about this disease.”

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A cure for senior loneliness is within our reach

We can solve the problem of social isolation by thinking differently about senior housing

By Tim Carpenter for Next Avenue


Credit: Getty Images

(Next Avenue invited all our 2016 Influencers in Aging to write essays about the one thing they would like to change about aging in America. This is one of the essays.)

The Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965 required that packages of cigarettes display the warning “Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health.” I wish the Surgeon General would issue this warning: “Caution: Loneliness and Social Isolation May Be Hazardous to Your Health.”

Yes, just like smoking, loneliness and social isolation are deadly. And just like smoking in the 1960s, our society is just beginning to understand the perils of loneliness and social isolation today. A 2015 study published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science shows that lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The New York Times recently ran a story with the headline “Social Isolation Is Killing Us.”

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Make every day Valentine’s Day

How to survive the holiday and keep romance alive 365 days a year — however long you’ve been together

By Terri Orbuch, Ph.D. for Next Avenue


I always look forward to February and especially Valentine’s Day, but I’m well aware that not everyone does. I love seeing all the red hearts in the stores and enjoy the romantic commercials on TV for diamonds, perfume and lingerie.

It’s hard not to feel a bit overwhelmed by the media barrage to buy cards, flowers and presents.

There’s another way to look at it, however. Valentine’s Day can serve as a useful reminder to practice simple acts of kindness and to show appreciation for the special people in our lives.

While it’s easy to say that every day should be as romantic as Valentine’s Day, we often wind up distracted by all the things we have to do and don’t make time for what I call “relationship upkeep.” Work, routines, kids and other obligations take precedence, and our attention gets deflected everywhere but toward our one and only.

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