Retired van still helping others

Steven Abarr now has the use of the Fort Scott Presbyterian Manor van that was recently replaced with a new van.

Steven Abarr now has the use of the Fort Scott Presbyterian Manor van that was recently replaced with a new van.

By Ginger Nance, Executive Director

When Jane Abarr came to work at the Presbyterian Village almost a year ago, little did we know that we would be changing each other’s lives.

Jane’s story began more than 30 years ago. She grew up in the Fort Scott area. She began working in dining services in a healthcare community in Fort Scott when she was 13 years old; she later became a nurse’s aide and continued to work in long-term care for many years.

As time went on, Jane’s life seemed normal for a young family in southeast Kansas. She had married. She and her husband were making a life, working hard, and she was expecting her first baby boy. At eight months pregnant, Jane went into labor. Everything seemed normal, even though she was a month early to deliver. However, tragedy struck in a short period of time when they discovered their beautiful baby boy was born with spina bifida.

The nerves to his legs were held in a sack attached to his back. Doctors worked fast to stabilize their baby and get the help they needed for him to survive. After many months of hospitalization, multiple surgeries and making medical history at KU Medical Center, their son Steven was stable enough to travel to the Shriner’s Hospital in Dallas, where doctors were able to close Steven’s back. Jane’s friends in long-term care, where she worked, and friends from the Fort Scott community raised money to help Jane stay with Steven while he was hospitalized.

Jane and the immediate family remained in Texas after his surgery for many years to be near specialists. Procedures and adaptive appliances were designed for Steven over time, enabling him to sit up, chew, swallow and live a life at home with Jane and the help of her family. They were even able to use braces to lock into his hips, knees and back, and use special crutches which allowed him to stand and take a few steps.

Doctors said from the beginning that Steven would not likely live beyond the age of 16, as with most children born with spina bifida. With the help of wonderful people, Steven has flourished!

About a year ago, Steven (now older than 30 years old) relocated from Texas to Tri Valley in Fort Scott, which enabled the entire family to move back to Fort Scott to be surrounded by Jane’s relatives. Jane came to work at Presbyterian Village part time and does what she knows and demonstrates so well: caring for others in her loving way. By working part time, she is able to be connected to her profession and still have the flexibility to be involved with Steven as much as possible.

As for Steven, he is using a manual wheelchair now but it doesn’t keep him from being active and involved in sports and fun with those around him. Although visiting Steven where he lives is great for family, Steven didn’t have any way to go to their homes or family events and be involved with them unless they came to him.

After hearing of their limitations and struggles, Presbyterian Village decided that the recently retired van could still help someone in need in a way that could benefit an entire family. The van has a wheelchair lift, which will allow Steven’s wheelchair to get in and out without putting Jane at risk for a lifting injury. We hope this will open doors for Steven to live a fuller life with the rest of his family.

“It’s been years since I’ve had a van with a lift so that Steven could come to family events,” Jane said.

Already graduations and birthdays are being planned, and Steven will be able to be part of that for the first time in more than 10 years.

Jane said, “This feels like I’ve come full circle. I began working in the long-term care field as a teenager, and I was surrounded by people who cared for me and my baby and helped when times were so hard when I had Steven. Now, I’m back in Fort Scott and again working in long-term care and once again, I am being blessed by people who care. Fort Scott is a good place to live!”

Art is Ageless® winners announced

Painting first place winner by Elaine Buerge,“Silent Snow.”

Painting first place winner by Elaine Buerge,“Silent Snow.”

Congratulations to all resident and area artists who participated in Art is Ageless, our annual juried art competition for those 65 and older.

Winners were:

Best in Show: Paul L. Milks, “Winter Trees” (Amateur)

People’s Choice: Bobbi Kemna, “Peek-a-boo” (Professional)

First Place: 

Christmas- BernieceBuell,“Christmas Favorites” (Amateur)

Drawing – Bobby Roberts, “Osage Indian Teepees” (Amateur)

Painting – Elaine Buerge, “Silent Snow” (Professional)

Mixed Media – Marjory Bailey, “Turquoise Necklace and Earrings” (Amateur)

Mixed Media – Tony Fornelli, “Roman Defense” (Professional)

Photography – Paul L. Milks, “Winter Trees” (Amateur)

Needlework- PaulL.Milks,“Jesuson the Cross” (Amateur)

Quilting – Joyce Lundeen (Amateur)

Sculpture/3-D – Tony Fornelli, “Fish, Reptiles, Amphibians” (Professional)

Sculpture/3-D – Marge Bailey, “Ocean Treasures” (Amateur)

FiberArts- JeanStrader,“Chokecherry Harvest Shawl” (Amateur)

Second Place: 

Drawing – Bobby Roberts, “A Moonlight Night in Mo” (Amateur)

Mixed Media – Marjory Bailey, “Seaside Memories” (Amateur)

Photography – Paul L. Milks, “Burning the Grass” (Amateur)

Needlework – Patricia German, “Tiger Paw Afghan” (Amateur)

Sculpture/3-D – Tony Fornelli, “2016 Creation” (Professional)

Fiber Arts – Jean Strader, “Rainbow Trout Scarf” (Amateur)

Quilting – Berniece Buell, “Bargello” (Amateur)

Third Place: 

Drawing – Bobby Roberts, “Cabin in the Hills of the Ozarks” (Amateur)

Mixed Media – Marjory Bailey, “Brown Necklace” (Amateur)

Needlework – Louise Strader, “Prairie Coneflower Wall Hanging” (Amateur)

Sculpture/3-D – Bobbi Kemna, “The Swirl” (Professional)

Quilting – Berniece Buell, “Going Bananas” (Amateur)

Honorable Mentions: 

Louise Strader, “Tip Toe Though The Tulips” (Amateur)

Bobbi Kemna, “Serenity” (Professional)

Why I decided to make friends with death

We know we will die someday, so we must accept and plan for it

By Irene Kacandes for Next Avenue


Credit: Getty Images

(This article was written as a part of The Op-Ed Project.)

While we may fear meeting death alone, most of us are actually more afraid of dying surrounded by the wrong kind of people — that is, by health care workers.

Yet that is all too likely to be our fate. Statistics are squirrely, but many point in this direction. Seven out of 10 Americans express the wish to die at home. More than 80 percent of patients say they want to avoid hospitalization and intensive care at the end of life. And yet, the current reality is that about three-quarters of us actually die in some kind of institutional setting.

What is the source of this disconnect? As someone who has spent most of the last 15 years grappling with loved ones’ life-threatening illnesses and deaths (and co-authored a book on the topic), I’ve come to the conclusion that it starts with our attitudes — with our failure to recognize that our births guarantee our deaths.

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5 things to do during and after a hospital stay

Tips for making your time there as painless as possible

By George H. Schofield, Ph.D. for Next Avenue


Credit: Thinkstock

Any hospital stay can be a revelation. When it’s totally unexpected, the experience can be even more fraught with surprises. I speak from personal experience and have some advice based on it.

Last year, I had pain severe enough to require a middle-of-the-night visit to the ER. It turned out to be kidney stones — stones that felt like boulders and required an invasive procedure (a ureteroscopy) to view, measure and then zap them into dust. Star Wars inside my body while I was out cold.

The procedure was performed at a great hospital. I had a great specialist. It all went well.

Even so, as I was recovering, I realized just how important it is to be prepared for a medical emergency that requires hospitalization. What if the searing pain was a symptom of something far more serious — something that rendered me unconscious or otherwise incapacitated, such as what follows a stroke? What about an injury while I was out bike riding or a car accident?

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Purposeful aging: A model for a new life course

New possibilities for older adults produce dividends for all

By Paul H. Irving 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. Paul H. Irving was a member of the 2015 Influencers In Aging Advisory Panel.

Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of, offers an insightful observation about the promise and potential of longer lives. “Thousands of baby boomers each day surge into their 60s and 70s,” he wrote in a recent article for The Wall Street Journal. “It’s time to focus on enriching lives, not just lengthening them; on providing purpose and productivity, not just perpetuity.”

While population aging brings health, financial and social risks, an understanding of the opportunities is emerging. At the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging,  we study, convene, report on and respond to these risks and opportunities, searching for solutions to bring beneficial change. Joining with others who share our vision, we believe that it’s time to challenge conventional wisdom and established norms — that new possibilities for older adults hold promise for strengthening societies, expanding economies and improving life for all ages.

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5 ways to keep your kids from fighting over your will

Follow these rules now to prevent a family war later

By Patrick O’Brien for Next Avenue


Credit: Thinkstock

It is your worst nightmare. You’ve passed away, and now your adult children no longer speak to each other. Circumstances around your death have destroyed the family you spent your life building. As the CEO and co-founder of, I’ve seen this all too often.

But this terrible scenario is preventable, if you plan properly.

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The 2 big misconceptions about long-term care

Cautionary words from a Next Avenue Influencer In Aging

By Sudipto Banerjee 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.)

There are many uncertainties in retirement. For example, we don’t know how long we are going to live, what the interest rates will be or how the stock market will behave. But one thing is nearly certain: our health will decline as we age.

That means at some point, most of us will face serious functional limitations and, in the event of serious health shocks, maybe even permanent disability. As a result, a large number of older Americans might require professional medical care at home or in institutions such as nursing homes. But there is a lack of awareness about the risk of long-term care because of two big misconceptions surrounding the topic.

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Why am I just getting allergies?

Allergic reactions can strike adults, and here’s what you can do

By Emily Gurnon for Next Avenue


When my daughter was two, I took her and her older brother blueberry picking near our hometown of Arcata, Calif. The farm owners weren’t too concerned about children “sampling” the goods. So my kids scarfed plenty of fruit before we got out of there with a full bucket.

The next day, a red rash blanketed my daughter’s torso. She was allergic.

Now that she’s a teenager, the allergy has disappeared. Allergies are funny that way. We often grow out of the ones we had as children.

But — as many of us know all too well  — we can also grow into allergies as adults.

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This play puts Alzheimer’s caregivers in the spotlight

By Deborah Quilter for Next Avenue


Credit: Photo by Carol Rosegg Caption: (L to R) Sharon Washington, Marjorie Johnson, Finnerty Steevens.

If you have ever cared for an older person with dementia or Alzheimer’s, a new play by Coleman Domingo (who’s also an actor and director) running through March 23 at  Manhattan’s Vineyard Theatre will likely touch a nerve. Though Dot focuses on a middle-class black family from West Philadelphia, audience members who stayed for a discussion about caregiving after the performance I attended found the message of this comedy-drama universal.

Shelly, sympathetically portrayed by Sharon Washington, is the put-upon daughter who performs the lion’s share of her mother Dotty’s care. Shelly, who also has a 9-year-old son, is already at the boiling point when the play opens. If we could see her blood pressure, it would be through the roof.

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PMMA observes Older Americans Month

ShowcaseB_300x250For more than 50 years, the contributions of older adults in the U.S. have been recognized every May during Older Americans Month. President John F. Kennedy established the observance in 1963 as Senior Citizens Month, encouraging us all to pause and pay them tribute.

Since then, Older Americans Month has evolved into a celebration of older adults’ ongoing influence in all areas of American life. Spearheaded by the Administration for Community Living, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the agency stages activities throughout the month to raise awareness about important issues facing older adults and to highlight the ways that they are advocating for themselves, their peers and their communities.

The theme for Older Americans Month in 2016 is “Blaze a Trail.” According to the Administration for Community Living, this theme “emphasizes the ways older adults are reinventing themselves through new work and new passions, engaging their communities, and blazing a trail of positive impact on the lives of people of all ages.”

Consider what older adults have done in the years since 1963, when only 17 million Americans were age 65 or older. Now, the number is more than 44 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s about 14 percent of the population. About 22 percent of men 65 and older remain in the workforce, as do 14 percent of women.

Many older Americans continue to serve as leaders in our economy, politics, the arts, business, and much more. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. Is 69. Actress Rita Moreno is 84. And Ruth Bader Ginsberg, at age 83, has been a Supreme Court Justice for nearly a quarter of a century.

While Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America provide quality senior services guided by Christian values year-round, we will use Older Americans Month 2016 to focus on how older adults in our community are leading and inspiring others, how we can support and learn from them, and how we might follow their examples to blaze trails of our own. Find out more about the observance at


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