News

‘Celebrating life, purpose, happiness and health’ at the 2024 Westminster Games

Residents from Westminster Communities of Florida’s senior living communities enjoyed outdoor festivities, games and fitness opportunities at Eckerd College

ST. PETERSBURG, February 23, 2024 – With lawn games, live music, dancing and more outdoor fun, the Eighth Westminster Games was celebrated on Friday at Eckerd College. More than 300 residents and team members from Westminster Communities of Florida’s communities throughout Florida came to enjoy some friendly competition. At the end of the day, their objective was to have fun in the great outdoors!

The Westminster Games showcase Westminster Communities of Florida’s active lifestyle, featuring their exclusive MyWLife program for wellbeing of body, mind and soul. Residents enjoyed a fun and active experience, supported by Eckerd College students and faculty, plus live music provided by the Bus Stop Band and a special salsa dance.

Chief Executive Officer Terry Rogers opened this year’s Westminster Games. “It’s that time of year again— time to unleash your inner Olympian!” said Rogers. “And it is time to celebrate this beautiful community and family that we have. Each of you plays a role in making this day amazing. Today is not all about winning the medals, it’s also about celebrating life, purpose, happiness and health. With hearts full of excitement and a shared spirit of good sportsmanship, let us officially declare the games open. Let the games begin!”

“On this beautiful day, we shout for joy, mindful of our many blessings,” said Doug McMahon, Chaplain of Eckerd College. “Let us go forth to love our neighbor and make a difference in our world.”

Attendees competed as teams by community in a variety of games to celebrate active living and wellbeing for seniors, with horseshoes, ring toss, corn hole, ladder ball and croquet.

Following the games, residents enjoyed a group boxing exercise, facilitated by the Westminster Resident Experience team and led by Steve Gallagher.

The winning team of the Eighth Westminster Games was Westminster Winter Park, followed by Westminster Towers and Westminster Shores. The spirit award for best team cheer was also won by Westminster Winter Park, which earned them an additional 5 points in the judging.

“Congratulations to all the winners!” said Jim Polaski, Senior Vice President of Operations.

We congratulate Westminster Winter Park, and all the residents of Westminster Communities of Florida, for joining us in celebrating active living.

Westminster Communities of Florida, the state’s largest not-for-profit provider of active senior living, emphasizes whole-person wellbeing for its older adult residents. With communities in Bradenton, Jacksonville, Lakeland, Orlando, St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee and Winter Park, the organization serves more than 7,000 residents statewide with a lifestyle featuring active living, wellness and lifelong learning.

Enhance Your Spirituality With These Tips from Blue Zones

In today’s rapidly changing, digital world, it’s easy to lose touch with our spiritual side. What if there was a means to reconnect with our inner selves and experience a more fulfilling life? The Blue Zones, renowned regions where people live longer, healthier lives, offer valuable insights into unlocking our spiritual potential. By incorporating their wisdom into our daily lives, we can cultivate a thriving body and mind, and embark on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth.

We’re spotlighting the world’s Blue Zones in this series, because we all want to live longer, happier and healthier lives. We can learn from the people who live in “Blue Zones,” places like Okinawa, Sardinia and Loma Linda, Calif. It’s more than just nutrition — it’s a way of life that anyone can participate in and gain the health benefits. Follow the Blue Zones philosophy on food, physical activity, socialization and spirituality and you may just find yourself living to 100.

Foster a Sense of Community and Connection

In the Blue Zones, people have strong communities and social support, which helps them feel a sense of belonging and purpose and is a key factor in their longevity and spiritual well-being. To emulate this, make time for social interaction and engage in activities that promote social bonding. By prioritizing community and social connection, you can enhance your spirituality and potentially increase your chances of living a longer, healthier life.

Practice Mindfulness and Meditation

In Blue Zones, mindfulness and meditation are widely embraced as they cultivate a state of serenity, alleviate stress, and significantly contribute to overall well-being, which are pivotal factors in the long and healthy lives of individuals residing in these areas. Mindfulness is being present and aware without judgement, while meditation helps cultivate mindfulness. Regular mindfulness practice can help to improve your mood, enhance focus and concentration, and increase feelings of compassion and empathy. Try different meditation techniques from mantra meditation and breath meditation to walking meditation and find what works for you and make it part of your routine.

Engage in Meaningful Rituals and Traditions

Inspired by the Blue Zones, we can cultivate belonging and purpose through meaningful rituals and traditions. Join a spiritual community, attend religious services or practice daily prayer or meditation. These practices remind us of our interconnectedness with the world around us, promote a sense of reverence for life and offer moments of reflection and rejuvenation. Whether it is a daily practice of gratitude, a weekly gathering for spiritual teachings or an annual pilgrimage to a sacred site, these rituals and traditions can become anchors that guide us on our spiritual path.

Embrace Nature and the Outdoors

The Blue Zones emphasize the profound impact of embracing nature and the outdoors on both physical and spiritual health. Spending time in natural environments can induce a sense of awe and wonder, fostering a deeper appreciation for the beauty and interconnectedness of all living beings. Being in nature allows individuals to disconnect from the fast-paced world and reconnect with themselves. Nature also reminds us of interconnectedness and encourages gratitude, fostering contentment and appreciation. Embracing the outdoors aligns us with the earth’s rhythms, deepening our spiritual journey and understanding of life’s sacredness.

The Blue Zones offer us a roadmap to reconnect with our spiritual side and live a more fulfilling life. By incorporating their wisdom into our daily lives, we can cultivate a thriving body and mind, embark on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth, and potentially increase our chances of living longer, healthier lives.

Are you ready to embark on a journey towards a healthier, more grounded and spiritual future? Learn all about how you can enjoy living longer and healthier at a Westminster community — find the community nearest you on our website today.

Boost Your Heart Health: Tips and Strategies for a Happy Heart

This American Heart Health Month, we want to help you prioritize your physical well-being — so we asked one of our experts, Resident Experience Coordinator Wendy Tamarit, to share tips and fun facts to guide in boosting your heart health this month.

Did you know that the average adult heart weighs between 7 and 15 ounces? This powerful pump moves 2,000 gallons of blood approximately 12,000 miles throughout your body every single day!

Maintaining a healthy heart is of utmost importance. Regrettably, heart disease continues to escalate in the United States, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that approximately 805,000 Americans experience heart attacks each year.

Often referred to as the “silent killer,” the development of heart disease and the risk of heart attacks begin years, or even decades, before a major event occurs. Factors such as sedentary lifestyles, poor dietary choices, genetic predisposition, and other risk factors gradually elevate bad cholesterol levels, leading to arterial blockages and more. However, the encouraging news is that it is never too late to implement changes that can significantly improve heart health!

Engaging in regular physical activity is one of the most effective ways to enhance not only your heart health but also to prevent other lifestyle-related diseases like Type 2 diabetes. The current guidelines for adults recommend aiming for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity every week. Additionally, adopting a healthy diet can yield tremendous benefits for your overall well-being. A healthy diet is one that consists of:

  • ample fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains
  • lean protein (or healthy protein alternatives)
  • healthy fats
  • minimally processed foods
  • limited added sugar and salt

Implementing other strategies such as living tobacco-free, staying adequately hydrated, managing stress effectively and ensuring sufficient sleep each night further contribute to maintaining a healthy heart.

If you wish to take action to prevent heart disease, start by talking to your doctor. Begin exercising at a pace that is comfortable for you and gradually increase it to meet recommended guidelines. Make healthy food choices as often as possible, and if you smoke, take advantage of local resources and smoking cessation programs. By applying these principles, you can keep your heart happy and healthy!

Embrace the opportunity during American Heart Month to prioritize your heart health and make positive changes that will benefit you for years to come. To learn all about how you can enjoy a healthy, happy lifestyle by living or working at a Westminster community, visit our website and find a community near you today!

Boost Your Physical Well-being with Blue Zone Wisdom

If you are ready to take control of your health and physical well-being in the new year, look no further than the wisdom of the Blue Zones, renowned regions where people live longer, healthier lives. By incorporating simple adjustments to your physical activity, you can unlock the secrets to a thriving body and mind. From regular exercise and natural movement to quality sleep and stress reduction, use these tips to guide you towards optimal health.

We’re spotlighting the world’s Blue Zones in this series, because we all want to live longer, happier and healthier lives. We can learn from the people who live in “Blue Zones,” places like Okinawa, Sardinia and Loma Linda, Calif. It’s more than just nutrition — it’s a way of life that anyone can participate in and gain the health benefits. Follow the Blue Zones philosophy on food, physical activity, socialization and spirituality and you may just find yourself living to 100.

GET REGULAR EXERCISE

The Blue Zones emphasize exercise as a cornerstone for improving overall health, and it’s no wonder why. In these regions, incorporating at least 30 minutes of physical activity into their daily routine is a common practice. Whether it’s walking, running, swimming, or cycling, finding an exercise that you enjoy and can easily fit into your lifestyle is key. By following the wisdom of the Blue Zones and making exercise a source of joy rather than a chore, you can enhance your overall well-being and increase your chances of living a longer, healthier life.

MOVE NATURALLY

Incorporating movement into your daily routine doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, and the Blue Zones provide us with inspiring evidence. In these regions, people naturally engage in physical activities as part of their daily lives, contributing to their longevity and well-being. For example, in Okinawa, Japan, where the Blue Zones concept originated, individuals practice low-intensity exercises like tai chi and gardening, which help them stay active and healthy well into their golden years. By following their lead and finding activities that align with your preferences and surroundings, such as walking, gardening, yoga, or swimming, you can make movement a natural part of your life and reap the benefits of improved health and vitality.

PRIORITIZE QUALITY SLEEP

Adequate sleep is not only essential for restoring and rejuvenating your body but also a common practice in the Blue Zones. In these regions, people prioritize quality sleep as part of their overall health and well-being. For instance, in Sardinia, Italy, where one of the Blue Zones is located, individuals enjoy an average of 8 hours of sleep per night, contributing to their longevity and vitality. By following their lead and implementing strategies to optimize sleep quality, such as establishing a consistent sleep schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, and ensuring a comfortable sleep environment, you can enhance your sleep and reap the benefits of improved physical and mental health.

PRACTICE STRESS-REDUCING ACTIVITIES

The Blue Zones highlight stress management as crucial for overall health. To reduce stress and follow their example, try incorporating relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga, and meditation into your daily routine. Spending time in nature, limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption, and engaging in enjoyable activities can also help clear the mind, reduce blood pressure, and improve your mood. By prioritizing stress reduction and incorporating these activities into your life, you can take control of your well-being and increase your chances of living a happier, healthier life.

By embracing these principles, you can take control of your health and increase your chances of living a longer, happier life. So, why not start implementing these tips from the Blue Zones today and embark on a journey towards optimal health? Learn all about how you can enjoy a longer and healthier life at a Westminster community — find the community nearest you on our website today!

Hard Work Pays Off: Adriana Cevallos Earns Bachelor’s Degree While Working Full-Time

Adriana Cevallos, the Administrator at Magnolia Towers, a rental retirement community in Orlando, has recently achieved a significant milestone by earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Polk State College in Winter Haven. Balancing full-time work with higher education is no easy task, but Adriana’s determination and hard work have paid off.
Alex Mookerjee, Executive Director of Housing and Rental Retirement Services, describes Adriana as smart, hardworking, and mission-oriented. “She’s also always looking to learn and do better,” Alex said. “I just really am so proud of her for doing this.”

After joining the Westminster Communities of Florida family in 2022, Adriana, who had a background in hospitality, decided to take on the dual responsibility of working as Administrator full-time while simultaneously pursuing her degree.

“It has been tough, I cannot lie,” Adriana admitted. “But I feel that it is a blessing that it’s finally done and that I was able to do it.”

Alex acknowledges the difficulty of working full-time in a position that requires being on call constantly. “We certainly work more than the hours say we’re supposed to work so it was quite an accomplishment,” Alex said.

Adriana made a commitment to Westminster to finish her degree, and she credits her success to her dedication and the support she received from her team and peers. “I received a lot of encouragement and love,” Adriana shared. “The position itself and the opportunity that Westminster gave me has been a blessing.”

Adriana’s accomplishment not only represents a personal triumph but also serves as an inspiring example for others. Since graduating, Adriana has been a source of support for her team, encouraging them to pursue career advancement opportunities and take advantage of resources for career advancement opportunities that Westminster offers including the Tuition Reimbursement Program and Team Member Scholarship Fund.

“Westminster offers the opportunity to grow and learn and they are always open,” Adriana emphasized.

“If you invest in your people it pays down the road,” Alex said. “The more we can do to invest in our people the better off we all are. Happy employees means happy residents.”

If you are interested in joining the team at Westminster Communities of Florida, serving seniors throughout the state, and pursuing your personal passion, explore the opportunities available at https://www.WestminsterCommunitiesFL.org/careers today!

Eat the “Blue Zone” Diet to Live Longer, Healthier and Better

Are you looking for a way to improve your overall health and well-being in 2024? Look no further than the “Blue Zones” diet! This diet is primarily vegetarian and is rich in whole grains, legumes, fruit, vegetables and minimally processed protein sources.

We’re spotlighting the world’s Blue Zones in this series, because we all want to live longer, happier and healthier lives. We can learn from the people who live in “Blue Zones,” places like Okinawa, Sardinia and Loma Linda, Calif. It’s more than just nutrition — it’s a way of life that anyone can participate in and gain the health benefits. Follow the Blue Zones philosophy on food, physical activity, socialization and spirituality and you may just find yourself living to 100.

What is the “Blue Zone diet”?

The Blue Zone diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. It’s low in processed foods, red meat and added sugar. This way of eating has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and certain forms of cancer. The Blue Zone diet can also help you improve your overall health and well-being, giving you more energy, better sleep, and a healthier weight.

How do you eat the Blue Zone diet?

  • Eat a plant-based diet.
  • Choose whole grains over refined grains.
  • Limit your intake of red meat and processed foods.
  • Choose healthy fats, such as olive oil, nuts and seeds.
  • Limit your intake of added sugar.
  • Drink plenty of water.

The science behind the “Blue Zone” diet

One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that people who followed the Blue Zone diet for six years had a 23% lower risk of dying from heart disease. They also had a 13% lower risk of dying from cancer. Another study, published in the journal The Lancet, found that people who followed the Blue Zone diet had a 20% lower risk of dying from all causes.

Foods you should consider on the “Blue Zone” diet

Some of the foods that are recommended on the Blue Zone diet include:

  • Fruit: A great source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and cancer. Consider eating more blueberries, strawberries and bananas.
  • Vegetables: Another important part of the Blue Zone diet. They are a good source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Vegetables can also help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and cancer. You can adopt leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and kale and alliums such as onions, garlic and shallots.
  • Whole grains: A good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. They can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes. Focus on brown rice, quinoa, oats and farro (whole emmer wheat kernels).
  • Legumes: An excellent, plant-based source of protein for healthy meals. Whether it’s beans, lentils or pulses, you’ll find that these inexpensive and nutritious protein powerhouses help make your diet healthier.
  • Fish and lean meat: In the “Blue Zones,” not everyone is a vegetarian — but people primarily eat fish and lean meat, similar to the Mediterranean diet.
  • Plant-based fat sources: Consider using olive oil rather than butter, lard or other saturated fats in cooking and seasoning.

Foods you should avoid on the “Blue Zone” diet

In the Blue Zones, people avoid certain foods that are simply unhealthy. To reap the full benefits, consider avoiding:

  • Processed meat, such as bacon, sausage and hot dogs
  • Fatty meats, like highly marbled beef and pork
  • Highly refined grain products like white bread, white rice and pasta
  • Excessive amounts of unhealthy saturated fats, whether butter, lard or fatty meats
  • Artificial sources of trans fats like partially hydrogenated oils
  • Drinks with added sugar


Live longer and make dining a pleasure 

Are you interested in adapting the “Blue Zones” approach to living? Learn all about how you can enjoy living longer and healthier at a Westminster community — find the community nearest you on our website today.

Fitch Ratings Reaffirms Westminster’s A- Bond Rating

We’re pleased to announce that Fitch Ratings recently reaffirmed Westminster Communities of Florida’s A- bond rating, an excellent investment-grade rating that is a reflection of our commitment to good stewardship of our resources, as inspired by our Mission. In these challenging times, we’re proud to say a Westminster community is still a strong partner for the future for residents and their families and team members.

In the view of Fitch Ratings, Westminster’s strength is having sound operating principles and a diverse portfolio of communities. Fitch wrote, “The ‘A-‘ rating reflects the expected resilience of (Westminster Communities of Florida’s) financial profile through Fitch’s forward-looking scenario analysis, given its robust business profile, which is characterized by very strong revenue defensibility as a multi-campus, regionally diverse life plan community (LPC), and sound operating and capital metrics.”

View the entire press release below.

How to Choose Safe Gifts for Kids This Holiday Season

Every year, millions of toys are sold to children around the world, bringing joy and laughter during the holiday season. However, it’s important to remember that not all toys are created equal. Some toys can pose serious risks to children’s health and safety. In this article, we will explore what makes toys safe to gift and provide some tips for choosing age-appropriate toys. By taking these considerations into account, we can help protect our little ones and create a safer environment for them to enjoy their childhood.

What makes toys safe to gift?

When shopping for toys, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind:

  • The materials used: Avoid toys made from toxic materials, like lead or phthalates, as these can be harmful if ingested or inhaled. Opt for toys made from natural materials like wood or cotton, or from high-quality plastic that is free from harmful chemicals.
  • The size of parts: Small parts can easily be swallowed or inhaled by young children, posing a choking hazard. Ensure that toys are age-appropriate and have parts that are too large to fit into a child’s mouth or nose.
  • The edges: Choose toys with smooth, rounded edges and surfaces that are gentle to the touch. Avoid toys with sharp edges or points, as these can cause cuts or punctures. Toys with rough or uneven surfaces can also be hazardous, as they can cause abrasions or splinters.
  • Safety regulations: Look to guidance provided by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and American Society for Testing and Materials that set safety standards designed to ensure that toys meet minimum safety requirements and are not likely to cause injury or harm to children.

By considering these factors when choosing toys, you can help ensure that the toys you give to children are safe and suitable for their age and development.

Age-appropriate suggestions

Choosing age-appropriate toys is crucial for ensuring children’s safety and fostering their development. Toys that are too advanced or complex can be frustrating and overwhelming for young children, while toys that are too simple may not provide enough challenge or stimulation for older children. Here are some guidelines for selecting age-appropriate toys:

For infants and toddlers (ages 0-3):

  • Look for toys that encourage sensory development, such as rattles, teething toys and soft books.
  • Toys that promote gross motor skills, such as balls, ride-on toys and walkers, are also appropriate.
  • Avoid toys with small parts that could be choking hazards.

For preschoolers (ages 3-5):

  • Encourage creativity and imagination by selecting blocks, dress-up clothes and art supplies.
  • Help develop fine motor skills with puzzles, Legos and Play-Doh.
  • Avoid toys with sharp edges or points that could cause injury.

For school-aged children (ages 6-12):

  • Promote intellectual development by gifting board games, science kits and educational software.
  • Get them up and moving with the gift of a bicycle, scooter or sports equipment.
  • Avoid toys that are violent or promote negative behaviors.

For teenagers (ages 13 and up):

  • Encourage creativity and self-expression with musical instruments, art supplies and writing journals.
  • Toys that promote social interaction and teamwork, such as sports equipment and board games, are also beneficial.
  • Avoid toys that are dangerous or could be used to harm others.

In following these guidelines, you can help ensure that the toys you give to children are safe and appropriate for their age and developmental stage. This will help to protect children from injury and harm, and will also help them to learn and develop in a healthy and positive way during the holiday season. By taking these precautions, we can create a safe and enjoyable environment for children to enjoy their toys and make lasting memories during the holidays.

Reducing stress around the holidays

It’s the holiday season, with family and friends gathering to celebrate and enjoy. For many it also comes with an unwelcome burden: Added stress on ourselves and our loved ones. That can take away from our enjoyment of what can be our fondest memories.

How can we manage our stress so our holidays are enjoyable and memorable? We asked Wendy Tamarit, Resident Experience Coordinator, to share her 7 tips on reducing stress around the holidays. It’s just another facet of MyWLife, Westminster’s exclusive program for well-being of mind, body and spirit, that all residents and team members can enjoy.

1. Be mindful about eating healthily. The holidays come with lots of special foods, which we should enjoy! It’s more important to eat healthy foods when you’re having a “regular” meal. The nutrition boost will also help you keep your energy up and help out your immune system.


2. Try to get the appropriate amount of sleep each night. Don’t go on less than you’re used to. Our events are more special when we’re well-rested.

3. Eat a healthy snack before a holiday party so you aren’t starving when you arrive. One tip is to eat an apple and have 8-10 ounces of water. The fiber in the apple and the water will help you feel sated when you arrive.

4. If you have an exercise routine, keep with it! That doesn’t mean you have to be working out 7 days a week. A simple walk, a trip to the gym, a yoga class or tennis with friends is not only good for your body — it’s great for stress management, too!

5. Make time to “be still.” With work and family, parties and shopping, it can seem like a never-ending rush! Carve out time where you can relax quietly, without a device, to you can recharge yourself and your holiday spirit.

6. Don’t overspend your resources. We all have limits. It’s tempting to get the perfect gift for everyone, no matter the cost, but it can add a lot of long-term stress to our finances.

7. Most of all, learn to say “no.” It’s OK not to host every function or to contribute to every party or bake sale.

To learn all about how you can enjoy living or working at a Westminster community, visit our website and find a community near you today! 

Celebrating Myrna and Merle Allshouse – A Legacy of Helping Others

The Westminster Communities Foundation is honored to recognize longtime residents Myrna and Merle Allshouse for a generous $50,000 bequest to the Suncoast community’s Benevolent Assistance Program. 

Myrna and Merle’s children, Kim and Scott, join us in celebrating this gift by sharing, “Our parents were deeply committed to the importance of community throughout their lives. It was that sense of community that brought them to Westminster. They were strong supporters of arts and education, values that were shared by many of their friends in the larger Westminster Suncoast community and particularly by those who were affiliated with the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College (ASPEC).  Through their gift, they wanted to provide the opportunity for others to have the joy and comfort they found in living in the Westminster community.”

Merle was a lifelong scholar and educator retired from Eckerd College in 2002. Upon his retirement, he continued to learn through classes at the University of South Florida in geology, politics and Florida history.  Known to his friends as a “gentlemen scholar” he was also an avid boater and amateur pilot.  Merle passed in April 2016 while residing at Westminster Suncoast.

Myrna succeeded in two careers, first as a mother to two children and then in the insurance industry.  In retirement she became a talented watercolor artist who often shared her passion by encouraging others to pick up a brush and paint alongside of her.  In 2021, she moved to Montpelier, VT to be closer to her family, but she fondly remembered her time at Westminster Suncoast.  Throughout their lives, Myrna and Merle most valued advocating for social justice, art and education, but their dedication to these values in retirement was truly inspiring. Myrna passed in September 2023.

The Westminster Communities Foundation received Myrna’s bequest in support of the Suncoast community. The Foundation provided $1.25 million last year in Benevolent Assistance for residents who have outlived their resources. Currently, more than fifty Westminster residents benefit from benevolent assistance support. Jeff Coates, Vice President of Philanthropy, said that “being able to help our neighbors and friends continue to live in their communities, regardless of their resources, would not be possible without the enduring support of caring, generous people like Myrna and Merle. We are eternally grateful for their support and the legacy they left at Westminster.”

To learn more about or donate to the Foundation contact: Tish Burke at (727) 867-1131

 Since 1974, Benevolent Assistance at Westminster Communities of Florida has been 100% funded by donors to the Westminster Communities Foundation.

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