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Positive attitudes keep aging experts young at heart

by: Gail Park, Betty Hibbert and Mona Adams compete with other Maryville residents to come up with antonyms during a trivia game led by their activity director.

(This article accompanies the special section inside this week's paper devoted to 'The Good Life,' focusing on issues affecting senior citizens.)

BEAVERTON - Whether we like it or not, we are aging.

According to aging experts Betty Hibbert and Mona Adams, the best way to ward off old age is to keep a positive attitude.

Adams, who turns 92 next Wednesday, and Hibbert, 84, are residents at Maryville Nursing Home at the convent of Sisters of Saint Mary of Oregon.

Both women strongly believe that by having a healthy outlook and eating nutritious foods, life can be gratifying at any age.

'I'm 92, and I'm proud of my age,' Adams boasts with a smile. 'I have nothing to feel bad about.'

Taking pride in who she is, being sensitive to others, eating right and keeping up on current events have afforded Adams a long and happy life. 'I feel young,' she quips. 'I wonder what it will feel like to get old.'

Hibbert is passionate about people.

'I feel young, too,' she responds. 'I love people. I have a lot of company so I'm busy all the time. I'm always busy, but I can't figure out what I'm busy doing.'

Staying active, by embracing activities such as mental trivia, sing-a-longs, lunch outings and exercising leads to healthy aging. At Beaverton's Maryville, activity director and volunteer coordinator Hilee Jackson encourages the nursing home's residents to be involved and keep their bodies and minds employed.

Hibbert explains that daily diligent Maryville staff strive to get everybody walking with assistance. Groups gather to exercise arms and hands. 'Sometimes I'm tired and I don't want to, but I do,' she says.

An activity leader regularly directs an assembly of residents, many wheelchair bound, in a mental game of trivia. Participants blurt out antonyms during the stimulating word game that engages socializing. Hibbert and Adams look toward each other as they solve the word puzzles.

By exploring new things and appreciating the little things, the two gray-haired ladies have stayed abreast of our changing world. Neither one likes computers, and the two talkative women insist they don't need them. To continue their search for knowledge, they read. Their lives are not boring - staying up on the world makes life fun and enjoyable.

'It's a wonderful life,' says Hibbert.

'Think happy thoughts,' Hibbert advises those searching for inner contentment. 'And it's most important to forgive.'

'Yes, forgive,' says Adams who raised her children in Gresham. 'It's evil to hate. It comes back to you. Forgiving doesn't affect them, but it does you. That's the type of religion I have.'

The 155-bed senior care facility, licensed for intermediate and skilled nursing care, offers 24-hour nursing care provided by RNs, licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants.

According to Hibbert, a former registered nurse, her average day begins early in the morning with treatments, such as medications and eye drops. Then, breakfast is served in the dining room. Soon after, Hibbert takes a little catnap, then is up again to read, visit with residents or write to friends with whom she has been corresponding for years.

'I like to write to my grandchildren, the ones I don't get to see,' she says. 'They don't live nearby.'

Adams doesn't think about going to outside places. 'I have a rosebed outside my window. The roses could cover a dinner plate. I'm blessed. Thank you, God.'

And so, it's the simple things in life that can keep us healthy - with a little help from our friends.