Our Work with Senior Citizens

What’s Happening at San Clemente Villas?

This is a great month to live in the San Clemente Villas by the Sea. We have so many great activities going on, we thought we should share a few of them with you.

As you know, Paul and I love to have a good time, and we try our best to make sure that our people have a good time. Our awesome staff makes it easy on us.  This month we have our annual Luau:

Aileen Brazeau co owner of San Clemente Villas, San Clemente Villas


Here are a few photos of a Luau we had a couple of years ago:


Aileen Brazeau

Assisted Living Facility San Clemente, Ca Alzheimer's care facility San Clemente, A place for Mom and Dad, San Clemente

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The Refreshing Beauty of Nature

The older I get, the more I’m drawn to the natural world. The sight of a bird in flight or the trees budding out in the spring just seemed to refresh something deep inside of me. If you’re like me, sometimes our lives just get so busy that we forget to connect to the beauty of an ordinary day. I try my best to make a point of looking for the wonders that are just outside my window, but sometimes I forget to give myself the time to appreciate all that nature has to hold.

The beauty of nature

Our elders need this connection. How many of your older loved ones enjoy feeding the wild birds or making sure the bird bath is filled. For those elders who have lost some of their mobility or are suffering from an illness, it’s harder to get out and be “refreshed.”

A friend of mine helped take care of his ailing grandmother. She was bedfast and couldn’t get outside where she loved to garden and watch the birds. He’s a thoughtful soul and bought her a new feeder for the birds that he placed just outside her bedroom window. She found immense pleasure in watching each little bird come right to her window. 

Perhaps more than anything, the feeling of the mist coming off the ocean makes me stop and behold how the beauty of this world is so amazing. I was born near it, so perhaps I have a special connection to it. But I really think most people find peace and wonder at the ocean’s side. 

I have special memories of the Pacific Ocean.  When I was very young, my parents would take me down to beaches near our Southern California home so I could look for shells and feel the sand beneath my feet. Back then, it wasn’t easy to get down to the beach. Many times my daddy would carry me down the narrow winding trails that came down from the jagged cliffs. 

I know you all have your own special memories of the ocean and other natural wonders. If you are a care giver, then I encourage you to make time for these natural connections. Find ways of sharing nature with your older loved one. You both will be refreshed and we all deal better with life’s ups and downs when we feed our souls.


Tips on Ways to Share Nature with Your Older Loved One –

  1. Take a trip to a botanical garden
  2. Place a bird feeder outside of the kitchen window
  3. Plan a picnic at a favorite park
  4. Have lunch at an outdoor restaurant
  5. Give them a photo album of family outdoor vacations
  6. Fill a pot with butterfly and humming bird favorites for their patio
  7. While visiting, go for a walk
  8. Bring them a bouquet of their favorite flowers
  9. Get a large print of one of their favorite outdoor places
  10. Take them on a boat tour of a harbor or lake

 By Karen Everett Watson – Gerontologist



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Wizard of Oz

iStock_000035896224SmallI was surprised recently when I mentioned the Wizard of Oz to a friend and she did not know what I was referencing! How could one not know about the Wizard of Oz? That movie was such an important one in the era I grew up in.Often, a situation I  am in will remind me of a song, TV show or movie. I am used to referring to movie archetypes since I have been watching TV and movies my whole life!  More often than not, like the Tony character on NCIS, a picture of a movie scene will flash into my mind as I work through my day. Does that happen to you? I bet it does.

Back to the Wizard of Oz. There are rich characters in this movie who portray all kinds of archetypes which we often encounter in every day life. So what is your favorite line from that movie? I have several but it depends on my mood.

Sometimes, on a particularly hard day, I relate to our friends in the Wizard of Oz movie, who after taking the very long journey, were greeted by the doorman with a loud “GO AWAY”!  issued by a grumpy guard. Dorothy starts sobbing so hard he has to let her in, “stop crying please just stop crying!! “ At other times when I am with friends I relate to the wise little dog Toto who exposes that the man behind the curtain is a fraud. He isn’t actually a wizard, but instead employs a combination of technology and hot air to hoodwink his followers into believing him.

At other times I relate to Dorothy who smacks that lion on the nose, exposing the coward he is. There are bullies in this world who will try to frighten and push around until we stand up to them, and they crumble under the weight of their own fears!! On a clumsy day, I am the scarecrow trying to keep it all together. All the while putting the stuffing back in while I try to get from here to there!! And who amongst us has not met plenty of tin men in need of a heart.

The movie made its debut in 1939 and was actually a remake of a prior silent films made in  1910 and 1925.The author of the Wizard of Oz, L.Frank Baum, wrote 14 novels and six short stories about Dorothy’s adventures.  Of course, as is always the case, when they were adapted  for film, the producers had a few things added to make the movie interesting.

Regardless of when the movie was made, the characters with all of their shortcomings, still hold valuable lessons for us today.

Aileen Brazeau


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How Much Sleep do Seniors Need?

communications with seniorsI was told that as we age we need less sleep. I must tell you that the truth is this. As we age we sleep less, but that doesn’t mean we need less sleep. Yes, our bodies are no longer changing and growing like a teenager.  Well, okay, they are growing and changing, that is still true, just not in the same way a youngsters body is.

The National Institutes of Health has put forth the proposition that older adults need 7 to 9 hours sleep, just like everyone else.  The fact that as we age our sleep tends to get interrupted more frequently with trips to the restroom, and just less REM sleep overall.  Brain function can become impaired at any age when we don’t give our minds and bodies enough rest and exercise. So I think it’s important to do the following:

  1. Find a way to ease aches and pains before retiring for the night, perhaps a warm bath, or a cup of tea
  2. If you are prone to leg pain, find just the right type of pillow to place between your knees
  3. Get plenty of exercise during the day, it’s good for your brain and will help you to sleep better
  4. If your mind gets restless when you lie in bed, try soothing music as a background for your sleep
  5. Dance whenever you can. Even if it’s by yourself at home. Dancing releases endorphins, and music makes us happy, when we feel happy and relaxed we sleep better.
  6. If you get really sleepy in the middle of the day, don’t be afraid to take a short nap. There are some people who have more trouble sleeping when they get overtired.

So remember, no matter how old we are we need our sleep…


Aileen Brazeau



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What ARE You Talking About?

What Are You Talking About?

By Karen Everett Watson – gerontologist


I never think about this subject until we all get together, but it’s no wonder our children and grandkids have trouble understandingintergenerational conversations us. After all, we use phrases that have absolutely no meaning to the younger generation. Come to think of it, while I know the inference of most old sayings, I haven’t a clue on where they came from. For instance, my aunt likes to say “Oh, foot” – a lot! Now where in the world did that saying come from? Perhaps it’s just an okie thing. Wikipedia didn’t even have the answer. When all four generations of my family get together, there’s more than one kind of confusion including understanding the conversations!

Have you ever used the phrase, “He’s three sheets to the wind”? Now that one I did find online. It turns out that sailors who didn’t keep the sails tied down were apt to experience a violent “rocking of the boat.” The captain of the ship would use this term on his sailors. Three sheets to the wind meant someone was very drunk and staggering back and forth. If you were four sheets to the wind, you were unconscious. Now don’t you feel better knowing this important information?

There are so many phrases we use and really a lot of them have very little meaning such as “My stars” or “Dab Nabbit.” I guess they’re what some would call mild oaths, but should I tell that to even my grown kids, I’m sure I’d get the look. You know that look – “Mom’s talking crazy again.”

I know many of our sayings come from our ancestors who farmed that land and raised their own meat. There’s “caught red-handed” which came from a rustler who had blood on his hands from butchering what he stole. Then there’s “slower than molasses in January” and “dog days of summer.” There’s also “long in the tooth” and “naked as a jay bird” along with “you won’t see him till the cows come home” and “he’s got a long row to hoe.”  That “long in the tooth” is just one of many sayings meant to describe someone who is really old, as well as “he’s circling the drain.” I truly hope that many have been left behind due to political correctness because, let’s face it some of these sayings were not nice at all.

Then there are phrases like “white as a sheet.” I wonder what our kids think about that one. It’s been a long time since nearly all sheets were white. I don’t think I even own a set of white sheets anymore, but that’s all we had when I was a kid. In those days a white sale was quite the thing. Now no one under the age of 60 would have a clue as to what that means.

I know this very valuable information might “go right over your head,” but it is fun to think about the things we’ve always said and the sayings we’ve heard from friends and loved ones. My Daddy’s favorite is, “oh, shoot.” Whether he’s working on a fence or trying to fix the car, this saying will be heard over and over again. When I call Momma I ask, “Is daddy shooting?” It’s a good way to determine how he’s doing.

Well, I’d better “get on the ball.” I’ve got lots of weeding to do!

Karen  for

Aileen Brazeau


Other funny old sayings –

  • Lord willing if the creek don’t rise
  • Looks like corn growing out of your ears
  • I’ll swanee
  • For Pete’s Sake
  • It’s raining cats and dogs
  • Just got off the bus
  • Looks like he fell off the turnip truck
  • Knocking at the Pearly Gates
  • Crazy as a fox
  • Beating around the bush
  • Just like a treed possum
  • Worthless as a plug nickel
  • Dumb as a brick
  • Drunk as a skunk
  • Have you lost your marbles?





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The Lasting Joys of Close Kin

the importance of family

Momma & her Twin

By Karen Everett Watson

It seems the older I get, the more I enjoy thinking about my childhood experiences. Growing up as an only child, the ultimate for me was spending time with my cousins. Since my mother had six brothers and five sisters, I had a multitude of cousins to enjoy.

For many years my mother’s twin sister lived just a few miles from us and her daughter, my cousin Jeannie, was just two weeks younger than myself. Because we were so close in both age and proximity, my cousin was more like a sister to me than a cousin. And if you have a sister you know what sisters do? Yep, there were fights. As babies, we fought over everything. It usually involved a hairbrush. I haven’t the slightest idea why we fought over hair brushes. Neither one of us had any hair at the time.

Me and Jeannie Ann Carr

Karen & Jeannie Ann

While fighting was a big part of our activities, we still preferred to play together. Jeannie was adventuresome and she always had three or four ideas ready to go. At four she decided to be a hair stylist. First she trimmed my bangs then her baby brother’s hair. Last of all she trimmed her own. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty. At five she decided to make her own sandwich which in and of itself is not big deal, but in her case, it involved climbing into the cabinets next to the stove. I was in the living room when she emerged triumphantly with her sandwich masterpiece held in one hand and flames were going up the back of her dress all the way above her head. Did I mention it was a gas stove? Her momma started chasing her and I tried to stay out of the way. She ended up rolled in the living room rug. Amazingly she was unharmed.

My summers were spent in the heart of Oklahoma. Both sets of grandparents lived there and it was the only vacation destination for all my childhood summers. My momma’s mother lived in a little cement block house on the edge of town. It had two bedrooms and one bathroom. It was tiny by anyone’s standards, but when summer came, it held over thirty of my relatives. All the cousins slept of the floor. Our pallets stretched from the front door to the kitchen door at the back of the house. Getting to the bathroom in the middle of the night involved careful placement of one’s feet. Somehow we all survived and couldn’t have been happier in a five star hotel. After all, there wasn’t a chef alive that could compete with my granny’s cooking!

I loved listening to my momma and her siblings talk about their years growing up. There was the time she finally convinced her twin sister to try the rope swing next to the creek. I think you can probably guess how that turned out. Then there was the story of the pet crow that liked shiny things, including matches. Those matches happened to be on top of granny’s sewing machine, along with all the material for her girls’ school dresses. The crow survived the neck wringing from granny. The material did not. Some of their stories almost hurt to listen to. My mother and her siblings never had a lunch to take with them, but Granny always had dinner waiting for them when they got off the bus.

Without my cousins, my aunts, my uncles and grannies, I would have been a very lonely child. They filled my life with fun, adventure, and memories I will never lose. They connected me to my roots. They taught me where I came from and more importantly who I was. As a teenager, my Aunt Glory made sure I could spend a portion of my summer lounging by her pool. Her daughter, my cousin Linda was grown by then. She’d take me wherever my heart desired. We window shopped on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. We visited Ports o’ Call and Disneyland and nearly every beach in Southern California. She taught me the fun of macramé and I carried the purse she taught me to make for years to come. She continues to be a gift of life – a gift of family.

I so appreciate the connection with all these “close kin.” They enriched my life beyond measure just by spending time with me. How long has it been since you called your brother, sister, or one of your cousins? Don’t lose touch – they’re treasure to cherish all through life. And ask your older loved ones about their close kin. It will lift both your hearts!

Aileen Brazeau



San Clemente CA, senior living, fundraising, charities, Dana Point, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano






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Six Life Lessons from Seniors

communications with seniors

At San Clemente Villas, every day we get the privilege of interacting with people over the age of 75. In those interactions we get to hear about some amazing adventures and careers our seniors have had. Those stories serve to show us that people, no matter what their age, have interesting stories to tell. Sometimes they teach us things about how to live a full life that we may have never known.

A member of our local community recently offered to talk about this for us. Her name is Donna Karson and her field of expertise is communications. I would like to share her thoughts with you:

“We could all stand to learn a thing or two about communication from seniors.  With most healthy, clear-minded seniors, the art of communication is refreshing. No longer are they interested in playing games, withholding information or making subtle points.

Nope. Seniors get it. Time is short. Energy is limited. Inauthenticity is a waste of time. Seniors say it like it is. There is little to guess at or figure out.

Maybe for seniors it’s a lesson learned from more years on the planet than the rest of us. Maybe it’s the lost time, or the misunderstandings or lack of productivity they experienced that make them want to be more direct. Or maybe seniors understand that it is simply too much work, too tiring, too much wasted energy to NOT communicate directly and honestly.

Whatever the particular reasons, the refreshing outcome in talking with seniors is this:

1.    They have invaluable wisdom from the  experiences of their years
2.    They value conversation that is honest and real
3.    They no longer need to prove themselves
4.    They can be counted on to tell us what they think, clearly and straight
5.    They’re no longer interested in wasting time, they prefer to “spend” time wisely on things that matter
6.    They value the things that matter most in life….relationships, connection, health, enjoyment, and good honest conversation

I’m always amazed by the resistance most people have to honest, direct communication. In spite of the costs in business, relationships, and sheer energy wasted, many people continue to hold back, imply, beat around the bush and avoid clear direct conversations.

Why not learn from our senior population? Why not start now to just speak the truth? To just say what needs to be said in as clear, direct and to the point way as possible? We don’t need to wait to be seniors to learn the value of this style of communication. “

While subtlety and deference can still be a valuable tool for many of us, I believe that there are things we can take away from this post which will help any of us, regardless of our age, to communicate more clearly.

Aileen Brazeau











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Including All of Our Family and Friends During the Holiday Season

Caregivers for boomersDuring the holidays, we want to remember all of our family members, neighbors and friends who may be living in assisted living facilities or nursing homes.  Everyone wants to enjoy the holiday season no matter where they are and see their loved ones.  We have some  ideas on how to make this the best season ever for you and your loved ones!

Bring holiday decorations and put them up for them.  A special tree with tiny decorations or a beautiful ornament hung from a window will sparkle and make their room brighter.  Bring photos or albums to share with them to relive the past or the past year of “happenings”.  This is something that will bring new conversation and delight.

Find their address book, bring some special Christmas cards with you and help them with writing cards to their friends or family members.   For older family members, especially those in a nursing home, this can be a daunting task for anyone. Most of us forget that older family members don’t use social media they value a good old fashioned card or letter. In this age of technology, it does not seem many people do this anymore and it means so much.

Old movies and music can bring back treasured memories. We know that trying to spend a few hours talking to someone whose memory is fading can be a less than exhilarating experience. So how do you fill the time and still make a nice day for you and your loved one?  Find recordings of “old-time” radio shows or DVD’s of old movies that you know they like.  These can be found in specialty catalogs or online.  These will be cherished and listened to over and over.  If they do not have a CD or DVD player, consider giving them a portable one as a gift.   In this way, they can listen to things or watch movies as they lay in bed at night.

If your loved one is no longer mobile, would like to do shopping but cannot get out, offer to bring catalogs and help them choose items and place orders.  If there is WIFI at their place of residence, bring your laptop. Sometimes there are computers in the facility that residents have access to, go online with them, help them choose a little something as gifts for other family members.  This is a wonderful, caring gift that you may not even realize.  Navigating through catalogs or online may be impossible to them and giving your time will be so appreciated.  Offer to read to them.  This is another invaluable gift of time.

We have said this before, in fact it seems to have become our theme this month. Just please, take time to spend and  most importantly, listen to them.  There is nothing more appreciated than the gift of someone who will sit and listen.  A smile or a hug is priceless.  And, don’t forget, this is so important at the holiday season but is also something that you should remember the entire year.  Sharing your love, time and efforts are the most precious gifts of all!

Aileen Brazeau


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How To Make Their Day!!

Karen just wrote a guest blog post for us on a subject  which deserves a little more attention. My staff and I at San Clemente Villas know first hand the joy that visits and interactions with family members and children bring. And it’s not only the joy that family members get, it spreads to every member of our community and our staff.

We make certain that our people have access to hobbies, crafts, music, dancing and exercise programs. They have shopping trips, we hold events here on a regular basis, invite the community in and our residents are always excited and happy to have the fresh faces show up in our lobby.Children Visiting

Those are all good things. But there is something about the laughter and joy a small child brings into out place that I can’t even describe to you. You just have to see the faces of our people, the soft smiles that begin to spread over every ones faces. The children, running by, looking for their Great Auntie, or Grandpa. The teenagers, some of whom aren’t all that excited to be here, but who eventually crack a smile when somebody tells a joke or gives them a complement.

People who have visitors have status. They proudly introduce the visiting family member to all of their San Clemente Villas friends and our staff. And those visitors who take the time to stop for a moment and engage with the other residents are often surprised at how much fun they have talking to these “older” people.

Somehow, in our society, we relegate people to roles based upon their appearance. People who have aged sometimes have poor posture, wrinkles and age spots. We forget that those same people were business owners, pioneers in the field, teachers, doctors, artists and performers. Taking a minute to talk to each other enriches all who become involved in the conversation.

So, put aside your worries about the perfect gift, the perfect Holiday Dinner, and just buy a box of their favorite candy, bake some cupcakes, bring a DVD of a favorite old movie and just spend some time..You can buy all that other stuff, but you can never buy more time. Spread the joy, and it will come back to you..

Aileen Brazeau

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How Well Do You Listen?

san c how well do you listen kwatson (2)


By Karen Everett Watson


When my children were small, I always asked them to look at my eyes when they were supposed to be listening to me. It was a good way to know they heard me. It occurs to me, that many of us use computers and telephones to have conversations. We talk a lot, we compute a lot, but do we really listen? Do we turn our faces so we can look into the windows of the soul?

To have a good, strong and deep connection with those we love, we really need to hear them. What are they saying to us? Where do their thoughts come from? It reminds me of how Solomon asked God for an “understanding heart” and because of that, God gave him everything. Was Solomon asking God to help him to be a good listener?

The younger generations think differently. They communicate differently. Elders cherish the connections with friends and family. They long for good conversations and happy visits. Many times I’ve seen elders just “talked over.” Many have trouble hearing which makes it harder to have meaningful conversations when there’s a group in the mix. We’re they losers. Elders have so much to give us. We have so much to learn. Often we wait too long to have those great talks. Then we regret that we just didn’t use the time we had with them wisely.

I’ve been honored to interview hundreds of seniors. As a journalist, I’ve had to develop good listening skills. This is what I’ve learned about listening to older people.

Make your visit a priority – Set a date. 

I think my interviews have been so successful because I took the time to find out when the elder would like to see me and be interviewed. Seniors also have a life. If you just drop by for a visit, both of you are likely to be disappointed. Making a date also tells your senior that spending time with them is important to you. They love to share with friends how their daughter or son is taking them to lunch or out for a drive. Older people have daily schedules they like to keep and the like to be ready for “company.” The earlier part of the day is often the best time to have a good visit.

Choose a good location –

Ideally, you’ll want to visit where it’s relatively quiet and free from distractions. Their home is probably the best place to visit, since they’re most comfortable and at ease. You also want to sit down where you can look in their eyes when they talk. Quiet restaurants can be a good place to visit since you sit across from them. Just make sure to pick a corner where there’s not a lot of activity going on. Avoid being next to the kitchen and wait stations.

Give them Time – 

Most of us, including myself, are guilty of quickly answering questions. Many elders are more reflective and think about what they’re going to say. Be quiet and let them talk. They will take you to topics you’d never think to ask about. Focus on “follow-up” questions, instead of changing the subject. Do be sensitive to their emotions, but try and let them decide they want to share.

For those memory challenged – 

If your loved one has dementia, chances are you can still have meaningful conversations if you talk about when they were young. While dementia patients have trouble with short term memory, their long-term memory is often sharp. This is when to choose carefully what you ask them. “What chores did you do when you were a child?” “Who taught you to drive a car, or ride a bike?” “What was your favorite thing to do, or place to go?” “How did you know that your spouse ‘was the one?'” These questions are fairly open-ended and can lead to some great stories for you to cherish.

Many of the elders I’ve interviewed suffered from dementia. As long as I kept the conversation about their strong, young years, I got wonderful stories from them. One sweet lady had actually forgotten she was old. Our conversation took us back to when she was raising her children and coming to California in a horse-drawn wagon. It was a story I will never forget.

Slow down when you talk – 

My own parents have trouble hearing these days. I try to be careful to not only speak a little louder, but also a little slower. Daddy has had hearing trouble for years, so he’s a good lip reader. When I talk to him, I look him square in the face. I really don’t have to talk too loud, just a bit slower.

Enjoy the visit! 

Let your loved one know how good it feels to be with them. Don’t wait to tell them how much they mean to you. Tell them now. Recall the things they’ve done for you that have meant so much in your life. They’ll never be a better time.


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