Never too old to be strong and fit

Chris Lunn is dedicated to making sure folks of all ages can remain active and healthy throughout their lives.

Lunn is 81 years old, but to watch him in action, you would never know it. He is in great shape himself and passionate about his students.

Years ago, he stumbled upon Pilates to lose some weight and get back into shape.

“My back had gone out and my work required a lot of driving, walking and carrying a heavy backpack, and I joined the YMCA,” he said. It was there during a strength and stability class that Lunn learned slow and methodical movements. When the leader of the class moved on and the class was in danger of being canceled for good, Lunn took over.

“When that happened eight years ago, I told the Y, ‘I can teach that class,’“ he said.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Lunn took over the Strength and Stability class at Korum YMCA in Puyallup and three years ago began leading a class for seniors at Willow Gardens, a nearby retirement community.

The workout at Willows Gardens focuses on better breathing and balance. “We work a lot on balance. A lot can be done to make people’s lives better in a retirement situation,” said Lunn.

Marianne Tobin has been taking Lunn’s class at Willow Gardens for two years.

“I saw my doctor and he gave me an exercise band and told me to use it,” she said.

Classes at Willow Gardens meet twice a week and are free to residents. Lunn begins with a 15-minute warmup and deep breathing, leading the group with lots of gentle guidance and information, always offering bits of encouragement. “Open your chest. That makes you taller,” he said at a recent class.

Participants use bands and remain seated for most of the class. As they progress through their workout, Lunn encourages everyone to go slow for the best results, while always keeping a close eye on the group and emphasizing proper form and safety.

At Korum YMCA, the Strength and Stability class has about 20 participants standing and working on the floor. They know the drill, and as they come in, they put mats on the floor, grab their water bottles and get ready to work.

Ron Smith, a retired Boeing employee, said he has been taking Lunn’s YMCA class for about five years.

“It is a good way to end the week,” Smith said.

Again, Lunn does an excellent job with the YMCA group of explaining what will come next, leading them through their moves, always focusing on form and safety.

Class participants are enthusiastic and grateful for the class and the slow, deliberate movements, and they say they notice a marked improvement in their life with regular attendance.

Valerie True, a nurse who works two 12-hour shifts a week, finds the class helps her with aches and pains after the long workdays.

“I’ve been coming for two months, and it has really helped my back,” she said.

Strength and Stability meets at Korum YMCA every Friday from 11:50 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Lunn leads a busy life, focusing on seniors staying active through his classes. Two months ago, he started leading a stretch and stability class at Metro Parks Tacoma’s new Eastside Community Center on Thursdays at 11:30 a.m.

He also has a background in music. In 1969, he founded Victory Music, a non-profit music-education organization that offers open-mic sessions and other showcases and workshops for musicians. It started in Bonney Lake and now is based in Seattle.

Joan Cronk, who wrote this article, is a freelance writer from Puyallup.

The 2018 Puyallup Watershed Science Symposium, held at Meridian Habitat Park and Community Center on Dec. 7, brought together professionals, community members, agency staff, volunteers, higher-education faculty and students with common goals: To protect local waters for the future, learn more, share information, and educate the public about the latest science and research in the Puyallup watershed.

As guests poured into the community center in South Hill, they registered, networked, grabbed coffee and some sweets, and settled down for a symposium that was jam-packed with valuable information.

The Puyallup River Watershed Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the Puyallup watershed, organized the event. With a focus on restoring, protecting and enhancing the environmental, economic and cultural health of the watershed from Mount Rainier to Commencement Bay, the council brings together citizens and representatives of business, governments and other groups who work together to achieve clean water, healthy habitats and thriving communities.

The council tries “to keep momentum going for folks who are trying to help the watershed,” said Carrie Hernandez, the council’s president. She added that each creek and stream has their own issues.

“The symposium brings all these folks together. One of the goals is to make science accessible. We try to have presenters that talk about local projects they were working on. This is a place they get to share their successes and their accomplishments,” said Hernandez.

Sponsors of the event included the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Port of Tacoma and Pierce County.

The symposium is an annual community event designed for networking, sharing and learning about current environmental science, studies and planning to improve the health of the Puyallup-White River Watershed.

With presentations on salmon habitat protection and restoration strategy for the Puyallup and Chambers creek watersheds, climate change and salmon recovery, there was no shortage of information at the 2018 symposium.

Lucy Rollins, a Washington State University Puyallup lab tech researcher, attended the event with Sarah White, a University of Washington-Tacoma graduate currently working for the state Department of Natural Resources in Olympia.

“There is always something new to learn, and I like working with the students,” said Rollins, adding that students get an opportunity to learn about research and develop their own interest areas.

Renee Buck, a volunteer with Chambers-Clover Creek Watershed Council, also attended the event. She said, “There are lots of issues in science that are regional. Clover Creek is different in that groundwater fed into the Puyallup and Nisqually rivers are glacial.”

Krystal Kyer, watershed coordinator for Pierce County Planning and Public Works and one of the organizers, said they were expecting close to 100 guests to attend the symposium.


This article is sponsored through a grant partnership between Pierce County Planning and Public Works’ Surface Water Management Division, the Puyallup River Watershed Council, the Industrial Stormwater Community of Interest of the Puyallup Watershed Initiative, and Senior Media Services. The grants support efforts to improve stormwater management, water quality and habitat through education and enhancement activities.

Meridian Habitat Park and Community Center was the venue for the 2018 Puyallup Watershed Science Symposium. (Joan Cronk/for Senior Scene)


Since 1992, Homestart, an all-volunteer service of First Lutheran Church of Tacoma, has been helping people in the community by supplying them with household goods, including furniture, pots and pans, sheets, blankets and other items that make a house a home.

The service is free and available every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 12 at 1020 South I St. in Tacoma, the fourth location since Homestart began its mission of giving back to the community.

Jan Peterson and Jim Ofelt have run the show from the beginning.

“Jim and I were involved with the Exchange Club of Tacoma, a service organization, and they were supportive of our efforts,” said Jan.

At that time, the Exchange Club was running strong with 65 members. Three years ago, that membership had dwindled to eight, and Ofelt and Peterson decided it was time to throw in the towel. Striking out on their own with the help of First Lutheran Church, they have been picking up furniture and an abundance of household items ever since.

Homestart relies heavily on loyal and dedicated volunteers who show up each week, making sure every blanket is folded, every glass is displayed, and furniture is set up for inspection by clients.

William Tell Williams (Willie) volunteers on a regular basis and wouldn’t miss the experience.

“I love doing things for people and love being a volunteer. I’ve been here for a long time,” he said.

Williams is the muscle of the group, loading furniture into trucks for delivery or driving to homes to pick up donations.

Volunteer Debbie Frisina tries to help Homestart every week. “If my body and mind are ok, I’ll volunteer anywhere,” she said.

“We are blessed with our volunteers,” said Peterson.

Ofelt added that many of the volunteers are people who have been helped by Homestart in the past.

The entire inventory at Homestart is donated, and those donations are what keep Homestart up and running. Peterson said many of the retirement communities keep them on speed-dial, and when they call, Williams and Ofelt hop in a truck and head out to do the pickup.

A walk through the warehouse reveals organization that is key to Homestart, since the space is limited. Everything from Tupperware to vacuum cleaners, lamps, household items and furniture are available for clients.

If clothes are donated, Homestart passes them on to a clothing bank. Homestart doesn’t take big appliances such as stoves or refrigerators, but does welcome toasters, coffeemakers and other items that make a kitchen hum.

“We have families coming in that are at-risk people, divorced people, and some who are just out of jail or prison,” said Peterson.

“We take everything except wine glasses or ashtrays” in donations, she said, adding, “We ask folks, ‘Are you in need or are you in want?’ If they say they are in want, we say goodbye.”

Homestart keeps up with the current seasons.

Winter is approaching, and Peterson noted, “By October, all the blankets will be gone.”

Ofelt said they get donations of medical supplies, wheelchairs, walkers, diapers, and shower chairs, and pass those off to charities.

The clients who visit Homestart have slowed down to a crawl. “We used to have 25 people waiting in line when we opened the door,” said Ofelt, who would like to see more folks coming in for the free items.

He said he and Peterson makes clients’ visits easy as can be.

“We just take people’s word. We ask for identification and we enter their name, address and phone number and the number of people in their family,” said Ofelt.

Peterson agrees that a long line at the door on Tuesday mornings would be a welcome sight.

“We want to make the community aware that this service is available to those in need. Clients can have as many items as necessary to make their home livable,” she said.

Peterson and Ofelt clearly enjoy their involvement with Homestart and the clients they serve.  They would just like to see more folks show up and make use of the

household items they have stacked floor to ceiling in their warehouse. However, both enjoy the interaction with their clients and remain upbeat and hopeful.

“I love the people and I love the stories,” said Peterson.


Contact Homestart at 253-564-6090.

Jim Ofelt and Jan Peterson, founders of Homestart, and volunteer Willie Williams stand in front of Homestart’s location at 1020 South I Street in Tacoma. (Joan Cronk/for Senior Scene)


Joan Cronk, who wrote this article, is a freelance writer. She lives in Puyallup.

On and off rainstorms couldn’t dampen the spirits of hundreds of people participating in the 2018 Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Sept. 16 held at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.

All tax-deductible funds raised through the walk go to care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association.

On the day of the walk, UPS’ Todd Field was filled with supporters sporting purple t-shirts, blowing bubbles and making new friends.

Participants received a colorful garden flower signifying their connection to the disease. Blue flowers were for people living with Alzheimer’s or dementia,  purple flowers were for people who have lost a loved one to the disease, a yellow flower signified caregivers, and orange flowers were for everyone who supports the cause and vision of a world without Alzheimer’s.

Kids rode on parents’ shoulders, well-behaved dogs stretched to the end of their leashes, and two miniature horses showed up.

There are 5.6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, making it the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Every 65 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops the disease.

Caregiving can be an exhausting and lonely existence for the 16.1 million Americans providing unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Susan Gardner is a caregiver for her husband, David, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years ago at the age of 55.

“David is now 61, and last fall his neurologist said he was in the last stages of the disease,” said Gardner, who participates in the walk each year and is one of the top fund-raisers for the Tacoma event. This year she raised $2,300.

Another Tacoma walk participant, Mari Hagen, team captain of Helen’s Heroes—the team name in honor of her mom, who died from the disease–has raised over $10,000 in the last four years, including $4,400 this year.

Hagen, a retired social worker who was her mother’s caregiver, said she worked with many families facing the challenges of a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

On the day of the walk last month, she showed up with her crew of supporters all

“She was the best mom, and I miss her every day,” said Hagen.


Carrie McBride, director of marketing and communications for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Washington chapter, said the association is the largest non-profit funder of Alzheimer’s research in the world.

“It is too late for the loved ones of a lot of the people who walk, but they have hope for the future that they won’t be affected or, if they are, a cure may be available. It raises awareness – when you see thousands of people wearing purple, people pay attention,” she said.

McBride said the disease has affected her family, as well, and a diagnosis leaves family members feeling helpless.

“There is no cure for now, but the walk gives us a sense of purpose,” she said.

People in need of support or searching for information can call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 helpline at 1-800-272-3900

“People can call for any reason – it doesn’t have to be a crisis,” said McBride.

That 24-hour helpline was a big help to Deb Dennison, the Senior Services program manager for Lutheran Community Services Northwest. Dennison’s son suffered for years before being diagnosed at age 23 with dementia.

“The Alzheimer’s Association gave me a lifeline,” she said.

This year’s walk in Tacoma raised more than $200,000. Donations can be made until the Dec. 31 deadline at

“I feel like our event coordinator for this year knocked it out of the park, building relationships and getting sponsors,” said McBride.

Walks that were held in Bremerton on Sept. 8 and in Seattle on Sept. 29 raised $63,514 and $349,825, respectively, at last count.


Joan Cronk, who wrote this story, is a freelance writer from Puyallup.

Mari Hagen (holding the sign) and her team, that was named for her mother, who died from Alzheimer’s, helped raise money in the 2018 Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Tacoma. (Joan Cronk/for Senior Scene)