Pandemic puts a damper on 4th of July

Independence Day celebrations in the Puget Sound region are being canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the cancellations are the Fourth of July T-Town Family 4th in Tacoma, Federal Way’s Red, White and Blues Festival, and Auburn’s 4th of July Festival.

Tacoma’s event is one of the few—if not the only one–that might be resurrected this year in some format. Its organizers—the City of Tacoma, Metro Parks, and Festivals Inc.—announced a communitywide event may be planned for later in the summer when physical distancing mandates are lifted and if it is deemed safe to host large gatherings. But calling off the original schedule “is the right thing to do in the interest of public health,” said Metro Parks Commissioner Tim Reid.

Large events have been banned since mid-March 11 in response to health issues related to the pandemic.

Pretty sharp job and business

Dennis Martin plays with knives for a living.

A moulding operator at L.J. Smith Stair Systems in Puyallup, Martin routinely makes and grinds as many as 300 different knives for the company’s machinery that’s dedicated to creating custom handrails and mouldings.

“Our team is in the business of making anything a customer wants,” said Martin, a resident of University Place. “Whether it’s a replica of a historical piece or an entirely new design, we can create it.”

The custom process at the plant in Puyallup’s industrial area starts with drawings and computer renderings. Then Martin downloads a template. He cuts and creates steel knives that are needed to grind the custom pieces. The knives are a quarter-inch thick, high-speed steel. Their heights vary from two to 10 inches, depending on the size of the piece being created. And the weight will vary from 10 pounds up to 50 pounds.

“I put exact knives in the left, right, top and bottom sides of a machine to create an accurate reproduction,” said Martin. “This is very intense work, but it’s fun. We make adjustments for any minor miscalculations with the goal of crafting the perfect piece.”

For the L.J. Smith team, the demand is heavy for custom pieces. More than two-dozen requests come in each year for completely customized handrails and mouldings.

“One of the most unusual projects we’ve worked on recently was for the Louisa Hotel in Seattle,” Martin said. “Bear Wood Windows came to us during the restoration process of the historic 1909 hotel. They requested very old, unique and original profiles in clear fir for the handrails. We were able to exactly replicate the pieces they needed to help renovate the hotel.”

The lure of uniqueness in the job — plus the ability to play with knives, so to speak — keeps Martin interested in his work.

“I’ve been in woodworking since 1996,” he said. “What’s best about this job is that each day we’re tackling something different. We make a positive impact on a project and fulfill the needs and dreams someone has for a railing system. That’s a great career to have for more than two decades.”

L.J. Smith — whose products include wooden and ornamental iron balusters, stainless steel cable and tube infills, metal panels, newel posts, hand rails and accessories — is owned by NOVO Building Products, manufacturer and distributor of mouldings, stair parts, doors and specialty millwork. Smith is based in Bowerston, Ohio.

Dennis Martin makes and grinds knives for machinery that creates custom wood products.

Do you know a volunteer, over the age of 50, who’s made a significant impact in your community? We are always grateful for volunteerism, thankful to those who give a little extra of themselves to help others.  Especially during this pandemic, so many people have stepped up to take care of our fellow humans.

Fred Rogers once said, “’When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

Now’s your chance to recognize one of these extraordinary helpers by nominating them for AARP Washington’s 2020 Andrus Award for Community Service, which honors a 50+ individual or couple who are sharing their experience, talent, and skills to enrich the lives of their community members.

Nominations are accepted until July 15, 2020, and the winner will receive the opportunity to donate $2,000 to an eligible non-profit of his or her choosing.

“AARP is excited to shine a light on 50+ Washingtonians who are using what they’ve learned in life to make a difference in the lives around them,” said Doug Shadel, AARP Washington State Director.

AARP Washington Andrus Award for Community Service nominees must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Nominee must be 50 or older.
  • The achievements, accomplishments, or service on which the nomination is based must have been performed on a volunteer basis, without pay.
  • The achievements, accomplishments, or service on which the nomination is based must reflect AARP’s vision and mission.
  • Married couples or domestic partners who perform service together are also eligible; however, teams are not eligible.
  • The recipient must live in the awarding state.
  • This is not a posthumous award.

Please contact AARP Washington at 206-399-2106 or for further information or to have a nomination form mailed to you. Nominations will be evaluated based on how the volunteer’s work has improved the community, supported AARP’s vision and mission, and inspired other volunteers. The award recipient will be announced in early fall 2020.

The AARP Andrus Award for Community Service is an annual awards program developed to honor individuals whose service is a unique and valuable contribution to society.  Last year, AARP recognized 50 outstanding individuals and couples from around the country.


Christina Clem, who wrote this article, is a communications specialist for AARP Washington.

Nutrition goes hand-in-hand with healthy, active living

Getting proper nutrition can be challenging for everyone, but especially as we age—and for a variety of reasons, including changing tastes, physical or dental conditions, and lack of access to healthy foods.

“It’s critical that people of all ages get proper nutrition, but especially seniors, and particularly now with the spread of COVID-19 in the United States,” says Dr. Gina Conflitti, chief medical officer with Cigna’s Medicare Advantage business, which offers Medicare plans in 18 states and the District of Columbia. “Good nutrition helps older adults stay active and vital, and can help them stave off or better manage chronic conditions.”

Cigna provides the following nutrition tips:

  • Make healthy choices. Add plenty of fruits and vegetables to your plate for colorful, nutrient-rich, fiber-filled meals. Add flavor with spices and herbs instead of salt. Stay hydrated with plenty of water. Even light exercise can stimulate appetite and strengthen bones and muscles.
  • Consult your doctor. If your appetite is changing or you’re losing weight, talk to your primary care physician. There could be an underlying reason for these changes. For instance, your medication might be affecting your appetite. Or maybe you’re dealing with depression. Your doctor can work with you to identify possible causes.
  • Adapt to changing tastes. There are a number of ways to change your eating habits to improve your nutrition, from eating more frequent, smaller meals to trying new foods and cooking styles. For tips on preparing healthy meals, visit
  • See a dentist. A dentist may be able to address any dental problems impacting your ability to enjoy food. If you have a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, you may have access to dental benefits at no extra cost. Check your plan for details.
  • Explore options. If mobility is an issue, look for local organizations offering transportation or meal delivery to older adults. If you have an MA plan, you may have access to home-delivered meals following a hospitalization. One-third of hospital patients are malnourished at admission and poor nutrition increases their risk of having to return to the hospital after being released. Good nutrition helps patients regain their strength and energy faster for better recoveries. Check your plan for details.
  • Get help. Some older adults with limited resources may qualify for assistance with food purchases through programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Many older adults qualify for this program and don’t know it.

If you aren’t eligible for this type of assistance, you can still find ways to save on food bills, including asking for senior discounts, using coupons, having a store discount card and buying store brands.

These are just a few resources. Every individual has unique needs. Cigna encourages you to talk with your physician for additional information about your personal nutrition requirements. For videos about senior nutrition and some warning signs of malnutrition, visit

Proper nutrition is essential to overall health. As you age, keep nutrition top of mind and explore new ways to eat well.


Something to keep in mind as you age–proper nutrition is essential to overall health.