Author Archives: MsMerrill

Celebrate This 105 Year Old’s Fastball

The ceremonial 1st pitch is a baseball tradition. And this week, the oldest person to ever throw out a 1st pitch captivated an entire stadium. 105 year old Agnes McKee took the mound at a San Diego Padres game and drew applause from everyone in the park.

Agnes was born in 1909. So we thought it would be fun to see what was happening in Major League Baseball the year she was born.

+ Only 8 of the 30 current MLB teams are in the same city as they were in 1909: Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals.
+ Babe Ruth was 14 years old and had not yet played in a game.
+ The Pittsburgh Pirates, led by SS Honus Wagner, went 110-42 and beat the Detroit Tigers four games to three in the World Series.
+ Those Pittsburgh Pirates may have also had the greatest collection of names in baseball history, including Dots Miller, Jap Barbeau, Honus Wagner, Chief Wilson, Ham Hyatt, Howie Camnitz, Lefty Leifeld, Babe Adams and Chick Brandom.
+ 86 year old Vin Scully is the oldest play-by-play announcer still broadcasting Major League Baseball games. He was not born until 1927, 18 years after Agnes.

As a side note, the San Diego Padres were formed in 1969, which means Agnes was 60 years old when she became a fan of her team.

Way to go Agnes!

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Getting Into the Swing of Summer

We often talk about how much fun the residents of Merrill Gardens are. But we can’t forget about the other people who spend time in the communities, making sure everyone has a smile on their face.

We love that the teams that support each Merrill Gardens community are as active, fun, lively and entertaining as the people who live there. If you don’t believe us, check out this spontaneous softball game that arose between the staffs at the Merrill Gardens in Village Green and Willow Glen.

We just had to throw some music between the highlights. If you are going to choreograph those kind of sophisticated dance moves, you deserve your own music video. Enjoy!

Merrill Gardens Team Softball Competition from Merrill Gardens on Vimeo.

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Love is in the Air at Merrill Gardens

It’s a traditional love story straight from the 1950’s, being played out today in 2014.

Lillian and Ron - 2013 Senior PromOur stars tonight are Lillian and Ron, residents of Merrill Gardens in the lovely town of Santa Maria, California. Our young lovers may now need to live in different buildings in the community. But physical proximity cannot keep them apart.

Rain, shine, snow or fog, the two lovebirds have every Friday dedicated for a date with each other. If you sit in the lobby of the Garden House (our living area for residents who need supportive care) you’ll see Ron romantically picking up Lillian from her apartment. They’ll walk side by side to the dining room, so that she can play the piano for a dedicated audience of one. Some days Ron will share her talents with the rest of the community, and they’ll head to the Baby Grand Piano in the lobby. There, she’ll delight the room with musical ability only overshadowed by the smile on her face.

Lillian and Ron - Wedding PhotoAfter that, the couple will often do what they’ve been doing for decades – celebrating with each other at Happy Hour and toasting the day. Their affection is contagious, and brightens up the room.

The love and loyalty Ron and Lillian share are inspirational to residents and team members alike. We salute Lillian and Ron for making Merrill Gardens a special place to live.

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We Celebrate the Most Inspiring Senior of the Year, Luella Shell

A wise man once said, “You’re never too old to win.”  Well the axiom has been proven by Merrill Gardens resident and 99 year old super-senior, Luella Shell.

Luella Shell - Most Inspiring Senior - Merrill GardensLuella didn’t just win a local spelling bee. She was named by as the Most Inspiring Senior, in the Best Senior Living Awards 2014. In this national competition, Luella won with a whopping 31% more votes than the second place contender.

A resident at Merrill Gardens of Santa Maria, CA, Luella is an inspiration to everyone she meets.  With a constant smile on her face, she’s likely to take you on your next adventure with her by clicking her feet together and saying “Let’s Go”.

The General Manager of the Santa Maria community, Audie Sherberg, says this about the dynamo, “Luella is an ongoing inspiration to our residents and team members alike.  She is the true example of celebrating life to its fullest!”

In addition to her love for dancing, she is always creating opportunities for Merrill Gardens residents to get more involved with the community. Two special events started by Luella are the Funky Fashion Show and Talent Show.

“The overwhelming success of both events impacted the entire community,” recounts Sherberg. The emotions, laughter and joy were wonderful to see.  Clearly it was an experience that touched the emotions and hearts of everyone involved!”

When she’s not dancing or coming up with new activity ideas, you may find her in the kitchen making cookies. Is there anything this woman can’t do?

We congratulate Luella for being recognized for her inspiring ways and we are so happy that she chose to make Merrill Gardens her home!

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Meet Merrill Gardens – Hiker in Chief Corneil Vacirca

We’re rounding out Fit and Fun Month at Merrill Gardens with a profile of one of our Fittest and Most Fun team members, Corneil Vacirca. We sat down and had a conversation about hiking and the outdoors.

1) Hi Corneil. Can you tell us a little bit about your role at Merrill Gardens?
I am the Director of Sales. My mission is to help educate, equip and encourage our community sales teams so that they can help more people understand how great life can be when they choose to move into one of our communities. I help develop programs so our team members can focus on building relationships with our future residents and their families, and walk them through what they need to know when making this very important life decision.

Corneil Hikiing2) A little bird told us you are an outdoor and hiking enthusiast. What drew you to this activity?
Sometimes keeping all of the balls in the air can get a little overwhelming. For me, spending time in the outdoors is the ultimate escape! No phones, no computers, no deadlines. Just me and the beauty of God’s creation and a great physical challenge! My husband is a fisheries biologist for the US Forest Service who lives and breathes the outdoors. He took me for my first real hikes. (If he ever tells you the destination is “just over that ridge” prepare to hike for at least 3 more hours!). I fell for him and the outdoors in one fell swoop! It’s been a 20+ year love affair with both that’s still going strong!

3) Do you have a favorite place in Seattle to hike?
I actually make my home in Wenatchee and spend most of the work week in Seattle. So the only “hike” I’ve done in Seattle is in Ravenna Park, which is lovely. But in Wenatchee, I love hiking the Wenatchee Foothills Trail. The Sage Hills trailhead is less than a mile from my front door, so it is great for a quick trail run or an easy hike. The wildflowers are amazing in the springtime!

4) If someone wanted to get started with some easy hiking, where would you suggest they start?
Start in your own neighborhood! Especially here in Seattle, there are great walking trails all around. If you’d like to get away from the city and more deeply into nature, the great thing about Seattle is that you can drive 30-45 minutes in any direction and be able to find a trailhead. The Washington Trails Association has a great website and if you click on the “Find a Hike” button, your possibilities are endless!

Corneil Camping5) What’s the toughest hike, mountain, marathon, etc.. that you tackled and completed?
I’ve been an avid day-hiker for many years, but last year I graduated to multi-night backpacking trips. Our best (and longest) trip of the summer was a three day/night trip in Central Washington (Leavenworth/Chelan area) from Phelps Creek Basin, through Spider Meadows and over Spider Gap, through Lyman Lakes, Heart Lake and to Holden Village. It was a total of about 21 miles.

6) Ever seen a scary animal on the trail? I saw a bear camping on the Rogue River years ago and almost paddled home. (I was camping, not the bear.)
Fortunately I haven’t run into any scary animals on a trail. But we did see pretty fresh bear track on the trail near Heart Lake last summer. We did have a camping trip many years ago when a bear thrashed around our campsite looking for food. He destroyed a foam cooler and broke into a regular cooler. We learned that lesson the hard way – now we tie up all of the food in a tree!

7) What’s the right thing to do if I see a bear on the Burke-Gilman trail?
Don’t run! Hopefully you are prepared and have bear spray, just in case.

8) Besides bear spray, is there a piece of hiking equipment or clothing that we all should own?
Proper fitting hiking shoes can make or break your hike! (If you read Wild by Cheryl Strayed you get a very vivid picture of not having the proper footwear – ouch!). If the feet aren’t happy – the hiker isn’t happy!

9) What are some other outdoor activities you enjoy?
I enjoy running (especially when I’m able to visit our communities in Southern California and run along the beach!), swimming, snorkeling and biking. I tried paddle boarding last summer and that was awesome! Ohme Gardens in Wenatchee had a free outdoor yoga class last summer and that was great – though don’t know if that technically qualifies! 🙂

10) In a city where the weather is so unpredictable, how do you get outdoors during some of those “less sunny” months?
I grew up in the high desert of New Mexico, so I wasn’t sure how I’d adjust to Seattle’s weather, but I have to say it is really not that bad (don’t worry, I won’t tell the rest of the world!). Give it an hour or two and it usually changes up! And it is hard to beat a sunny day in Seattle – there is no better city to enjoy on a gorgeous sunny day!

Corneil Mountain 11) What’s your favorite part of being outdoors?
I love the sounds and the colors. Hearing the wind rustle through the trees, the water running over the rocks of a stream, the squirrels squeals warning their fellow creatures that we’re coming and the sound of my boots hitting the dirt, just makes me happy. When the blue of the sky meets the green of the trees and the grey of the mountains spotted with white snow all reflected in the crystal clear mirror of a glacial lake… it is my paradise and instant “ohm” for me!

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6 Ways Your Phone Can Make Exercise More Fun

Ah fitness. It’s come a long way from the days of jumping jacks, jump-rope and jazzercise. Technology is making it easier than ever to find new exercises, track  progress and find partners to work out with.

If you are using your smartphone to video chat with loved ones and follow friends on Facebook, you may want to download (or have a loved one download) a couple of neat programs to help your exercise routine.

Gain Fitness
Gain Fitness

Are you the type of person who gets bored doing the same exercise every day? If so, then Gain Fitness is for you. It’s like having a personal trainer inside your phone. It has more than 1,300 exercises to choose from, which lets you basically do 2 new exercises a day for 2 straight years. You can look at sharp video images or listen to your friendly trainer deliver step-by-step voice commands. You tell it what you want to accomplish, and it tells you which exercises to do.

Even better, this app is free for your iPhone or iPad.

Argus App

Maybe you don’t have any problems scheduling your exercise, but you want a better way to track your progress. Then argus may be a great choice. The program will keep track of step you take, along with anything else you want to track (within reason.) Then it displays a number of helpful charts that you can show to your physical therapist to prove you are doing what you are told. Use it over time and you may find some trends in your personal health habits.

This is another free app on your iPhone and iPad.

LoseIt App
If you are trying to cut a couple of pounds, you might want to try LoseIt!, a calorie tracking program that creates a personal weight loss plan. You decide your goals and this program automatically devises a weight loss program that fits your life. How does it track the calories? Its unique barcode scanner feature lets you basically take pictures of the packaged food you eat. It also has a vast database of foods that you can choose from so you track each meal. If you are the copetitive type or need a little cammaraderie in your weight loss program, LoseIt! has ways to challenge your friends head to head, or build team based contests.
It’s another free app, and has broad reach on iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle, and Nook.


Not of us have a personal grocery shopper making sure we buy healthy items. With Shopwell you scan a product’s bar code, and like magic, you find out how good the product is for you. Just give it a little data about your dietary needs, age, gender, health goals, and food preferences (or have someone do it for you). You won’t have to try to figure out which combination of sugar, carbs, protein and Vitamin C is best – the program will automatically score the item from 0-100.

It’s free on iPhone and iPad.

Health Mate by Withings
HealthMate App

For many of us, it’s important to watch more than just weight and calories. Health Mate from Withings lets us track a number of personal stats like activity, blood pressure, and sleep all in one place. It’s also our virtual source of inspiration. When we’re feeling like sitting on the couch and skipping a workout “Health Mate” sends fun and supportive messages. It’s like having your own private motivational speaker keeping you on track and in a good mood.

It’s free as well, and available on iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

Human App

We admit it. Some of us need a little prodding to get in our daily exercise. Human prompts and rewards you for doing a few minutes of exercise at a time until you get your recommended daily dose of 30 minutes. So whether you take the pooch for a walk, play a game of Wii Bowling, or do a little dance in the courtyard – Human counts and tracks this as exercise and lets you know when you hit your 30 minutes.

Another free app on iPhone and iPad.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fitness apps. If you have some that you use and love let us know below.

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Exercise + Gaming: A Formula for Fitness Fun

Going to the gym used to mean running on the treadmill or pumping iron in the weight room, but we think that sometimes, that’s just a little too boring. Sure, you can still do those things if you want, but no one’s ever going to confuse either of those activities with anything even remotely resembling something “fun.” That’s where our new SMART (Sensory Motor Activity Reaction Training) Sportwall System comes in.

Merrill Gardens Sportswall

The Sportwall covers all the fitness bases: it’s  a combination of enjoyable, safe and ability-scaled physical activity, multisensory cognitive stimulation and even social engagement. But most of all, it’s actually fun to do. It’s the best way for our residents to get a great workout without feeling like they’re actually working out. It’s exercise without realizing you’re exercising.

But hey, it’s not all fun and games— there’s some serious science behind this thing. Studies show that some of the most important aspects for “successfully aging” include promoting joint health, maintaining ideal body weight, and improving functional mobility for common activities of daily life.

With the Sportswall’s rapid moving, socially engaging, low impact, “quick thinking” gaming programming, all these goals (and more!) are achieved in a way that challenges and delights users physically and cognitively.  It also helps that the gaming side of the program creates a motivational and self-competitive environment, always driving our residents to beat their latest high-score!

Want to see what the Sportswall can do? Here’s a great video preview:


This cool new technology is being installed at our new communities in Huntington Beach and Lafayette, California and we can’t wait to see our residents in action!

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It’s Fit and Fun Month at Merrill Gardens

The sun is shining, the kids are almost out of school and the sounds of baseball are echoing around the playgrounds.

It’s May! That fabulous month between April and summer.

That’s why this month is Fit and Fun Month at Merrill Gardens. We’ve got all kinds of things planned for our communities around exercise, physical fitness and just plain fun. We’ll cover it all as we roll into our favorite time of year.

And to get us started, here’s a short video that shows you some of the ways we stay fit and healthy in our communities. Happy exercising!

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It’s a Ruff Life – More Merrill Gardens Pet Stories

We’re closing out April with tails, er, tales of more wonderful felines and canines that live with our residents.

If you’re a pet owner – you’ll appreciate what these friends bring to the table. If you aren’t one yet, these may make you want one.

Merrill Gardens at Willow Glen
Jean and Booby
Jean and BoobyHow cute are these two? Meet our resident Jean and her pet Chihuahua Booby. When Booby isn’t napping, she loves to take her short legs out for a walk. Booby, not Jean. Though Jean likes to walk as well.

When Jean’s husband was sick, her daughter rescued Booby from a shelter and the two became instant companions. Now Booby is 7 years old, and celebrating her 7th month in our community!

Merrill Gardens at Albertville
Ramona and Heather
Ramona and HeatherWhat were you doing back in 2003? That’s when Ramona and Heather hitched up, and the two have been inseparable ever since.

After Ramona’s first cat passed, she decided she’d live pet-free for a while. But when a friend of hers met Heather, the decision was taken out of her hands. Even though Ramona protested at first, the friend would not take no for an answer. One day, while Ramona was gone on vacation, her friend picked up the cat. When Ramona returned home, Heather strolled right up to her new mom, as if she knew that she was exactly where she was meant to be. They’ve been together ever since.

Merrill Gardens at First Hill
First Hill is home to a number of playful pets, and a few dogs working for their keep.

First, let’s meet Julie and her 15 year old cat Romeo. The two have cuddled on the couch at Merrill Gardens for more than three years.

Then there’s Jane and her eight year old dog Joey, who was adopted in Salono 2 two years ago. It was love at first site for Jane, and the sweet and calm Joey is also adored by our team and residents.

Jane and Joey


Next we meet two of the hardest working dogs in show business. When you head into a little physical therapy session, you’ll meet these guys. Don’t you want to take a little PT just to hang out with them?

Jessie & Patrick and Charlie & Lucky
Jessie and PatrickCharlie and Lucky


Kay and Bear
Merrill Gardens at Willow Glen
Kay and Bear

Kay has been our front desk receptionist for four years, and Bear is her Pomeranian puppy. Bear was a surprise gift from Kay’s boyfriend, but the present extends to all of Willow Glen, where he plays with his toys and runs around the community. One look at the picture below, and you can see how he got his name.

Gary and MistyMerrill Gardens at Village Green
Gary and Misty

Misty is a six year old female poodle who found her owner through a breeder. Famous around the community for wiggling her little stumpy tail, Misty brings laughter to Gary and the entire Merrill Gardens family.

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Meet Merrill Gardens – Jason Childers

In this episode of Meet Merrill Gardens, we bring you our Canine-Lover-in-Chief, Jason Childers. When Jason isn’t palling around with his five year old furry friend, Koda, he’s our senior vice president overseeing sales, marketing, information technology, operations analysis, building & facility maintenance.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I spent most of my childhood in the Seattle area but graduated from the University of California at San Diego with a degree in Economics and a minor in Psychology. After college, I worked in advertising as a strategic planner for two prominent agencies and worked on large national brands like Hilton Hotels, Kawasaki, Mazda and Sunkist.

I made the natural transition from motorcycles and orange juice to senior housing in 2002, starting as a market research assistant. I fell in love with senior housing because of the impact we can have in the lives of our residents.  That’s just not something you can find in other sectors.  I eventually worked my way up to marketing director, then VP of Brand Strategy, then Partner & Vice President. I joined Merrill Gardens last year.

Jason Childers - Merrill Gardens

Now tell us about your adorable poodle Koda.

Koda and I have a lot in common. We are both very even tempered and we are more indoorsy than outdoorsy.  She is a great running partner, though.  When it’s not raining, we have a three-mile loop around our neighborhood that we like to run.

How did you get her?

I always had a Lab growing up, but when I left for college, I realized I was actually allergic to dogs.  So, when I started looking for a dog a few years ago, there were a few requirements:  1. The dog had to be good with my two daughters, Peyton (9) and Makena (5).  2. The dog had to have a hypoallergenic coat.  3. We wanted a dog that would not shed too much.  After much research, we found that a standard poodle was the perfect match.

We actually found Koda on an online pet adoption site, when she was two years old. She was living with a great family near our home but their daughter was getting ready to go to college and they were worried Koda wouldn’t get enough attention.  On our second trip to visit her, we brought her home with us. She’s fit in perfectly with our family from day one.

Jason Childers and Koda - Merrill Gardens

What is your favorite part about working at Merrill Gardens?

The people. Every day I am impressed with how talented, smart, and genuinely friendly everyone is at Merrill Gardens.  We are fortunate to be in a business that truly matters and where we have the opportunity to make life better for the residents we serve.  Everyone here takes that responsibility seriously.

What does your typical day look like?

We have a truly outstanding team here, and my job is to make sure they are challenged, excited and recognized for their great work.

On the top of the list right now, we are working on some significant technology implementations. This continues our mission of providing the most innovative tools for handling their responsibilities as efficiently and effectively as possible. Our new software programs touch every aspect of our business in some way. It’s been a huge project for everyone at Merrill Gardens, both at the communities and here in Seattle.  The impact of all this hard work will be remarkable because it will allow our team members to spend more time focused on resident services.

Finally, how do you think Koda will feel about being featured in the blog?

I expect she will have the same look of excitement she gets when I open a can of her favorite dog food.

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