Writing a New Chapter

Some people are created to care. Gina Tome is one of those people. A preschool teacher for nearly 20 years, Gina has a special knack for making others feel at home, for anticipating needs, for extending a helping hand. When she first came to work at Messiah Lifeways, she was part of the housekeeping team. While enjoying resident interaction and serving their needs, Gina felt a pull to do more. With encouragement from Nursing Home Administrator Crystal Stair, Gina decided to apply for the free nurses aide (CNA) training benefit through Human Resources.  She shares, “Tracy Heyman and everyone in HR was so helpful. The application process was very simple!” Gina chose to do her CNA training at HACC where she found flexible schedules & great instructors to be the key. Best of all, Messiah Lifeways’ CNA training program includes an hourly wage reimbursement so Gina could still get a paycheck while furthering her career. She took her state licensure test as soon as she was able and passed! Today, she’s enjoying a new role on the Asper memory care neighborhood and reveling in the distinction that she was the very first person to use the Messiah Lifeways CNA scholarship. Looking back, NHA Crystal Stair recalls, “Gina’s work ethic and people skills in her role as a housekeeper captured my attention and I knew she could succeed as a CNA. She was the ideal person to take advantage of Messiah’s scholarship program.” In less than 2 months, after passing all the requisite credential and background checks, a current team member could gain a new certification. And, according to HR Director Tracy Heyman, “The application process for the CNA training is very accessible.”

Gina’s mother worked in the kitchen at Messiah Village, and now it’s Gina’s home away from home. Although she was a little nervous about embarking on a new career, she credits her supportive and encouraging colleagues with giving her the gentle push she needed. Congratulations, Gina, and thank you for investing in your future and in the lives of the many residents you serve so well!

Pathways Launches Updated Website

Just in time for the Fall 16′ semester, The Pathways Institute for Lifelong Learning® website has been revamped and retooled. The updated website was launched this past week at both locations’ fall semester kick off events with great anticipation and excitement. Pathways continues to grow as the premier lifelong learning program in the Capital Region and Lancaster County, so the need for an easier online interface and experience was vital.

It allows users to view information on locations through Messiah Lifeways for the Capital Region and Landis Homes for Lancaster County, and courses being offered in Mount Joy. This beautifully updated site now makes it easier to navigate, view classes, and register online. It also offers new features such as the course calendar function, photo galleries, videos and testimonials,  and much more. Lastly, it’s now mobile friendly. 13879412_929913017117245_7395275845909522575_nWe encourage you to check it out and to register through the new website and explore all the great classes and opportunities this unique program has to offer. Please visit 


10 Years of Adventure

Author’s Note: This blog post is reprised, in part, from an article I was asked to submit to Shalom! A Journal for the Practice of Reconciliation. Shalom! is a quarterly publication of the Brethren in Christ Church. Its mission is to educate and stimulate Christ-like responses to the needs of society by providing biblical, theological, sociological, denominational and personal perspectives on a variety of contemporary issues. As I look ahead to celebrating 10 years of employment here, it seemed a fitting time to dust off this reflection and share it.

In 2005, just after giving birth to my first child, I decided to leave my job as Director of Annual Giving at Messiah College to work as a fundraiser at Messiah Village (now Messiah Lifeways at Messiah Village), a neighboring retirement community with deep Anabaptist roots. When people first heard the news, their responses ranged from cautionary to downright amusing.

Won’t it be depressing – working with all those old people?”

Won’t you miss the energy and fun of campus life?”

“Who will you ask for money? You know that Messiah Village doesn’t have alumni, right?”

Admittedly, I was making a big professional leap. I was leaving a beloved job so I could spend more time with my growing family.  While I laughed outwardly, I knew there was some truth in all that good-natured teasing. Would this be a good fit for me?  Little did I know that the change would bring transforming joy, inspiration, and spiritual growth – blessings far beyond the provision of a regular paycheck.

A decade later, I know I made the right choice.  Beyond the satisfaction of using my professional skills to advance our mission and ministry, I have discovered countless opportunities for personal enrichment. My vocation has also shaped my own view of retirement and aging.

As the mother of two young children, I often joke that I’ll sleep when I retire. When I find myself knee-deep in laundry and dishes, weary from late nights and too-early alarms, it sometimes seems I’ll never have a quiet moment to myself. But deep inside I know that these precious children will grow up in the blink of an eye and I’ll be left yearning for one more chance to tuck them under the covers.  What will my life look like when my nest is empty and my formal working years are finished? I pray that it will be full of zest and purpose – as modeled for me by my friends at Messiah Village.  As I reflect on the years I’ve spent serving among remarkable people age 55 and  better, I’ve made some observations about purposeful aging.  I hope my thoughts will spark a new idea in your mind or help you have a meaningful conversation with someone you love.

Embrace the Journey

One morning I found my then kindergarten-aged son dawdling as we were trying to leave the house. Exasperated, I finally said, “Hurry up, Noah, I’m not getting any younger.” Without missing a beat, he looked right at me and said, with a fair dose of gumption, “Well, neither am I.”  That simple exchange still stays with me.  You can try to deny it or ignore it, but as long as God grants us breath, we are moving towards the eventual end of our earthly life.  I have found that those men and women who embrace the journey of aging are most contented. They don’t look for a fountain of youth and they don’t complain bitterly about turning the calendar pages. Rather, they take chances – they are curious and eager to make the most of their days. I remember visiting a resident who had just bought a beautiful new cello. She always wanted to play an instrument so, in her mid – 80’s, she started taking lessons.  She played a few sweet, delicate notes for me, still nervous about playing in front of someone other than her teacher.  Before I left, she shared that she had just purchased her season tickets for the symphony – and she made sure her seats offered a perfect view of the cello section.

Stay Connected

Whoever coined the phrase “never a dull moment” must have spent time in communities like ours at Messiah Village.  Where else can you buy freshly-squeezed lemonade made by memory-support residents, watch baby chicks hatch, play a round of disc golf, compete in a trivia contest, take in a spirited water volleyball match, and see faithful volunteers who are well into their 90’s and 100’s?  In fact, I sometimes find it difficult to visit residents because of their active schedules.  I once sat for several minutes with a woman scouring her pocket calendar, searching for a small block of time when we could have a cup of tea.  Between exercising, lifelong learning classes, volunteering, visiting family, joining in church activities, and entertaining neighbors, she was booked!  Aging often brings physical challenges and limitations but there is no limit to the power of human connection – a hug, a smile, the touch of a hand, a spoken word or song.  One essential facet of purposeful aging is to age in community – surrounded by caring people.  Whether you live with family, age-in-place in your own residence, or enjoy the camaraderie of neighbors like those who live in a retirement community, the key is to maintain relationships. I know that I have become more committed to cultivating deep friendships that will carry me through the phases of my life. And I want to be the kind of friend and neighbor who looks out for the lonely and isolated because no one should walk the journey alone.

Find Time to Be Kind

A favorite saying about retirement comes from a retired human rights activist, photographer, and actor who brightened my life in many ways.  When asked what he liked most about retirement, he said, “I have more time to be kind.”  Perhaps the most notable observation I’ve made about enjoying the third age of life is to maintain an outward focus.  Instead of dwelling on aches and losses, focus on what remains – what can still be done – what can still be enjoyed.  Just this past Saturday, I attended a joy-filled service of resurrection and celebration for a wonderful friend who died in her 90th year.  One of the eulogies focused on Esther’s gratitude and how she always expressed thanks for what remained. Even when physical limitations kept some of her activities at bay, she always shared appreciation for what she could still learn, conversations she could still have, experiences she could still savor. Over the years I have met so many remarkable people with remarkable stories – stories they have shared graciously and freely with me.  I am forever indebted to them for sharing the wisdom of their journey so that I may walk mine with more love, more faith, and more hope for the future. Here’s to another decade of zest, purpose, and faith-filled living.

New Years Resolutions for Seniors

A Different Approach to New Year’s Resolutions

Senior Woman PaintingEach New Year we come up with idealistic resolutions that are going to change our lives for the better such as, “I’m going to lose weight, “I’m going to take better care of myself,” or “I’m going to try start a new hobby.” So we go into the New Year committed and enthused but several weeks later many of us crash and burn. Resolutions can be a good starting point and are well intentioned, but the habitual failure may be due to the approach we use. Young or old, we should consider taking a different approach to achieve our resolutions. Try something a little different this year. Instead of joining a gym to lose weight, take ballroom dance lessons or try volunteer work that requires some physical activity. Rather than trying to commit to a rigid diet, take small steps like not eating after 7pm or not grocery shopping on an empty stomach. Particularly for our retired readers, let’s examine some alternative resolutions for those ages 55 and better.


Becoming at At Home Caregiver

Becoming an At Home caregiver would make a great “encore career” [click the picture for more details]

You can still commit to losing weight this year, but attack it from a different angle. Upon retirement, some people become less physically active once they remove themselves from the hustle and bustle of full-time work. So this year to lose a few pounds and stay active, try volunteering or getting a part-time job. If you keep busy and stay involved, you can avoid winter sluggishness and stave off weight gain. We have many residents and family members who volunteer at Messiah Lifeways and are constantly on the go. The physical, social and emotional benefits of volunteering are tremendous. Furthermore, an increasing number of seniors are embarking on “encore careers” or “second acts” and lend their talents and spirit to a job that is more gratifying than stressful while bringing in some additional income.

If you’d like to learn more about a part-time job or a “second act” or an “encore career” check out or, which is a website dedicated to helping people over the age of 50 connect with employers locally and across the nation for part-time and full-time jobs.

If volunteering interests you, please call Lois Hutchison at 717.790.8203 or click here for volunteer opportunities at Messiah Lifeways. You can also check out RSVP of the Capital Region online to learn about volunteer opportunities available in the greater Harrisburg region.


A large part of New Year’s resolutions revolves around being healthy and feeling good. In addition to seeing your family doctor on regular basis and taking your prescribed medications, taking control and managing your individual health concerns is paramount. As people age, the likelihood of developing chronic health conditions like arthritis, congestive heart failure, obesity and diabetes grows. So, of course, physical exercise and staying active are key to staying healthy. Fortunately, local seniors age 55+ can join the Messiah Lifeways Wellness program and participate in warm water aquatics and a multitude of exercise programs and classes. Also programs supported by health insurers, such as Silver Sneakers and Silver and Fit provide additional incentives for those wanting to stay physically active. Ongoing Learning for Seniors

Equally as important as physical exercise is “mental exercise.” Crossword puzzles and Sudoku are great, but consider more active ways to “exercise” your brain and integrate it with a new hobby or interest for the new year. Learn to play an instrument, learn a new language, join a book club, or take some courses through a local community college or programs like Pathways Institute for Lifelong Learning® or consider becoming an instructor for Pathways.

Whatever you choose as your resolution this year, switch it up and make it count. To learn about more ways to stimulate your mind, body and soul, contact the Lifeways Coaching office at 717.591.7225 or email


updated: Dec. 29. 2015

Celebrating 10 Years of Learning and Enrichment

From birth, man’s thirst for understanding, knowledge and education never ceases. As we age and mature we begin to understand that education and learning is a privilege as well as a necessity. Though formal schooling and education begins to tail off, for most, once we enter the workforce, “our curiosity never gets old.” For many, graduate courses, certifications, on-the-job training and informal study feed the mind and empower the soul. It helps us become better parents and employees, and it may even open a door to a new career path or it simply enlighten us. Both in our formative years and during our careers, education and formal learning are very much a part of our lives. But what about as we grow older, particularly after retirement? This is where “lifelong learning” plays a role.

I think it’s fair to say that until the last decade or two, lifelong learning was not a mainstream concept or option for aging adults. Not that it wasn’t vital or was non-existent, but there just weren’t as many opportunities out there for them, aside from auditing a course at the local community college or taking costly college courses. However, as the world of retirement evolves and we are living longer, opportunities are growing for lifelong learning. One such program is Central PA’s own Pathways Institute for Lifelong Learning®.

The Pathways Institute was established in 2005 as a collaborative effort by Messiah Lifeways, Messiah College, and the Brethren in Christ Church. It provides a forum for older adults to find meaningful use of their talents and abilities and provides an opportunity to engage in mental, cultural, and spiritual activities and classes for those 55+ in South Central PA.

It’s been a brilliant 10 years, with the program growing each year, and spawning a second Pathways program located at Landis Homes in Lancaster in 2008. Both sites offer very inexpensive courses every fall and spring. They range from history and culture to science and religion, to literature and nature; taught by local experts, many of whom are retired teachers and professors who still have a passion for teaching and sharing with others. Some of the upcoming fall semester courses include:

  • Climate Change
  • “The Holocaust” In WWII as Recalled by a Survivor
  • Conspiracy theories, Cover-Ups, Secret Societies and UFO Visitors
  • The Brain and Aging
  • Life in the Pentagon
  • Underground Railroad, a Family Affair
  • Introduction to Judaism
  • Art in the 20th Century
  • Writing Workshop: Childhood Memories to Share with Friends & Family

In August, a large group will be gathering at the Brubaker Auditorium on the Messiah College campus to celebrate the 10th anniversary of this wonderful program as well as kickoff the 2015 fall semester. Current, previous and future members and instructors along with the Pathways founders and sponsors, will come together to celebrate this institution that truly embodies our thirst for knowledge and our ageless curiosity.

If you would like to learn more about becoming an instructor and or a member of the Pathways Institute of Lifelong Learning, please visit or call 717.591.7213.