Running with Purpose

On November 12 hundreds of people crossed the finish line of the Harrisburg Marathon including Messiah Lifeways team member, Ron Steficek. On the morning of the race, Ron woke up and started to second guess whether or not he would be able to run the 26.2 mile course. He had been training for this day for the past thirteen months – day in and day out. This day was particularly special for Ron because ten years ago, on November 12, 2007, Ron’s nephew David, a captain in the US Army, was killed in the line of duty while serving overseas in Afghanistan. David was a runner and so when Ron decided to start this journey, he knew he wanted to run the marathon in memory and in honor of David.

Another reason Ron decided to run the marathon was because he wanted to continue living a healthier lifestyle that he started six years ago when he decided he was going to get into shape. He decided he was going to learn karate and, within three years, he graduated with a black belt. After karate, he got involved with bicycling which is still something he enjoys to this day. One day last year while at work, he saw that our Human Resources department had put up a “Couch to 5k” flyer as part of their Wellness committee to try and keep team members healthy and active. Ron figured since he had been bicycling for some time now that he would be able to run a 5k without any problem. It turns out it was a little tougher than he thought it would be, and so he decided it was time for another new “project.”

This time he came to the conclusion that he was going to start training for the Harrisburg Marathon in 2017 and run 26.2 miles – something he had never even dreamed he’d be able to accomplish. But that’s the thing with Ron, if he says he’s going to do something, he puts his mind to it and accomplishes his goal. So, with the help of a trainer, some determination and a whole lot of ambition and discipline, Ron ran his first marathon in 4 hours and 57 minutes. His goal was to finish in less than 5 hours. Thirteen months prior to the race, he started training by doing P90X workouts 6 days a week. Then, he started running two miles a week and kept increasing his mileage per his trainer’s advice. His longest run before the marathon was 20 miles.

Halfway through the marathon Ron was already thinking about how he could improve and beat his time for next year’s marathon. He plans to continue running marathons and wants to keep up with his healthy lifestyle. Ron’s face lit up with a big smile as he said, “this whole process was an adventure and I’m not sorry for one minute that I did it.”

Ron wasn’t the only Messiah Lifeways team member to participate in the Harrisburg Marathon this year. Jessica Mladenoff (pictured with Ron below) also ran in the marathon and Les and Kim Engle and their family (pictured below) competed in the relay section of the marathon.










Crush those Winter Blues

The hub-bub and excitement of the holidays has passed and now we have to tough it out for the longer and colder part of winter. For some this winter malaise can spawn depression and isolation. It can be a challenging season for both seniors as well as caregivers. Others may suffer from “Seasonal Affective Disorder” or SAD. For people dealing with SAD, the lack of natural sunlight in the winter upsets the sleep-wake cycle and their circadian rhythms. It may also affect the balance of chemicals like serotonin and hormones such as melatonin in the brain, which can alter one’s mood. Whether someone truly suffers from SAD or just has an annual winter blues, these colder darker days can take its toll. Combine that with flu season and other cold weather ailments and it’s understandable why many flock to places like Florida and Arizona during the winter. But for many, that just isn’t an option. Plus, for caregivers who likely are still working or are being relied upon by their loved one, the best they could hope for is maybe a week’s vacation away from it all. So whether you’re a senior or an aging caregiver, consider these tips that can help you beat those wintertime blues, many of which are offered by Messiah Lifeways.


Water Volleyball for SeniorsWe know that exercise and activity are important year-round, but we also know it be challenging, especially during the winter. So, if you can’t go for a walk or exercise outdoors because of the snow and cold, then its time to start your regular indoor exercise routine. Fortunately, Messiah Lifeways Wellness offers both residents and others age 55+, living in the community, many opportunities to stay active and stave off the winter blues! Messiah Lifeways Wellness Coordinator, Heidi Koch, and her team offer up a variety of winter exercise classes and programs that are open to residents, community members, and even SilverSneakers  and Silver & Fit participants. You can choose from options like Yoga, Tia Chi, Pilates, strength training, cardio, balance, nutrition, healthy cooking and aquatic classes. The warm water aquatic center boasts a comfy 90 degree pool and a spa to de-stress and relax! They can also provide fitness testing, wellness assessments, and personal training which are important facets to developing a winter fitness program. Prospective members can come to the pool or any of the exercise classes to “try it out” as a guest. For more information, to set up a tour, or to become a member, call Heidi at 717.591.7222.


Thanking Volunteers at Retirement CenterThe physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of volunteering are powerful. From soup kitchens to mailing packages to soldiers or distributing toys to children in need, there are many charity organizations in need of help especially over the winter. At Messiah Lifeways our Volunteer Program enlists help of all ages, but in particular residents and retirees from the community volunteer their time, talents, and spirit to other residents and clients. The hands-on work, emotional bonding, and the spirit of benevolence are enough to invigorate the body and soul through the harshest of winters. To learn more about Volunteering at Messiah Lifeways, please contact Lois at 717.790-8203.

Engage in Social Activities

It is widely acknowledged that social engagement is related to many positive outcomes in older adults. People with more social ties have been found to live longer, to have better health, and to be less depressed.¹ Unfortunately for many older adults, social circles can shrink due to illness or death, friends moving away after retirement or to be closer to family. Socialization may also suffer when they give up driving or their physical mobility becomes impaired. And lastly, the cold winter months and shorter days make it more challenging for people to socialize. But there are more and more programs and services created for seniors to revitalize and reactivate their social lives. One such option in Central PA is the Connections program. A Connections membership gives seniors from across the mid-state the chance to volunteer for each other, barter services from one another, but also offers a burgeoning social circle. This reincarnated form of “social networking” rekindles the ole’ drop in visit, outings to the movies or dinner, book clubs, membership committees, parties, and more. The possibilities are limitless, and the benefits are immeasurable. To learn more about Connections, call Megan at 771.591.7223.

Another great choice is becoming a member of your local senior center. Mechanicsburg Place and Branch Creek Place offer a great place to escape isolation for a few hours a day to socialize and connect with others especially during the winter. Sit down to hot and tasty meals, join in on activities ranging from Tai Chi and line dancing to computer classes, book clubs, and card clubs. There is something for everyone. For more information about Mechanicsburg Place, call Danielle at 717.697.5947 or Branch Creek Place in Shippensburg, call Ann at 717.300.3563.

 Seek Professional Help

Hopefully physical activity, social and civic engagement can serve as effective tools in the battle against the winter blahs. However, there are many levels of depression, and climbing out of it is no easy task. If you or your loved one feels hopeless, maintain a constant negative outlook, have significant changes in appetite, and are fatigued, irritable or restless, it could be a sign of clinical depression. Speak to a professional about treatment options so you can beat the wintertime blues.

Check out these additional tips from to help beat the winter blues.

 ¹ National Research Council. When I’m 64. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2006.


Seniors Running to Keep Fit

Senior Games Exemplify Fitness & Friendship

Journalist Rachel Wolfgang wrote a beautiful feature on the 2016 Cumberland County Senior Games for the Sentinel. Read her article here and then visit our Messiah Lifeways Facebook page for additional photo albums. It was a great day for competition and camaraderie, proving once again that age is just a number! Special thanks to Deputy Secretary of Aging Terry Barley and Commissioner Jim Hertzler for joining in the festivities.


Summer! A Great Time to Get Out and Get Active

Ask most seniors what their secret to living a happier healthier life is and their answers are pretty simple. Eat well, get adequate sleep, schedule regular check-ups, and exercise your mind, body and soul. Sounds easy enough-right? Each suggestion has its challenges, but for certain people staying physically fit may be the most challenging. But thankfully as we enjoy spring and summer, we have fewer excuses and more opportunity to get out and get active.

Exercise and cardiovascular fitness are important at any stage in life, but particularly for older adults. According to the American Heart Association, “the older people become, the more they need regular exercise. Exercise helps prevent bone loss and subsequently fractures, and reduces the risk of diseases associated with aging like heart disease and diabetes and helps stave off depression. It also increases muscle strength and may improve balance and coordination, which can reduce the likelihood of falling. It also increases the ability for basic living, making it easier to do things like carry groceries, get up from a chair and take care of household chores. Being physically active is key in maintaining quality of life and independence.”

Committed to helping people stay physically active, Messiah Lifeways offers many great options for residents and community members alike to exercise and stay fit. The Messiah Lifeways Wellness program offers warm water aquatic classes, plus features two fitness centers on campus, with staff available to provide instruction and encouragement. Additionally, Messiah Village has resident walking clubs, staff and resident-run exercise classes, and activities that have fitness components built-in. We also have a beautiful 18-hole disc golf course and a nature trail located near the cottages on Willow Way. And lastly, we are now a host site for the Silver Sneakers® program.

The National Institute on Aging recommends you exercise at least 30 minutes every day if possible. And those 30 minutes can be broken up throughout the day. Now if group exercise classes or swimming are “not your cup of tea”- that’s ok. You don’t have to buy workout gear, join a gym or squeeze into that ole bathing suit. Instead, make physical activity a routine part of your everyday life. Find other activities you may enjoy doing. Take walks, garden, take the grandkids to the park, volunteer or try something new like yoga or dance lessons. Look for new ways to build physical activity into your daily routine and, of course,  you should consult with your physician. So challenge yourself this summer to become more active and fit. Then you too can know one of the secrets to a happier healthier life.

For a list of helpful websites containing exercise, fitness and wellness tips along with a listing of local parks and trails, go to Be sure to check out the Messiah Lifeways Wellness page at to learn about the excellent exercise programs available to residents and the community.

(article adapted from Messiah Lifeways Magazine Summer 2013 Issue)