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Agent Corner

An Important COVID Message from Our Chief Medical Officer, Jeffrey Lowenkron, MD

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advisory

Cases of COVID-19 are increasing in Florida and locally. Today, there are 549 cases in Sumter County, with 162 occurring in the last week. In Lake County, there are 2,158 cases with 674 occurring in the last week. In Marion County, there are 1,156 cases with 379 occurring in the last week. As of this morning, there are 15 patients in the UF Health Villages Hospital and 36 in UF Leesburg Hospital.16 of these patients are in intensive care.

The upward trend is accelerating and the number of known cases among 15- to 35-year-olds is surpassing those of adults aged 55 and older. While younger individuals are typically more able to tolerate and survive the infection, older individuals are at higher risk for more serious outcomes related to this infection.

Communities where large populations of seniors live are advised to take proactive steps to reduce the risk of disease transmission. The Villages® is the nation’s largest 55 and older active living community.

Seniors who have serious medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease, Type II diabetes, or conditions reflective of weakened immunity are at even higher risk. These individuals can make decisions that reduce their risk of getting COVID-19. They should consider postponing participation in social events with more than 10 people, particularly those events held indoors. Everyone can help reduce the risk of community spread by their behaviors.

For mild or moderate disease, there is no current treatment that is proven to be effective; therefore, rest, fluids, quarantine and time are often the recommended treatment. For those with severe disease, in intensive care and on ventilators, there are two medications that help with symptoms and probably survival: dexamethasone and remdesivir. Convalescent plasma is also being used in hospitals and may also be beneficial. None of these are intended for prevention and should not be taken outside a hospital setting.

Everyone can help by taking the following actions:

  • People, if sick, should avoid contact with others
  • Social distancing of at least six feet is important
  • Consistent mask wearing is advised
  • Frequent handwashing, avoid shaking hands and minimize hand-to-face contact
  • Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, then wash your hands
  • Avoid interactions that last 15 minutes and are within six feet of others, especially without masks

The Villages Health current actions to create a safer environment:

  • Temperature checks and questionnaire for all staff, patients and guests who enter a care center
  • Employees who are ill or exposed are being quarantined at home until safe for return to work
  • Social distancing practiced throughout the workplace
  • Required mask use for all in the care center (patients and guests are provided masks if they need them)
  • Telephone triage to help assess risk, need for testing and need for aggressive care like hospital visits
  • COVID-19 testing, if recommended, is performed in the parking lot to avoid potential infection of others
  • Patients will be called and offered a telehealth visit to provide needed care without risk of exposure in a care center

Two Resources for Information:

The Florida Department of Health has established a call center for general questions at 866-779-6121, which is manned from 8 AM – 5 PM. Specific questions related to guidance may be directed to the Sumter County Health Department at 352-569-3102.

The Villages Health is working hard to keep you safe, while also ensuring we take care of your health care needs. As we all work together, we will continue our path to becoming America’s Healthiest Hometown®.


Jeffrey Lowenkron, MD, MPP
Chief Medical Officer
The Villages Health

Healthy Eating for Older Adults

Eating right and staying fit are important regardless of your age. As we get older, however, our bodies require different nutrition, so it becomes even more important to make the right choices.

Healthy eating, regular physical activity and a positive mindset can help you live not only a longer life, but a more fulfilling and happy one. These important components can also delay health issues, including diabetes and high blood pressure.

How do you achieve this important balance?
It doesn’t have to be complicated. With some simple planning, you can ensure you are getting the right nutrition at the right time each day. Experts agree that planning out your daily menu using good food choices is key to success. Doing so will keep you on track and give you more dedicated time to the physical activities you enjoy because you won’t be spending as much time in the kitchen.

How do you get started?
The National Institute on Aging recommends making a shopping list. Doing so will not only remind you to shop for the foods you should be eating, but will help you stick to your food budget. They have even provided a handy My Shopping Listwith nutritious, healthy options to take with you to the grocery store.

After shopping, build your meals following a simple, healthy, balanced diet by:

  • Changing up your protein choices to include lean meats, fish, beans, peas and lentils, low-fat cottage cheese, pork loin and bison.
  • Making at least half your grains whole grains.
  • Making half your plate vegetables and fruits.
  • Adding in three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy daily (milk, yogurt or cheese) that are fortified with vitamin D to help keep your bones healthy.

Some additional healthy eating tips for seniors include:

  • Use less salt. As we get older, our sense of taste declines and we may reach for the salt shaker to add flavor to our food. This is not a good idea. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, too much salt can lead to high blood pressure and other health issues, like stroke, kidney disease and heart disease. Use seasonings that don’t contain salt, like fresh herbs and spices instead
  • Use less sugar. Not only are refined sugars empty calories, but they add no nutritional value to your diet. Replace sugar heavy foods with fresh fruit, yams and other naturally sweet foods.
  • Choose healthy fats. Fats are a necessary part of any diet, but it is important to reduce or eliminate saturated and trans fats. Healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, fish high in omega-3 fatty acids and nuts are all great choices.
  • Eat a variety of foods. It’s especially important to be aware of the variety of nutrients we are putting into our bodies as we age. Opt for a mix of lean protein, fruits and vegetable, whole grains and low-fat dairy products every day.

  • We can also help you right here at The Villages Health! Learn how to improve your eating and overall wellness choices at our Learning Center. We offer free classes and health screenings for the whole community that can help you achieve your personal health goals. Classes are free, but fill quickly. Be sure to invite a friend, neighbor or loved one. Registration is required.

    Register for a Nutrition Class

    Event Date Time Location
    Just What are the Right Carbs?

    Just What are the Right Carbs?

    6 space(s) remaining


    9:30 am - 10:30 am

    The Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood A State-of-the-Art Medical Facility

    Nutrition for a Healthy Gut

    Nutrition for a Healthy Gut

    9 space(s) remaining


    1:30 pm - 2:30 pm

    Brownwood Care Center

    Nutrition and Cancer

    Nutrition and Cancer

    10 space(s) remaining


    1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

    Colony Care Center

    Nutrition and Cancer

    Nutrition and Cancer

    10 space(s) remaining


    1:30 pm - 2:30 pm

    Lake Deaton Care Center

    Nutrition for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

    Nutrition for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

    10 space(s) remaining


    2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

    Brownwood Care Center

5 Ways to Make Heart Healthy Choices at the Grocery Store

As we get older, the decisions we make at the grocery store can have a significant impact on our health. It’s important to buy food that is good for your heart. Eating a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, lean protein and fiber can reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

Below are 5 tips on how to make heart healthy choices at the grocery store.

  1. Buy Several Fruits and Vegetables. Adults should eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals.
  2. Avoid Buying Butter. Avoiding butter can help lower cholesterol. It is recommended to eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day.
  3. Buy High Fiber Foods and Nuts. Fiber is great because it keeps you full and helps lower your cholesterol. Fiber is found in beans, whole-grain cereals and nuts. Walnuts and almonds specifically have shown a positive impact on heart health.
  4. Don’t Buy High Fat Dairy and Meat. Look for yogurt, milk and cheese that have less than 2% fat. When it comes to meat, you want to buy cuts that end in “loin” like tenderloin and sirloin. These cuts generally have less fat.
  5. Buy Frozen or Canned Fruits and Vegetables. Canned fruits and vegetables have similar benefits and contain the same vitamins and minerals. It is important to choose unsalted and unsweetened options.

To learn more about how to avoid strokes and heart attacks, register for our free heart health classes. You do not have to be a patient or resident to attend.

How to Prevent Diabetes

Being overweight or obese are very prevalent risk factors for diabetes. How do you know if you’re overweight or obese? These terms are determined by your body mass index (BMI), which is a calculated number based on your height and weight. A BMI of 25-29.9 (kg/m2) is considered “overweight.” A BMI of 30 or greater is known as “obese.” These are both considered risk factors for diabetes. See the BMI chart below to determine if your weight puts you at increased risk for diabetes. Other risk factors include: being over the age of 45, having a family history of diabetes, lack of physical activity, high blood pressure and having an abnormal lipid panel. Thankfully, most of these risk factors are modifiable!

The recommendations for physical activity are 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week, plus 2 days of resistance or strength training. Moderate-intensity activity means getting your heart rate up. You’re getting moderate activity if you can talk but can’t sing while doing an activity. Increasing your muscle mass can also help moderate your blood sugar.

The general recommendation for sodium intake is no more than 2,400 mg of sodium daily. This recommendation is even lower if you already have high blood pressure. On average, Americans eat 3,600 mg of sodium per day, so we have quite a bit of room for improvement! Sodium is listed on the nutrition facts label of our foods, so next time you are shopping, compare the sodium content of foods.

Having an abnormal lipid panel also puts you at risk of developing diabetes. This panel is typically tested by blood work from your doctor. Your lipid panel includes serum triglycerides, LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”), HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”) and total cholesterol.

If you are currently overweight or obese, there are many potential approaches to weight loss. There is no one diet that is optimal for all individuals. Diets should be individualized to specific food preferences and preferred approaches. Limiting calorie-dense foods, reducing overall portion sizes, or following a structured meal plan are just a few examples of how to lose excess weight.

Have you been diagnosed with diabetes already? The Villages Health has the only American Diabetes Association accredited program in the region, and provides quality support, management, training and education for individuals with diabetes. The program is provided in 10 hours over the first year of education, including an individual needs assessment followed by 4 two-hour group classes. An additional 3 hours of one-on-one medical nutrition therapy is provided within the initial year, followed by 2 hours every year thereafter. Our team of Certified Diabetes Educators and Registered Licensed Dietitians are eager to be a part of your quality health care team, helping you stay well and appropriately manage your diabetes. 

We are also proud to offer the Diabetes Prevention Program for individuals at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. The Villages Health is one of only four organizations in Florida to have received full recognition status by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention for this program. This year-long series is provided at all of The Villages Health primary care centers in a group setting and has proven efficacy to support and sustain weight loss, while reducing the risk for the development of type 2 diabetes. 

If you are interested in participating in any of our programs, please call 352-674-1770.

Body Mass Index table

The Power of Pumpkin

Many of us will have fun with pumpkins in some way this season. We can paint or carve them, use them for decorations, or find unique ways to eat them. There are many powerful health benefits of pumpkins. They’re rich in fiber, which aids in digestion and improves feelings of fullness. Rich in antioxidants, pumpkins can help keep your skin and eyes healthy. In fact, one cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 200% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. Both their flesh and seeds are edible and can be used in a variety of ways, in sweet or savory dishes. Below is a recipe for healthy pumpkin muffins, which make for a great on the go breakfast or a quick satisfying snack. Happy Fall!


  • ⅓ cup melted coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil*
  • ½ cup maple syrup or honey
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • ¼ cup milk of choice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin spice blend (or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, and ¼ teaspoon ground allspice or cloves)
  • 1 ¾ cups  whole wheat flour
  • ⅓ cup old-fashioned oats, plus more for sprinkling on top


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line or grease muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the oil and maple syrup or honey together with a whisk. Add the eggs, and beat well. Mix in the pumpkin purée and milk, followed by the baking soda, vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice.
  3. Add the flour and oats to the bowl and mix with a large spoon, just until combined.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups.Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with a small amount of oats, followed by a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  5. Bake muffins for 22 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

Source: Cookie and Kate

Is it a Cold or is it the Flu?

Based on the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, there are over 500 million colds in the United States. It is the main reason for missed work and school. Each flu season (November through March), there are between 15 million and 64 million flu cases each year.

These illnesses are more likely to occur during the fall and winter months because they are more stable at colder temperatures. The flu virus, in particular, doesn’t spread at higher temperatures. The dry, cold conditions pull moisture out of droplets released by coughs and sneezes, allowing the virus to linger in the air. Sometimes it is hard to know if you have a common cold, or if you have something more severe like the flu. We want to make this easy for you to decipher.

Below you will see the differences between a cold and the flu.


To learn more about the differences between the cold and flu, register for our free “Cold and Flu” class. You do not have to be a patient or resident of The Villages to attend.

5 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Falling

Many people who fall, even if they are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their activities, which leads to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness, and in turn increases their actual risk of falling. We don’t want you to be scared of falling, so we will share five tips on how you can reduce your risk of falling.

1. Be Physically Active: Regular physical activity is a first line of defense against falls and fractures. Physical activity strengthens muscles and increases flexibility and endurance. Your balance and the way you walk may improve with exercise, decreasing the chances of a fall.
2. Review Medications with Your Doctor: All drugs carry side effects and can interact with other medications. For many medications, one or more side effects affect balance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, common problems include vision changes, dizziness or lightheadedness, drowsiness, and impaired alertness or judgment. Some medications may damage the inner ear, spurring temporary or permanent balance disorders.
3. Check Your Vision, Hearing and Blood Pressure: You should have your vision tested regularly or if you think it has changed. Even small changes in sight can make you less stable. Not being able to hear well can impact your balance by causing you to have to react at the last minute. Some older people have normal or increased blood pressure while seated, but their blood pressure drops too much while standing. There is no way to know unless you check. Tell your doctor if you feel faint or unsteady when you get up from sitting or lying down.
4. Choose Safe Footwear: Our feet have nerves that help us judge the position of our bodies. To work correctly, our feet need to be in touch with the ground and our shoes need to stay securely with the foot as we take each step. Otherwise, falls may occur. It’s important to select your footwear carefully to help prevent falls. Wear sensible, low-heeled shoes that fit well and support your feet. There should be no marks on your feet when you take off your shoes and socks.
5. Make Your Home Safe: Remove or avoid safety hazards. Improve the lighting throughout your home. Have handrails installed on both sides of stairs and walkways. If you must carry something while walking up or down stairs, hold the item in one hand and use the handrail with the other. When you’re carrying something, be sure you can see where your feet are stepping. Properly place grab bars in your tub and shower, and next to the toilet, to help you avoid falls. Also, move items to make them easier to reach.

To learn more about reducing your risk of falls, register for our free “Fall Prevention” class. You do not have to be a patient or resident of The Villages to attend.

7 Blessings of Aging

You may not consider growing old to be a blessing. After all, there are many things changing for you such as your senses, appearance, endurance, reflexes and health. You might also experience the loss of your youth, hearing, sight, family, friends and pets. Although aging comes with losses, there are many blessings that you gain.

  1. New Interests: As you age, you are able to find time to try new hobbies and activities that you couldn’t explore before. The Villages® community has thousands of activities to choose from, ranging from sports and health to music and theatre. There is something for everyone!
  2. Creativity: As you explore new things and expand your mind, you may also become more creative. Art has many positive effects on the aging mind. Some of them include reducing stress, providing an increased sense of control, reducing anxiety and depression, reducing boredom and increasing self-esteem. Let out your inner Picasso!
  3. Perception: Your perception of age and time changes as you age. You have a lot of experience, so you are now able to more accurately estimate and appreciate the value of time.
  4. Spiritual Intensity: Your spiritual side may develop more and more as you age. It is important to believe in a greater purpose and have an appreciation for life. Having a strong sense of purpose can have a powerful positive effect. When you have a sense of purpose, you never get up in the morning wondering what you’re going to do with yourself. When you’re working towards your purpose – life becomes easier, less complicated and stressful.
  5. Inner Strength: With age comes inner strength. Inner strength develops by putting yourself first, training your mental and emotional body, and embracing what scares you. By now, you’ve gone through a lot of different life experiences that have increased your inner strength.
  6. Deepening of Personal Relationships: The more time you spend with people, the closer and deeper your relationship is with them. Maybe you’ve been with your spouse for over 40 years and you have a deep and intimate relationship. That is a blessing! You may also grow deep personal relationships with friends. These connections are particularly good for the aging brain.
  7. Acceptance of Who We Are: As you age, you learn who you are. You go through difficult situations in life that cause you to learn more about yourself. You have most likely embraced and accepted who you are and that is a beautiful thing!

To learn more about aging, register for a free learning center class. All of our courses are free to the entire community. You do not have to be a patient or a resident of The Villages to attend, so please remember to bring a friend.

Eliminate Emotional Eating

“I had a bad day. I deserve this cookie.” “I am bored. What can I eat?” “I am really anxious about my health. I need to crunch on some chips.”

How many of us have said these statements to ourselves? Experts estimate that 75% of overeating is a response to emotions.

Why do we eat when we are upset? It may be that we feel that we have no choice but to eat. Perhaps we don’t know what else to do. We also may feel entitled to eat for getting through a difficult situation. Food can be an effective distractor….temporarily. How do we usually feel several minutes after we have eaten a food that we did not plan to eat? Most people say that they end up feeling discouraged because they did not follow their food plan. Instead of solving the first problem (e.g., stress, boredom, anxiety), additional problems were added (i.e., emotional eating and weight gain).

Researchers found that emotional eaters were less likely to lose weight and more likely to regain weight lost compared to people who did not engage in unplanned eating when upset. Individuals who do not have a weight problem as well as those who have successfully maintained a weight loss do not eat to comfort themselves. If they do, they notice what they are doing and immediately get back on track.

Emotional eating is a learned behavior that you can change! The more times that you can manage emotions without eating, the more able you will be able to refrain from overeating in the future. The key is learning to break the automatic connection between food and your mood. It involves finding ways to deal with emotions that don’t involve food.

The Villages Health is excited to introduce a weight management group specifically targeting emotional eating, ACT on Healthy Living. This group treatment is facilitated by Lucy Rathier, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist. Dr. Rathier has extensive experience and expertise in the behavioral treatment of obesity and emotional eating.

Many people struggling with their weight know what to do—eat smaller portions and exercise more. However, knowing what to do and getting yourself to do it are entirely separate skills. When it comes to changing long-term, habitual patterns, getting yourself to do something different is really dependent on keeping in mind your values or how you want to be in your life (e.g., to be healthy and active as I age, to be around to see special events in the lives of my family members, etc.). Thus, the main purpose of this group is to help you lead a life that is vital, full, and connected which includes healthy behaviors as a choice.

This approach is experiential. It includes mindfulness, learning how to distance yourself from unhelpful thoughts that cause you to struggle, and strategies which allow you to experience emotions without being overcome by them. These all lead to the ability to engage in behaviors consistent with living a fulfilling life despite uncomfortable feelings and thoughts. For example, “I feel stressed and desire a comfort food nevertheless I will stick to my healthy eating plan and take a walk.” For it truly to work, participants commit to practicing strategies in their daily lives.

Participation in this group treatment requires established care with a Primary Care Provider in The Villages Health and an initial screening evaluation with Dr. Rathier. For an appointment with Dr. Rathier, please call the Santa Barbara Care Center at 352-674-1740.

Diving Deeper into the Four Types of Exercise

Exercise and physical activity fall into four basic categories. The categories include: endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. Each type of exercise is different and they all have different benefits. Mixing up your routine helps to reduce boredom and risk of injury. Learn more about the four types of exercise below.

      1. Endurance – These are aerobic activities that increase your breathing and heart rate. They keep your heart, lungs and circulatory system healthy. Participating in endurance activities can delay or prevent health conditions like diabetes, breast and colon cancer and heart disease. Types of endurance activities include: brisk walking or jogging, yard work (mowing, raking, digging), swimming, dancing, biking, playing tennis and playing basketball. You should build up to at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity endurance activities on most, if not all, days of the week. If you’re not exercising now, start with a ten minute session and work your way up to 30+ minutes.
      2. Strength – These exercises make your muscles stronger. Small increases in strength can make a big difference in your ability to stay independent. It will make climbing stairs and carrying groceries a lot easier. Strength exercises increase your balance and help tone your muscle. You will also gain muscle mass, which burns calories faster than fat mass. Build up to at least 30 minutes of strength training on all of your muscle groups two or more days per week. Try to avoid exercising the same muscle group back to back.
      3. Balance – Each year, more than 1.6 million older Americans go to the emergency room because of fall-related injuries. Balance exercises can help prevent falls and avoid the disability that may result from falling. Balance exercises can be done anywhere, anytime and as often as you’d like. For safety, use a chair or wall for support.
      4. Flexibility – Flexibility, or stretching exercises, give you more freedom of movement for your physical activities. Stretching increases the range of motion of your muscles. This makes everyday activities easier, such as getting dressed and reaching objects on a shelf. Stretching exercises can improve your flexibility, but they will not improve your strength or endurance. Do each stretching exercise 3 to 5 times at each session. Slowly and smoothly stretch into the desired position, as far as possible without pain. Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Relax, breathe, then repeat, trying to stretch farther.

To learn more about exercise and physical activity, register for a free learning center class. All of our courses are free to the entire community. You do not have to be a patient or a resident of The Villages to attend, so please remember to bring a friend.

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I came in wearing two hearing aids and Dr. Monterro asked why I was wearing two hearing aids and I said “Well, I guess it’s because I have a hearing loss” and she said, “I understand that, but your hearing is perfect in your right ear, it’s the left ear that has a hearing loss and you only needed one hearing aid." I was very impressed with the honesty and integrity in addition to her skills. She also has a great personality.

Art Minier, Patient at Creekside Care Center