Oliver, The Most Popular Pig!

photo 4oliverIt’s no secret that the benefits of having animal companionship in our lives are many. In recent years, we have seen long term care communities start to “relax” around the idea of providing animal companionship to the Elders who live there.

It was on this journey that Chautauqua Rehab and Nursing Center in Defuniak Springs, Florida discovered the variety of animals the Elders who lived in their home wanted to add to their Human Habitat!

photo 5pig

Sonya Brown, Quality of Life Director shares the story of Oliver the Pig below:

While most homes have cats, dogs and birds for pets our home has some unique animals that have become more popular than your “average” pet.  In addition to having dogs at our home we also have an 80 pound tortoise and most recently Oliver, the pot bellied pig. Oliver has become quite popular within our community!  Just recently Oliver was called upon by First Christian Academy to participate in their kiss the pig contest. Oliver, being a good sport, was up for the challenge. The Academy was asked to raise $10,000 worth of box tops and in exchange their principal would kiss the pig! Guess what? They met their goal and Oliver received a nice big kiss from the school’s principal. Oliver has become so popular now among the Elders, that everyone is playing with him while the dogs watch from the sidelines! There have been many times when Oliver is sitting happy and cozy inside the home on someone’s lap while the dogs are outside watching through the window. You can almost see the quizzical question on the dogs face, “Now how did I go wrong?”  Oliver is even friends with the tortoise and they often share lunch together. Happy as a pig in the mud?  No, not Oliver, he’s happy in the lap of an elder.

While Oliver may not be the “typical” pet, he is most certainly a well loved one by the Elders in this home! I think sometimes it only takes us breaking free from the formal traditions that hold us back and taking a risk to embrace something new. For this home, embracing the idea that Elders can have meaningful relationships with many different animals has helped to enhance Well-Being for all in their community!

 

The Path To Renewed Purpose

IMG_1304 I can remember screaming out on so many different occasions in my life the one question that I am sure we have all asked, “what is MY purpose?”. Over the years, I’ve often thought if we could help Elders discover their purpose, we could then begin building the road to true well-being in their lives.  This would be the ultimate ticket to eliminating loneliness, helplessness, and boredom in so many long term care homes. This mere act of finding and facilitating purpose would change culture on so many levels within the community itself.

Matthew Reed, Chaplain at Signature HealthCare of Pikeville in Pikeville, Kentucky recounts a story below of how the discovery of purpose has changed their home:

WP_20150107_007“Our home recently underwent a massive renovation and one of the new features  added was a general store. Many would pose the question, why would you put a general store in a long term care home? Our  general store is important is because it constantly provides our Elders with a choice. Simply put, they have the choice to buy a candy bar if they want to, or a soda, or maybe even a hand knitted toboggan if they so desire.

This may seem trivial to some but this is much more important than most realize. Not only does the general store provide the Elders with a choice but it also allows them to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. We take for granted how readily available things are to us. If we want a bag of chips or a soda we could stop at any number of gas stations on the way to work to get them, yet in most long term care homes these are not easily obtained. Our general store remedies that.

WP_20150107_009 So how can this one room, this room filled with choice and simple pleasures, how can it renew purpose? Another excellent question. Part of having a store is selling products, maintaining inventory, and handling cash. Who better to do those things than one of our own Elders. When the idea was brought forth there was one name that immediately came to mind, Gary. With his warm personality, friendly demeanor, and inviting smile we knew that he was a perfect fit.

WP_20150107_008 Unbeknownst to us, it was more than that. It was easy to see that this was something he wanted to do. Eagerly he wakes up every morning and opens the store at shift change so those Stakeholders leaving and those arriving can have a chance to buy his wares. He breaks to smoke and for lunch and then he is right back at it. He tracks every purchase, constantly mindful of what is leaving, what is selling best, what needs to be restocked. His passion for this store is undeniable, and he is thankful for the opportunity to manage it. When asked about what he thought of everything he only had this to say. “I have a reason to get out of bed again. I used to just sit in my room and do nothing all day, but now my life has meaning. Now, I have a purpose.”

WP_20150107_010 What is truly great is that the store’s reach is not limited to just him. Our home has been blessed with women who are the craftiest I have ever seen. Linda said, “I want to help. I’m not able to do a lot, but I can make booties, boggins, and scarves!” Other women have jumped on the craft bandwagon and are making everything from doilies to yarn owls. It’s amazing to see the handmade crafts fill the store, but what is even better is to see the positive change it’s having on our Elders.”

The mere act of one man discovering his purpose in this home has led to many others also discovering their purpose. The path to our passions lie ultimately in the discovery or renewal of purpose in our lives. These things do not change as we age. Every single living person wants to feel needed, loved, and like they are contributing to the world around them. How can we help others to discover their purpose and maybe, just maybe, we will discover our own path as well?

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‘Tis the Season of Giving

Darla Borthwick. Regional Quality of Life Director Hometown Region 2, shared the following recap from a recent Christmas event:

It will be a Very Merry Christmas indeed! Elders and Stakeholders from Hometown Region 2 Homes gathered at the First Christian Church of Winchester, KY on December 15th to celebrate the “Season of Giving”.

During the past month the following homes each held drives to collect toys and other gifts to be donated to families in need: Bracken County Care and Rehabilitation, Danville Care and Rehabilitation, Fountain Circle Care and Rehabilitation , Harrodsburg Care and Rehabilitation, Lee County Care and Rehabilitation, Liberty Care and Rehabilitation, Signature HealthCare of Pikeville, Prestonsburg Care and Rehabilitation, Riverview Care and Rehabilitation, Rockcastle Care and Rehabilitation, and Signature HealthCare of Trimble County. 

 

Each home arrived with all of their gifts, which totaled over 320 once combined, and spent some quality time together wrapping them. A pot luck feast offered a bountiful variety of delicious choices for everyone at lunch, and the rule for the day quickly became “Start with dessert, and work your way back from there!”

The day was filled with more holiday joy, as Santa Claus arrived to spend the afternoon with everyone! The Elders (and even some Stakeholders) were thrilled to talk with Santa and have a picture taken with him. In keeping with the spirit of connectedness, Santa Claus also helped out with a very special gift exchange; The Elders gathered in a circle, each with a wrapped gift that had been brought for the event.

Santa visited each person and had them draw a card with instructions out of his bag which instructed them in their gift exchange, such as “Swap gifts with someone who grew up on a farm”. After they read their card to the group, any Elder who connected with that statement raised their hand, and they chose who to swap gifts with! 

Prizes were also given out to Signature HealthCare of Pikeville and Riverview Care and Rehabilitation for the “decked-out for the holidays” group attire contest. Harrodsburg Care and Rehab, Signature HealthCare of Trimble, and Prestonsburg Care and Rehab also took awards for creating the best “home-made holiday centerpiece” contest. Elders were also able to win gifts for participating in a Candy Cane Guessing Game, and many other door prizes were awarded.

 

Added significance was brought to the day as Elders Margaret Gibson and Marge Appleman were reunited. These two ladies from different homes recently became acquainted on the Disney Elder Vacation. They quickly became the best of friends and were overjoyed to spend some quality time together again!

Another Elder shared that they had not been able to celebrate Christmas since the passing of their son, until now. The Administrator who passed along this touching story said it best, “That’s pretty much all-inspiring!” It is our hope that this individual can build on these new and happy memories, while honoring the memories of their loved one and years past, and find renewed joy and meaning in the Christmas season. These are the priceless intangible gifts that we can give to the Elders who we love and care for!

“It humbled me to witness the truest spirit of Christmas through the blessings of giving. The smiles on the elders’ faces, the laughter and Christmas carols in the air, the joyous simplicity of wrapping gifts together, sharing a fabulous meal, and the expressions of love that can only be shared by a family – together these things filled my heart to overflowing!

Time after time, I find that the things we do to bring meaning and purpose to the lives of Elders comes full circle to fill our own lives with meaning and purpose. Elder Alpha Carroll summed it up best at the end of the event, when she exclaimed to me with great enthusiasm ‘I couldn’t have asked for a better day!’ It truly is a Wonderful Life!”

 

 

Paving The Path To Transformation-A Reflection of Our Journey

DSC01231In September of 2011, we began a journey of a million miles, so to speak.

In many ways, we had good homes – good homes that did good things for the Elders who were in our care. For example, that was the year we took our first Elder vacation to Walt Disney World, the second year of our summer camp program, the year we made great strides in stakeholder engagement and many other very successful ventures. At that time, we were quite comfortable with where we were, not easily seeing past the continued success we had accomplished. How could we really get any better?

jug bandThen, it was as if destiny rose up to answer the question we had thrown out to the universe. In taking a good hard look at ourselves, we saw room for improvement. Yes, we had done good things, but we wanted to achieve more. Our company is, after all, built on a mission and vision that exudes with the term “revolutionary.” As a company, we are always striving to be revolutionary and looking for ways to advance our mission and vision. We are continually searching for progressive ways to serve the Elders by enhancing their quality of life and quality of care.

Eden Pictures 015It was at this same time that we had the opportunity to learn more about the Eden Alternative. With our goals being similar, we entered into a partnership with them to bring their philosophy of engaging Elders, stakeholders, and the community in general in a life worth living through the teaching of their 10 Principles. It was this step that started to truly pave the road we are on today.

_DSC3891The question then became: How do we transform the lives of the Elders who are in our care for the better? For us, it was through education, education, education. It wasn’t enough for our leadership team to be educated about culture change and the Eden Alternative – there had to be more. Leadership teams at our homes needed to be educated, and so did our precious nursing assistants who work tirelessly to provide quality care for the Elders. It became apparent that, indeed, everyone must be educated. Education became the weight that eventually tipped the scales in the direction of change for us. We invested in it heavily, teaching at every Facility Advisory Board meeting, every regional meeting, every leadership retreat, and infiltrating every department with a challenge to open their minds and hearts. Soil that was once hard and cold towards the idea of change soon became fertile ground to plant the seeds of our vision within. And more than ever before, we saw the need for change.

Ms Sims hanging out her laundryOur leadership teams began to dream BIG dreams. Dreams of changing their organizational structure, giving Elders their autonomy back, and changing their processes. It wasn’t long before homes started emptying out offices to create more living space for Elders and taking a introspective look at their own leadership abilities.

Today we have 20 homes on the Eden Alternative Registry, with the promise of a few more before the end of the year. We have worked steadfastly to transition to the ‘neighborhood model’ in all of our homes, and we’re almost there. This transition alone has given us a deeper understanding of the importance of deepening relationships and creating “family” units within our homes. We have been able to introduce “Simply Me” to give our Stakeholders detailed information about the Elders they care for daily, and it also reminds us to learn the stories that are locked within the Elder. We’ve seen anti-psychotropic drug use be reduced through a continued focus on relationship building and the introduction of huddles among several homes. We’ve been on vacation with almost 300 Elders over the last four years, put together over 20 summer camp programs annually, raised over $4,000 with our Elders for Elders in South Africa, and many other wonderful things. Collectively, we have made good strides in culture over the last few years.

Angie and RayneHowever, there still lies deep within the sense that we have not done enough, created enough or moved fast enough. Yes, it is true, we have done much work. However this is not the time to “settle” in where we are. There is much work yet to be done in the field.

As we enter  into 2015, I challenge you to look introspectively once again, as we did a few years ago. I challenge you to allow the passion that is deeply rooted inside you to continue to drive you to lead the revolution, to pioneer change, and to spark innovation through your leadership. The most precious gift we can give to the Elders is a life transformed through the care that we are able to provide.

 

Blazing a Trail To The Holistic Caregiver Model

Washington Team HCWashington Care and Rehabilitation Center in Chipley, Florida is moving forward in person directed care with a “Get Real” mentality. The home, which was added to the Eden Alternative Registry in 2012 has been working steadfastly to bring about many positive changes for the Elders who live there.

Their success shines with a psychotropic drug use reduction in their home of over 50% in this time frame and their participation in the Pioneer Network’s National Learning Collaborative. Through their participation with the National Learning Collaborative they were provided with education and support to make critical leaps such as drug reductions among Elders, the implementation of nursing assistant huddles, reduction in falls, removal of alarms in the home and adding nursing assistants to their weekly care plan meetings.

Last week the team at the home took one huge leap to further deepen their commitment to the Elders living in their home by embarking on a journey to transform to the Holistic Caregiver “model”  care throughout their home.

The Holistic Caregiver model was chosen because of it’s closeness to the Elders. In this model housekeeping staff, quality of life staff, and nursing staff are all “cross trained” so they can easily do all things the Elder may have need of. Yes, it’s a big change from the traditional institutionalized model of care.

The Washington team introduced the new model to their Stakeholders last week in a Learning Congress format. The Learning Congress provided them education on not only the Holistic Caregiver model, but also encompassed empathy training, deeper culture change training and some team building challenges for all involved.

roads wcrcWhy do this? Why shake up the world we live in to this extent? Eden Alternative Principle Eight teaches us that in order to truly move forward with person directed care, we must begin to empower not only the Elder but those that work most closely to the Elder. The move towards the Holistic Caregiver model will align us perfectly to make this a reality. The Elders who live with us deserve the best care they can receive. The Stakeholders who work for us deserve the best opportunity to give that care. With those two important things in mind, it is easy to see how this piece of the puzzle fits perfectly into place.

It is easy to become “satisfied” with where we are. Collectively, we have achieved great milestones in transforming culture. Deep reflection brings enlightenment into the depths of what we are truly transcending to be and in this reflection we oftentimes see the murky truth of where currently exist. This reflection shines a light on all we could become if we only opened our minds to deep systems change.

The Washington team is determined to challenge the status quo once again. Their determination is to create the path that others can follow. Their motto is “Roads? We don’t need roads. Where are going, there are no roads.” I believe their enthusiasm will become contagious as they continue to transform lives.

Lights, Camera, DISNEY!

10393879_10100734263397570_4469433512732121062_nhollywood studios group 10806355_10100734264111140_31523430317382337_n “Magical” is the word of the week as 85 Elders and Stakeholders from SHC Hometown arrive at Walt Disney World for the final vacation of the year! The group arrived on yesterday afternoon at the Grand Floridian Resort on Disney property with shining eyes and wide smiles! Even though tired from travel, they were so excited to get to the Magic Kingdom last night for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party! Everyone adored the decorations, snow on Main Street USA, the Christmas Parade and the Christmas Wishes Light Show. Some Elders stayed up late into the night to do some shopping bhollywood studios groupefore returning the resort! As Margie Appleman said today, “less sleep and more play, that’s what I came to do!”

The magic group 1continued today as the group visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios! Several Elders started the day riding the Tower of Terror and Rockin’ Roller Coaster!  Pam Batts, an Elder living at Sunrise Manor, told us she LOVES thrill rides and couldn’t wait to do them all! The day also included some beautiful shows such as the Muppets 3D show, Beauty and the Beast, The Indiana Jones Stunt Show and Frozen Sing A Long.

Everyone met together for a private catered dinner at the Backstage Prop Shop. The room boasts of hundreds of past “props” from different 11355_10100734264036290_2635281597940051354_nmovie sets! After dinner, our special guests, Mickey and Minnie,  made a heartwarming appearance with time for pictures with each and every person in the room! There wasn’t a dry eye in the room as the Elders made their way to the front, one by one, to get some time with Mickey and Minnie!

Tonight as each Elder hugged me on their way out of the event, as I saw their beautiful smiles wide as the ocean is, as I felt their gratitude and thanks for a time well spent, my heart filled to overflowing. I felt blessed and humbled to be able to serve our Elders and Stakeholders in this capacity. I know that our love and vision to change the way our Elders are being seen by others is spreading rapidly and it spills over onto everyone we meet.

The “magic” continues tomorrow!

 

 

 

Moments of Joy

Gatlinburg-WEB-0557Gatlinburg-WEB-0571Gatlinburg-WEB-0368Gatlinburg-WEB-0474Where do I start? Another beautiful week of joy and overwhelming emotions as Elders from 14 SHC homes enjoyed their time in Gatlinburg TN!

The first full day started off with a beautiful view of the mountains as the fall color was in peak season while we visited. The Elders gushed at the deep reds and oranges as they appeared new each day. The first day focused on choices! How could we ensure everyone got to do everything they dreamed of doing while visiting the beautiful mountain towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge? By offering several different choices for the day!

Many chosGatlinburg-WEB-0419e to take the scenic tour of Cades Cove in hopes of spotting a bear (they did not see one). They did however, enjoy the beautiful scenery as they drove for multiple hours through the historic Cades Cove area. They stopped at the Old Mill and had some photographs snapped with the beautiful scenery behind them!

Another group had the shopping bug as they experienced all Pigeon Forge has to offer in the of shopping! They way up on the essentials and made some fun purchases too!

Everyone met up at Wood Grill Buffet for what could have been the largest lunch offered in Pigeon Forge before an afternoon of more shopping! Some Elders chose to go to the outlets, somGatlinburg-WEB-7062e chose to visit the Island, and some chose the souvenir shops that lines the Pigeon Forge Parkway!

After an afternoon of shopping the entire group met up at Dixie Stampede for an amazing evening of food, fellowship and entertainment!

Day 3 started off with a quick group shot with the beautiful mountains behind us and then it was onward to the GatGatlinburg-WEB-0771linburg Aquarium! Many of the Elders loved the aquarium and spotting the different marine life living there.

After the morning at the Aquarium, they were on their own for lunch and the afternoon. Some of the Elders chose more shopping on the Gatlinburg strip while a few were more adventurous and choGatlinburg-WEB-0851se to ride the Ski Lift to Ober Gatlinburg and take a wild ride in a Hot Air Balloon!

Then after a quick late afternoon rest for everyone we were on our way to the Hatfield and McCoy’s Dinner Show. The show was the hit of the trip as the Elders and Stakeholders laughed in harmony the entire time! They loved every part of it!

As I look back on the week, I realized that we are so blessed to share these experiences with the Elders in our homes. There is no better way to build relationships and give true quality care than to spend these precious moments just living and enjoying life together. To hear the words that it has been the “best day of my life” from an Elder and know it is sincere is comparable to nothing else in the world. The reward alone of knowing that you played some small part in making this happen for that person is the most soul satisfying experience that you could take part in, I am convinced. How can we create more moments of joy just like these? I challenge you to determine your role in creating such moments in the lives of others and then taking action on your thoughts. You won’t be disappointed.

Dreams Come True As Gatlinburg Elder Vacation Starts!

Gatlinburg Washington

75 Elders and Stakeholders from SHC Hometown arrived in Gatlinburg, TN yesterday afternoon for an exciting week of fun and adventure in the mountains! As Elders arrived from all over, they drew much attention in the airports and on planes! Joseph Roelle, an Elder living at SHC Galion from Galion, OH had a memorable experience on the plane when they recognized him in flight for being a recent Champion Medal winner at the SHC Senior Olympics!

The night started off with a bang as Elders enjoyed dinner at Hard Rock Café in Pigeon Forge. The atmosphere was charged with excitement as they shared stories from the day’s journey with each other. One of the ladies shared her newfound love for the restaurant by saying they had “good food and good music” and declared it to be her new favorite place to eat!Gatlinburg-WEB-0406

After dinner a group of Elders took in the night life with some fun at the Island in Pigeon Forge. There, they were able to take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Ferris Wheel, taste some local moonshine, or just sit back and take in the magnificent light show at the fountains.

Many of the Elders asked “what is there to do in Pigeon Forge” but that question was soon answered as they drove up and down the renowned Pigeon Forge strip and took in all of the different attractions! They were already making plans for the next two days including a hot air balloon ride, seeing dinner shows, some casual shopping and of course picking up some doughnuts from Krispy Kreme when the “Hot Now” sign is on (a Gatlinburg vacation tradition).

As we start our 3rd vacation of the year the determination and focus for the Elders who live with us to experience normality becomes even stronger for me. As strangers in elevators and in restaurants approach us and ask what we are doing, I feel a strong sense of pride rise up that we are in fact embracing person directed care and changing the lives of those who not onlyGatlinburg-WEB-0062 live with us but work with us. I know that we are chasing after a dream of bringing some sense of normality for the Elders living with us and I challenge each of you to do the same. The “Revolution” we hold dearly to our hearts depends on our ability to run where those around us refuse to run!

Because You Are Never Too Old To Have Fun!

IMG_0319“You’re never too old to have fun!”, seemed to be the recurring theme of the Elders living at Signature HealthCare of Mallard Bay last week. The Elders took a fantastic opportunity to visit Atlantic City for a few nights on a short vacation!

Patty Robinson, QOL Assistant, at Signature Healthcare of Mallard Bay recaps the experience below:

Bright and early Sunday, September 7th, the “Mallard Bay Crew” set out on our Atlantic City Adventure.  Four lucky Elders and five Stakeholders left the building with much anticipation of what the next three days had in store for us.  We had a beautiful, sunny ride all the way there and arrived at Harrah’s Resort around lunch time.  We felt like royalty as the valet unloaded and parked our vehicles, and as we entered the hotel and casino we were Atlantic City elder vacation  (9)in awe of our surroundings.  We decided to check our bags and grab a quick lunch at the Sack O’ Subs restaurant before heading out on the town.  Our first stop was The Comedy Stop Café & Cabaret for the Magic & Mayhem show featuring Joe Holiday.  Warren  was thrilled to be part of the show as Joe Holiday called him out to answer several questions.  After the show we toured the Tropicana resort and did some window shopping.  Warren was again in awe when we came upon the cigar shop and he got a private tour of the humidor room where he got to hold a $150 cigar.  After some more browsing we decided to head back to Harrah’s to check out the sights at our home for the next two nights.  We haIMG_0344d dinner at Primo’s Pizza and then we did a little sight-seeing of the hotel before heading off to get settled into our rooms for the night.  On Monday morning we had breakfast in our rooms and then headed to the Atlantic City Aquarium.  We were able to get face to face with some of the ocean’s most fascinating creatures and some very unique land species too.  Arthur got very up-close and personal with one of the small sharks in the touch tank as he not only touched it, but tried to pick it up.  All of the elders had an awesome time touring three stories of exhibits including various types of fish, sting rays, lizards and even a giant sea turtle.  We also took many pictures of our group and the ocean from the observation deck.  Next on our agenda was lunch.  We headed to the board walk and tIMG_0392he Elders got additional treatment fit for royalty as they were chauffeured in Atlantic City’s famous Strolling Chairs to the Rainforest Café for an amazing meal.  Chuck and Warren said their “big ‘ole steak was one of the best parts of the trip.”  Moise got to feast on her favorite food of fried shrimp and Arthur had fish and chips.  For the rest of the afternoon we traveled the boards and did lots of sightseeing, shopping, and playing games.  Later we headed back to our resort and decided we were so full from our huge lunch that we only wanted dessert so we snacked on various types of ice cream before hitting the slots.  The Elders were mesmerized by all the lights and sounds at the Casino.  Finally after a long and exciting day it was time to turn in to our plush rooms for the night and get ready for day three.  Tuesday morning Arthur stated that he was “on vacation” and did not want to get IMG_0380out of his cozy bed so we treated him to breakfast in bed.  Once we were all up moving we decided to go check out the pool and do some souvenir shopping before loading up the car.  We all voted and decided to take the Cape May-Lewes Ferry on our way home, which would take us and our vehicles from New Jersey to Delaware.  We stopped at the sub place and ordered lunch to take on the Ferry before we headed to our next adventure.  Once we arrived at the Ferry we were treated to amazing views of the Delaware Bay.  We reminisced on our favorite things about our trip over lunch.  Warren and Chuck said they very much enjoyed the steaks.  Moise said she enjoyed her huge comfy bed and Arthur said he enjoyed just sitting and watching all sorts of people walk the board walk.  All of the Elders and Stakeholders agreed that we can’t wait for our next vacation… because you’re never too old to have fun!

WIMG_0296hat more could be said? I can’t imagine the twinkle in their eyes as they visited Atlantic City! For many, this was a return trip to a city they used to frequent. A city that until last week had been part of their past but has now become part of their present. I love the slogan they coined on this adventure about not being too old to have fun! I would also like to add, you are never too old to make memories!

A Summer Day

Picture5Summer is a favorite season to many. To me it conjures up images of neighborhood baseball games, ice cream, endless hours swimming and other memories of a time gone by. For the Elders living in our homes, I’m sure the warm summer air reminds them of gardening and lazy days swimming or fishing at a local creek!

The Elders living at Washington Care and Rehab in Chipley, Florida spent a lazy summer day on the creek recently. Angela Conley recounts the day below

Everyone woke up, excited for a day on the creek, but a little fearful of the weather.  It had been rainy the past couple of days and it needed to be clear to go canoeing. Picture20 Curtains were swept aside and smiles broke out as the sun shone in.  It was a perfect day for canoeing; sunny, warm, and with a little bit of a breeze.  Anticipation ran high as the coolers were packed with drinks and ice.  Breakfast, though tasty and necessary, seemed to take forever as the elders at Washington Rehabilitation and Nursing Center waited for time to leave.   Finally the seven elders and the lucky staff were gathered out front of the building ready to load on the bus and get started.

The short drive to the Econfina Creek Livery was pleasant and full of excitement.  Everyone was watching out the windows, looking for that big, white sign that signaled they had arrived.  “There it is” was shouted as the drivers turned onto the bumpy, dirt road that led to the landing.

Finally, the canoes were loaded with coolers, people in life jackets, and paddles.  The water was cold with a swift current and the trees provided an abundance of shade.  The creek was curvy with many trees protruding out or seeming to grow up from the bottom, creating a maze in many areas to be maneuvered around.  Some canoe teams were more successful with these challenges than others, but everyone helped each other.  Advice was shouted with paddling tips and a few “Look outs” could be heard as canoes seemed to have aPicture6 mind of their own.

The time canoeing was spent ducking under trees, drifting quietly along with the current, racing around corners, and laughing at ourselves and each other.  Stories were shared from previous canoe trips or just summer days spent on the water.  It was a perfect day for reminiscing on fun adventures of the past while experiencing a new adventure today.

After about an hour on the water the picnic landing for docking was in sight.  It lay down an inlet behind an island of trees and brush like a hidden paradise.  A concrete picnic area on a maintain lawn was waiting for us to disembark.  Staff from the home was already there grilling lunch and waiting to help.  The smell of grilling hamburgers and hot dogs wafted over the water making everyone’s mouths water in anticipation of a juicy burger or hot dog.

With appetites satisfied everyone settled in to enjoy the afternoon sitting in the shade, swimming in the creek, and even doing a little fishing.  “This is what makes Washington Center my home.” said Elder Willie Daniels,  “I go out with Kim all the time and I enjoy it.”.  Ms. Faye Lambert talked about swimming in Texas with her children and how much she enjoyed today just being on the water again.  Rick Jefferies only wanted to be in the water again, so he was assisted out into the water where he proceeded to dunk his head and splash the water in fun.  He later just sat in the shallow water, enjoying the atmosphere and doing something he loves.

Oh what simple pleasures! The joy of sitting in a fresh creek or Picture23dunking your head under in fun! Or just the feel of the cool breeze along your hair as you sit in the shade of a summer afternoon! It’s the little things in life that make us whole, no matter our age.