Residents of Hearthstone’s Jefferson Place and Fair Haven East communities enjoyed a rare travel opportunity earlier this summer. They journeyed by bus from Pella to Decorah in northeast Iowa for a three-day, two-night vacation, reminding team members, residents and their families that getting older doesn’t mean you have to give up the adventure of and passion for traveling.
Hearthstone, A Ministry of WesleyLife, has hosted frequent day trips for older adults in the past, but this was the first overnight expedition to a distant destination. Five Hearthstone residents and four team members were joined on the trip by residents and staff from Heritage House, a WesleyLife community, in Atlantic, Iowa.
Some of the Hearthstone residents decided to make the trip despite some initial concerns about how easily they could travel. By the time they returned from Decorah, the residents realized that even as they grow older, those enriching experiences are still possible and enjoyable.
“A three-day trip like this is almost unheard of in our field,” said Natasha Nikkel, Wellness Director at Hearthstone. “It’s important to offer opportunities like this trip to our residents because we’re focusing on abilities and encouraging them to live life to the fullest.”
“At first,” Nikkel added, “many of the residents and their loved ones doubted the residents could manage the trip. But after hearing how much the five residents enjoyed it, we have more residents considering participating next year.”
The trip also helped the Hearthstone staff to gain insight into the dynamics of older adults living in small households with team members, Nikkel said. This knowledge, she added, will prove helpful later this year when Hearthstone opens The Cottages, an innovative community of small households designed to redefine the meaning of home but emphasizing healthy living and supporting the independence of older adults.
The vacationers traveled approximately 185 miles to Decorah and resided with staff members in townhouses on the Luther College campus. None of the resident travelers had been to Decorah before. In three days, the tour group experienced many of Decorah’s top attractions, including:
-Touring the picturesque Luther College campus
-Visiting a fish hatchery, where they saw one of the bald eagles made famous by the Decorah Eagle Cam webcast of the birth of three eaglets that drew millions of viewers
-Sightseeing at four scenic parks: Palisades, Phelps, Twin Springs and Dunning’s Spring, which featured a beautiful waterfall
-Touring the popular Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum
- Browsing and shopping at the renowned Seed Savers Exchange
One of highlights of the trip for Edna Ozinga of Jefferson Place was the Seed Savers Exchange, where she picked out a few heirloom tomato plants that she brought home with her. With the help of team members, the plants were added to the courtyard at Jefferson Place, where they are thriving and expected to provide luscious home-grown tomatoes for residents in the near future.
Jefferson Place resident Jeanetta Olsthoorn most enjoyed the beautiful waterfalls and scenery, and visiting the museum. Though she was initially uncertain about making the trip, she quickly embraced the chance to travel and sightsee. In fact, she even wished for a flat tire on the last day, so the group could stay in Decorah a little bit longer.
“I thought I wouldn’t be able to go because I need too much help,” said Olsthoorn. “But they took good care of me. They treated me like a queen. I would recommend this trip to anyone. They should go—it was fun!”