Signature HealthCARE Nursing Home Residents Find Fun, Inspiration and First-Time Experiences at Walt Disney World

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Trip serves as motivator for residents to complete therapies.

Nursing home residents and staff from 19 Signature HealthCARE facilities in six states recently traveled to Walt Disney World.

I have never laughed so hard in all my life…I will never forget this trip for as long as I live. – Ms. Jenny, Resident, Signature HealthCARE of Chillicothe

Nearly 90 nursing home residents and staff members had the time of their lives last week when they traveled by bus and plane to visit Walt Disney World, some for the very first time.

They came from 19 Signature facilities in six states: Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Maryland and Kentucky. The group kicked off the nonstop, two-day excursion with a luau party where nursing home residents got to meet special guests Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

From there, the fun only escalated: the iconic Spaceship Earth, the Soarin’ hang-gliding flight simulator and more at Epcot, even more rides and encounters with all the characters at Disney, and fireworks on the beach.

“Never in my life did I think I would see anything so beautiful,” said Ms. Thelma, a resident from Signature HealthCARE at The Courtyard, in Marianna, Fla.

For her, the trip was added motivation to work hard and complete needed therapies. Traveling to Disney World had been her dream for as long as she could remember, so she worked closely with the physical therapy team for months to improve her endurance, balance, gait training and overall strengthening. Because of her hard work, she was also able to return to eating some of the foods she loved, like coffee and toast for breakfast.

“We all cheered and got a little teary-eyed when her diet was able to be upgraded for the first time in years,” said Anna Neel, Quality of Life Director from SHC at The Courtyard.

Meanwhile, Ms. Jenny and Ms. Helen made the trip from Signature HealthCARE of Chillicothe, in Chillicothe, Ohio. Ms. Helen had never been on vacation; Ms. Jenny had done a considerable amount of traveling – to Ireland, England, Canada, Mexico and elsewhere.

But this, she said, was “the best trip ever.”

“I appreciate life so much more since I’m older,” Ms. Jenny said. “I have never laughed so hard in all my life, or smiled as much – my face hurt. I wanted to walk on the beach one last time before I lost my ability to walk, and you guys made that happen for me. I will never forget this trip for as long as I live.”

This is the fifth consecutive year Signature has taken groups of residents on vacations, not only to Walt Disney World, but Boston, Branson, Gatlinburg and other destinations. Angie McAllister, Director of Cultural Transformation for Signature and a principal organizer of the Signature vacations, says the trips never cease to inspire.    

“The old saying was right: if you believe in magic, you will find it,” said Angie McAllister, “This week, our elders have given us the greatest life lesson of all. They have shown us that there is magic in all of us; we only need to pursue our dreams to activate it.”

For more about the latest Disney trip, visit Signature’s Quality of Life blog. To watch a video of last year’s Disney vacation, visit Signature’s YouTube channel.

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Ben Adkins