LeadingAge Magazine · January/February 2012 • Volume 02 • Number 01

Creative Celebration Proves Vintage is Beautiful

January 15, 2012 | by Kayleigh Karutis

This assisted living community has used its CEO’s hobby as an inspiration for a creative event that engages residents.

Outside Castle Country Assisted Living’s Victorian House in Parker, CO, the low murmur of voices fills the air. A breeze carries the smell of pink lemonade, ice cream and other desserts across the lawn as residents and staff members mingle underneath a gazebo. It’s a warm and sunny June day, but this isn’t your typical outdoor meal at your typical senior living community.

Staff members dressed in bright pink aprons, many covered in buttons, ribbons, baubles and other over-the-top embellishments, speak with and attend to residents. Some wear tiaras and bows. The whir of a cotton candy maker can be heard. Every few minutes, a resident is accompanied by a staff member into a small white trailer parked next to the gazebo, pink pinwheels spinning lazily from its front window. Invariably, they exit with a grin.

“That trailer really is something,” says resident Donna Wasen. “I want to go in and never leave.”

 

The trailer is a 1959 vintage Pink Flamingo in mint condition, with every detail, from the old-fashioned silver tea pot to the fuzzy pink dice, in its proper place. Castle Country CEO Barbara Dice is the proud owner. She’s been hyping the Pink Flamingo’s appearance at Victorian House for weeks. She and other staff members spent countless hours amassing dozens of detailed and hand-made adornments for it, everything from a bouquet of pink flowers covered in jewels to a vintage suitcase plastered in old photos and sparkling stickers.

A hand-made sign, fringed in orange beads, reads “The Pink Flamingo Lounge.” Paper fans with hand-drawn flowers and pink swirls are propped up on several tables. Cupcakes with pink frosting are displayed on a spiraling platform, and marshmallows decorated with frosting and sprinkles form an edible bouquet. Every detail is attended to—even the gazebo is pink.

Dice and other staff members have taken their traveling Pink Flamingo Lounge to each of Castle Country’s three senior living communities in Colorado this summer. For weeks, Dice has been hinting about its arrival, building residents’ anticipation and excitement. Reminders occasionally appeared on event boards, and the day before the trailer appeared, a flock of plastic pink flamingos suddenly sprouted up on the lawn outside. A sign reading “You’ve Been Flocked!” accompanied the group of birds. Residents peered from the windows and wondered what was happening. Then they got a look inside for themselves.

 “I feel proud and touched that they enjoy it so much,” Dice says. “It brings some happiness to their day. They’re socializing and touring the trailer and reminiscing about when they used to go camping.”

Residents, men and women alike, seemed enamored with the trailer and the trappings that came with it. Resident Gerda Hagnau reminisced about her days spent camping and relaxing in a trailer when she was younger.

 

“It has everything you need,” she says. “You leave the clutter behind.”

Beldon Mathews, a resident and former tractor trailer driver, focused on Dice’s trailer maneuvering abilities.

“Heck yes you did a good job,” Mathews says to Dice. “You did just fine. You’d have been a good truck driver.”

Dice is a trailer aficionado and is member #1778 of Sisters on the Fly, a “sisterhood” of more than 2,000 women who join their vintage trailers in a caravan and take trips across the country. She says she realized residents would probably be as charmed by her trailer as she is and crafted the idea for the Pink Flamingo Lounge as a way to share her hobbies and interests with Castle Country residents, and to bring something whimsical and unusual to the community.

Trying new and unusual events and activities makes both her and her staff members’ jobs more enjoyable while also bringing something new and enjoyable to residents. The work invariably pays off, Dice says. She’s able to share something she’s passionate about and also enjoys the positive reactions from residents.

“I wanted to share this belief that I have, that vintage is beautiful,” she says.

 

The work put into the event, which was replicated across Castle Country’s three communities and will continue to take place monthly throughout the summer, was worth it, Dice says. Resident Services Director Melanie Leatherman agrees.

“We love doing stuff like this, beyond the norm, because it just makes the residents so happy,” she says. “They talk about it for weeks.”

The venture had an unexpected effect on Leatherman herself, she says. She has decided to purchase her own trailer for traveling and camping. Another community manager has decided to do the same, she says.

Wellness Director Cheryl Cross says she enjoys seeing the looks on residents’ faces when they walk out of the house and see what has been set up for them.

“This whole thing has been so much fun,” she says. “It’s been a very successful project.”

Residents Sherrie and David Jarred, who just moved to Castle Country in March, said they’ve been impressed by the unusual and outside-the-box ideas for activities and events at the community.

“The food was wonderful, and I thought the trailer was fantastic,” says David Jarred. “They’re always trying new and different things out of the norm.”

Sherrie Jarred echoed his sentiments with a nod. “It’s definitely not just BINGO here,” she says.