La Posada, a premier continuing care retirement community, is home to seniors as young as 65, as well as seniors who have passed the milestone of reaching their 100th birthday. Wanting to celebrate the diverse backgrounds of all of its residents, the senior living community schedules activities that speak to residents’ current interests, as well as experiences that help them reminisce. For Esther Whitely, a 101-year-old resident of La Posada, thinking back to her childhood on a 500-acre farm brings her much joy. To appeal to residents like Whitley who have a rural background, La Posada hosted a petting zoo featuring farm animals on February 19 for residents and their families. This event certainly sparked old memories and created new ones. Whitley enjoyed saying hello to the animals and getting some animal therapy time in.
“I grew up in a small village in the countryside of South Carolina called Lake View,” said Whitley. “My family produced several crops on our land, such as corn. We lived in a grand home with six fireplaces and enough bedrooms for my nine siblings and me. The boys stayed on one side of the house, and the girls stayed on the other side of the house. When I was born, we were still using oil lamps, fires and candles to light up the house at night. However, when I was three years old I remember electricians came to the countryside to wire it with electricity. When they first turned on the lights, I remember gazing at the grandiose, dazzling chandelier in the foyer of our home, completely mesmerized. The foyer itself was impressive – approximately 15 feet wide and 30 feet long.”
The house still exists, though no one is living in it now, says Whitley. It is located fairly close to the schools that Whitley attended. At the time, her high school was newly built, and it is still operating to this day. Before cars were commonplace and a bus existed to take the kids to school, her brothers pulled her and her siblings by horse, or they walked. The family also attended a church that was the first church on the Great Wagon Road. The town has a lot of history.
“I loved life on our 500-acre estate. My favorite part of growing up there were the Saturday night parties,” said Whitley. “We invited all our friends in the neighborhood and everyone brought food. We would play music and all the different age groups would socialize. When I think back to all the memories we made in that house, I cannot help but smile. It is endearing that La Posada brings in the very animals I interacted with during my childhood so that we can reminisce and think back to the days that brought us so much happiness. ”
In addition to simulating memories, studies show that animal therapy provides physical, social and emotional benefits. Interactions with animals can increase activity levels and improve heart health. Time spent with animals increases socialization and encourages conversation. Those who participate in animal therapy also experience relief from stress, feel a sense of purpose, experience companionship and build better self-esteem.
“The farm-inspired zoo gives residents and their families the chance to interact with cows, emus, pigs, roosters and chickens,” said Brad Cadiere, executive director of La Posada. “Some will even sit and tenderly hold a baby bunny or baby chick. This is such a calming and heartwarming event to witness. Everything melts away, memories flood back and happiness fills their hearts. We value creating opportunities to integrate activities with animals and children into the lives of those living within our community. Together, we are all mastering The Art of Living Well®.”