Although a hectic day-to-day work schedule rarely allows one to take a minute to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding world, it is important to stop and soak it in—explore. In a health care environment, there is a tendency to overlook the fact that residents still strive to broaden their personal worlds, reminisce, discuss, and learn.

Addressing this issue by promoting new ideas and engaging residents in a vast array of activities creates a better quality of life throughout care centers.

Engaging The Senses

Last year, the Extendicare Foundation received a grant request from Elder and Adult Day Services to fund an innovative program aimed at stimulating cognitive function, increasing physical activity, and engaging the five senses of elderly individuals or those with limited function or disabilities.

Dubbed Destinations Travelogue, the program enables residents and staff to travel to different nations and experience different cultures across the world without leaving their current residence.

“The Destinations program was on the drawing board for years, but we could never free up the resources to get it done,” says Jeff Bradt, chief executive officer of Elder and Adult Day Services. “We were delighted when we learned that the foundation saw the potential in the project and was willing to invest in it. We’d done travelogues in the past and thought that, done right, a travelogue could engage the intellect and all of the senses to create an authentic travel experience.”

To create this experience, Destinations Travelogue transforms each center through the materials it provides every month. Each center receives a packet that includes a DVD presentation highlighting the different aspects of a specific country; mock passports; online references; and discussion notes intended to present a historical, cultural, and interactive overview to residents.

The partnership between Elder and Adult Day Services and Extendicare has enabled many residents to experience ethnic recipes and activities unique to a variety of countries.

Director of quality life services, Janet Krahn, has helped implement the program throughout the Extendicare centers. “The Destinations Travelogue program allows our residents opportunities to learn about new countries as well as reminisce about all the traveling they have done in their lifetime,” says Krahn. “These travelogues are often the start of a conversation or program that lasts all month long. It has been extremely successful in our centers, and the life enrichment directors and residents are very appreciative of the materials provided. It is continually growing and a great program for all involved.”

Centers Tailor Experiences

With the implementation of this program in 120 Extendicare centers across the country, residents have already been able to “travel” to unique places around the world, including China, Ireland, India, the southwestern United States, the Caribbean, Kenya, Australia, Germany, Hawaii, and New Orleans.

Throughout these adventures, the centers have been personalizing the way they present the information to their residents in a variety of ways.

For example, utilizing the 110th Harley-Davidson anniversary in late August, Lake Country Landing in Oconomowoc, Wis., merged the Harley celebration and the Destinations Travelogue journey throughout the southern United States via motorcycle.

They used this road trip as an opportunity to present their residents with a one-of-a-kind experience. After watching the presentation, residents could feel the atmosphere change as loud noises emerged and the ground started to shake. Moments later, 20 bikers came whizzing through the town of Oconomowoc waving their USA flags as they pulled into Lake Country Landing.

Residents were able to reminisce with the bikers, telling them about their biking adventures of the past. In return, the bikers revealed stories of their own from road trips taken throughout different areas around the country. As stories dwindled, bikers led residents outside to take photographs on their bikes, creating new memories to carry with them.

“It was so exciting, and they talked about it for days,” says Lori Lutz, executive director at Lake Country Landing.

Valley Manor Nursing and Rehab Center in Coopersburg, Pa., personalized its trip to India by contacting local Lehigh Valley India natives. After residents viewed the presentation and were well versed on the country, a traditional performance was planned by the Lehigh Valley India natives.

Participants were able to experience first-hand some of the Indian traditions they had learned. Dressed from head to toe in stunning traditional attire, the native women, men, and children took the stage to demonstrate musical customs through dance, drumming, and piano. Afterwards, they spent time speaking about the different areas of India and details specific to each region.

Nanci Bain, life enrichment director at Valley Manor, says residents “were really excited to hear the group mention some of the places and foods they had learned about in the DVD. The natives really spent time with the residents, answering any questions they had. It was a great night for everyone!” 

Luaus and Leis

An “aloha” at Statesman Health and Rehabilitation in Levittown, Pa., kicked off its Hawaii Destinations Travelogue and was a night of fun in the sun. Under the direction of Danielle Quindlen, life enrichment director at Statesman, the team utilized beautiful decorations ranging from leis, posters, and palm trees to transform the center into a festive luau.

Statesman took advantage of the additional recipes provided in the packets and created a traditional tropical drink in coconuts and an authentic pineapple upside-down cake.

While the presentation was given, residents were able to simultaneously listen to the show and enjoy their treats, complete with a small tiki umbrella. Residents reminisced about their travels over the Pacific and the authentic food they had eaten years ago. Ranging from whole roasted pigs to fresh fruit, residents and staff shared their culinary journeys with one another.

Destinations Travelogue has not only livened up the routine in Extendicare’s health centers, it has allowed residents and staff to bond on a deeper level.

“We feel so fortunate to be able to integrate this program into the lives of our residents. This monthly activity is something that they look forward to with great anticipation; it is appropriate for all ages and all types of people who love to learn about new places or have traveled themselves,” says Angela Szewczyk, life enrichment director at Tendercare Kalamazoo (Michigan). “I am so encouraged to see a spark of recognition on my residents’ faces when they see a picture of a place they have been to and meaningful conversation follows reminiscing with staff or family members.”

Expanding Horizons

As the program’s exploration throughout the world continues, the nontraditional passports of residents are becoming increasingly full. From road tripping across the United States on the back of a motorcycle to visiting the Taj Mahal in India, Destinations Travelogue has allowed residents to gather information about the people around them, in addition to the world around them.

Elder and Adult Day Services has provided the base materials for the program, and the centers have truly personalized the way they are incorporating the program into the lives of their residents. These hands-on, interactive approaches promote new ideas for the centers, allowing residents and staff members alike to actively get involved.

As centers look to the future, many anticipate utilizing the additional resources more frequently and to a greater extent. Recipes, crafts, and games transform the ordinary into the extraordinary and allow residents to travel to places they may have never thought possible.

As the saying goes, “the world is your oyster.” Where to next? 
To find out more information about the Extendicare Foundation and Elder and Adult Day Services, visit and

Alyssa Evans is communications assistant for Extendicare Health Services, Milwaukee, Wis. She can be reached at