Senior living community helps residents realize their late-in-life dreams


Terry Schloderer had a lifelong dream of receiving a crown in a beauty pageant. At 85, she was named Ms. Memories Matter in the Miss Newport Coast Pageant. Her son walked her out to be crowned.

Chrystine Carter wished to return to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, where she had been one of the original docents. She was given a tour by a docent she had trained. Three weeks later, Carter, 91, died.

Having worked on warplanes during World War II, Frances Brewer, 93, always wanted to fly. Her dream came true in April with the help of a local flight school that allowed her to sit in the co-pilot seat and even take the tiller for a bit.

Alma Gomez, senior vibrant life director at The Groves of Tustin, helped fulfill these and other dreams of senior community residents as part of a wish-granting program.

“We intended for the program to bring more meaning and purpose to the residents’ lives,” Gomez said. “To enable the residents to continue to live a purposeful life is an extremely powerful tool in helping our residents to continue to thrive.”

Wishes such as these are regularly granted through The Groves’ Livin’ the Dream program, which was launched in 2016 by the community’s parent company, Carlsbad-based Integral Senior Living, which manages about 80 senior communities in 17 states.

“The Livin’ the Dream signature program was created to give our residents more than just chair exercises,” said Derrica Crossley, operations services coordinator at ISL. “We wanted them to feel alive by getting the opportunity to live out their lifelong dreams.”

Members of the various communities’ staff learn about these wishes from the residents themselves or via a form they or family members fill out called Story of a Lifetime, which details their interests and other relevant details.

“If it is on a larger scale we do have a budget to work with,” Crossley said. “A lot of the times we find that the greater community is more than willing to help with the requests.”

About 450 dreams — 10 or so in Orange County — have been granted in the past two years to residents at ISL’s various residences, Crossley said.

A retired surgeon, for example, scrubbed up one last time to perform “surgery” on a medical dummy. A resident swam with dolphins. Another tried a zipline.

Gomez said making dreams come true involves working with the community, as well as with residents’ families.

“The reaction from our residents once they have had their dream come true is always very emotional to me,” Gomez said. “The joy they express is genuine, and I know that I have helped make the difference in someone’s life.”

Marty Troup, Brewer’s son, said he was pleasantly surprised by the flying event to treat his mom, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, which has left her unable to attend to simple tasks like using a TV remote or opening a bottle of aspirin.

“For all of these problems there is no fix, so one of the goals after a safe living environment becomes providing some good days,” Troup said. “Was today or this afternoon a good day is an important question for caregivers as they help with daily life issues … . Now, I wish she remembered that day, but most weeks I show her the pictures on my phone, and she smiles and marvels at that good day.”

Jessica Peralta is a contributor to Times Community News.

Jessica Peralta is a contributor to Times Community News.