APPLETON, Wis. – Residents at The Heritage, a ThedaCare senior living residence and
assisted living facility, received an early Christmas donation from the community, a 15-
passenger bus. Gifts to the ThedaCare Family of Foundations purchased the new vehicle,
which will offer transportation to medical appointments and social outings.
“The project started more than a year ago as we worked to connect our residents with their community,” said Mike Garrigan, Life Enrichment Supervisor at The Heritage and Peabody Manor. “Before the COVID-19 pandemic changed our daily lives, we envisioned trips to the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, sporting events, parks, museums and community events.
We had also planned weekly trips to local worship centers and grocery stores, and intended to offer transportation to medical appointments. Now, we’ve adapted those plans so that we can still offer activities in a safe way for our residents.”
Connecting in Times of COVID-19
Concerns about social isolation surged alongside the pandemic, especially for individuals
living within senior or assisted living residences. A study in the Journal of American Medical Association advocates for creative solutions that combat the detrimental effects that are evident while taking infection prevention precautions.
“It’s critical that we continue to offer life enrichment activities for residents while carefully considering safety amidst the pandemic,” said Denise Gloede, ThedaCare Vice President of Post-Acute Care. “We understand that our most vulnerable population can be greatly impacted by enhanced visitor restrictions that are put in place for the safety of residents, team members and visitors themselves. The bus will, with proper safety precautions, allow our residents to reengage with the community.”
Following the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) safety recommendations for public
transportation, the bus’s capacity will be limited, and masks will be required for all riders. The first excursion is already planned – the life enrichment team will take residents to view neighboring Christmas light displays. They’ll schedule multiple trips over the weeks leading up to the holiday to ensure every resident who wants to take a drive can do so, safely.
Beyond the Pandemic
The bus will continue to provide transportation to the residents after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. The new vehicle boasts improvements that include room for wheelchairs with an automatic lift, large windows for passengers, and a low point of entry, increasing access to all residents.
The life enrichment team continues looking forward to connecting residents to normal
activities such as live performances and events, trips to the library and more.
“Even when we find ourselves in a post-pandemic new normal, the bus will continue to play a critical role connecting our residents to their community,” said Gloede. “The opportunities for social connections provided by a vehicle like this are nearly endless, and we are incredibly grateful to all those who made it possible.”
At times, transportation becomes a problem as seniors age, and losing mobility can be a
difficult experience in an older person’s life.
“In this day and age it is even more important for all of us who do not drive, or can no longer drive, to be able to get out to the community,” said Lee Parker, a resident at The Heritage. “I look forward to going to visit downtown Appleton to see all of the renovations of the historical buildings that have been transformed into living spaces. The area is such a beautiful place.”
Parker was a volunteer at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton for more than 45
years, and participated in fundraising for the auxiliary. She is also a generous donor to the ThedaCare Family of Foundations.
“When older adults can no longer drive themselves to activities, it is essential that resources are available in their community to stay connected,” said Gloede. “My hope is that need will result in societal changes that will provide more transportation services as well as other senior services that will help people stay connected and prevent loneliness.”
Generous Community Support
The bus was purchased with nearly $65,000 from the Peabody Manor & Heritage Fund within the ThedaCare Family of Foundations.
“This project was possible because of a community of generous donors,” said Courtney
Weiland, Vice President of Philanthropy with the ThedaCare Family of Foundations. “Gifts to the ThedaCare Family of Foundations make these types of investments a reality. The impact to the residents is invaluable. We are proud of this community, and the kindness that is shared in so many ways.”