You don't have to go to Hollywood to be on a talk show if you're a resident at Wesley Palms Retirement Community. In fact, fascinating interviews and conversations are had right on a residents' front porch.
Welcome to "Front Porch Chit Chat," a video interview series produced by the Wesley Palms life enrichment team that takes a deep dive into the backgrounds, personalities and stories of residents.
"Everyone has a story to tell," said Life Enrichment Specialist Zach Vandagrifft. "I can't tell you how many times I have been surprised by something a resident tells us about their lives that is amazing."
"I worked at Frank Sinatra's joint in Lake Tahoe," said recent "Chit Chat" guest Hazel Peterson relating a story about her encounter with the famed Hollywood "Rat Pack" while working as a waitress. "I got a $50 tip from Dean Martin. They all hung out there. I would say Sammy Davis Jr. was the nicest gentleman you could ever meet."
Zach, Life Enrichment Director Taunya Bachellor and Life Enrichment Assistant Rowena Lomboy created the You Tube series as a result of the limited opportunities for residents to interact during the pandemic. "Most of the time, residents swap stories and get to know each other at the lunch or dinner table or during activities," Zach said. "Right now because of COVID, that's not possible. Our hope is that these interviews will create openings for residents to find common interests with each other. It's amazing how small details can open the door for engagement."
Resident Joan Boland talked about what is was like traveling overseas as a Navy spouse. Resident Gregg Doherty chatted about how he literally saw Wesley Palms being built from the ground up when he was the future community's Mt. Soledad neighbor in the early 1960s and resident Jimmy Brown discussed his passion for playing, coaching and watching sports, particularly his love of the San Diego Padres.
"I think my favorite interview was the one I did with Dee Swartz," Rowena said. "She talked about how much she loved llamas and how she started a business raising them."
Interviews usually range from between 10 minutes to about an hour and cover a wide range of topics, mostly what is on a residents' mind at the time. Some of the interviews take place on a resident's front porch (adhering to socially distancing protocols), which was the inspiration or the series' name.
"We wanted the show to be resident driven," Zach said. "We don't have scripts or pre-planned questions so the result is a very organic, authentic interview. Residents are encouraged to be themselves and talk about their lives or any subject they want. You don't have to be an astronaut, Nobel Prize winner or famous movie star to have an interesting story. It's the small, unique tidbits of what makes up a resident's life that people enjoy listening to. I've learned that some people have lived humble lives but have extraordinary stories."
The show is accessible to Wesley residents, friends and family via the community's life enrichment You Tube channel.
"We have received fantastic feedback from family members who like to see their loved ones thriving at Wesley Palms," Zach said.
A note from Wesley Palms Life Enrichment Director Taunya Bachellor ...
When it comes to programs and activities at Wesley Palms our Life Enrichment team's number one goal is how we can provide the best quality of life and sense of community to each resident. Especially even more so now that we are in a pandemic and our residents fall into a demographic that is the most impacted by this situation. Our team focuses on the seven dimensions of wellness; emotional, intellectual, physical, social, environmental, vocational and spiritual when developing each activity that promotes healthy aging. We are constantly evaluating current programs and getting feedback from residents to look at how we can make each program even better. Our Life Enrichment Team is always collaborating with each other, researching and brainstorming new innovative ideas that we can bring to our community. The Front Porch Chit Chat is an excellent example of this.