By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Photos by Troy Harvey/Ventura County Star

Excursions bring back memories for residents of Vintage Simi Hills


February 7, 2014 Ventura County Star

Saucer magnolia trees in shades of white, pink and purple sparked a vivid memory for Mary Ortiz during a recent visit to Gardens of the World.

“When there’s flowers, it’s time to get married,” said Ortiz, 99, as she went through a Japanese garden nestled near a koi pond encircled by bamboo trees and bridges.

“It kind of reminds me of my garden,” Ortiz said. “Who wouldn’t want to come and see this?”

Ortiz was among a dozen residents from Vintage Simi Hills in Simi Valley who recently participated in Recollections Café. The effort involves taking older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia on outings to stimulate their senses in ways that include reviving memories from the past.

TROY HARVEY/THE STAR
Theresa Miranda (center), a resident of Vintage Simi Hills in Simi Valley, looks at a bird of paradise while taking a tour of Gardens of the World in Thousand Oaks. The Recollections Café program includes excursions and other ways to stimulate participants’ senses.

“Every day that goes by, they face challenges due to their short-term memory,” said Jacobo Flores, assistant program director at Vintage who initiated Recollections Café. “However, when they go on these outings, they light up and absorb every moment of it. Not only does this make our residents happy; it does wonders for our staff and our residents’ families.

“At Vintage, we do have activities, but when they go out into the community, it’s good for them because of the sounds, smells and visual cues,” Flores said. “These outings are stimulating for them and bring a smile to their face.”

About 40 residents, age 86 and up, are involved with Recollections Café, which offers monthly excursions.

The group has gone to Universal Studios CityWalk, Santa Monica Beach and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.

TROY HARVEY/THE STAR
Jacobo Flores, assistant program director at Vintage Simi Hills, leads a group of residents as they tour Gardens of the World in Thousand Oaks. The Recollections Café program includes excursions and other ways to stimulate participants’ senses.

Most recently, a group of 12 paid a visit to the Gardens of the World in Thousand Oaks, where a quarter-mile walking tour showcased gardens representing England, France, Italy and Japan and included the California Mission Courtyard.

Some residents used walkers, and others were in wheelchairs, on a docent-led tour of the grounds that began with a stop at the Japanese garden.

After a brief explanation of the grounds, each resident was given the chance to feed koi in the pond.

“I’ve seen koi, but I’ve never fed them before,” Annette Foster said with an ear-to-ear smile. “I love this.”

The California Mission Courtyard, which features murals of the 21 remaining missions surrounding a center fountain, was the favorite spot for Virginia Montez.

TROY HARVEY/THE STAR
Vintage Simi Hills residents Annette Foster (from left), Dolores Kulakouski and Wilma Von Borzestowski take a break in the Italian garden as they tour Gardens of the World in Thousand Oaks. The Recollections Café program includes excursions and other ways to stimulate participants’ senses.

“It’s beautiful,” Montez said. “My brother was a preacher. We had a beautiful church in Washington state. This makes me feel wonderful.”

Bob Mize, 75, said the Italian garden with cypress trees reminded him of his trip to Italy in the 1960s.

“I think this is terrific,” Mize said. “They put a lot of effort and time to make the garden right.”

Monthly outings often inspire memories about past trips, said Coco Robles, a staff member from Vintage who helps residents during excursions.

“They always talk about when they used to go out,” Robles said. “It’s wonderful to see their faces light up.”

A serene setting of flowers and plants is a solid way to bring back fond memories, said Carolyn Rogers, a docent at Gardens of the World who led the recent tour.

“The smells and the sounds and the colors inspire them,” Rogers said.

Residents look forward to these outings and suggest other places they would like to go, Flores said.

“It allows our residents to continue their lives as they did in their younger years,” Flores said. “The ultimate goal is to have our residents experience new and exciting outings that bring them happiness.”

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