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Port of Call series transports seniors to spots around globe

Amy Leonard • Updated Jan 28, 2019 at 3:35 PM

The sweet sound of gentle violin music filled the air. The aroma of delicious Italian cuisine drifted from the kitchen. The dining tables were adorned with red and green tablecloths along with candles held in vintage wine bottles surrounded by colorful grapes. Pictures of the Italian countryside and Italian flags covered the walls. A waitress brought salads, small baguettes and then sumptuous pasta dishes to the tables. There was farfalle with Alfredo sauce topped with sauted mushrooms, chicken and spinach or asparagus. Another option was spaghetti with a rich meat sauce. Dessert was authentic tiramisu and fresh strawberries and espresso.

Such was the scene at Elmcroft of Kingsport on Thursday, Jan. 17, for a night of Viva Italia!

For many senior citizens, visiting Venice, Italy, would be a wonderful dream come true even if actually traveling there may not be feasible. Elmcroft of Kingsport fulfills those dreams for senior living residents with no traveling involved. They are magically transported to a selected "port of call" each month - most recently Venice, Italy - for an entire week. I was privileged to be invited to attend a delicious Italian dinner prepared by Elmcroft's chefs and enjoyed talking to the staff and residents like Lib Dudney, Sula Nowell, Liz Condon, Opal Kirkpatrick and Pauline Fleming.

Activities with an Italian flair took place throughout the week. On Monday, residents learned all about Italy, made and selected the decor for the upcoming Thursday dinner and heard from a speaker from a local library about Italy. Tuesday included a cooking class where residents learned to make delicious chocolate chip cannoli. On Wednesday, it was a "Girls' Day" to eat lunch out at Giuseppe's and do a bit of shopping. Then on Friday, residents dined for lunch at Olive Garden restaurant to top off the week-long Venetian "Port of Call" experience.

Darlene Stevens, the Healthy Lifestyles director at Kingsport, involves the residents in the planning of cultural activities for each month's event. Connie Gentry, the Dining Services director, plans the menu of culinary delights which is served up by Andrea Fain and Jean Centofanti.

In recent months, the residents in Kingsport have also been "transported" to Casablanca, the Napa Valley in California, and Hamburg, Germany.

Resident Lib Dudney loves the "Port of Call" program and says, "We had couscous and chicken for Casablanca week and really good German food for the Germany week." "And we got to go to the wonderful German restaurant in Weber City (Gast Haus Edelweiss)," added resident Sula Nowell.

The "Port of Call" series is a signature program and part of Elmcroft's Vitality Club at not only Kingsport, but also at their other 100 locations nationwide. Residents at Elmcroft of Kingsport's adjoining facility, Heartland Village Memory Care Center, also get to sample the "Port of Call" program. Designed for those with Alzheimer's and other dementia diseases, Heartland's "Best Friends" caregivers are happy to involve these special people in the week of activities.

"The Vitality Club incorporates emotional, spiritual, physical, social, intellectual and leisure to enhance the lives of their residents," according to Heather Shelton, sales director.

Besides the "Port of Call" activities, many other outings and events happen for residents each month at Elmcroft. Darlene says, "We have weekly entertainment like gospel and bluegrass singers, fiddle players and visits from the LampLight Dinner Theatre. We play bingo three nights per week for prizes which is very popular with our residents."

Dudney, a long-time Dobyns-Bennett teacher and past Kingsport school board president, serves as the current president of the resident council, and says "Darlene does a great job of coming up with things to keep us occupied which is very important. We play games, have mind activities and special events like this."

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