Cruising down the freeway on a Harley-Davidson, petting snakes or getting (temporarily) inked and chowing down at a food truck festival sound like activities on a high school graduate’s gap year itinerary.
But for young-at-heart residents of Melbourne’s Lifeview aged care homes, they are just par for the course.
Lifeview currently operates four homes, in Cranbourne, Emerald, Wheelers Hill and Chelsea.
Run on a model called Home-to-Home, each facility is divided into smaller neighbourhoods with the same staff, or ‘housemates’ as they are called, rostered on to provide a consistent and person-centred model of care.
For more than eight years, Lifeview has been running a Magic Moments initiative, where staff organise a special surprise or ‘bucket list’ style experience for each resident once a year.
Social support manager Anita Macauley says she’s seen a huge array of Magic Moments play out over the six years she has worked for the organisation.
“For one gentleman we organised a Batmobile to turn up, that was a big one,” she says, laughing.
“Another resident has always been keen on motorbikes and was a big rider back in the day, so we organised a Harley-Davidson, [with a rear car attached] … his family came and it was very emotional.
“Now it was a challenge to get him on the Harley-Davidson, but just the fact that he was on that motorbike, and I don’t even know how fast they drove on the freeway, but he came back with a smile on his face that just said, ‘I’ve just had an amazing time’,” Macauley recalls.
For residents who prefer horses to horsepower, a trip to Living Legends to meet famous retired racehorses proved a treat.
“One gentleman was in a wheelchair, so they actually bought the horse out after everyone had left, it might have been Rogan Josh, and he actually got to cuddle with that horse.
“He still talks about that,” Macauley says.
She also recalls a resident who was much fonder of animals than she was of people, so a day playing with all the pooches at a doggy daycare was a real highlight.
While some residents request their own magic moments, others are the result of close relationships built between residents and staff.
“We’ve had staff members cook meals from a particular culture that they know a resident would love and enjoy,” Macauley says.
“It’s not about [task-orientated care], the time spent with a resident and getting to know someone, outweighs so much more, and listening to their stories.”
“I had a conversation with one lady, and learnt her brother was in a movie, a DVD movie about the war.
“So I sourced the movie down for her and presented it with a bag of popcorn, chocolate, everything to sit down and watch.
“And she sat there and showed the movie off to all the residents.
“It was just the fact that she had something that her brother was in, she’d seen it back in the ’50s or ’60s but had never owned it.
“You couldn’t really see her brother, he wasn’t a standout character, but it had such meaning to her that we had found that DVD.”
Another resident just wanted a job.
When carers learnt she had been a typist back in London they set her up with a typewriter so she could sit and type out letters.
“She was in her element,” Macauley says.
Everyone gets involved in Magic Moments at Lifeview, from volunteers through to carers and corporate staff.
Sam Jewell, Executive Manager of Marketing, Engagement & Diversity recalls taking one gentleman to the local footy.
“We had our CEO come to one magic moment and quite a lot of our corporate staff,” Macauley says.
“We went to a food truck festival, we took a group of residents and they had a ball.
“They went and got temporary tattoos, ate whatever they wanted and everyone was involved, from all walks of life within our organisation.”
Magic Moments are a real talking point for many residents and staff, with some jotting down their requests three years in advance.
For residents living with dementia however, Macauley says they may not remember their special moment the following week, or even the next day, but that’s not what it’s about.
It’s about creating joy, no matter how fleeting.
“When that experience is happening, the joy on their face, that’s what it’s about.
“It’s about how you feel in the moment,” she says.