They’re proving you’re never too old to make a difference—or model for the camera.
When you picture nursing homes, you might imagine a dull and stuffy vibe, but the Spiritwood Assisted Living Nursing Home in Washington is anything but. The residing senior citizens are huge movie buffs, know how to smize for the camera, and have quite the impressive collection of costumes.
In a charitable project that combines all three, they’ve turned themselves into models for a cause. Decked out from head to toe in vibrant wigs, makeup, and costumes, the fabulous group of seniors recreate iconic scenes and characters from classic movies. Village Concepts, a family company that owns the senior home, turns the photos into calendars, and every penny earned from sales goes straight to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Jennifer Angell, the community relations director at Spiritwood at Pine Lake, first came up with the idea for the photoshoot in 2018 when she spotted a senior sitting in the dining room that had an uncanny resemblance to Hollywood legend Katherine Hepburn. The celebrity doppelganger inspired her to start scouting other residents at the assisted living community.
Once the models were cast, Angell would buy all the costumes, reserve a backdrop, and set the scene. According to Angell, one photo takes a minimum of two hours to create. The photo project is open to all members of the Spiritwood Assisted Living community, including those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, who are given special time and care to take on their role. The oldest participant is a 102-year-old model returning for her second feature this year.
Angell says that Alzheimer’s has always been near and dear to her heart, and as someone who’s always loved taking photos, a calendar setting seemed like the best way to contribute while incorporating something she feels confident in doing.
“We have a memory care program at Spiritwood, and so Alzheimer’s impacts us all,” says Angell. “Taking care of Alzheimer’s patients is very hard work. They need a lot more funding for care and research.”
When the initial round of calendars hit shelves, Angell says the first three boxes sold out in just four days. The community sold more than 150 of their first calendars, and in conjunction with other fundraisers, earned $14,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association.
To date, more than 40 residents have posed for photos with 300 calendars sold. However, the project’s full impact is incalculable. In addition to their Alzheimer’s contribution, Angell says the project has affected the mood of the community as a whole. The models would even stay in their costumes and parade through the dining room to celebrate their role in the calendar after the photoshoot concluded.
“The seniors are truly movie stars now,” says Angell. “It has bonded us all in a way that is beyond words.”
Angell says they are currently planning their next photo campaign for the 2021 calendar, which will be released in October. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Angell is planning fewer “group shots” and more individual portraits to adhere to social distancing guidelines. The calendar is said to include classic recreations of pop culture icons, like Marlon Brando from The Godfather, elves from Elf, Princess Leia from Star Wars, the Star Trek crew, and even newer TV series like Stranger Things.
If you are interested in purchasing the wholesome calendar for yourself (and contributing to a very worthy cause), you can place your order here.
“For these seniors, the calendar is a symbol that, just because you are at the point in your life where you have to go to retirement living, doesn’t mean you will be forgotten about or fade from memory,” says Angell. “You will still make more memories and you will still have things to contribute, just like our seniors who are making America smile right now.”