Long Term Care Residents Take to the Skies

Leo Kelly
Leo Kelly

Big Bend area skilled nursing center residents recently experienced a flight of a lifetime, thanks to a partnership between the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) and Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation (AADF). Residents from Seven Hills Health and Rehabilitation Center in Tallahassee and Brynwood Health and Rehabilitation Center in Monticello had the chance to soar above Tallahassee on March 17 in a restored 1940s Boeing Stearman, the same aircraft used to train many military aviators in the late 1930s and early ‘40s. The nostalgic journey was enjoyed by 82-year-old Leo Kelly, who served as an Airman 1st Class in the U.S. Air Force, and 82-year-old Joseph LaRosa, who served in the Italian Marine Corps. 79-year-old Bettie Sharp, whose father served in World War I, and 76-year-old Phyllis Elmore, who always had a love for flying, also enjoyed a flying adventure.

Foundation President Darryl Fisher restored the organization’s 1940s-era Boeing Stearman biplane, with the goal of recognizing veterans living in long term care communities by providing a memorable experience in flight. FHCA sponsored the event to help raise awareness of the life-enriching activities that residents in Florida’s skilled nursing centers are able to experience, while also highlighting the importance long term caregivers place on ensuring that residents in their centers have tremendous quality of life and exceptional quality care.

The flights, which were piloted by Mr. Fisher and Mike Sommars, also with AADF, took off from Million Air at Tallahassee Regional Airport under a clear blue sky. Each participant enjoyed a 25-minute airborne voyage, which included a view of Florida’s Capitol.

“It’s important to honor these seniors, especially those who are veterans, because they’ve served and fought for our freedom,” said Emmett Reed, FHCA executive director. “We were excited about the opportunity to partner with AADF on these dream flights as a way to give back to them. It’s great to see them going up and the smiles of their faces as they land.”