Since 1926, the Loretto Foundation has been bringing new perspectives and tactics to eldercare in Central New York. The organization’s fifth annual benefit calendar, this year called, “Where We Live and Grow: Faces of Loretto,” demonstrates its flipped model of eldercare, which trades institutional, sterile facilities for a home-like atmosphere and person-centered care. The calendar showcases relationships shared among volunteers and staff with the elders through short stories and pictures.
“‘Faces of Loretto’ puts Loretto, our elders and their families on a silver platter,” said director of public relations Michael Connor. “Overall, our mission with the calendar is to promote the mission of eldercare. It provides some money, but more than that, it promotes wonderful awareness. It celebrates the lives and beauty of elders, staff and volunteers.”
The calendar encapsulates the philosophy of the Loretto Foundation and the eldercare model developed by Dr. William Thomas, whose Eden Alternative is based on the belief that elders are to be cared for, attended to and nurtured just as a garden requires. After studying how other cultures treat their elders—that is, with respect and high regard—Thomas brought this mentality to American eldercare service and promoted a lessinstitutionalized, more home-like approach.
“The Eden Alternative is based on 10 principles and one that really resounds is the three plagues that currently affect most of our elders: boredom, helplessness and loneliness,” explained Connor. “How can we alleviate those? By going straight to the elder and asking, ‘What would you like to do, eat and wear today?’ We’ve probably trained more than 200 Loretto staff members in this and the difference is palpable.”
Several examples of this personal, sincere and friendly approach are captured in the calendar through telling photographs and revealing short pieces about the photo subjects. For example, Gloria Willmer, a 5-year resident of the Loretto Health and Rehabilitation Center and former resident of Central Square, has always been a movie lover. When she shared this with certified nursing assistant Sue Markantonakis, a significant and meaningful relationship began.
They went out for dinner and a movie and now see movies together often. Their June calendar photograph captures their strong connection.
Another example, Anne and Frank Clark, of Onondaga Hill, grace the December spread of “Where We Live and Grow.” Two-year residents of The Nottingham, operated by Loretto in Jamesville, they were encouraged and helped by staff to return to dancing, an activity they had loved for years. Today, they attend balance therapy classes, which help their mobility, and go out dancing at least once a month.
“‘Where We Live and Grow’ was an easily adopted name,” said Connor. “Going back to initial thoughts of assisted living—it’s the mentality of where you go to end life, not live it. But nothing could be further from the truth at Loretto. The place is so vibrant and busy.”
Funds raised from the calendar will go toward the many projects Loretto is currently involved in and developing, including the transformation of the 13th floor of the Cunningham Skilled Nursing building, part of the Loretto campus at 700 Brighton Ave. The old office space will become three 10-person households designed to feel like a neighborhood.
The design focuses on creating home-like environments for elders that encourage an interactive life, rather than a hospital-like approach with long corridors and sterile surroundings. Completion of the project is expected this spring with plans to continue converting spaces throughout the facility to match floor 13. “We’re no longer in the nursing home business,” said Connor. “We’re in the business of growing elders.”
The calendar helps demonstrate this idea.
When searching for elders to feature in the calendar, submissions were gathered from all of the programs and service areas provided by Loretto. Subjects were chosen based on the extraordinary story they had to tell, which highlight the many departments and services offered.
Featuring the elders in the calendar also helps them to feel loved, cared for and special. “The week we get the calendar together in August, they all feel like kings and queens for a day,” said Connor. “They get their hair and makeup done and feel like stars.”
This year’s calendar helps preserve this feeling for families as well. The photo of cover subject Beatrice Lattimer was snapped just before she died. Although creators were unsure what the family’s reaction would be if they asked to keep Lattimer on the cover, they needn’t have worried. “The family said they would be honored,” said Connor. “We asked, ‘Do you mind that we’re going to promote her as a cover girl?’ They all agreed, ‘absolutely not.’” Calendars will be available for $10 at all Loretto locations, ACMG Federal Credit Union locations in Liverpool, Solvay and Syracuse and online at www.lorettoevents. org. Every purchase will help the foundation continue its mission to improve eldercare in Central New York “It’s a wonderful snapshot of Loretto,” said Connor. “We are all about looking for that moment to celebrate and be present with the elders. The calendar captures that.”
Love That Bob
Being at the New York State Fair next year won’t be the same. Although the cotton candy, mop vendors and cud-chewing cows will still be there, loyal Fair fans will hear a significant difference as Fair announcer and Chevrolet Court emcee Bob Gibbons died of cancer on Dec. 16. The melodious, clear voice of Bob Gibbons cut through the din of the blaring music, sizzling griddles and laughing children as he calmly and graciously hosted Fairgoers and promoted events for that magical 12 days. Every year, Gibbons was the one entertainer seen by the most visitors as he introduced every act at Chevy Court as well as an occasional VIP, like when he introduced Gov. Paterson last August.
During an interview with the Syracuse New Times in October, Gibbons revealed that he had been battling cancer for 10 years, but expressed optimism, praising the physicians who provided his care. Some regulars may have noticed that Gibbons was a little less hearty in his last State Fair, but his strength was always his spirit and enthusiasm. In time away from the Fair, he worked in sports marketing for Syracuse University and pro duced a line of food products under the name Erie Canal, including a chili sauce and most recently featuring his fruit jams.
Gibbons had succeeded his friend Bill Merchant as State Fair announcer in 1996, having already spent two decades delighting Fair audiences in his roles as the title character in Ronald McDonald’s Magic Circus, a magician in a Kiddieland show and as Ranger Bob, partner of costumed character Yorky the Beaver. Next year someone else will take over the microphone at the Fair, but Fair loyalists know Bob Gibbons can’t be replaced.
This photo shows what remains behind the curtain at the under-renovation Landmark Theatre, 362 S. Salina St. The New Times got an exclusive look at the ongoing work, and we’ll be publishing more photos, along with a detailed explanation, in next week’s paper, and once a month thereafter until the job is complete, most likely by this fall.