Women Brighten the Lives of Seniors with Memory Loss

Bluebirds & Blooms recycle unsold flower bouquets into gifts for seniors living in homes.

Aug 26, 2019

You really can say it with flowers. Especially when those flowers are given to people who could use some extra moments of joy. Every day, two childhood friends are bringing repurposed flowers from stores, weddings, or other events to memory care residents just  to brighten their days.

In 2018, long-time friends in Bloomington Minnesota, Karen Wooldridge and Laura Hogan came up with an idea to take unsold flowers that were going to be thrown away and to bring them to seniors.

"We started working on our kitchen island, and we were really proud of delivering, you know, a dozen or two dozen flowers," Wooldridge told CBS.

But soon, Hogan added, "we bloomed."

Now, a year later, the two friends deconstruct and rearrange up to a thousand bouquets per month, along with the help of 150 volunteers who help in "the nest".

The women named their nonprofit organization Bluebirds & Blooms after their childhood Camp Fire troop.

The organization said that the volunteers do everything from picking up the flowers that are being donated, deconstructing the floral settings, rearranging the flowers into simple flower bouquets in vases, and delivering them to seniors with memory loss or illnesses.

The organization's flowers bloom in 30 communities with most going to homes for seniors with memory loss including The Wealshire, an assisted living facility in Bloomington.

There, volunteers bring flowers to Vellie Larson, a woman who has dementia. Her memory isn't so sharp anymore, according to the news agency, but Larson's daughter Karen Schwartz was in the same troop as Wooldridge and Hogan. Larson taught the girls music.

"I just was in shock, and I thought 'Why, why would they give me flowers?'" Larson told CBS. "But believe me, I took them real fast and they're not getting them back."

"When they deliver flowers to her, she'll call, Schwartz said. "She'll describe them to me and give me a flower report every day."

Sheryl Hassan, the Wealshire's director of life enrichment said that the flowers are a reminder that someone cares for them.

"They're confused and sad, and just to have such a simple thing as a bouquet of flowers… just brightens their day," Hassan said. "Families will come in, and they'll say, 'Oh who got you flowers? This is beautiful.' And it says 'Thinking of you.' The resident can just say, 'Oh, somebody was thinking of me!'"

The volunteers are enriched by doing these acts of kindness. Woolridge fondly remembers her grandfather who has Alzheimer's and thinks he would have loved receiving visitors and flowers.

Hogan said that she finds the work rewarding in and of itself, "On Tuesday, a woman said to me, 'You've made my day,'" she added. "And I just looked at her and said, 'Well, you've made my day.'"

Everyone can use some joy in their lives, and these volunteers are giving gifts to members of the community who need it the most. They are bringing human connections to people who are forgetting theirs. There is no better gift.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.