CLEARWATER, Fla. — While most of Florida continues to reopen, many seniors living in retirement communities remain in isolation.
Once a week, the staff at Regency Oaks in Clearwater puts on a parade to brighten their days.
It's not exactly Gasparilla, but if you ask the 400 plus residents, this parade is even better.
“A lot of us are inside our apartment, our homes most of the time and this is something we look forward to because it’s cheerful, it’s uplifting,” said resident Lu Astrene.
Every Wednesday afternoon, dozens of staff members march and ride golf carts around the retirement community, cheering, waving, passing out gifts, some even dressing in costumes.
“Wednesday was my exciting day because something went on, and I go to my window and I would wave like mad because it was something different,” said resident Margaret Hendry.
Some of these residents are healthy enough to line the sidewalks outside and join in on the fun by banging pots and pans, even getting dressed up themselves, like Astrene. She said it’s a much-needed escape.
“Its happiness, it’s joy, it’s love, it’s not violence and complaints and sickness,” said Astrene.
There are also residents too vulnerable to be outside, but they can be seen and heard from their apartment windows.
“We are looking up, we got four or five flights, residents are blowing kisses, we’re pointing back at them and we know where everyone lives so I can see our friends, that's who we are, that’s our family,” said Food and Beverage Director Ricky Bacher.
Bacher came up with the idea to conduct a weekly parade when the dining room closed due to the pandemic.
‘“We get to see them smile, I mean we see them in the dining room when they come in for that hour and a half and then all of a sudden when it shuts down you don’t see them anymore, you got to come up with something, so we think out of the box,” said Bacher.
Several of these staff members are high school students who only work part-time. They turned this week’s parade into a mini graduation.
“I’m graduating basically right now,” said Gabriel Lopez, who wore his cap and gown along with some of his fellow seniors.
The staff plans to continue the parades every Wednesday at 2 p.m. until the pandemic is over.