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Berlin nursing home kicks off summer with fashion show

Barbara Laws, 104, sports a towel, rubber ducky and inflatable pool during the summer kickoff fashion show last Friday at Berlin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

By Rachel Ravina, Staff Writer

(June 27, 2019) The first day of summer brought smiles to the faces of the residents of Berlin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center as they took to the runway during a fashion show.

“I must say you guys look absolutely fabulous,” said Activities Director Jo Davis.” I wish I could get a big, big bus and take all of us down to the Boardwalk, because, let me tell you, they [the beachgoers] don’t hold a candle to you guys.”

About 30 models donned summer attire and accessories to set themselves apart from the crowd.

Barbara Laws, 104, the facility’s oldest resident, showcased a rubber ducky, a beach towel and an inflatable pool as part of her inventive outfit. Others, like Vito Collela, 80, had a fishing hat, pole and crafted a cardboard boat named the “Compassion Cove.”

The dining area was transformed into an island oasis of sorts, with inflatable toys, sand, a cardboard cutout of Elvis, and a sea-themed runway.

“I think we did a pretty darn good job of bringing the ocean and summer here to Berlin,” Davis said.

Davis said her inspiration for the event was a Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in which the “models had wings,” because it tied in nicely with the facility’s “guardian angel” approach to providing care.

Davis said the center’s department heads are assigned residents and are responsible for tending to their needs and letting them know they have a specific point person they can contact if need be. The guardian angels also complete rounds and check in on the residents.

Donald Dennis, 87, waves to his fellow models during the summer kickoff fashion show last Friday at Berlin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. He was escorted by activity aide Annette Miller.

“We’re really watching over every aspect of them,” she said.

Davis also said the idea to hold a fashion show took some convincing at first.

She eventually persuaded her colleagues because “this is a great opportunity for you to do something really fun and exciting with your angel, and I just thought that would be great.”

She said creating this fashion show involved a “four-pronged approach” between the residents, staff, volunteers, and family members. They worked to transform blue paper into a colorful ocean floor that would serve as a runway for the participants.

Guardian angels and volunteers also escorted residents up and down the runway.

Marietta Douglas, 46, a resident of Berlin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, who is typically in a wheelchair, surprised the crowd as she stood up and strutted down most of the catwalk as a first-time model.

“I’m very excited because I’ve never been in a fashion show,” Douglas said.

Others, like 88-year-old Dolores Kenny, said she loved that “everyone [was] happy and enjoy[ed] themselves” during the fashion show.

Betty Jester, 93, is feeling fabulous as her guardian angel and dietary manager Major Purnell strut down the runway during the summer kickoff fashion show last Friday at Berlin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Manager Renee Rascona, R.N. said the event helped many of the residents of the facility’s memory care unit socialize with others as they listened to beach music.

They all love music,” Rascona said. “Music’s very important to our dementia patients, especially.”

Davis also emphasized that events like the summer kickoff fashion show serve as a good opportunity to give the residents their moment in the spotlight.

“My goal is to make every person feel vibrant, and good about their experience of living here, because this is their home,” Davis said.