Sunrise Manor takes ‘girlfriend trip’ to Graceland

What started out as a conversation of places you would like to go turned into a reality for our 81-year-old Elder Joyce Williams.

Joyce is an elder who attends some activities, but never any outings. So when she mentioned to me, “I’d really like to go to Graceland,” I said, “Okay, we can go in the spring.” She just sat back in her chair, and gave me this yeah right look.

So, as December approached, we had a chance to go to the Rockettes. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to test Joyce on her stamina for a long distance trip, which she didn’t think she could do. With family encouragement, Joyce went on her first outing to see the Rockettes in Nashville. After our great experience with the Rockettes, I looked at Joyce and said, “Remember, we have Graceland in the spring.”

As the excitement built for Graceland, Joyce blossomed. She attended not only more facility activities, but local outings as well. When the March calendar rolled around and Joyce saw the Graceland trip, she knew I wasn’t joking – she was going to Graceland. As elders learned of the trip, it grew into a girl’s trip, according to 66-year-old Elder Linda Richerson.

When bags were packed  we were ready to go! We loaded up the van and I told the ladies we weren’t on a schedule, so we could stop when we wanted and shop when we wanted!  During the drive we discussed what we would like to eat for dinner, and it was decided that we would stop at a restaurant that we don’t have at home – we would have an adventure at a new place. We decided to eat (and shop) at Loretta Lynn’s Kitchen. Once we finally arrived at our hotel, we were all worn out and ready for bed. However, as girlfriends do, we ended up talking and laughing until 1 o’clock in the morning!

Since we went to bed so late, we decided to let the girls sleep in and then serve them breakfast in bed.

“I like breakfast in bed,” said 65-year-old Edler Beverly Taylor. Beverly is a regular traveler with us and attended the elder vacation in Myrtle Beach, so she was used to the spontaneity of our outings! After breakfast, we headed to Graceland.

As we waited for the tour bus to pick us up, 89-year-old Elder Alene Despain said, “When my son dropped me off at the nursing home last yea,r I thought my traveling days were over!” Ms. Despain had also been one of the skeptical elders who thought she couldn’t go on an outing. She would say yes, but when it was time to go, she would change her mind and decline. We were ready for the decline when we told Ms. Despain we were loading up for Graceland, but we were so happy when we didn’t get it! The other elders had been encouraging her to go with them on a girlfriend vacation. Midway through the Graceland tour, Ms. Despain said, “I’m glad I came on this trip!”

As we toured, they reminisced about Elvis memories they had, his outfits, his family and his life. We spent some time in silence as we were in the meditation garden where Elvis and his family were laid to rest. Linda mentioned that this was her favorite area of the tour.

Beverly liked the statue of Elvis, while Alene and Joyce stated they liked it all! We went to Rockabilly’s Café, which is reminiscent of an old time soda fountain that served burgers and fries, and of course played Elvis music from the jukebox!

We headed home (after another stop at Loretta Lynn’s just to pick up a few things we wished we would’ve bought the first time) with our Elvis and Loretta Lynn souvenirs, and the wonderful memories made on our Girlfriends Trip!

– Sally Rineker, QOL Director