Travel bug bites LaGrange Park seniors
Rachel Montiel (left) and Kristina Hayes (right) of Planeta Azul perform for residents of Plymouth Place Senior Living. | Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 8, 2013 6:04AM
LAGRANGE PARK — Gray skies and patches of snow melted away with the sound of samba and bossa nova washing up from the shores of Brazil.
Residents of Plymouth Place Senior Living retirement center could close their eyes Feb. 28 and feel the warmth of the sun and sand as they heard strains of “The Girl From Ipanema.”
Brazilian musicians and dancers were part of a travel series taking seniors around the world with a different cultural experience and destination each month.
Seniors heard acoustic guitar, vocals and various percussive instruments demonstrated, including the cuica, believed to mimic the call of a lioness for her cubs. The initial musical selections were soft and soothing, lulling listeners to a faraway place.
Abruptly, the tempo changed, and seniors found themselves in the midst of a joyous carnival scene. Samba dancers took center stage in colorful sequined dresses with elaborate feathered headpieces. Retirees in the front sat up a little taller.
Resident Dick Best and several staff members took full advantage of a dance lesson, while less adventurous audience members bounced and swayed in their seats.
“It was a lot of fun, but not with my legs,” said Best, who smiled broadly and concentrated on arm movements.
When asked if they’d been to Brazil, about a dozen audience members raised their hands, indicative of residents’ keen interest in travel.
“We began a monthly travel club last March, and people came with all different expectations,” said Rita Lopienski, director of community life at Plymouth Place. “Some wanted to increase and expand our day trips, or out-of-state and overnight trips or take a cruise.”
For armchair travelers, Lopienski features a different country each month with an overview of key sights and history. A field trip follows to sample the cuisine at an ethnic restaurant and visit a church associated with the country, and a cultural program is presented at the center.
Destinations have included England, France, Greece, Germany, Russia, Sweden and Peru, allowing seniors to share their photos and personal experiences with each locale they’ve visited.
What began as a casual conversation with some avid travelers singing the praises of cruises now has blossomed into a booking for 28 residents, friends and relatives on an upcoming Central American cruise.
The group will visit Honduras, Guatemala and other ports March 17-24.