Two residents of CountryHouse Residence flashed back into the '80s with a rock concert neither ever dreamt of experiencing.
Between the two residents, Donna Olson and AnnaMarie Oppegard, nearly two centuries of life experienced hadn't prepared them to drop their walkers and enjoy the rockers when the traveled to the Bismarck Event Center for the Hairball show Saturday, Dec. 7.
“I can't believe I’m doing this; my family will never believe I'm doing this,” said Olson.
The two rock-n-roll seniors were escorted by Abi Rohrer, the life and enrichment coordinator of CountryHouse Residence. Olson, 89, and Oppegard, 92, were eager to live it up for the night.
“They were excited, we listened to '80s music the whole way to get them ready for the concert,” Rohrer said of the trip to Bismarck.
The rock show road trip was part of the Life and Enrichment program which uses a schedule of monthly events for residents to motivate and offer enriching experiences that can help speak to the residents, many of whom suffer from dementia.
“I took over the position back in January and (CountryHouse) really has given me such free rein on the things I can do. … You are never too old to live your best life,” Rohrer said. "Every week I have a different theme that I plan my outings, activities, and menus to be incorporated with our lifecycle program.”
Rohrer's original idea was to bring a classic rock concert to the residents, but after contacting Hairball production manager Mike Findling, it was clear that would not be possible. Though moments after having their initial conversation, Findling called Rohrer back and offered them free admission passes to the Hairball live show in Bismarck.
“You never know until you try,” said Rohrer.
It was settled. Rohrer, her assistant Chris Kenney, and two residents were going to make the trip. Olson was certain to go but the second choice was made last minute.
“We had to get on the road, we were already almost running late so I walked into the living room with one spot open and AnnaMarie's head popped up and she said, ‘I wasn't planning on going out tonight, but why not.'”
Oppegard made a bold and spontaneous decision to go to Bismarck — though her being originally from Bismarck may have influenced her choice, Rohrer said.
“Within minutes of making the announcement of the open spot, AnnaMarie got on a leather jacket, her lipstick and a rockin' bandana and we were on the road ready to rock!”
From the moment they walked in, these queens of rock-n-roll turned heads. People were wanting to take photos with them because of their lively and young-hearted attitudes and appearance.
“As we were in line picking up our tickets, we had people stopping us to take photos with me and my residents and to compliment us for coming out,” Rohrer said. "It really hit home for other people at the concert saying, ‘Look at these 90-year-old women who are still coming to rock concerts; living their best life. There is hope for all of us.’”
Oppegard and Olsen rocked the night away, well past their usual bedtimes proving the old adage that, "Your never too old to rock and roll."
“These women have never been to a big concert before, let alone an '80s rock band concert,” Rohrer said. “The whole time though they were clapping, dancing and they had their rock hands up and were just having fun.”
The cool bunch ended up staying longer than expected because of all the fun they were having. On the starry night ride home, the girls talked of the excitement and intriguing theatrics they witness at the concert. By the time they got home, all the other residents had fallen asleep and the living room was dark. Rejuvenated in their outing they snuck into the residence hall and quietly made their way to their rooms as though they were sneaking back home after staying out past curfew — an appropriate ending for a night of a rocking.
“When you go to a rock concert you feel the crowd, you smell the popcorn, hear the music and see the atmosphere as a whole and it really hits all the senses," Rohrer said. "For my residents, especially those with dementia, it truly is something real special to see."