It began in 2011 with one resident’s request: He wanted to visit Disney World.

In the years since, that idea has blossomed into the Elder Vacations program at Signature HealthCARE’s Hometown facilities, which celebrated its 18th trip in November.

In total, more than 1,000 residents have taken trips to places such as New York City, Boston, San Antonio and Panama City Beach. The tours are a massive undertaking, explains Angie McAllister, Director of Cultural Transformation-Hometown for Signature.

The groups usually comprise more staff than residents since the travelers require skilled nursing care on the road. But the benefits of the trips are worth it, McAllister says. Residents get a rehab goal to work toward — such as climbing enough steps to board a Disney World trolley — and get to experience parts of the country they may not have seen otherwise.

McAllister remembers one 90-year-old resident who sat on her hotel balcony in Myrtle Beach, listening to the ocean for the first time.

“She had never been out of this little town in Tennessee in her whole life, and she had never stayed in a hotel,” McAllister said. “She said, ‘I can’t even see because it’s dark, but I can hear it. And I’ve never heard anything so beautiful.”