Unique program really takes off

You might think that long-term care residents can only dream of flying in an Air Force biplane, like Snoopy fantasizing about dogfights with the Red Baron. But residents of Covenant Village in Northbrook, IL, recently went up in a Boeing Stearman biplane — the type used to train military aviators in the early 1940s.

Resident Services Director Heidi Laabs was looking for more adventurous activities when she learned about the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation flights. Nurse Rita Aitken, RN, took the lead in organizing the first event last year. This year, eight more residents got airborne.

The flights are offered at no cost to veterans of all military branches, thanks to major donor SportClips and other supporters, Laabs explains. She says participants were both honored and excited. One was a pilot instructor who used to fly these planes, and another was a mechanic who tuned them up.

Covenant Village staff and residents from all levels went to the Chicago Executive Airport to cheer.

“Relationships have been deepened and new relationships have been created,” Laabs observed. 

Proving that hunger for adventure does not diminish with age, one participant told the biplane pilot that he next wants to go up in a hot air balloon. “I have connections,” the pilot replied.