By: Barry Sonustun, Memory Support Program Manager for Gulf Coast Village
There is something quite magical about the metamorphosis of butterflies – each captivating stage that transforms a curious caterpillar into a Monarch butterfly with bright, golden wings. At Palmview, a specialized assisted living community in Cape Coral, these butterflies have become a source of joy for more than 45 memory support residents over the age of 62.
Since the pandemic, Palmview’s Memory Support team saw the need for more engaging and uplifting activities for residents.
In October, Palmview created a special environment that would liven up seating areas on the memory support floor. Specifically, a few spacious terraces that residents use to enjoy a warm coastal breeze.
By January, memory support welcomed a new bocce ball court, putting green, and Palmview-favorite Monarch butterfly garden.
What started off with the scattering of eggs on two milkweed plants is now a thriving garden with caterpillars, chrysalises and butterflies expanding across the terrace.
“They’ll be all around my head,” joked 94-year-old Bella Kontinos, a memory support resident. “The butterflies, I just love them. I really do.”
Bella moved to Palmview in December and has not stopped finding ways to help wherever she can. With her infectious energy and willingness to help, the garden has quickly flourished to life.
In the last several months, team members and residents have poured time and resources into the project, caring for their tiny tenants in all stages of transformation.
“One day, I looked down and I couldn’t believe it. It was double the size,” recalled Bella about the monarch caterpillars. “It’s wonderful. It really is.”
To share more of these moments, staff has started to transfer chrysalises into terrariums to place throughout memory support hallways and bedrooms.
In a matter of 7 to 9 days, residents are enchanted by a breathtaking butterfly emerging from its cocoon, which then gets released onto the terrace garden.
With new special memories created on the memory floor, many residents find joy in recalling pastimes of family gardens and butterflies from childhood.
Overall, the therapeutic experience has inspired new hope for assisted senior living. A hope that residents see the beauty in their own lifelong transformation for a better, enriched life at Palmview.
About the Author
Barry Sonustun is the memory support program manager at Gulf Coast Village, Cape Coral’s premier continuing care retirement community, and spearheaded the efforts for a new bocce ball court, putting green, butterfly garden and other enrichment activities at Palmview.