When Jan and Dave Braby arrived at the United Church of Christ’s Horizon House in Seattle as part of CHHSM’s Passport to Travel program, they were greeted by staff members in green and blue sports attire. The Brabys — long-time Green Bay Packers fans — had arrived on a Thursday, and the Seahawks were playing on Thursday Night Football that evening.
The sports attire helped break the ice. During the tour, the Brabys and tour guide Beth Riese, executive assistant at Horizon House, “had a chuckle and chat about their football teams,” says Sara McVey, CEO. It was the beginning of a memorable vacation for the Brabys, who normally reside at Cedar Community, a CHHSM-member ministry in West Bend, Wis.
Passport to Travel launched in 2011, the brainchild of CHHSM’s Senior Services Collaborative. It allows seniors to travel and experience the radical hospitality of CHHSM’s ministries while taking in the sights of a new city.
The program allows residents at 17 CHHSM-related senior living organizations to lodge free of charge at a sister community of their choice for up to two weeks. Residents cover only their travel costs and can take full advantage of all the features their destination community has to offer.
“Passport to Travel is an innovative, unique program that helps older adults live life to the fullest,” says Michael J. Readinger, president and CEO of CHHSM. “By providing a safe, cost-effective way to travel, the participating CHHSM communities encourage their residents to maintain as active a lifestyle as possible.”
For the Brabys, the program allowed them to affordably visit their son and daughter-in-law in Seattle. In addition to touring the Seattle area, they used Horizon House “as a jumping off point for our excursions,” says Dave Braby.
Some of the perks of Passport are seeing firsthand “what other retirement communities are all about, as well as meeting new folks,” says Jan Braby. “Traveling provides many opportunities to open, expand and enrich one’s understanding of the world we live in.”
Visiting New Places Means New, Meaningful Experiences
For Linda Miller, a resident of Piedmont Crossing, a United Church Homes and Services community in Thomasville, N.C., Passport to Travel provides the opportunity to travel with friends. She’s used Passport three times so far, staying at Beatitudes Campus in Phoenix, Tower Grove Manor (part of CHHSM member St. Andrews) in St. Louis, and Horizon House in Seattle.
The best part is that “the lodging is free, and I was able to travel with two friends to places I had not visited,” says Miller.
Miller likes to travel, she says, “to keep the mind and body sharp.”
Joy Cline, chief marketing officer at United Church Homes and Services, based in Newton, N.C., adds, “Our residents have taken advantage of the program by visiting relatives that live close by other partner properties, and others have said they want to visit every location we have in the Passport to Travel program.”
“Our residents are begging for more, and have some great ideas for expanding the locations: Hawai’i anyone?” says Cline. “UCHS is pleased to be a partner in the Passport to Travel Program. It is truly an asset for our organization.”
Communities Benefit, Too
While the travelers benefit from seeing new places, the communities themselves also benefit from the program.
“The Passport to Travel program has been a wonderful marketing tool for us at UCHS,” Cline says. “You see a spark in our prospect’s eyes when you start talking travel and visiting other like communities where they can feel safe and comfortable. It is a great way for us to show our vibrant community and the many opportunities we have.”
Horizon House’s McVey adds that the program “creates a network for CHHSM members in cities around the country. Horizon House is happy to be a part of it. We enjoy having travelers stay here because it gives our residents and staff a chance to get to know CHHSM members from outside of our organization.”
Since 2011, six Horizon House residents have visited other communities. During that time, Horizon House has welcomed 29 guests, including the Brabys, who are using their positive experiences at Horizon House to plan more getaways.
“We have made tentative plans to travel to other communities that participate in the program,” says Dave Braby. “The program helps make traveling more affordable and motivates us to ‘keep on traveling.’”