“It’s doing something good”: Two women brighten lives of seniors with memory loss

In our series A More Perfect Union, we aim to show that what unites us as Americans is far greater than what divides us. In this installment, CBS News correspondent Adriana Diaz introduces us to two childhood friends who are turning recycled bouquets into moments of joy in Minnesota.

Last year, longtime friends Karen Wooldridge and Laura Hogan had an idea: Take unsold flowers destined for the dumpster and repurpose and deliver them to those who could use an extra visit — seniors.

“We started working on our kitchen island, and we were really proud of delivering, you know, a dozen or two dozen flowers,” Wooldridge said.

But soon, Hogan added, “we bloomed.”

Now, the Bloomington, Minnesota, pair rearrange up to nearly a thousand bouquets a month, with 150 volunteers working five days a week. Their organization, Bluebirds & Blooms, is named after their childhood youth troupe The Bluebirds.

Their flowers brighten 30 communities – mostly homes for seniors with memory loss, like The Wealshire.

Vellie Larson has dementia. Some of her memories may have faded, but her daughter Karen Schwartz was in the same Bluebird troupe as Wooldridge and Hogan, and Larson taught them all music.

“I just was in shock, and I thought ‘Why, why would they give me flowers?'” Larson said. “But believe me, I took them real fast and they’re not getting them back.”

“When they deliver flowers to her, she’ll call,” Schwartz said. “She’ll describe them to me and give me a flower report every day.”

The flowers are also a reminder that someone cares, said Sheryl Hassan, the center’s director of life enrichment.

“They’re confused and sad, and just to have such a simple thing as a bouquet of flowers… just brightens their day…” Hassan said. “Families will come in, and they’ll say, ‘Oh who got you flowers? This is beautiful.’ And it says ‘Thinking of you.’ The resident can just say, ‘Oh, somebody was thinking of me!'”

For Wooldridge, the act of kindness brings back fond memories of her father, who had Alzheimer’s.

“I know he would have loved… visits from these women, he would call them girls, coming in with a bouquet of flowers…” Wooldridge said. “It would have made his day.”

And while some might find it difficult to work so closely with those who are struggling with memory loss, Hogan said, “It’s happy to us. It’s doing something good.”

“On Tuesday, a woman said to me, ‘You’ve made my day,'” she added. “And I just looked at her and said, ‘Well, you’ve made my day.'”

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