The anticipation hung heavy on the hot summer air in the courtyard behind Laramie Care Center on Saturday as Donna Anderson and Roxanne Ostlund waited for Dolores “Dodie” Goreham to come outside.
Goreham is Anderson and Ostlund’s mother and grandmother respectively, and they made the trip down Buffalo for an exceptional occasion. Not only was it the first day they’d been able to see their beloved Dodie in months — they were visiting her on her 107th birthday.
At 107 years old, Goreham may be the oldest person in Wyoming. Staff at Laramie Care Center said they did some light internet research that indicated as much.
Goreham doesn’t speak much anymore, but as she emerged from the door to greet her family on Saturday, her smile radiated brightly.
“There’s Miss America,” Ostlund said. “Hello nana banana.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted life in Laramie in March, families have not been permitted to visit their loved ones at the care center. Arete Bond, marketing coordinator, said it was difficult for residents, their families and loved ones and staff.
“(Being able to have visitors) is one of the most important things about living in a nursing facility,” Bond said. “We do view our residents as family, but that can only go so far.”
Bond said the staff stepped up to make the best of a bad situation.
“My staff here did a phenomenal job at leaning into the resident-centric side of what we do,” he said.
And Saturday wasn’t just a special day because of Goreham’s remarkable birthday. Her visitation was the soft roll out of Sunshine Visits, where two visitors can see a resident through a clear partition outside.
“Now we can have our residents interact face-to-face while they enjoy some beautiful summer weather,” Bond said.
It’s not perfect. Goreham reached out to her daughter from behind the partition, but Anderson had to tell her she couldn’t come give her a hug.
While her smile limped momentarily, Ostlund lifted her grandmother’s spirit with pictures of family on her phone. She passed it to one of the care center staff members on the other side of the partition so Goreham could see.
When asked if she ever thought her Dodie would live to see such an old age, Ostlund said, “Of course.” Even into her elder years, Ostlund said her grandmother always had a spark.
“She worked out at the (YMCA) like five days a week until she was 99,” Ostlund said. “And there was one time she opened the door and there was this hunk of a guy. And she stopped and she stared and he stopped and he stared, but I don’t think it was for the same reason.”
Ostlund and Anderson let out a big laugh in a clear indication of the appreciation for life Goreham has. And as far as Goreham’s family and the staff at Laramie Care Center is concerned, she can keep the birthdays coming.
“As far as I’m concerned she can live forever,” said Tyler Treacy, lifestyle coordinator.