Seniors take part in refuge programs

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There are many Jackson residences that offer spectacular views of the surrounding peaks and valleys, but one striking look at the National Elk Refuge comes from a home that is shared by many. 


March 21, 2018

There are many Jackson residences that offer spectacular views of the surrounding peaks and valley, but one striking look at the National Elk Refuge comes from a home that is shared by many: the St. John's Living Center. The long-term care facility is a part of St. John's Medical Center and accommodates up to 60 residents.

The Living Center sits at the southern boundary of the National Elk Refuge, with a solarium window that offers a sweeping panorama of the wildlife refuge. The commanding view and frequent wildlife sightings are often sources of conversation and contemplation for residents, many of whom grew up in the Jackson Hole valley.

Life Enrichment Director Connie Hansen coordinates a variety of activities that help residents enjoy a better quality of life, including music therapy, intergenerational activities, and storytelling groups. This month, refuge seasonal naturalist Emilee Helton threw a similar program into the mix by visiting with roughly 20 of the residents, learning about some of their past experiences on the refuge and sharing information about present-day management activities.

In addition to the on-site visit, Helton boarded the Living Center's bus this week to accompany 11 of the participants on a drive through the refuge. Phyllis Osborne was perhaps the most excited member of the tour, pleased to once again be out on the Refuge Road and in the neighborhood she once called home.

Osborne's family moved from Ashton, Idaho to Jackson when she was three. Her father worked on the refuge, both as a seasonal irrigator and a feeder in the winter supplemental feed program. Osborne recalls first living on the Detweiler homestead north of Miller Butte and later in a more contemporary home that was built on the property. "I remember summer mornings when Dad would take off on his horse with a shovel over his shoulder," she said as she reminisced. Osborne lived on the refuge until she finished fifth grade, when her family then returned to Ashton.

Refuge staff gave Hansen permission to drive the Living Center bus behind Miller Butte on the tour so Osborne could see the place where her family's house once stood. "It was interesting to see how much things have changed," she said with a smile. "It's been a while."

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