Colleen Conrad writes poetry at Carmel-by-the-Sea in California.
Thanks to Wish of a Lifetime, Colleen Conrad enjoyed time to write poetry at Carmel-by-the-Sea in California.

Colleen Conrad of Colorado always yearned for a few days away from the hustle and bustle of life so that she could write poetry. Through her over 40 years of work as a teacher, home day care worker and church children’s minister, time away was scarce. 

That changed earlier this year when she received a call notifying her that her wish had been granted. The call came from Wish of a Lifetime, a nonprofit affiliated with AARP. The program aims to change the perception of aging in the United States by fulfilling senior’s dreams and sharing their inspirational stories. Wish recipients are chosen from a pool of nominees. Conrad’s daughter, a worker for the Volunteers of America, nominated Colleen.

Conrad’s, 72, wish was simple. Even though she no longer teaches, she still works over 25 hours each week as the director of children’s ministry at The Genesis Project in Fort Collins, CO. That makes a few days to focus on writing poetry uninhibited by work duties hard to achieve. Wish of a Lifetime changed that. 

In April of this year, Conrad and her daughter received a four-day, all-expenses paid trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA. Conrad could finally focus on her poetry.

“The gift of four days away, where all I had to do was write, was just extraordinary,” Conrad told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse.

Conrad’s poems ranged from ballads grounded in her and her family’s personal experiences to stories focusing on social justice.

“My husband passed away nine years ago, and so one of the ways I tried to process that grief was to write about that,” Conrad said.

For Conrad and many other seniors, the opportunity to see a lifelong wish realized is precious. Equally important is sharing their stories with other Americans, according to Wish of a Lifetime Vice President and Executive Director Tom Wagenlander.

“What we love about wish granting is that it provides a very personal relatable window into the lives of older adults, but one that’s also an inspirational and meaningful window that shows what is possible as you age,” Wagenlander told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse.

Since its founding in 2008, Wish of a Lifetime has granted over 2200 wishes to seniors in all 50 states. The majority of these seniors (Wagenlander estimates about 60%) live at home. 

“We get a lot of self-nominated individuals, many of whom continue to live at home,” Wagenlander said. 

As of late 2020, Wish of a Lifetime has been an official charitable affiliate of AARP, though they still maintain their nonprofit status. They also receive funding from fundraising events and certain corporate sponsors. The program is currently in what Wagenlander describes as “hyper-growth mode.”

“Our long-term goal in the next three to five years is to be at a place where we are granting over 1000 wishes per year,” Wagenlander said. 

These wishes go a long way, as Conrad, who hopes to to gather all the poems she wrote into a book for her loved ones, can attest to.

“I’ll carry this experience with me until I die,” she said. 

Editor’s note: Home Sweet Home is a feature appearing Mondays in McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse. The story focuses on a heartwarming, entertaining or quirky happening affecting the world of home care. If you have a topic that might be worthy of the spotlight in Home Sweet Home, please email Liza Berger at [email protected]