Santa Barbara resident James Vincent was able to live out his dream one last time as he rode in the sidecar of a motorcycle and raced down the Santa Barbara waterfront on sunny Friday morning, a dream made possible through Oak Cottage Memory Care’s “Living the Dream” program.
The program is an integral senior living program offered at Oak Cottage, a care center specializing in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, that allows the community to make an Oak Cottage resident’s dream come true every three months.
“A lot of our residents aren’t able to communicate their needs and wants verbally, so it feels really great to help them and watch them do something they love,” activity coordinator Denise Omana told Noozhawk. “I feel like it’s the least we can do for our residents.”
While some residents have had their dreams fulfilled by flying in a warplane or skydiving with virtual reality goggles, Vincent is a longtime motorcycle enthusiast with shelves lined with trophies from desert racing events in the 1970s and ’80s, according to his wife, Lisa.
James Vincent once was a proud member of the Checkers Motorcycle Club, and his favorite bike to ride was always the Husqvarna model, according to Rachel Palmquist, Oak Cottage’s director of sales and marketing.
Vincent moved into Oak Cottage on June 1, and within a month was able to fulfill his dream of riding a motorcycle one last time.
“It was a great welcome to Oak Cottage,” Meghan, James Vincent’s daughter, told Noozhawk. “He gets overwhelmed when a lot of things are happening, but when he sees a motorcycle his face just lights up. You can tell that a light goes off in his head.”
His family wrote down his likes and hobbies on the Living the Dream form when he first moved into the care center, and as soon as she saw Vincent’s love for motorcycles, Omana said she began making the dream a reality.
Andrea Katz, Oak Cottage’s executive director, reached out to the community to find a volunteer motorcyclist who could take Vincent on one last spin. Katz was able to recruit Jesse Aldana for the job, and coincidentally it turned out that Aldana and Vincent had a family connection, according to Lisa Vincent.
“James has been so excited every time I mentioned the ride; he’s not very verbal, but he always just smiles when we talk about riding,” Lisa Vincent said. “This was just a huge blessing, and the timing was perfect for our family.”
It has been probably 20 years since James Vincent rode a motorcycle, she said as tears filled her eyes, and being able to go on one last ride really lifted his spirits and brought him joy inside.
James Vincent with daughter Meghan and wife Lisa. (Jade Martinez-Pogue / Noozhawk photo)
“Seeing him happy is the most important thing,” she said.
James Vincent put on a motorcycle jacket and a checkered helmet, got into the sidecar, and rode alongside Aldana from Leadbetter Beach in Santa Barbara down to Stearns Wharf and back.
“As soon as I gave (the bike) a little bit of gas, (James) yelled, ‘Yahoo!’” Aldana said.
Vincent returned from the ride with an ear-to-ear grin, hugging his family after getting out of the sidecar.
“That smile is going to be hard to take away,” his daughter said.
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