Senior Safari draws hundreds to Happy Hollow Park & ​​Zoo

Ginny Barret recalled bringing swarms of kindergartners through San Jose’s Happy Hollow Park & ​​Zoo years ago, as she watched a pygmy goat use its horn to scratch itself during of a Senior Safari event on Thursday morning.

“It was crazy,” said Barret, 70, of San Jose and now retired. Unlike his teaching years, Barret’s trips to the zoo no longer involve children.

The park’s Senior Safari program, which drew around 500 people on Thursday, aims to combat social isolation by bringing older adults to the park for a fun-filled day of zoo tours, animal encounters, rides and adventures. ‘other activites. The event is held an hour before the zoo opens to the public and invites seniors (50+) to the park on the fourth Thursday of every month from May through October.

Senior Safari program participants Nick Cheng, center left, and Bianca Guerrero, center right, enjoy a visit to Happy Hollow Park & ​​Zoo in San Jose, Calif., Sept. 22, 2022. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)

“I like to see the animals and it’s usually not so crowded in the morning. It’s a nice park to walk around in,” Barret said as she stroked the pygmy goat. “It’s been fun; that’s the best part,” she said of the petting zoo.

Caitlin O’Hara, communications manager at Happy Hollow Park & ​​Zoo, said the Senior Safari also aims to encourage older people in the community to get outside, be social and exercise.

  • A ring-tailed lemur sunbathes at Happy Hollow Park & ​​Zoo.

    A ring-tailed lemur sunbathes at Happy Hollow Park & ​​Zoo.

  • Senior Safari program participants Bianca Guerrero, left, and Adrienne Harber,...

    Senior Safari Program participants Bianca Guerrero, left, and Adrienne Harber pose with Happy Hollow Park & ​​Zoo mascot Danny the Dragon.

  • Karie Bennett, left, a volunteer guide, leads a tour to...

    Karie Bennett, left, a volunteer guide, leads a tour for a group of Senior Safari program participants.

  • Parma wallabies are seen at Happy Hollow Park & ​​Zoo.

    Parma wallabies are seen at Happy Hollow Park & ​​Zoo.

  • Senior Safari Program Participant Zori Sanchez, 70, of San Jose...

    Zori Sanchez, 70, of San Jose, a participant in the senior Safari program, rides a carousel.

  • A turtle is seen at Happy Hollow Park & ​​Zoo.

    A turtle is seen at Happy Hollow Park & ​​Zoo.

“We met people today who had never been here before, so we are encouraging that part of the community who otherwise could not come if they no longer have children or grandchildren at the age appropriate,” O’hara said, adding that Santa Clara County officials are also showing up and setting up resource tables to share information with seniors. “We encourage them to come to the zoo to take advantage of this great community asset that we have here.”

According to Heather Lerner, former executive director of the Happy Hollow Foundation, the idea for the Safari came from discussions zoo officials had with the Rotary Club of San Jose and visitors who said San Jose needed more safe places for seniors to hang out and be social. .

The next Senior Safari will take place on October 27. Admission and parking for seniors is free on this day, according to the Happy Hollow & Zoo website.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - September 22: Participants of the Senior Safari program walk during a visit to Happy Hollow Park & ​​Zoo in San Jose, California on September 22, 2022. The Senior Safari program at the park, which drew approximately 500 Attendees Thursday, aims to tackle social isolation by getting seniors to come to the park for a fun-filled day of zoo visits, animal encounters, rides and other activities.  The next senior safari will be on October 27.  (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
Senior Safari Program participants walk during a visit to Happy Hollow Park & ​​Zoo in San Jose, Calif., Sept. 22, 2022. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)

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