In retirement residences across the country, recreational staff are busy innovating and planning – striving to create just the right complement of programs and activities to entice the residents who call the facility home. No doubt it can be a bit of a challenge, hitting the mark with such a diverse array of people from all walks of life.
For Rosal Yade, Activities Coordinator at AgeCare’s Governor’s Walk in Ottawa, the formula is simple: “We look at each resident as a whole and unique individual, taking into account their full life up to retirement and bringing their background and life experiences forward into the next phase of life,” said Rosal. She adds, “I make it my mission to get to know everything I can about each one of them, beyond their needs, preferences, medical requirements. To really make someone feel welcome is to learn as much as you can about who they are, what they’ve done, and what matters to them.”
Once Rosal is in possession of this privileged knowledge, her next aim is to bring their meaningful interests and skills into focus, creating opportunities that will resonate with them, engage them, and give them a sense of purpose.
To illustrate this, Rosal cites the example of inviting a resident who formerly owned a clothing store, to assist in decorating Governor’s Walk for all seasons of the year. The resident developed a beautiful storefront so Rosal was able to pick up all the decorations needed and the resident-led in decorating for the Fall, Christmas season and beyond. “She was very talented at her craft and the decorations made residents proud of their home and brightened the atmosphere for staff, residents and visitors.”
In another example, Rosal invited a resident who formerly taught voice and enunciation classes, to give lessons to other residents on how to properly speak and communicate. Prior to the invitation, Rosal noticed that the resident spent most of her time in her room, but when invited to share her skills, she became more connected and engaged with others. “She uses cognitive, emotional and physical stimulation to teach the classes and what is happening is she’s becoming proud to be sharing her craft. You can see she is uplifted by the recognition from her peers who are looking up to her for guidance and direction.”
If personalized engagement is Rosal’s top priority, then advocacy is a close second, as she views seniors as able, intelligent, individuals who have much to contribute to the world around them. “I think it’s important to bring residents out into the community and to also bring the community to the residents – the two need to be given opportunities to integrate,” she suggests.
Rosal punctuates her point by relaying the story of inviting a talented singer to perform at Governor’s Walk, a man who also happens to be a prominent Ottawa cardiac surgeon. When he accepted, she turned the event into a black-tie affair, inviting residents to attend and enjoy. “It was hugely successful,” she said. “Everyone had a wonderful time and everyone felt a part of something really special and important.”
Of course, Governor’s Walk also offers many of the more common activities like Bingo, Bridge, and crafts, appealing to just about anyone who likes to get out and have fun. But overall, AgeCare’s philosophy in serving its residents involves a whole person approach, and to that end, activities are specially designed to nourish the mind, body and spirit.
Specifically, at Governor’s Walk, they offer an intriguing list of activities to stimulate the mind, including a program called “Puzzles of the weekend”, Poetry Group, and even bi-weekly history lessons with local Professor, Dr.Eric Teehan. Programs designed to nourish the body include: Walking group, chair yoga & meditation, Fun & Fitness and more. To ignite people’s passions, the list of ‘spirit’ activities is extensive and enthralling, including gardening, Happy Hour, Meet Your Neighbor Floor Parties, weekly special events with musical entertainment, Community Choir, weekly mass and outings to live theatre, museums, and restaurants.
“I think it’s really important to never stop seeing each individual as unique and extraordinary,” said Rosal. “If you show them they are important and they are valued – they maintain their self-respect and dignity, and they know they are a part of something bigger.”