You're Browsing Aging

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.” –  Maya Angelou, American poet

If you’ve been following the latest discussions on aging you will no doubt have come across the work of Ken Dychtwald, who has written a book, What Retirees Want, in which he discusses what has become known as life’s third age. With the increase in longevity, and the growing number of baby boomers who are retiring, Dychtwald says that this generation’s retirement looks very different from our parents’ or grandparents’. There’s time to try new things, be adventurous, maybe start a small business. What we are seeing, he argues, is an unprecedented change in society where older adults will be the majority and an important active link between generations.

Our traditional idea of what retirement should look like no longer matches real life. When “retirement” can last another 35 years, what should those later years look like, and how can they be put to the best use?

United Active Living’s philosophy embraces this new approach to aging, incorporating lifelong learning opportunities into daily resident activities, and supporting residents’ interests in the arts, music, dance and fitness. Getting older at United means having the opportunity to stay active, learn new things and ensure your later years are fun, enjoyable and meaningful.  Lifelong learning is at the core of everything United offers.

Sharing positive and inspirational stories has become popular at United communities this year. A weekly Online Inspirations email goes out to residents with links from our arts and culture partners and interesting articles and links from residents. There’s also a bi-weekly Good News Bulletin at each community that shares uplifting stories from around the world, the latest community initiatives and personal stories from residents.

Diane and Nick Jongeling's door at Fish Creek

Diane and Nick Jongeling’s door at Fish Creek

Nigel Way's doorway decorations at Garrison Green

Nigel Way’s doorway decorations at Garrison Green

“The employees have as much fun working here as residents do living here,” said Kim Coulter, Fish Creek’s program development and creative expressions manager. “That’s reflected in our collaborative approach to programming. While COVID-19 protocols have impacted much of the programming, we are offering art and other creative supplies to residents for use in their suites. We’ve also still been able to do many creative things such as the door decorating contests in both Fish Creek and Garrison Green, the festive decorations, the special meals, the one-on-one fitness programs and much more.”

United Active Living is everything the name implies. The difference is that the residents and the staff are both transformed by the philosophy of developing the whole person. Everyone is given the opportunity to grow and to get enjoyment out of life at United. A community should support the goals of its residents. Residents who choose our communities are comfortable that United is there to give them complete support to live their lives to the fullest.

Santa and Mrs. Claus spread holiday cheer

Santa and Mrs. Claus spread holiday cheer

Community is all about the people who live there. Living a full life in your later years is a focus at United communities. Programs are designed around the interests of the residents. The art studios, for instance, are facilitated by professional artists. A kinesiologist leads exercise classes and can also design individual programs. We have a dozen partnerships that give residents opportunities to be involved in different aspects of arts and culture in Calgary –  for example Calgary Civic Symphony, Lunch Box Theatre and the Calgary Philharmonic. Of course, during the pandemic we continue to offer world-class programs remotely.

We are starting to look at our life and our lifespan in a different way. Not by chronological age, but by how we view ourselves, our interests and our view of what aging really means.

If you’ve been thinking about retiring or moving into life’s third age, living in a United community offers a positive solution with a wealth of programs and activities, community support with assisted living and memory care options should you need them.

“Everyone is hoping 2021 brings us to the end of the pandemic so we can resume our normal activities. To that end, everyone at United is wishing employees, families and friends a very happy new year,” said Kim.

Photos by United Active Living. Videos by Sherana Productions.

Take a look at our commercials: Opportunity and Community

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Imagine! Live the life you've always dreamed of at one of our United Active Living communities. Please contact us today to learn more about our two communities Garrison Green or Fish Creek

Talk with one of our active living advisors about life in a United community. They can arrange in-person or virtual tours of our Garrison Green and Fish Creek communities. If you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community, send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a future visit. We are happy to help! 

To learn more about life at United’s Fish Creek community, watch this short video.

Or, to find out more about life at United’s Garrison Green, watch this short video.

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You're Browsing Aging

“Older Canadians are now the fastest growing segment of our population with their numbers expected to double over the next two decades so that by then, one in four Canadians will be older than 65 years of age.” – National Seniors Strategy.

Garrison Green resident Rolande Parel puts the finishing touches on a painting

Garrison Green resident Rolande Parel puts the finishing touches on a painting

What do we want life to look like in the next 20 years? Is the status quo acceptable or should today’s baby boomers expect more in their 70’s and 80’s?

We’ve all heard the statistics, but we aren’t talking enough or planning enough to ensure high quality services and quality of life for older adults in the future. Here’s some perspective from Statistics Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada:

  • Today there are almost six million people over 65 in Canada;
  • Alberta has more than 500,000 in that age group;
  • The number of older adults will double between now and 2046;
  • This decade, some five million Canadians will turn 65;
  • In 2016, for the first time, there were more people over 65 than under 15;
  • If the projections remain accurate, the population over 65 will more than double to 11 million by 2050.

As each of us moves into our 60’s and 70’s we should have a discussion about our expectations. In fact, we need to change the conversation around our expectations when it comes to the quality of life we will expect, or even demand, over the next few decades. Gone are the days when an older adult considering a move to a community simply wants their medical needs looked after. While that’s obviously important, people aren’t one dimensional. They have goals, ambitions and interests that will keep them engaged and thriving no matter their age and physical health.

Honens Prize Laureate Nicholas Namoradze performs for residents

Honens Prize Laureate Nicholas Namoradze performs for residents

As you can imagine, the demographic shift is daunting, but it also presents opportunities that ensure our aging population will receive the kind of care and support that they expect and deserve. United’s revolutionary approach is a model for such forward thinking. United doesn’t follow a “one size fits all” approach to programming or lifestyle. They offer independent living, assisted living and a unique dementia and memory care program, all with complete access to innovative programming, meals and lifestyle choices that are tailored to each resident.

“United’s philosophy reflects this growing demand for more,” said Kim Coulter, United’s Fish Creek program development and creative expressions manager. “We support the whole person, so our communities and programming are developed around a social perspective rather than a medical one. Socialization is key. Friends and family are very important in developing programs. In fact, our programs are based on what the residents want, which creates a rich and varied list of programs and activities that promote the well-being and interests of our residents.”

Canada’s National Seniors Strategy and the World Health Organization recognize that a paradigm shift is needed. The strategies include goals to address ageism and isolation, and create age-friendly living environments – goals that United incorporated into its two communities and its programming from the beginning, and confirm that United’s pioneering approach is on the right track.

“I think none of us wants to think of aging as being a period of decline and isolation, and really it shouldn’t be,” said Kim. “The only reason that it is in many cases is because we put people in a situation where they don’t get what they need to grow and learn. To that end, United’s philosophy marks a shift away from the status quo to support older adults in living a healthy, active, exciting life.”

The conversation about what our future years should look like should depart from the traditional interpretation of what growing older means. “We need to change the conversation about aging,” advises Kim. “If you or a family member is older, now is the right time to think about the kind of life you would like to live, and how to achieve that. United takes a unique perspective, one that is gaining recognition within the industry as a preferred alternative to traditional housing and social programming.”

United has suites available at both communities. If life in a United community sounds intriguing, contact us and we’ll arrange a visit. Lunch is on us!

Photos and videos by Sherana Productions.

Ask us about our short-term respite stays.

Contact us to learn more!

Imagine! Live the life you've always dreamed of at one of our United Active Living communities. Please contact us today to learn more about our two communities Garrison Green or Fish Creek

Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a visit. We are happy to help! 

To learn more about life at United’s Fish Creek community, watch this short video.

Or, to find out more about life at United’s Garrison Green, watch this short video.

Contact us here!

 


You're Browsing Aging

“United Active Living’s partnership with the THIRD ACTion Film Festival fits perfectly with United’s focus on eliminating ageism and promoting positive, creative aging,” said United’s music director, Jill LaForty. “Film is a creative, storytelling medium, and many of United’s programs focus on storytelling and creativity, so the festival’s philosophy and United’s philosophy work well together.”

The THIRD ACTion Film Festival, held in June in Calgary, promotes a positive view of aging throughout the year. Part of that work brings festival films into United’s two communities.

Mitzi Murray, THIRD ACTion Film Festival

Mitzi Murray, THIRD ACTion Film Festival

“I started the festival last year as a way to focus on the negative effects of ageism,” said Mitzi Murray, executive director. “Ageism is so engrained in our society. It is subtle but so pervasive in all age groups. It even affects how older adults see themselves and their place in society.”

Mitzi noted that ageism is becoming better understood, but it’s a slow process. She said more Hollywood productions are portraying older adults in a more positive light. “The portrayal of older adults in our society leaves the impression that they aren’t important, and we’re working, along with United and other older adult communities, to change that.” Films at the festival covered a wide range of topics including dementia and caregiving, death and grieving, and included positive aging themes.

United’s residents attended a film screening at Fish Creek in August and the reaction was incredibly positive. “It was interesting. I loved the film and can’t wait for the next event,” said one resident. Another resident brought members of his family to watch it with him.

“We had a great turnout when Mitzi brought a true-life film about memory and art to Fish Creek. Several residents identified with aspects of the film and it lead to a good discussion. I expect even more participation when she brings another three shorts to Garrison Green Oct. 2.”

Film festival attendees

Film festival attendees

“Many of our attendees at the festival are in the 56 to 85 age range,” said Mitzi. “But ageism is a topic that spans the generations, so we are looking at ways to expand attendance to younger age groups. Ageism has become a hot button issue in the U.S., Australia and the U.K. so we’re starting to see a shift in awareness. Baby boomers, who are now entering their ‘third act’, have been agents of change in our society since they came of age. They are now experiencing ageism and they don’t like it. We want the festival to accelerate that change.”

United has several programs that cross the generations that specifically focus on ageism, including a student-in-resident program that brings university students into the United communities to live and work alongside the residents, programs that bring different cultures together, and programs that promote storytelling. Check out United’s videos on positive aging and creativity on our YouTube channel.

Intergenerational volunteers at the film festival

Intergenerational volunteers helping at the film festival

The THIRD ACTion Film Festival is heading into its third year. Mitzi hopes that one day they can take the festival on a cross-country tour to bring the message of positive aging to other cities in Canada.

Photos by THIRD ACTion Film Festival, Pixabay. Video by Sherana Productions.

 

 

Contact us to learn more!

Imagine! Live the life you've always dreamed of at one of our United Active Living communities. Please contact us today to learn more about our two communities Garrison Green or Fish Creek

Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help! 

To learn more about life at United’s Garrison Green, watch this short video.


You're Browsing Aging

“The period between age 50 and elderly is best described as three overlapping periods, not defined by age.” – Dr. George Schofield, professor and author of How Do I Get There From Here?

While we tend to think of our lives as defined by age, that can be misleading – just as defining every young person as a teenager is misleading when there is a wide range of maturity between 13 and 19. In fact, a recent study found that people generally decide to move into an older adult community in their 80s. But that generalization is too broad.

In his book How Do I Get There From Here? Dr. George Schofield argues that, “It’s an uninformed and inaccurate assumption to think about the period between age 50 and elderly as one single period. It’s as naïve as assuming all boomers are alike, needing and wanting the same things at the same time. It is naïve because it sets us up to be surprised and less adaptable when change —voluntary and involuntary —arrives. I also think the period between age 50 and elderly is best described as three overlapping periods, not defined by age. They are defined by life situation, and different people arrive at them at different ages and from different circumstances.”

You can read an excerpt from the book here.

He describes the overlapping stages as New Freedom, which begins at around 50 when the children have left. New Horizons, which begins after New Freedom, but is not defined by age, and lastly the New Simplicity stage of life.

United’s Cheryl Crich, director of quality enhancement and innovation, agrees that the stage of life is more important than age. “Making a decision to move into an older adult community should be more about lifestyle and moving ahead in life. Living an enriched life in your later years should be the goal. ” she said. “Those who want to maximize their independence and who want a high quality of life can use such a move as a choice that takes advantage of the person’s good health and the desire to be free from the upkeep and demands of maintaining the family home.”

While the 80s may be a typical time when people think about moving, the real motivation may be a decline in health. For those who are independent and in good health, it’s all about moving away from caring for the family home, cooking and cleaning. A move might also be based on a desire for more social engagement.

United's two art studios offer ample opportunities to learn new skills

United’s two art studios offer ample opportunities to learn new skills

“We often find that residents who used to attend the Calgary Philharmonic, for example, now find the time to attend again, or they can pursue other interests such as painting, sculpting or writing that took a back seat when raising a family,” said Cheryl. “These things aren’t dependent on age, but rather the stage a person is at when they decide to move into one of our communities.”

The best time to research an older adult community either for yourself or a parent is when you don’t need one. Time is on your side, and the pros and cons can be weighed without the stress of a time constraint. Searching when your health takes a turn not only limits your choices, but decisions can easily be made in haste without a thorough consideration for the results.

“We’ve seen families who have waited until there has been a significant health crisis,” said Cheryl. “It’s laudable to want to keep a parent at home, especially if they continue to be independent. But it’s unfortunate when a family comes to us only after the person’s health has extensively deteriorated. What a difference it would have made in their lives if they had started their search earlier.”

Where do you start? Have a look at our article, six questions to ask yourself when looking for an older adult community.

And after you’ve made a decision, how our welcome team smooths the transition.

Each community offers new friends and interesting conversations

Each community offers new friends and interesting conversations

“Quality of life should be the deciding factor, not age,” said Cheryl. “When an older adult needs constant support, can no longer go out and becomes lonely, depressed and withdrawn, it might become obvious to the family that quality of life is deteriorating, and that’s where a move to a United community can make a real difference. Living in an active, supportive community might be able to avert a health crisis by engaging in a high quality lifestyle. The key is to focus on maintaining an independent lifestyle rather than waiting.”

Read about Ross and Ellenore Campbell, who made the decision to move early.

“People are living longer, and it’s important that we retain a high quality of life in our later years,” said Cheryl. “Don’t wait until health pushes a parent out of their home. If you are thinking about moving, act now, rather than waiting. Talk to us while there is still plenty of time to ensure you or your parent finds the right community and lifestyle to stay active, engaged and to enjoy the best each day can offer.”

Later life is a journey with a number of surprises along the way. As Dr. Schofield so aptly puts it, “There will always be straightaways and surprise curves on our life’s roadway, sometimes a hairpin turn and sometimes a switchback and sometimes a road so straight and clear that it’s obvious why no speed limit is required. Like it or not, we’re all in a transition. We’re all pioneers.”

Photos and video by Sherana Productions

Contact us to learn more!

Imagine! Live the life you've always dreamed of at one of our United Active Living communities. Please contact us today to learn more about our two communities Garrison Green or Fish Creek

Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help! 

To learn more about life at United’s Garrison Green, watch this short video.


You're Browsing Aging

Ron and Irene Fraser celebrate their 65th anniversary, complete with the original cake topping piece from their wedding.

Ron and Irene Fraser celebrate their 65th anniversary, complete with the original cake topping piece from their wedding.

When it comes to milestones in one’s life, not many can claim a marriage that has lasted 65 years – and counting. Friends and family gathered at United’s Garrison Green recently to help Ron and Irene Fraser and two of their four children celebrate the special occasion.

They met while working at Rooney’s Garage at 14th Ave. and 1 Street SW. Ron pumped gas while Irene worked in the office. Ron borrowed a friend’s car to take Irene on their first date. “It was love at first sight,” said Ron. After that they were never apart. They married in 1953. They now have four children and six grandchildren.

 

Ron remembers their wedding day. “I drove her home to change for the reception. The car radio was playing a Hank Williams song, Take These Chains From My Heart. Irene hummed the song all the way back to the reception.”

Daughters Karen Mills, left, and Corrine Yon celebrate the day with Irene and Ron

Daughters Karen Mills, left, and Corrine Yon celebrate the day with Irene and Ron

 

“Calgary has been very good to us,” said Ron. “We married here, raised our family here and bought our first and only house here in 1962 in Bankview for $11,500.” The house still stands near the corner of 17th Ave. and 14th Street. They lived there until 2017 when they sold it to move to Garrison Green.

“This is a really important milestone, a really special day for them,” said daughter Karen Mills, who along with her sister Corinne Yon were with Ron and Irene for the celebration. “A 65th anniversary is almost unheard of these days. They are very devoted to each other.”

 

They received a long list of congratulations from politicians such as the prime minister and premier…and from the Queen. “It’s a really nice gesture,” said Ron. “We feel very fortunate,” said Irene. This is the second congratulatory letter they have received from the Queen. The first was for their 50th anniversary. They renewed their vows on their 25th anniversary, and the years have quickly moved by. “One year goes after another and pretty soon it’s 50 years, then 65,” jokes Ron.

Is there a secret to staying married for so long? “Just get along with each other. Agree with each other, be flexible rather than fighting, and love each other,” advises Ron.

Contact us to learn more!

Imagine! Live the life you've always dreamed of at one of our United Active Living communities. Please contact us today to learn more about our two communities Garrison Green or Fish Creek

Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help! 

To learn more about life at United’s Garrison Green, watch this short video.

 

 


You're Browsing Aging

This week’s article is written by United resident, Jim Dolph. Always optimistic, Jim has shown many fellow residents and our staff a different way of looking at life. Having lost a son and his wife, Jim says that death should be accepted as a natural part of life. Jim talks about two aspects of loss. The first is how we deal with it on a personal level. The second is the importance of surrounding ourselves with family and friends for support. Here he describes his personal journey and offers advice for those going through a loss in their own lives.

By Jim Dolph

Jim can often be found practicing on his guitar

Jim can often be found practicing on his guitar

When a person goes through bereavement, there are two aspects that I think are important. The first is how we deal with a loss on a personal level. The second is the importance of surrounding ourselves with family and friends for support. Every person is different, but each must find a strength within themselves to carry through. For me, it was my faith in God and the wisdom of those who have gone before us. I hope my experience can help others find the comfort I found in wisdom and community.

Before my son passed away in 1995, I was drawn to the wisdom of others in religion and philosophy who spoke of the meaning of life and death. I was struck by their words, which have given me comfort and helped me come to terms with my losses. I have always been one to look forward, not back, and to embrace life.

I’m really drawn to an analogy about a river joining the ocean. I recall a quote from Samuel Coleridge: “How well he fell asleep! Like some proud river, widening toward the sea. Calmly and grandly, silently and deep. Life joined eternity.” That analogy really helped me because it clearly says to me that death is not the end but simply a transition. This is the common thread or message that runs through all of the wisdom traditions and religions. I know that Jeffrey and Laura have made that transition. I hold their memories close, but knowing that they have moved on to something better has given me the permission, if you will, to move on with my life. I want to serve others and have a useful life. In many ways, we can see our loved ones in the lives of others we serve.

Jim and friends singing in the Garrison Green choir

Jim and friends singing in the Garrison Green choir

Laura and I moved to the Garrison Green community a few years ago. Laura became ill and passed away in 2015. We had made many friends here and it was the community that supported me and still does today. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to go home to an empty house. In that respect I had family and friends, some who have also gone through the loss of a wife or husband, who supported me. And now I’m in a similar position, and support others who find themselves facing a loss.

Following the losses of both Jeffrey and Laura, many friends and acquaintances shared their own bereavement experiences with me. What a comfort it is to know that I was not alone. There is a whole crowd out there sharing my feelings. Best of all, there is a strong consensus that we will see our departed again.

Jim with one of his many paintings

Jim with one of his many paintings

Being surrounded by a supportive community also means engaging in life-affirming activities such as music and art. I am frequently in the art studio, learning new ways to express myself. I’m also drawn to music – and regularly practice on my guitar – and attend many of the performances by the musicians who come to Garrison Green, or who perform concerts in the larger Calgary venues.

I enjoy life. That’s what Jeffrey and Laura would have wanted.

I have seen the words, “Gone, but not forgotten” on memorials. This is a sad concept  because it regards death as a termination. I like and agree with this memorial, posted on a bench on the trail to a mountain peak. “And when you have reached the top, then shall you begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”

I know Jeffrey and Laura are dancing, and that is a freeing thought, one that I often think of as I continue to embrace my life with the help of my family and my community.

Photos and video by Sherana Productions, United Active Living

Contact us to learn more!

Imagine! Live the life you've always dreamed of at one of our United Active Living communities. Please contact us today to learn more about our two communities Garrison Green or Fish Creek

Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help! 

To learn more about life at United’s Garrison Green, watch this short video.

 

 


You're Browsing Aging

“Social innovation thrives on collaboration; on doing things with others, rather than just to them or for them.” – Geoff Mulgan, National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts

Innovation and collaboration are two important words in the vocabulary of United Active Living’s new director of quality enhancement and innovation. For Cheryl Crich, both are key to keeping United in the forefront when it comes to working alongside older adults.

Cheryl has taken over the position from Dianne McDermid, who recently retired. With Cheryl’s joining, the role of innovation was added. While United’s philosophy has always been innovative, creating a focus on it ensures that United builds its knowledge in the most recent developments in older adult lifestyles, wellness and dementia support.

“United’s philosophy of including those living with dementia rather than segregating them from the community is very attractive to older adults and their families,” said Cheryl. “It’s rare to find a community that does this, but other inclusive communities, particularly in Europe and the U.S. are developing and enhancing their approaches.  We are part of that movement and can both share our experiences with them and learn from them.”

Cheryl Crich with residents Jack Boyd, standing, and Albert Gething

Cheryl Crich with residents Jack Boyd, standing, and Albert Gething

Cheryl, a registered nurse with certification in gerontology, was very excited to join the team at United. “The medical side of care is primarily focused on fixing a health issue, what I would call “doing for” someone. I value a broader focus on quality of life and wellness, or “doing with” someone. The difference is collaboration with residents and their families. It’s a person-centred approach that is at the heart of what United does. Our philosophy, values and holistic approach support residents to maximize their lifestyle, health and wellness.”

Cheryl’s background in geriatrics and gerontology has spanned the last 22 years of her career.  She came to United from Alberta Health Services where she was a manager of specialized geriatric services. She had toured Garrison Green and was familiar with United’s approach. She was also a former student in Dianne’s gerontology classes at Mount Royal University, so when Dianne’s position opened, Cheryl was keen to apply.

“It was highly appealing to me to come here. For me, focusing on residents’ strengths and continuous growth are essential. The positive side of aging may often be overlooked in society, but at United, the residents are living that positive focus every day,” said Cheryl.

Cheryl shares a laugh with residents Ray Waldock and Vivian Thomas

Cheryl shares a laugh with residents Ray Waldock and Vivian Thomas

“The thing that struck me most about coming to United was the resident experience,” said Cheryl.  “There is vitality and engagement in life here, a high level of happiness. My goal is to grow and build on the foundation that has been laid here. We have always been at the forefront of the wellness and inclusion philosophy and I can only see that expanding. I’ve been here two months and so far the whole experience has been so powerful and energizing!”

Photos by: United Active Living

Contact us to learn more!

Imagine! Live the life you've always dreamed of at one of our United Active Living communities. Please contact us today to learn more about our two communities Garrison Green or Fish Creek

Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help! 

To learn more about life at United’s Fish Creek community, watch this short video.

Contact us here!


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“When one door closes, another opens” – Alexander Graham Bell

Dianne McDermid lives an active life. At 74, she hikes, bikes, dances and travels. She was instrumental in supporting Gail Hinchliffe’s philosophy behind United Active Living and the person-centred philosophy that is the focus of everything United does.

Gail met Dianne while Dianne was teaching a gerontology certificate program at Mount Royal College (now Mount Royal University). “While Dianne’s training as a nurse focused on a medical model of aging, I found in Dianne a kindred soul in wanting to develop a different approach,” said Gail. “While the industry was very prescriptive in its approach – all older adults should be treated the same way, meal times were set, medication given a certain way – Dianne was the only person at the time who understood what I was trying to do and that older adults should be treated as individuals. She was so extremely supportive.”

At the end of April, Dianne will leave United to focus on other interests. She doesn’t use the word “retirement” because she plans to stay just as active.

“I don’t ever see myself as a stereotypical senior, even though society slots me into that category. I’m very active and I’m constantly exploring new things. The outdated but typical view in society is that when we turn 65 we retire, and when we get older we move into a seniors’ home. For today’s older adult, that ageist view is completely wrong and we need to change our view of older adults and stop putting limitations on them. When I became involved with United I was already at your typical retirement age. Everything we’ve done was done when society says we should have stopped working!”

Gail says that Dianne’s expertise as a registered nurse and educator brought a great deal of credibility to the new endeavour. “Nursing staff we hired came from a medical background and Dianne played a vital role in ensuring that they understood the new philosophy while also exceeding the necessary licensing and regulatory standards important in our industry.”

Gail noted that the final paper she wrote in Dianne’s gerontology program was on building community, and the importance of establishing community partnerships, which laid the groundwork for the Garrison Green community. Gail credits Dianne’s approach to aging and the ongoing support she provided for the successful community United has become.

“I taught Gerontology from a positive perspective,” said Dianne. “Getting older isn’t about decline, but opportunity. Because of my training my early perspective came from the medical model – the physical side of aging. But the physical side isn’t the whole person. Attitude is so important. Our attitude governs how we see ourselves as we get older. We really can thrive as we age. What I taught was subjective. What we are doing at United is putting theory into practice. The residents living here see the philosophy turned into reality, and we continue to focus on what people can do rather than on what they can’t.”

A few years ago we recorded a video that further explains United’s philosophy and includes an interview with Dianne. You can watch it here.

“I’m thrilled with how well United’s philosophy has been accepted. Residents see it every day in our extensive arts and music programming and in our unique United Minds memory care program. We believe that people with dementia should be part of the community, not shut away in a closed wing as happens so often in other places. Everything we do is centred around the person. Meals are available any time during the day rather than restricted to certain times for the sake of efficiency. Residents don’t have to conform to our rules, we conform to their lives,” said Dianne, whose role at United was director of quality enhancement, and who was instrumental in achieving United’s latest Accreditation with Commendation  rating from Accreditation Canada.

“That’s the way I’m going to live the next stage of my life. I’ve created an environment that I want to live in. I’m going to live my life according to my values and get only as much support as I need. I’m not going to change my routine just so I can fit in somewhere. Should I choose to move into an older adult community, it should fit my lifestyle, not the other way around, and it should accommodate the different stages I go through as I age. That’s what we’ve created at United.”

Dianne has always said she would work until 75 and then change her focus. Her future plans aren’t set in stone, but she will pursue what interests her. Just as she does today.

“I look back and compare how older adults were viewed 50 years ago and how we see them today and there has been a positive change, but it’s not enough. We still hold biases against older people, and even older people hold those biases about themselves. They restrict themselves by ‘acting their age’ or by dressing more conservatively. So not only does society’s views need to change but our own views about who we are and how we want to live our lives.

“If I have any advice to give, it would be to maintain a positive attitude. Don’t buy into the notion of limitations. Don’t limit yourself to meet someone else’s expectations, and don’t allow your chronological age to dictate how you live your life. I’m almost 75 but I feel like I’m in my 20s. That’s how I see myself and how I will continue to live my life.”

Contact us to learn more!

Imagine! Live the life you've always dreamed of at one of our United Active Living communities. Please contact us today to learn more about our two communities Garrison Green or Fish Creek

Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help! 

To learn more about life at United’s Garrison Green, watch this short video.

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You're Browsing Aging

Two of the most prolific artists at United’s Garrison Green community are Hugh and Kay Kuwahara. Despite just turning 104, Hugh continues to paint every day and his wife of 77 years, Kay, who will be 98 years old in May, is keeping her easel busy as well.

Together with their son Doug, and his wife Anne, Hugh celebrated his birthday with about 100 of his closest friends, and at the same time, Hugh and Kay’s works were put on display.

Hugh Kuwahara at work in the art studio

Hugh Kuwahara at work in the art studio

“We moved to Garrison Green six years ago,” said Hugh. “I had been introduced to water colour painting by a friend at another community we lived in, and carried that over to here. I like doing mountain scenes. They are a lot easier than faces!” he jokes.

Hugh and Kay spend part of every day in the Garrison Green art studio, where they have become regular fixtures, working on a variety of projects.

Kay Kuwahara with one of her paintings

Kay Kuwahara with one of her paintings

“The art studio was one of the big reasons we suggested they move to Garrison Green,” said daughter-in-law Anne Kuwahara. “We looked at the creative programs and thought this would be an ideal place for them.”

“My dad has always been creative,” said son Doug. “After he retired, he took up wood carving and produced a large number of pieces. And then before coming here, he took up painting.”

Together, Hugh and Kay have produced dozens of pieces.

Time your visit to take in Stonehenge at dusk

Autumn Glory by Kay Kuwahara

Old Giants by Hugh Kuwahara

Old Giants by Hugh Kuwahara

“I really didn’t start painting until I came to Garrison Green,” said Kay. “I saw the art studio, saw what other residents were doing. Now it’s something I really enjoy doing. Living so close to the mountains is a real inspiration for my paintings.”

At 104 and 97, the Kuwaharas are an inspiration when it comes to creativity. “I don’t think about age,” said Kay. “It’s not something that stops us from painting. We really enjoy it so we’ll keep doing it.”

As Kay mentioned, age is no barrier to creativity. See what other artists say about it in this video.

Contact us to learn more!

Imagine! Live the life you've always dreamed of at one of our United Active Living communities. Please contact us today to learn more about our two communities Garrison Green or Fish Creek

Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help! 

To learn more about life at United’s Garrison Green, watch this short video.

Contact us here!

 


You're Browsing Aging

Life is about creating our own stories, and the memories we create are the photos that go with the stories. But stories are meant to be shared, and the partnership between Mount Royal University and United’s Garrison Green community ensures some of those stories and memories are passed on.

Professor Richard Harrison with the collected works of residents and students

Professor Richard Harrison with the collected works of residents and students

What has become an annual Life Writing Project, first proposed by the late residents Cam Mitchell and Tim Tyler, pairs English students with residents. They tell and record the stories, which have sometimes profound effects on both. As Mount Royal’s Richard Harrison, professor of English and Creative Writing, says in the introduction to volume 4 of the collected stories of Garrison Green residents, “The result is that beautiful moment the world becomes larger because the people on both sides of the story they are making become less alone, less defined by where they live or how old they are. Instead, those parts of us that often confine become gifts.”

The stories in volume 4 carry with them a range of emotion – drama, comedy and tears.

The cover of this year’s book shows two arms intertwined. They belong to resident Nigel Way and student Annie Wauthier, and expresses the bond that develops between resident and student that often remains long after the project has ended.

Annie Wauthier with Nigel Way

Annie Wauthier with Nigel Way

“Working with Nigel has allowed me to reflect on our society and how we treat seniors,” said Annie. “I think about our indigenous population and how they value their elders. Storytelling in that culture gives the elders a voice to their experiences. For me, I’ve learned a lot about how society has changed. Through this experience I’ve developed a close relationship with Nigel and his family.”

Others in the program have come away with similar thoughts. Former students Logon Pollon, who now facilitates a poetry program,  and Monica Schmidt, now Garrison’s program development coordinator, continue their relationships with residents. For a look at the first project, watch this video.

Student Megan Nega and resident Hertha Reich

Student Megan Nega and resident Hertha Reich

There are six stories in this year’s book. One story by student Megan Nega and resident Hertha Reich spoke of making a difference. While teaching a young class, Hertha had a difficult student who was often angry and refused to participate. At one point he storms out of the class in anger but comes back and asks to rejoin the class. The story continues, “Paul sat in her lap, put his arms around her and said, ‘I like you Mrs. Reich.” With tears in her eyes she said, “I like you too, Paul.” She had got through to him. It was a victory to see him join hands with the other children. It was those moments where Hertha thought, “I have made a difference.'”

 

Resident Wendy Martin reads an excerpt from her story

Resident Wendy Martin reads an excerpt from her story

Richard Harrison, who recently won a Governor-General’s Award for Poetry, spoke of the impact that storytelling can have. “Telling a story to someone who has never heard it before changes the teller and the listener. Families may have heard the stories before, but telling them to a new audience can often enrich the dialogue, and the stories are told in a new way. It lets them see their lives in a new way.”

Richard encouraged the students to write the stories as if they were listening in on a conversation, and the result is often candid and humorous. In his introduction Richard noted that the process changes lives. “In short, in this book there is life. And stories.”

Contact us to learn more!

Imagine! Live the life you've always dreamed of at one of our United Active Living communities. Please contact us today to learn more about our two communities Garrison Green or Fish Creek

Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help! 

Contact us here!