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Eighty-nine year old Betty Earle and her husband moved into United’s Garrison Green community seven years ago. They decided to make the move while they were healthy and independent. Betty is grateful for that decision because she is surrounded by friends and a community that has supported her during some difficult times. Along the way, Betty has become a gifted artist. We sat down with Betty to discuss the importance of community in her later years.

“My husband Ed and I decided to make the move from our family home to United’s Garrison Green community seven years ago, and it was one of our best decisions. It was important that we make the decision while we were healthy. A few years later, in 2012, my husband passed away. It was a very difficult time, but I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I was living by myself in our home. I’m very glad that I’m here. I would hate to be out there all alone with nobody to talk to. Here, I have so many friends and there were a lot of people who helped me get through that time.

“Then a couple of years ago I was out shopping and tripped on the sidewalk outside the store. I hit my head very hard. I went to the hospital, but the doctors said everything was fine. Very shortly after that I started having memory problems. I was forgetting the names of familiar people, and not remembering my phone number. Since then, the memory problems have been sneaking up on me quickly, and I’m getting quite worried about it. My son is very helpful, making sure that I make my appointments and getting me to write down the things I need to remember.

“It’s embarrassing and frustrating at times, especially when I can’t find the right word when I’m telling a story over dinner, but I have a great group of friends here who don’t mind filling in the blanks. We laugh about it and that makes a big difference.

“I can’t say enough about the staff and, of course, the people who live here. We are all very supportive of each other and it’s that kind of community that makes all the difference.

“Another very important difference at United is the intelligent programs. I say intelligent because the programs aren’t intended to just keep us busy. There are lectures from Mount Royal University, all kinds of music programs from the Calgary Philharmonic and the Calgary Opera and others. It’s gives us a lot of new things to experience.

“One of those for me, was opera. I was never a fan. I’m more into jazz, but when a friend suggested we go watch an opera from New York that was showing at Chinook Theatre, I gave it a try. Now I’m hooked. The performance was very interesting and now I go whenever I can.

“The art studio is another place that I really enjoy. A few years ago we did a paint pour, where various colours of paint were poured down a pole so they mixed at the bottom. The result was an amazing kaleidoscope painting. I saved a few of the dried pieces and use them in my artwork. The professional artists here give me suggestions and it really sparks my creativity. The staff and residents – we’re all part of this wonderful community.

“I think it all comes down to community – having a group of friends and knowing I’m not the only one who might be having memory concerns. This is life, and it’s going to happen to everyone to one degree or another. If I have any advice for someone – don’t forget to laugh. Find something that makes you happy so you don’t worry about things all the time. That’s what I like about living here. I’m surrounded by friends who make me laugh.”

Why wait? Call today to arrange a tour!

Imagine! Flex your creative side. Fine dining. New friends. Luxurious suites. Live the lifestyle you deserve at one of our United Active Living communities. Click the button on the right to arrange a tour at 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! 

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Calgary Opera's latest resident conductor, Kimberley-Ann Bartzcak.

Calgary Opera’s resident conductor, Kimberley-Ann Bartczak. Photo by Alain Dupere

Kimberley-Ann Bartczak has been named by Calgary Opera as its latest resident conductor and repetiteur, or coach for the Opera’s singers.

She brings plenty of experience to her new role. Originally from Montreal, she is also on staff at Opera on the Avalon in St. John’s,  Newfoundland. She has also worked in other Canadian cities, in Italy and Germany. In Calgary, while preparing the mainstage productions during rehearsals, coaching the principal actors and assisting the conductors, Kimberly-Ann will conduct Calgary Opera’s Christmas at the Opera, a Choral Extravaganza running Dec. 1-3, which features artists from the emerging artist development program.

Currently, she is assisting former resident conductor Christopher Topher Mokrzewski, who will be conducting the Barber of Seville, which starts Nov. 18.

“I have two roles as resident conductor,” explains Kimberley-Ann. “I am head pianist for all of the rehearsals, and I play with the orchestra during the shows when necessary. As well, I assist the conductor, which is a great learning opportunity as I transition into the role of conductor.”

Kimberley-Ann is well aware that female conductors are still rare in Canada. “I see myself as a conductor, not as a female conductor. It really comes down to how you interpret the music and how you communicate your ideas around the music. The whole idea that conducting is a male profession is changing.”

She became interested in opera in her late twenties. Now 34, she has embraced the art form. “I was mostly into the choral community, but when I saw my first opera I was taken by the singing, acting, dancing, the orchestra and the whole spectacle of it. An opera is such a huge show, a real collaborative effort involving a lot of people.”

She is a big fan of introducing opera to a young audience. “To really appreciate opera, young people need access to the various elements of the production. I’m a big advocate of bringing opera to them in the classroom. Opera connects with an audience on so many levels. We just need to do more of it.”

As well, she appreciates the intimacy of performing for a small audience. She will be speaking and performing for United’s Garrison Green residents January 29.

“Calgary Opera is an important partner of ours, and we are particularly pleased to be sponsoring Kimberley-Ann as resident conductor,” said United music director Jill LaForty. “With her visits to our communities our residents will have a special opportunity to build a relationship with her over the duration of her appointment. And United’s philosophy is all about remaining active and creative in your later years. We appreciate that Calgary Opera both brings opera directly to our residents in-house and gives them an opportunity to attend their productions at the Jubilee. We have some real opera buffs who not only love the Calgary Opera performances but who also take advantage of excursions to the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD which are shown regularly on the big screen at Chinook Theatre.”

Kimberly-Ann looks forward to achieving her goal of becoming a conductor. “My transition to conductor is already happening. I’m learning so much by assisting the conductors and in my role as repetiteur. The role of conductor is all encompassing. They need to know each instrument in the orchestra and how that sound fits into the bigger picture. There is so much involved, and I’m looking forward to learning everything I can about the role over the next few years here at Calgary Opera.”

Why wait? Call today to arrange a tour!

Imagine! Flex your creative side. Fine dining. New friends. Luxurious suites. Live the lifestyle you deserve at one of our United Active Living communities. Click the button on the right to arrange a tour at 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! 

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President and CEO Kim O'Brien

President and CEO Kim O’Brien

Kim O’Brien joined United Active Living as president and CEO just seven weeks ago. During that time she has met residents and staff and immersed herself in United’s unique, older adult lifestyle. She describes what is happening at United as “something special”.

“I’ve really been taken by the progressive view of aging that is the basis for everything United does,” said Kim. “Before coming here, I’m sure I had a preconceived idea about what growing older meant and how that affected my own approach to aging, but it’s clear from seeing how active and involved residents are in the programs and activities that age is something to celebrate rather than fight.”

Her view of aging came from a positive experience with her grandparents. Her grandfather recently passed away, and her grandmother lives on her own and remains very active. “I see my grandparents from a different perspective now. Growing up, I didn’t give a second thought to how active they were. But I realize now that staying active was a choice they made. Here’s a good example. It turns out that a good friend of mine has a grandfather who was a resident here. He was very involved in the art studio, and that choice, his family shared with me, added years to his quality of life.”

Resident Jim Dolph shares a laugh with new CEO Kim O'Brien

Resident Jim Dolph shares a laugh with new CEO Kim O’Brien

Kim says that United has achieved a perfect blend of community and individuality. Residents can be as involved as they choose to be, meals are served when its convenient for residents, and programs, activities and outings ensure there is something interesting for everyone. As resident Jim Dolph said after emerging from an exercise class, “There is so much to do here, I can manage only a quarter of what I want to do!”

Kim is well aware of the questions residents and family might ask when a new CEO comes on board. But she is committed to watch, listen and learn, and to build upon what United has already achieved.

“My focus right now is on deepening my understanding of what works and – in some cases – what doesn’t work for staff and residents so that I can see the areas that we can build upon. This is a collaborative effort and I’m eager to hear from residents and staff so we can collectively build an even better community,” she said.

She describes her hiring as putting her in a unique position. She isn’t replacing former president Gail Hinchliffe, but rather continuing to work closely with her as both transition into their new positions. “Bringing in a new CEO usually means the former CEO has left, but in this case, Gail has simply shifted her role. She has been a valuable resource to have at my side. There is a strong foundation that has developed here that we can continue to build on as a team.”

Kim has noticed a strong sense of community when she visits with residents and families. “When people ask what living at United is all about, we invite them to come to see for themselves. There is nothing better than experiencing what happens here for yourself. There is a real sense of vibrancy.”

She points to the lack of imposed structure in how residents live. “Living here doesn’t mean giving up your ability to choose. You can participate in whatever you want. We don’t dictate your meal time, or when to go to the art room.”

She pauses to find the right words, and says, “United’s philosophy and approach to aging is challenging the stereotypes about what growing older means. There is definitely something special here.”

Why wait? Call today to arrange a tour!

Imagine! Flex your creative side. Fine dining. New friends. Luxurious suites. Live the lifestyle you deserve at one of our United Active Living communities. Click the button on the right to arrange a tour at 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!

 


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A six-week arts and discussion program called Project Inspire  brought older adults together from diverse social and cultural backgrounds to produce collaborative art and discuss their views on ageism.

United Active Living worked closely with United Way and two of its agency partners – LINKages Society and the Calgary Chinese Elderly Citizens’ Association (CCECA) to bring the project to life.

Sage Wheeler, United Active Living

Sage Wheeler, United Active Living

United learning and development coordinator Nicole Moore lead the discussion with participants on ageism. She worked closely with United’s creative facilitators to link the discussion with the artwork developed as part of the program. “Through the project we wanted to raise awareness about ageism,” said creative facilitator Sage Wheeler. “From that discussion, we would build that awareness into making art together. Each community experiences ageism in different ways, so this was a great opportunity to see how other cultures have different perspectives.”

Elly Li, CCECA

Elly Li, CCECA

For some participants, this was the first time they had tried their hands at creating art. “One of our participants, Jenny, had not drawn in more than 50 years,” said Elly Li, assistant program coordinator with CCECA. “This project has really opened up the idea that they can draw or be a painter. Creativity isn’t limited by age. Jenny, for example, is a singer but she wasn’t sure about other creative aspects. Through the program she realized that she could create something new. She loved it!”

At the closing event, program participant Jenny Nau helped participant Gui Ying Tao express her appreciation for the program.

Susan Brooke, United Way

Susan Brooke, United Way

Susan Brooke, a community impact planner for United Way said the project came about following a donation to the United Way that would benefit older adults. Isolation and ageism – common issues for older adults – were targeted for special attention through the project. “This was an opportunity for older adults to talk about ageism. The project truly lived up to its name. It brought older adults who might not have been involved in a creative community before to experience the creative process. And the weekly discussions around ageism really raised the understanding about what older adults are feeling and thinking, so it truly was an inspiring project.”

Alicia Lewis, LINKages Society

Alicia Lewis, LINKages Society

“The highlight for me was seeing our participants boost their confidence, meet new people and learn a new art form. It was very exciting!” said Alicia Lewis, LINKages’ office administrator and program support. “This was a terrific opportunity for our seniors to become less socially isolated and combat misconceptions about aging. I was inspired by the knowledge that they aren’t held back by anything, that as I get older, I can continue to be creative.”

 

 

Hertha Reich, left, from United Active Living has become good friends with Gui Ying Tao from CCECA.

Hertha Reich, left, from United Active Living has become good friends with Gui Ying Tao from CCECA.

The participants – five from each group – connected closely with each other, with some becoming fast friends. “It’s so exciting when someone finds their creative voice,” said Sage. “Finding your voice is what we’re here for and art is an overlooked way of doing that.”

“Even though some of us don’t speak the same language, the best part was getting to know each other through gestures and laughter,” said United Active Living resident Hertha Reich. “I loved the painting and learning new styles. I don’t know what I’d do without art.”

“I’m really excited for the next session, which starts Nov. 2!” said Sage.

Learn more about United and its philosophy of active and engaged living. Watch this short video, then give us a call!

Why wait? Call today to arrange a tour!

Imagine! Flex your creative side. Fine dining. New friends. Luxurious suites. Live the lifestyle you deserve at one of our United Active Living communities. Click the button on the right to arrange a tour at 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! 

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For Virginia Stewart, music and writing are two sides of an artistic coin. We all have the capacity to learn and develop to the end of our lives. United supports opportunities for that to happen. Virginia is a perfect example of that. Shortly after turning 70, she earned a BA in  English from the University of Calgary and is well known at United’s Garrison Green community for her poetry.

Last year, she penned a book of poetry called The Wayward Umbrella with the support of other residents who provided the artwork.

Virginia is also an avid painter. One of her colourful pictures graces the walls at Garrison Green. 

But Virginia is also keen about her music, with a particular passion for song. In this week’s blog, Virginia talks about that lifelong passion.

My love of music is inherited from my mother’s side of the family. While my grandmother was her church soloist, my grandfather, among other things, played the pit piano in the days of silent movies.

When I think of my mother and her identical twin I think of their musical skills; singing harmony and teaching dancing.

During the depression they travelled up the west coast of Vancouver to Alaska on a
friend’s cabin cruiser, which they christened ‘Chautauqua’, entertaining at many fishing villages along the way. My grandfather said it was less expensive to finance the twins and their entertainment during the depression than to keep them at home in the city.

Well, what does this history have to do with United Active Living’s Garrison Green community you ask? Our community offers those that enjoy a variety of activities, the space and guidance for an enriched life. Here I am after years of singing in a church choir and joining my young sons in music lessons.

Yes, it was an enriching experience. As a result I have been able to contribute to the musical life of my new home, where we have established a singalong choir which meets every week under the guidance of a mother/daughter co-director to enjoy some of the old songs and to introduce our community to a casual evening of song.

Our little group has grown from about four or five enthusiastic singers to what now amounts to roughly twelve who enjoy singing. We even discover our voices raised in song in the elevator after these sessions!

Learn more about United and its philosophy of active and engaged living. Watch this short video, then give us a call!

Why wait? Call today to arrange a tour!

Imagine! Flex your creative side. Fine dining. New friends. Luxurious suites. Live the lifestyle you deserve at one of our United Active Living communities. Click the button on the right to arrange a tour at 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!


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The large variety of unique and interesting programs and activities makes United’s communities a good fit for the active older adult. One of those programs brings together students from Mount Royal University’s English program and the residents at United’s Garrison Green community in a writing program that shares the residents’ stories and experiences.

Monica Schmidt with resident Mary Fenwick in the writers-in-residence program

Monica Schmidt with resident Mary Fenwick in the writers-in-residence program

“In September 2015, Mount Royal introduced a pilot program with United that paired English students with United residents,” said Monica Schmidt, a graduate of the English program. “That really appealed to me.” So much so that Monica has stayed connected to residents through several other programs and has made the career decision to join United as a program development coordinator.

The pilot program was called Writers-in-Residence, and over the course of that first semester she and the other program volunteers worked with residents on telling their life stories. The program was so successful that it has carried on each year. This semester, Monica remains involved with this partnership as a mentor to the English students currently involved.

Monica and her mom Mary Lynn Schmidt

Monica and her mom Mary Lynn Schmidt

While volunteering with the writing program, Monica also worked with her mother, Mary Lynn Schmidt, who restarted the choral program at Garrison Green.

In the summer of 2016, Monica and another Mount Royal student, Erika Bloedorn, began offering a bi-weekly writing program to residents where residents share their writing and collaborate on writing projects. Today, Monica and Erika work with residents in the program, guiding discussions and inspiring connections between residents.

“The residents have such a large variety of experiences; some that even their family and friends haven’t heard,” said Monica. “We get them thinking about those experiences and provide the space and encouragement for them to put those thoughts to paper. What is especially interesting to me is that even as each person is undoubtedly unique, there are struggles and triumphs that we all share. From being the wallflower at a school dance to times spent marvelling over a winter sunrise, our human experience is more alike than it is different. In many ways, sharing stories – both verbally and in writing effectively dissolves the time and distance between generations.”

Monica says that working full time with the people she has come to know and respect over the last two years is an amazing opportunity. “Witnessing first-hand the many ways that residents engage creatively – whether through trying out new artistic techniques or honing lifelong skills, writing inspired works or singing in the choir – is life-affirming and inspiring. The residents here are proof positive that age is simply not a factor in creative endeavour. People of all ages can be curious and engaged and interested in exploring ideas and this, as I see it, is a fantastic jumping off point to foster deeper and more meaningful connections.”

Why wait? Call today to arrange a tour!

Imagine! Flex your creative side. Fine dining. New friends. Luxurious suites. Live the lifestyle you deserve at one of our United Active Living communities. Click the button on the right to arrange a tour at 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!


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A 60-year age gap between students and United Active Living residents is erased in an instant when the two generations get together to share stories, experiences and laughter.

United offers Mount Royal University and St. Mary’s University students the unique opportunity to live at United’s two communities to work, eat and live with the residents.

Breanna Massey, who is in her final year in Mount Royal’s English program first worked with residents at United’s Garrison Green last fall in a life writing program that encouraged residents to share their stories. During the program Breanna encountered other students who were living with the residents at Garrison Green and United’s second community, Fish Creek.

The live-in experience interested her so this past March Breanna moved into Garrison Green.

“This is a great place to be,” said Breanna. “It has been a pleasant and enlightening experience so far.”

Breanna Massey with resident Doug Rathwell

Breanna Massey with resident Doug Rathwell

Until Breanna worked on the writing project, she had no experience with older adults living in an older adult community. “I had no idea what to expect, but I have to say that I’ve made a large number of friends.” One of them is Doug Rathwell who enjoys woodworking. When Doug moved into Garrison Green, United worked with Doug to create a woodworking shop. His first project was a ranch home complete with moving windmill and well.

“Since March, the residents and I have been involved in a short story program. We meet every two weeks to read a new short story and discuss it.”

Two Mount Royal English graduates who became involved with residents several years ago during United’s Writers-in-Residence program, have stayed connected through an ongoing writing program, which speaks volumes about the bond that is formed between the students and the residents.

“After seven months here, I’m finding that I’m a lot more empathetic, especially after talking with people whose views are different from my own,” said Breanna. “I didn’t have a preconceived idea about what to expect in an older adult community, but I knew that United’s approach is more focused on the wellness of the residents, and that’s inspiring.”

Breanna at the Honens Festival with her new friends Alexis Beddoe (front) and Hugh and Kay Kuwahara.

Breanna at the Honens Festival with her new friends Alexis Beddoe (front) and Hugh and Kay Kuwahara.

Breanna says that living at Garrison Green has given her a glimpse of what she expects when she is older. “There have been some incredible experiences. Last week we attended the Honens Festival. Earlier this summer the Calgary Opera was here. And there have been other social events such as a wine and cheese. I’m experiencing things I never would have if I didn’t live here. And for residents, some are experiencing new things and others are re-experiencing things they previously enjoyed. It’s been very cool!”

Why wait? Call today to arrange a tour!

Imagine! Flex your creative side. Fine dining. New friends. Luxurious suites. Live the lifestyle you deserve at one of our United Active Living communities. Click the button on the right to arrange a tour at 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!

 


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United’s arts and cultural partners will once again display their talents to residents of both Garrison Green and Fish Creek communities as the fall program guides highlight events from September through November.

“United has always taken pride in the wide variety of speciality programs and ongoing, regular programs that we offer residents of both communities,” said president Gail Hinchliffe. “Our program coordinators work with residents regularly to determine the type of programs and activities they would like us to make available. Plus, our arts and culture partners offer residents the best music, theatre and educational programs both outside our communities and during more intimate performances within our communities.”

United is a unique older adult community in that they have formed partnerships with the finest groups of musicians and performers to bring residents a high calibre of entertainment and learning opportunities.

“Learning new things doesn’t stop at a certain age,” said Gail. “Learning continues throughout your life, and our programs and activities promote an active, thriving lifestyle that you won’t find anywhere else.”

A significant part of its ongoing programs centres around the two community art studios. Supported by professional artists, residents are encouraged to explore new art forms and use their imaginations to create paintings, sculptures and other works of art that are regularly displayed in the two art galleries.

The fall program guides together offer more than 55 pages of events, programs and outings, with a special emphasis on the arts.

View or download the Garrison Green community fall program guide.

View or download the Fish Creek community fall program guide.

Why wait? Call today to arrange a tour!

Imagine! Flex your creative side. Fine dining. New friends. Luxurious suites. Live the lifestyle you deserve at one of our United Active Living communities. Click the button on the right to arrange a tour at 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!


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“Opera is where a guy gets stabbed in the back, and instead of dying, he sings.” – Robert Burns, poet

For many, this quote, attributed to poet Robert Burns, expresses in a humorous way the extent of our knowledge about opera. That and perhaps Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera. But opera has long historic roots, and United Active Living’s renewed partnership with Calgary Opera continues to educate residents on the finer points of the genre and further the benefits that all forms of art have on a person’s well-being. Opera is complex and challenges the listener to interpret more than just the music.

“A dynamic art form, opera engages participants through multiple artistic disciplines including vocal music, instrumental music, theatre, dance and visual art/design,” said Suzanne Boyd, director of fund development, Calgary Opera. “Opera also offers cognitive challenges and intellectual stimulation (including exposure to foreign languages), to create a rich and dimensional experience.”

Opera also provides exposure to diverse and complicated subject matter, including various time periods/historical eras, settings that are frequently in a different culture, and plots and themes that allow for meaningful discussion such as current events, relationships, social/personal values, life choices and political/religious beliefs.

Calgary Opera's resident conductor Kimberley Bartczak

Calgary Opera’s resident conductor Kimberley Bartczak

United’s partnership with Calgary Opera includes sponsorship of the resident conductor. This year that person is Kimberley Bartczak, who has quickly established herself in the opera world as a collaborative pianist and opera coach at both the university and professional levels.

“Research supports the role of music and the arts to engage the mind and influence a person’s well-being,” said Jill LaForty, United’s music director. “In opera, we see a range of art forms from music, to drama, to dance, that engage a person’s emotions and imagination in a way that no other art form does. We are delighted to continue our relationship with Calgary Opera.”

Jill notes that living in a United community expands the residents’ worlds. “Our residents aren’t living bounded by four walls. Our community extends into the greater world where they are exposed to a wide variety of music and other creative arts. These partnerships really give residents something you can’t find anywhere else.”

Calgary Opera's Lauren Woods and others performed at Garrison Green last year

Calgary Opera’s Lauren Woods and others performed at Garrison Green last year

This year, Calgary Opera will bring opera to the residents of United’s Garrison Green and Fish Creek communities with three performances by members of Calgary Opera’s Emerging Artist Development Program as well as a personal one-on-one with resident conductor Kimberley Bartczak.

Topher Makrzewski at Garrison Green

Topher Makrzewski at Garrison Green

What do those visits look like? Last year, then resident conductor Christopher “Topher” Mokrzewski sat down with residents at Garrison Green and spoke of his career as a pianist and conductor, his role as resident conductor, the anatomy of an opera production, his favourite composers, thoughts on new works, his other professional exploits, and the pedigree of his current opera family, Calgary Opera.

“Topher played a bit, laughed a bit, and talked about his life in the arts,” said Suzanne. “His appreciative audience was visibly moved by his story, his personality and the passion with which he lives. It was clear from the response by both the presenter and the residents that this was only the beginning of a special relationship.”

“The partnership with United helps us fulfil our mandate to bring opera to the people,” said Susanne. “This is particularly helpful for residents who might have difficulty getting out to our performances. We bring those performances to them.”

In August, Calgary Opera’s Opera in the Village takes to the stage for its fifth year with performances of South Pacific and Cinderella at Enmax Park on the Stampede groundsCheck out Calgary Opera’s website for more information.

“Our partnership with Calgary Opera helps us serve the wide ranging tastes of our residents,” said Jill. “Some of our residents are lifelong opera buffs and are gaining a better understanding directly from the artists themselves thanks to this partnership, while others are getting a chance to experience the thrill of it for the first time. It’s a wonderful relationship!”

Why wait? Call today to arrange a tour!

Imagine! Flex your creative side. Fine dining. New friends. Luxurious suites. Live the lifestyle you deserve at one of our United Active Living communities. Click the button on the right to arrange a tour at 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!

 


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80-year-old Virginia Stewart belies the stereotype of the inactive older adult. Her passion is the arts, and when she’s not writing she’s painting, singing or enjoying any number of activities available at United’s Garrison Green community.

“I’m a doer!’ she says proudly. “I’m an active person. Always have been. I served on several boards – the Calgary Foundation, Carewest, the Dementia Care Network – and with my husband Fred we were very active in the community. I’ve kept active, learning and enjoying life. When I turned 70 I decided to go back to school!” Virginia earned a BA in English from the University of Calgary.

She was born in Sudbury, and raised in Windsor, Ontario. Her father was a journalist, and it may have been partly his influence that gave Virginia her love for language and writing. While she didn’t pursue her father’s path in journalism, writing and languages became important to her. She speaks fluent English, some French and studied voice. “Singing is a passion for me, as is painting and poetry.”

Virginia Stewart with her poetry book, The Wayward Umbrella

Virginia with “The Wayward Umbrella”

Her father was transferred to Toronto, and it was there she met her husband Fred. They had two sons, Doug and Gordon. Gordon passed away from cancer when he was only 26.

Last year, one of her poems, based on a childhood tale for her children, sparked a desire within the community to create a book of poetry, The Wayward Umbrella, that was sold locally, with money raised going to wildlife conservation.

In a recent poem she wrote for a friend, she describes the ocean at Island Hall resort in Parksville, B.C.

“Why did I choose to go back to school at 70? Well, my parents couldn’t afford a higher education for me, and after we were married I helped put my husband through law school. It was simply my turn,” said laughs.

Writing – and poetry – are very important tools of self expression for Virginia. “I express myself through poetry. Whatever is influencing my life will appear in one of my tales. You need passion in your life, and poetry – and painting – allow me to express my passions.”

Virginia Stewart with her painting "The Beast"

Virginia Stewart with her painting “The Beast”

Last year, during the Ft. McMurray wildfires, the subject of passion came up in the Garrison Green art studio. The result for Virginia was a large canvas she named “The Beast” after the name given to the wildfire. Strong colours combined with a snippet of poetry reflected an emotional response to what was happening in northern Alberta.

The word passion comes up often when discussing art with Virginia. Passion for the arts, her family, and her life. Those passions haven’t been dulled by a stroke a few years ago that reduced her mobility. It happened while playing golf, a game that she pursued with, well, passion.

“When Gordon passed away, his friends created an annual golf tournament to honour his memory. The tournament went 12 years until June of 2013 – the day of the Calgary floods – I felt ill on the third hole and I sat down under a tree to recover. That stroke was the first of my health challenges.”

Virginia continues to paint, write poetry and sing in the choir. She visits the local art galleries and some of the music performances, both outside and within the community. Her social calendar is full. “I’m as busy as I want to be.” And for Virginia, that’s poetry in motion.

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Imagine! Flex your creative side. Fine dining. New friends. Luxurious suites. Live the lifestyle you deserve at one of our United Active Living communities. Click the button on the right to arrange a tour at Garrison Green or Fish Creek

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