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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.

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 Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra has been a cornerstone of the city’s arts community since 1955. From the classics to rock and roll, to broadway favourites, the CPO entertains Calgarians with a range of music to satisfy every musical taste.

“That wide range of styles is a big reason why the CPO is a good fit as a United Active Living partner,” said Jill LaForty, United’s music director. “The beauty of the CPO is that they have programming that appeals to every musical taste, and our residents, who also have varying tastes have been able to benefit from that range. This year they had the opportunity to go to concerts and hear everything from Beethoven to Johnny Cash.”

One of the biggest benefits of the partnership is the opportunity for our residents to experience the music both at the Jack Singer Concert Hall and in the more intimate surroundings of the United communities.

“Our residents are also able to attend the dress rehearsals the CPO holds prior to their performances,” said Jill. “We’ve arranged for some of the conductors and performers to come to our communities to perform some of the music, and to discuss the music and its history with the residents. This is something that would not normally be available, and many are very interested and engaged in the discussion.”

Resident conductor Karl Hirzer at Garrison Green

Resident conductor Karl Hirzer at Garrison Green

Last week, CPO resident conductor Karl Hirzer spoke with residents of United’s Garrison Green community, and performed some of the music that would be played at an upcoming dress rehearsal.

“I spoke about two pieces that the CPO would perform – Mahler’s 9th Symphony and Mozart’s 21st Piano Concerto. We discussed the structure of the pieces, the composers and what was happening in society at the time the pieces were composed,” said Karl. “That really provides some interesting insights for everyone and helps open a greater appreciation for the music when they attend the rehearsals.”

For Karl, the intimacy of discussing and performing the music at United adds a dimension that is not normally available to a conductor on the stage.

“This is a very positive experience for me. The residents were very interested in the works and in me as a conductor. I found it to be an interesting learning experience especially since they were eager to know my thoughts on the music. One of the residents, Quenten Doolittle, used to play viola for the CPO, and we had a very interesting, wide-ranging discussion afterwards. It was very rewarding for me.”

“Many of our residents have been lifelong patrons of the CPO and as they get older it becomes difficult to go out to concerts,” said Jill. “We don’t want something that they once cherished to drop away. We try to enhance their quality of life by enabling them to once again take part in activities that have been important to them while also giving people who may have never attended concerts the opportunity to do so.”

“United Active Living has a rich and varied approach to assisted living where the arts, and particularly music, play a major role,” said Paul Dornian, CPO president and CEO. “Having collaborated with United over a number of years I am always moved by their residents’ passion for the arts and inspired by United’s commitment to facilitating great experiences for their residents. United Active Living is totally committed to providing the best quality of life experience possible, and they understand how important music is to that process!”

The CPO's Woodwind Quintet at Garrison Green

The CPO’s woodwinds entertain residents at Garrison Green

Earlier this year, the CPO’s woodwind quintet performed at Garrison Green, discussed the music and showed off their instruments to residents afterward. On June 14, there is an outing to CPO’s Pops in the Park at Heritage Park, which features pop, broadway and film classics.

United has partnerships with five musical organizations and two universities that provide our residents with a wide range of musical and higher learning opportunities.

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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Summer is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the mountains, parks and gardens that Calgary and area have to offer.

Residents of the two United communities have a wide range of choices for getting out and about to enjoy the sunshine. Last weekend, residents at Fish Creek were busy planting herbs and flowers in the spacious community courtyard.

But there are a large number of programs and activities that take residents out to enjoy concerts, lectures, the mountains and parks. United’s seasonal guides to programs and activities at its two communities (June 1 – Aug. 31) are now available for download or viewing online (see below for the links).

The guides showcase the opportunities that United’s unique partnerships give residents. Music, drawing, painting, dance, pottery, sculpture – and those are just some of the ongoing programs that are offered throughout the year. When you combine those with programs inspired by United’s community partners, the list is even more impressive.

Musicians from Calgary Pro Musica perform at Garrison Green

Musicians from Calgary Pro Musica perform at Garrison Green

“By partnering with some of the best cultural and educational organizations in Calgary, we can ensure there is a wide variety of entertaining and educational experiences that our residents can use to continue to learn and expand their horizons,” said Gail Hinchliffe, president, United Active Living. “These partnerships give residents an opportunity to attend concerts and lectures, but also allow us to bring musicians and professors into our communities for intimate concerts and interaction with professionals that would otherwise not be available to them.”

At the same time, performers get to know their audiences, and residents get to mingle one-on-one with some of the most talented performers in Calgary.

United isn’t your average older adult community. With a focus on the arts, creativity and socialization with others to keep the mind active, United’s extensive list of programs and activities ensures there is ample opportunity for ongoing learning and creative expression.

Along with the partnerships, United’s professional artists help residents find their creative side with the help of fully stocked art studios plus one-of-a-kind art galleries to display resident artworks as well as show professional work.

The focus is on building a community  where everyone has a choice, where residents are active, learning new things and participating in community events that they find interesting and stimulating.

Both lists are available as printable PDFs at these links:

Garrison Green program link

Fish Creek program link

The program lists are constantly evolving, so check with the monthly calendars that are sent out to each resident for any additions and changes.

“While the partnerships provide us with a number of one-of-a-kind opportunities, it’s often the residents who suggest programs or activities they would like us to put together,” said Gail. “That’s why the list of programs is so varied. It’s as varied as the people who live here. And that’s a definite benefit of living in a United community. There’s always something new and the programs are changing and evolving all the time based on what the residents want.”

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 United Active Living Foundation  is working closely with United Way and two of its agency partners to launch a six-week art and discussion pilot program that will focus on ageism and isolation and their effect on older adults.

The program is called Project Inspire, and involves older adults from LINKAges and the Calgary Chinese Elderly Citizen’s Association.

Social isolation is a serious threat to a person’s well-being. It occurs when older adults have few social contacts and lack mutually rewarding relationships. Social isolation can affect anyone, and bringing about connections for people is complex and needs to provide opportunity to connect with others.

“The idea for a community project benefiting Calgary’s older population was sparked by a donation by the Kanovsky Family Foundation to United Way of Calgary and Area,” said Gail Hinchliffe, chair of the United Active Living Foundation. “Our Foundation and United Way worked together to develop the pilot project that reaches into the community to foster engagement and dialogue among an older population.”

Acting as convenor, United Way contacted several seniors agencies they support. LINKAges and the Calgary Chinese Elderly Citizen’s Association demonstrated interest and willingness to participate in the initial pilot. The United Active Living Foundation is  using the resources of the Creative Expression department at Garrison Green Seniors Community to shape the components of the pilot and act as facilitators.

“From initial discussions on what this collaboration could look like, it became important to look at reducing isolation and building community in innovative ways,” said Nicole Moore, United’s learning and development coordinator. “Creative solutions to social isolation have to include real opportunities to express yourself. Creative expression is a great way to do this.”

Creative expression is a cornerstone of the activities within United communities as research has linked older adults’ participation in creative activities with a multitude of benefits from fewer doctor visits and less loneliness to higher optimism and self-esteem. Providing opportunities for participants to engage in a variety of stimulating creative workshops led by United’s practicing artists became the framework of the project.

“As organizations catering to aging populations, we all realized that we must consider the real impact of discrimination and exclusion of seniors in our society, because like social isolation, ageism is also a strong barrier to older adults’ participation in society,” said Nicole.

The partnership will see 15 older adults come together once a week for six weeks at United Active Living’s Garrison Green community. They will engage in critical discussions and creative expression activities about aging aimed at enhancing their self-esteem and community.

“This is an exciting program for us,” said Gail. “This program will use creative expression as a tool to raise awareness and improve participants’ emotional well-being and promote social engagement. Five of our Garrison Green residents are also involved.”

The first session on May 2 dealt with the theme of productivity and creativity in later life. “Unfortunately, many of us believe that we are only productive as long as we’re employed or that creativity is only for the young,” said Nicole. “In the session we asked participants if they’ve ever been told they’re too old for something, and questions who gets to decide what behaviour is appropriate for us as we age. Through group discussions, we hope to challenge these preconceptions.”

“To me this project is about opening the door for people to discover their own capabilities,” said Sage Wheeler, creative facilitator. “We don’t teach people how to paint, but we make every effort to show them that they already can. People put up a lot of artificial barriers because it’s scary to try new things and meet new people. It feels risky, so we try to make the space as safe and supportive as possible. Art is a really natural way for people to build that self-confidence because it happens in the body. Pick up a paint brush and before you know it there’s a bit of paint in your hair, you are laughing with friends, and your inner critic is left somewhere behind you.”

Over the next six weeks participants will reflect on their experiences of aging and isolation and create art that depicts their views. At the end of the program, the artwork will be displayed throughout the city in the hopes of initiating larger conversations about aging and the potential of later life.

“We are hopeful that this new initiative will provide participants with the tools to learn about themselves, connect with others and self-determine their relationship with aging,” said Sage.

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 Project Inspire or living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, come visit us or arrange a tour. We are happy to help! 

Contact us here!

 


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“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” – Author Betty Friedan

The common misconception is that older adults are “set in their ways”, and that once you reach a certain age, learning something new becomes difficult if not impossible. Think of the old adage “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

That’s proving to be absolutely wrong. Research into aging by Dr. Gene Cohen, a pioneer in the work around creativity and aging, said that research “vividly demonstrates that when the brain is challenged through our activities and surroundings, it is altered through the formation of new synapses (contact points between cells). More synapses means better communication among brain cells and increased opportunities for new ideas connecting.”

United’s residents are confirming Dr. Cohen’s findings every day.

“Dr. Cohen broke older age into several stages,” said Gail Hinchliffe, president, United Active Living. “For instance, in our late 60s we start thinking, ‘If not now, when?’ and later our focus is on leaving a legacy; not necessarily money, but we have a wealth of experience that we want to pass on. Our programs capitalize on Cohen’s work. It’s not about warehousing people but about how to provide opportunities for an older population to continue to grow and develop.”

Garrison Green resident Hugh Kuwahara with two of his masterpieces

Garrison Green resident Hugh Kuwahara with two of his masterpieces

That view is evident in the programs and activities that United Active Living offers residents. Our philosophy promotes healthy and active aging. And that means endless opportunities to continuously learn new things. For many, this period of life might be the first time they have found the freedom to pursue interests that were set aside for family and career.

“We will often hear residents say, ‘why did it take me until 85 to realize that I’m an artist?’ There is nothing we like more than to hear the surprised adult children say ‘I didn’t know mom (or dad) was interested in that!’

“To be able to learn new skills is very, very powerful,” said Gail, “particularly in a society that tends to diminish our abilities as we get older.”

United’s programs and activities are created with input from residents. They are interesting and fun, but also thought provoking and challenging.  United’s programming is unique in that it offers a wide variety of experiences.

At last count there were more than 60 activities and programs available to residents. Community partnerships also offer experiences outside the community that many residents may not have been exposed to before or have had to stop attending for various reasons.

Calgary Philharmonic Woodwind Quintet performs at Garrison Green

Calgary Philharmonic Woodwind Quintet performs at Garrison Green

“It’s easy for our residents to get on the bus and attend a concert. We also have musicians come into our communities to perform and talk about the music, so it’s a very rich experience,” said Gail. “Our programming has evolved to where we hire professional artists who give our residents a depth of knowledge not available anywhere else. I really love is to see a resident come in who has been isolated in their home, and hasn’t had that social interaction or that sense of community. As they come into this community, other residents and the staff reach out to welcome them. They become involved in the activities and programs. It is such a wonderful thing to see their faces knowing that they’ve found that sense of community again.”

Gail talks about the ability of older adults to learn in a 10-minute audio interview available 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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United Active Living’s focus on active aging and the arts is introducing residents to the best classical and chamber artists, thanks to our partnership with Calgary Pro Musica.

For the past 40 years, the non-profit organization has brought in world-renowned chamber ensembles to perform in the Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall in the University of Calgary’s Rozsa Centre.

The New Orford String Quartet

The New Orford String Quartet

Their latest initiative brought in the New Orford String Quartet, who won a Juno Award this year for “Best Solo or Chamber Recording”.

“It was a well deserved award for a group of extraordinary musicians,” said Dean O’Brien, artistic director for Calgary Pro Musica. “The last time they played in Calgary they gave a spectacular performance, and their performance this time was no exception.”

United’s partnership also brings young musicians into United’s communities to perform and interact with residents. The musicians are part of Pro Musica’s Dick Matthews Young Artists Development Program, which was created to discover, nurture and promote young Calgary musicians. The program was named for the late philanthropist who was a long-time patron of the arts in Calgary.

“These young musicians will be coming to our communities for two concerts, which is a unique feature of life at our communities,” noted president Gail Hinchliffe. “Having access to some of the best emerging musicians in Calgary is a real benefit to residents, especially for those who have difficulty going out to concert venues.”

The young musicians will perform in their debut concert at the Rozsa Centre April 24. They will also hold special performances for residents in April at United’s Fish Creek community and in May at the Garrison Green community.

“The concerts, whether at the Rozsa Centre or in our communities, enables the music lovers, and music-curious to hear a wide variety of the highest-level Canadian and international chamber music,” added Jill LaForty, United’s music director. “This season the music has ranged from tangos to challenging contemporary South American music, to a whole program of French music. Our residents had rave reviews for all four concerts they went to at the Rozsa Centre and we were welcomed with such kindness by Dean, the staff and other patrons of Calgary Pro Musica.”

Dean O'Brien, artistic director, Calgary Pro Musica

Dean O’Brien, artistic director, Calgary Pro Musica

Dean particularly appreciates the active, artistic lifestyle that United promotes. “My mother has developed memory issues and is living in an older adult community in the U.S. With our partnership with United, I’ve been impressed with the approach that Gail is taking, particularly with the large variety of activities that residents have access to.”

The partnership with Calgary Pro Musica ensures that residents will continue to enjoy a high calibre of musical talent that Calgary – and international – musicians have to offer.

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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“We shape clay into a pot, but it’s the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.” – Taoist saying

Clay pots sitting on a table in the art studioWhen we talk about art in a United community, it means more than just painting or drawing. United residents also have access to clay classes, complete with a kiln for firing the finished product.

Amy Bouchard working with the potter's wheel

Creative facilitator Amy Bouchard working with the potter’s wheel

“Clay is a medium that brings a community together,” said Amy Bouchard, creative facilitator. “I don’t tell residents what to create, but rather, I guide them by showing them the methods such as using coils, slabs or the potter’s wheel at United’s Fish Creek community. Ceramics is a unique addition in an older adult community.”

Amy often sees residents working together on projects, and giving each other encouragement. “We all dip into the same bag of clay, we put our work together into the kiln and we admire the finished product together. There is a definite sense of community involved with ceramics. Clay is not only a fun medium to work with, it’s an introduction into the art world as a whole.”

Carlo Romano making a clay figureUnited’s Garrison Green resident Carlo Romano is an example of someone who is new to clay but has since produced hundreds of sculptures of people and animals that represent images from his hometown in Italy. Last year, the art gallery at Fish Creek hosted a solo show of Carlo’s sculptures and paintings.

“It’s wonderful to see a budding artist at a later point of life,” said Amy. “For many, it’s a new way of creating, inspiring the creative spark in the interest of continuing to learn. Recently, I’ve been leaving materials out on the art studio tables when I’m not there. It doesn’t take long for them to start their own projects and work on them independently.”

The art studios are staffed by professional artists – creative facilitators who are there to support and encourage residents. With a wide variety of skill-building workshops, collaborative and conceptual projects, art education sessions and outings to local galleries, the artistic avenues reach far beyond the studio.

Carlo's painted clay figures in the art galleryAmy holds weekly clay workshops at United’s Fish Creek community.

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!

United is changing the conversation around aging. From our innovative United Minds (memory care) program to professionally staffed art studios and extensive creative programming, our communities offer more than you might expect. If you have questions or topics you would like us to cover in future blogs, let us know.


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“Age is no barrier to creativity”. – Gail Hinchliffe, president, United Active Living

Calgary Civic Symphony partners with United to bring music to residents

Calgary Civic Symphony conductor Rolf Bertsch has played several times for residents in both communities

One resident recently stated, “There are so many things to do here. It’s just awesome!” That sentiment perfectly sums up the variety of programs and activities available to residents at United Active Living communities. Music, drawing, painting, dance, pottery, sculpture – and those are just some of the ongoing programs. When you combine those with programs inspired by United’s community partners, the list is even more impressive.

“We embarked on the partnerships because many of our residents used to enjoy going to the Calgary Philharmonic or Calgary Opera, but as they got older, it became more difficult for them to go as often,” said Gail. “So we struck up partnerships with seven music and educational partners so that residents can once again attend concerts, and just as importantly, enjoy performances by our partners right at the Garrison Green and Fish Creek communities.”

Calgary Opera is a partnership that brings music to residents

Calgary Opera’s Johnathon Kirby discusses a finer point of the music with a Garrison Green resident

Bringing performances into the communities gives residents and the performers an opportunity to engage in discussions that might not otherwise be possible. Performers get to know their audience, and residents get to mingle one-on-one with some of the most talented performers in Calgary.

“This kind of interaction is quite unique in an older adult community,” said Gail. But then United isn’t your average older adult community. With a focus on the arts, creativity and socialization with others to keep the mind active, United’s extensive list of programs and activities ensures there is ample opportunity for ongoing learning and creative expression.

“At United, being creative isn’t a hobby. It’s a way of life,” said Gail. “We have professional artists on staff who provide support for every level, from those who have never picked up a brush or a handful of clay, to residents who were attracted to United because they can continue their lifelong passion for art.”

The Garrison Green art studioWhen you move into a United community you will find fully stocked art studios plus one-of-a-kind art galleries to display resident artworks as well as showings of professional work. Not only is it fun, but expression through the arts can have health benefits we are just starting to understand.

Connecting with others and making new friends is a cornerstone of United’s philosophy. Research shows that older adults who are the most socially engaged remain healthy and active. Community develops when everyone has a choice, when residents are active, learning new things and participating in community events that they find interesting and stimulating.

United has compiled a comprehensive list of upcoming specialty programs and ongoing programs at both communities so that residents and their families can see what’s available and make plans to participate.

Both lists are available as printable PDFs at these links:

Garrison Green program link

Fish Creek program link

The list is constantly evolving, so check with the monthly calendars that are sent out to each resident for any additions and changes.

“While the partnerships provide us with a number of one-of-a-kind opportunities, it’s often the residents who suggest programs or activities they would like us to put together,” said Gail. “That’s why the list of programs is so varied. It’s as varied as the people who live here. And that’s a definite benefit of living in a United community. It’s what makes living here exciting and fun. There’s always something new and the programs are changing and evolving all the time based on what the residents want.”

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!

United is changing the conversation around aging. From our innovative United Minds (memory care) program to professionally staffed art studios and extensive creative programming, our communities offer more than you might expect. If you have questions or topics you would like us to cover in future blogs, let us know.


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Kim with Carlo in Fish Creek art gallery

Kim Coulter with resident Carlo Romano in the Fish Creek art gallery

“People often have a preconceived idea about what older adults can do or what they might be interested in. We shatter that myth,” said Kim Coulter, community outreach coordinator, United Active Living.

The programs, outings and activities at United’s two communities are not about “keeping busy”. There is no bingo or shuffleboard. Instead, the programs are varied, engaging and are geared toward the understanding that older adults are keen to continue learning and experiencing new things.

All of our programs are based on what the residents tell us they want,” said Kim. “Residents are interested in politics, lectures, music and the arts, so we develop programs that are engaging and interesting.”

Calgary Civic Symphony conductor Rolf Bertsch at Garrison Green

Calgary Civic Symphony conductor Rolf Bertsch at Garrison Green

United has partnered with some of the best arts and culture organizations in Calgary to provide a broad array of music, theatre and opera performances. These partnerships not only open doors to concerts and lectures outside of the Garrison Green and Fish Creek communities, but bring artists, sometimes world-renowned, into the communities for special concerts and workshops and lectures from visiting professors.

The current Garrison Green program guide is available here.

Visits to art galleries, creative writing workshops, art studios staffed by professional artists, concerts at the Mount Royal Conservatory. The programming has raised the bar and created a creative atmosphere that is far more than you might expect in an older adult community.

Nerissa Shan awarding resident Ray Waldock at the United Games

“Each program is special with a focus on promoting a higher quality of life,” said Nerissa Shan, program development coordinator.

Many residents had memberships to Calgary Philharmonic or Calgary Opera but mobility issues prevented them from attending as often as they would have liked, so United has developed programs that reconnect them with those performances. Often, United goes a step further and brings artists into the communities, and invites residents’ families to join in.

“Such high quality programming give residents an opportunity explore different kinds of music,” said Jill LaForty, United’s music director. “Some have never gone to the opera or heard a string quartet. We have unique partnership agreements that put music and the arts front and centre at United.”

Jill notes that residents are much more open and adventurous than she expected. “The other day we went to hear South American 20th century classical music, which is a far cry from Beethoven. Our residents were very open to the new and sometimes challenging sounds and shared their impressions spent time afterwards. It was extraordinary.”

“Residents are continuing to enjoy life,” said Kim. “They don’t stop because they are older. If anything, they are expanding their involvement, taking the opportunity to learn about something new and sharing those experiences with others in the community. It’s very inspirational.”

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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Sage Wheeler with resident Ginny Stewart at art class

Sage Wheeler with resident Ginny Stewart

“It’s really a special moment for me when someone has an ‘aha’ moment,” said Sage Wheeler, one of the creative facilitators at United Active Living’s Art Studios. “Older adults are capable of so much more than what society expects of them.”

Sage is one of the professional artists who work with residents to introduce them to the world of art, and open creative channels that many aren’t aware of. The facilitators see first hand that age isn’t a barrier to creativity.

Jeff Chan and resident with a fruit carving

Jeff Chan and resident with a fruit carving

“The interesting thing about getting older is that we have more stories to tell,” said Jeff Chan, creative facilitator. “This gives everyone a different entry point into their art. Some residents are attracted to the art studios because they are accomplished artists, while others might have been interested in art in their early life, put it on the back burner for various reasons and now they are coming back to it. It’s our job to open that doorway.”

 

Amy Bouchard with residents in Fish Creek's art studio

Amy Bouchard with residents in Fish Creek’s art studio

“Clay is a perfect example of an art form that can be interpreted so many ways,” said Amy Bouchard, a creative facilitator who sees the excitement in residents each time she introduces this versatile medium. “It might start with a class where we make a bowl using coils or slabs but as people become more proficient we can move to other options such as the potters wheel. It’s wonderful to see so many budding artists at a later point in life!”

United’s creative philosophy is driven by the residents.

“We try to cater to the individual, and create programs that draw on the resident’s interests, skills and experience,” said Cailey Massey, creative facilitator. “Our most successful programs are those that are inspired by United residents.”

An example of this is the Coffee, Tea and Poetry program. It’s designed to include everyone regardless of experience. “Some are very keen to write poetry, while others simply enjoy listening, or are drawn to the discussion of poetry,” said Cailey. “Often the poems are interpreted into visual works in the art studio. We work with the residents to find a medium that best expresses their written words.”

The studios in both Garrison Green and Fish Creek communities are open 24 hours, which allows the residents to work on projects whenever the muse strikes. Those who are new to painting or sculpture can often be seen on their own, or working alongside new-found friends.

While the arts can be solitary, Amy notes that forming a community is one of the benefits. “We don’t usually create just one sculpture or bowl and go through the entire process of drying it, glazing, firing and painting. In most cases, we work with a group of people who become fast friends because they are going through a new experience together.”

“The residents have taught me to always keep learning,” said Amy. “Age isn’t a barrier and in fact is helpful in lending life experience to the creative process. My advice? Keep going. Get involved!”

Cailey Massey working with resident in the art studio

Cailey working with a resident in the art studio

Residents may be unsure of themselves when trying something new, but the facilitators and other residents provide a supportive atmosphere where experimentation is encouraged. “A physical limitation may keep someone from expressing themselves artistically, but together we find unique ways to overcome those obstacles and even use them to fuel their practice,” said Cailey.

“The art studio is more about building relationships so that we can personalize the experience for residents,” said Jeff. “Creating art is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. It’s about the freedom to express, and once people start on that path, the studio becomes a community that supports each other without judgement. In art, there are no wrong answers.”

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

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