Familiar faces, new stories
United’s residents share how lifelong learning, finding new firsts, and community-building lead to a rewarding post-retirement life.
It’s probably no surprise that Jim, Ross, and Ellenore already seem familiar to you—they are featured often on United’s social feeds, blogs, and even in advertisements — all three stand out because of their visibility in the community and their regular presence in programming, on outings, and even with resident-led initiatives like happy hour socials, travel talks, and sing-alongs.
Because of their contributions to the community, fellow residents enthusiastically nominated Jim and Ross for a “Top 7 over 70” award, and they were thrilled to attend the gala last month to celebrate their nominations, mingle with nominees, and take in the inspiring stories of those being honoured.
Ross and Ellenore: long-haul community builders
When Ross was initially nominated for a “Top 7 over 70” award, to say he was bewildered was an understatement: “I couldn’t believe it, I was so shocked and humbled. I just do my thing—but it is an honour that my friends thought of me,” he says.
“Ross always has time to listen to others, and has a wonderful, kind spirit. He is such a valued member of the community,” says Elaine, one of the nominators for the award.
Ross and Ellenore were among the first members of United’s Fish Creek community when it opened in 2015 —and you’ll often see them creating connections wherever they are.
“After retirement, we travelled across North America in an RV, exploring and picking up hobbies we didn’t have time to do while we were working and raising the kids,” Ellenore says, “Our family is big and spread out across the country, so we found closeness in other ways. We always have so much to talk about, and we have fun in our own special way.”
Now, as long-time residents and unofficial advocates for the benefits of community living for older adults, Ross and Ellenore share how valuable it is to seek community, and to get involved. Both have served terms on Resident Council, and recently, Ross was invited as a subject matter expert to speak on a panel about ‘Keeping Your Golden Years Golden’ at the 2023 Seniors’ Expo. “Getting involved is a great way to get to know other people, and help advocate for your peers. We both joined Resident Council so we could help shape the community as it grew, and so we can share the resident perspective with team members,” Ross says. Ellenore agrees: “We have become friends with other residents and even the staff—it really speaks to how dedicated everyone is to making United a true community.”
Ross reflects: “When we first made the decision to move in to United, the diverse programming was a huge factor in our decision. Living in a community where we have an opportunity to try things we’d never done before — we tried it all!” Ellenore chimes in: “We had never been to the opera before, so we finally had an opportunity to go. It definitely wasn’t for us,” she laughs, “but it’s so nice to have a variety of things to do. We had the chance to experience things we’d never have done otherwise. And there’s always something new to try, and the team takes our feedback into account with all of the programming.”
Jim: lifelong explorer
“There isn’t a more interesting or friendly guy here,” Barry, a longtime resident says of Jim, “No matter who you are, Jim will always welcome you into the community with a smile.” Jim’s penchant for community building comes naturally – he’s been sharing stories and connecting people for a lifetime.
Jim graduated from McMaster University with a degree in Geology and headed west from Ontario to eventually settle in Calgary for a career in oil and gas, planting roots in Lakeview with his wife and children.
Drawn to the outdoors, his natural curiosity and joy of sharing wisdom lead to Jim spending much of his free time exploring Alberta’s natural habitats. “I hosted tours that brought people to the mountains to experience the beauty of Kananaskis country. It’s my favourite place to bring people because it’s so accessible for so many. As a geologist, I was excited to show people that the mountains way above us are exactly what’s below us.”
On one of his many excursions, Jim and a friend stumbled upon a significant geological discovery in Banff National Park: on a 2006 hike organized by the Senior’s Outdoor Club of Calgary, they came across an incredibly well-preserved stromatolite reef, one of the few surviving prehistoric reefs viewable in three dimensions. “It was a great find, the highlight of my career,” he says. Of course, not all of his expeditions were as fortuitous: on a vacation to Robin Hood’s Bay in England, Jim set out to search for ammonite fossils, only to come back empty handed. “My wife laughed and told me a five-year-old girl came back from the beach with a bag full!” Jim cracks a smile, “Here I was looking for fossils laying out in the open, but, they’re usually concealed in stones you have to break apart. Rookie mistake—thank goodness for the little girl who showed me the way!”
Lifelong learning has always been a big part of Jim’s approach to life. At United, he can often be found painting landscapes in the art studio, or socializing. “I get a kick out of passing wisdom on, and gaining wisdom from others,” Jim muses. “When I first went into the studio, I had never picked up a paintbrush in my life. The facilitators gave me a lot of guidance, and between the workshops and my own practice, it’s something I really love to do.”
Having great neighbors is a highlight of living at United and Jim, Ross, and Ellenore are among many people here embracing community living with gusto. All three seem to understand that connecting with others is an integral part of healthy aging. Together, they are playing an active part of building a strong, connected community.
Where families can be families
“I love seeing residents flourish when they make a new friend, or find an activity that speaks to them. So many find joy in trying out art techniques in the studio, taking part in music programming, and just enjoying spending time in the community,” says Jenn Kitchen, Executive Director at United’s Garrison Green community. “We often see a positive change in the relationships residents have with their families too. Once they see their parents thriving, their relationship changes back to being social and fun, rather than focusing on their well-being or care needs. It really does change outcomes for so many families.”
“As an older adult community, United Active Living is different than the traditional ‘old folks homes’, many imagine,” says Jamie Fewchuk, Director of Innovation in Aging at United. “Residents are free to move about and choose how they spend their time. It makes a huge difference in how they enjoy and participate in all the community has to offer. We’re constantly taking in feedback from residents about programming, dining experiences, and the community itself. Residents have a say, they contribute, and feel included. Rather than feeling static and hidden away, United communities are vibrant, with residents constantly on the move, making friends, and having fun.”
As for Jim, Ross, and Ellenore? Catch them at the next concert, in the art studio, or gathering with their friends, creating new memories, and sharing their stories. Don’t forget to say hello!