“When I came here, I was looking for a community. Then I realized I was helping to create one.” – Unknown
What does community mean? Depending on your perspective, community can mean simply a building, its activities or the people in it. Or could be defined in a larger perspective to include friends and family in the greater community.
“It depends on the context that you bring to a community like this one,” said Ray Waldock, a resident of United’s Fish Creek community. “What we see here is a community that is working to redefine the psychology of aging. You can live here and plan to do nothing for the rest of your life, or you can see this as an opportunity to see yourself in a new context that has lots of possibilities.”
Ray knows about possibilities. Ray and his wife LaVerne, who recently passed away, spent a lifetime involved in their church. This gave them the opportunity to travel – 10 years in India, another five in Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) in Africa. Along the way Ray learned two languages (French and Swahili), earned degrees in philosophy and theology and eventually a PhD in theology from the University of Montreal.
Ray and LaVerne first moved into United’s Garrison Green community a few years ago, but when Laverne’s dementia progressed, she and Ray became two of the first residents at United’s Fish Creek community in 2016. Eventually, LaVerne transferred to long-term care at the nearby Father Lacombe Care Centre while Ray remained at Fish Creek so he could visit her regularly.
“Garrison Green became our community because of the people in it. We have friends there, and I still see them regularly,” said Ray. “My community extends beyond Fish Creek to Garrison Green and to my friends from our church, so community to me extends well beyond these four walls.”
Ray says that moving into an older adult community doesn’t signal the end of life. He prefers to see his home as a new opportunity.
“Our travels helped us learn that home is wherever you are at the moment. We see that life in the present is based on our experiences in the past. My experiences living overseas, learning new languages, and experiencing other cultures opened the door to new possibilities here. And this place accepts those changes,” said Ray.
Ray is particularly pleased with how the staff and residents interact. “It’s not a ‘them or us’ mentality that you might find at other places. Instead, there is a free and easy attitude. The staff and residents depend on each other, and that creates a supportive environment that encourages new opportunities.”
Ray recognizes that not everyone is comfortable with change, so when new residents arrive, or someone is simply checking out the community, Ray likes to meet them and make them feel welcome. “This is their new home, or likely could be, so I want to be sure they are comfortable.”
In many ways, Ray is extending his personal community each time he meets a prospective resident and sits down over a cup of coffee with them.
“I see life as possibility. I’m 88, but I still see a lot of open doors ahead of me.”
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