United Active Living: a year in review
As the year draws to a close, like many, we here at United are taking a moment to pause and reflect, share our gratitude, and celebrate the wonderful individuals who help make United communities vibrant and welcoming places to call home.
2023 has been an exceptional year at United. As we grow and evolve, we are sharing and celebrating just a few of the highlights that connected us as we discovered new firsts and shared moments of laughter, joy, music, creativity, and lifelong learning.
A United welcome
This year, we welcomed more than 130 new residents into our communities. With so many friendly new faces, our spaces are energized and our programs as active as ever as we collectively welcome and get to know our newest residents. We’ve been excited to see United’s theatres full, art studio workshop tables shoulder to shoulder with new learners, fitness classes buzzing, and full busses when we venture into the community at large. Our own residents have played a big part in community growth as they’ve been busy spreading the word of their experiences at United: more than 30% of new residents were referred to United by a fellow resident, a team member, or community partner familiar with us. Referrals are the best compliment we could hope for!
Locally owned and operated, United Active Living has always valued partnerships with local organizations that offer residents access to exclusive experiences and learning opportunities. This year, we established two new partnerships with Alberta Ballet, and the Wilder Institute / Calgary Zoo. These partnerships meant residents had the opportunity to enjoy exclusive in-community speaking engagements from our partner experts, performances, and behind-the-scenes access to these iconic Calgary institutions.
Thanks to United’s ongoing partnerships, residents also experienced some of Calgary’s most unique cultural offerings, including attending local musical and theatre productions like the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Lunchbox Theatre, the Conservatory at Mount Royal University, and the Honens Festival, including very special in-community performances from Honens Prize Laureate Illia Ovcharenko.
Residents also found themselves traversing the local art gallery circuit, taking in exhibitions, and seeking inspiration in galleries like the Esker Foundation, Nickle Galleries, Alberta Craft Council, Leighton Art Centre, and the Artist Lounge.
Outdoor enthusiasts discovered the natural beauty hidden in plain sight, steps away from the community’s front door at Fish Creek provincial park. Some bonded with miniature horses at River Cross Ranch, while others imparted horticultural wisdom with the volunteer-cultivated Botanical Gardens of Silver Springs. Residents and team members alike laced up and got their steps in, in support of Alzheimer Calgary. Summer days were interspersed with practice on the putting green, a friendly round of bocce, and a series of seasonal barbecues with United’s very own grill masters and Head Chefs Kevin and Jayson.
United in music
Music makes the world go ‘round, and this year, residents navigated the world through the sounds of dozens of local entertainers, who inspired us to tap our toes to the beat, sing along to the chorus, and discover forgotten favourites. No matter how they carried a tune, each entertainer brought rounds of applause and requests for second, and even third encores. Fiddler Emilien Durocher may have struck a new chapter of his fan club after an inspiring performance, while Felix Possak delighted everyone with up close and personal serenades of country and western classics. To close out the year in a triumphant crescendo, rousing resident choir performances echoed through our theatres and the United singers of Fish Creek even made their public debut at St. Mary’s University’s annual Christmas Concert!
United in learning
United’s guest lecturers took centre stage in our theatres on topics ranging from wild animals and train heists to politics and religions of the world, and everything in between. From cherished authors, like historian Doug Coats, to community builders and Indigenous speaker Holly Fortier, experimental improv with the legendary Loose Moose improv troupe, and resident-led travel talks, there was a steady stream of engaging topics, sparking though-provoking conversation and plenty of ‘aha’ moments.
United in community
Many of United’s residents are active community leaders in Calgary. United residents Jim Dolph and Ross Campbell were nominated for Calgary’s Top 7 over 70 awards by team members and fellow residents, and attended as honoured guests at the annual gala.
Resident David Ballard continues his pursuit of lifelong learning and community connection as a volunteer and local champion of MRU’s Intergenerational Speakers Series. The quarterly events bring seniors together with students to explore the benefits of creating relationships and conversation with people of all ages.
On a light (footed) note, we were thrilled to see the resident-led line dancing troupe ‘the Miss Steps’ in action, entertaining residents and guests at the Stampede Breakfast, and at the monthly welcome tea! Way to go, ladies!
United in creative expression
The art studio was certainly the place to be this year. With the assistance of the Creative Expressions team, residents got their creative juices flowing through exciting and innovative workshops — trying their hand at wheel throwing, needle felting, experimenting with resin, painting with bleach, and even starting independent practices and leading workshops.
Through all of their creative endeavors, residents at Garrison Green showcased their work and welcomed the summer solstice with their first ever Art Show and Sale! Family, friends, and community members purchased resident-created art, and raised $1,350 in support of Alzheimer Calgary, a local non-profit United residents hold near and dear.
Meanwhile, at Fish Creek, a new Gallery exhibition came to life this fall, with the group show ‘Till the Cows Come Home’ featuring resident’s artwork representing individual interpretations of what home means to them. From fiber arts and clay creations to acrylic and woodworking masterpieces, United residents’ artistic talent was on full display, creating a buzz among residents and guests, and even local media — with rave reviews from all.
Food for thought
United’s Culinary team has always brought their ‘A’ game, and 2023 was no exception! Chef Jayson and Chef Kevin continued to dazzle resident’s palates with extraordinary themed meals throughout the year, and elevated the daily features menu with some new flavours, along with an update to the popular selections from our all-day menu. Whether you’re a foodie or not, modern flavours and classical fare combined with flexibility and choice for many memorable dining experiences throughout the year.
As United has grown, so have team members roles within the United organization. This year, we welcomed Amy McDonough and Jenn Kitchen as they established their positions as Executive Directors for Fish Creek and Garrison Green, respectively. We have celebrated as more than a dozen team members took on new opportunities, embracing United as the place to grow their skills and discover unexpected opportunities. We’re so proud of our team and the passion they bring to making our communities wonderful places to live (and work)!
In 2023 United advanced its commitment to innovation with the launch of its first annual Innovation Fair. More than thirty proposals were submitted from team members across all departments and included a treasure trove of creative ideas to enhance our resident experience, improve processes, and challenge our status quo. We’ve already begun to action the winning ideas including an intergenerational art initiative and technology enhancements improving how we collaborate to support resident wellness.
Residents got involved in some interesting innovations as well! Many took part in an emerging technology research study as participants. Residents tested wearable technology prototypes created by the University of Calgary and Neursantys which aims to improve and restore balance to those with reduced mobility. Read more about the study and its early findings here.
Discovering United’s ‘secret sauce’
Through United’s history, one thing has remained constant: relationships are the very heart and soul of who we are. The idea of connection and its importance was reinforced in research conducted with residents through the summer. Residents shared that personal connection and trusting relationships are what attracted them to United — and are a big part of what keeps them here.
Every day, we see residents, their families, and team members sharing special moments, laughing, bonding, and cultivating sincere, meaningful relationships that extend far beyond the parameters of a job description or a lease agreement. Here at United we know authentic connections foster a sense of belonging, offer solace in times of adversity, and amplify the joy of shared triumphs. Whether the connections exist between friends, family, or United team members, these special relationships illuminate the human experience, reminding us that we can all find both strength and the profound beauty of our collective journey.
Reflecting on the past year, 2023 emerges as the defining chapter in United’s journey — a year marked by unprecedented growth, the many warm welcomes we’ve share with new residents, and a collection of remarkable moments and experiences. With a profound sense of pride, we celebrate the collective accomplishments of our residents and team, carrying the shared lessons and experiences with us into 2024 and beyond.
As the holiday season embraces us in warmth and joy, may the spirit of togetherness continue to flourish, and may you find peace, happiness, and fulfillment in the coming year.
United Active Living