Creating New Ways to Stay Connected and Engaged

United’s residents and creative facilitators are stretching their creative muscles to develop new programs at a time when gatherings aren’t possible.

What's better than an ice cream cart? Two ice cream carts!

What’s better than an ice cream cart? Two ice cream carts!

“Our usual programs include lectures, concerts and creative workshops, which typically bring people together into a single space. Now that that is no longer possible, we are working with residents to develop a range of alternative programs,” said Kim Coulter, Fish Creek program development and creative expressions manager. “We are staying informed about what is going on but not focusing on the fear and uncertainty. Instead, we are putting our attention towards finding safe, enjoyable and imaginative ways to keep residents engaged physically, socially and mentally.”

Residents and staff participate in recommending fun and interesting things for residents to do in their suites. One such outcome is the creation of an ice cream cart complete with colourful streamers and traditional ice cream cart tunes. The creative facilitators do double duty as ice cream delivery people, ‘riding’ the carts down the hallways, knocking on doors and sharing ice cream and a little laughter with the residents.

Ice cream puts a smile on every face

Ice cream puts a smile on every face

“It gives us an opportunity to let them know that we’re thinking of them,” said Kim. “We will also be asking for any positive message that they would like to share with our employees. We will write their quotes on colourful paper and put them up in the staff room. Having direct quotes from the residents is very much appreciated and it helps to lift the spirits of staff who are working hard to keep everyone safe.”

As an example, one resident at Fish Creek, Jack B. , has left several messages for the employees thanking everyone for their hard work in keeping the community safe. In one message he included a smiley faced sun.

In place of regular programming, a Good News Bulletin goes out each week, as does a weekly email, with links to various online events, such as art documentaries, concerts and virtual museum tours. Twice a week Kim and others help residents get set up on Zoom and FaceTime so they can stay connected with families. “The residents are learning some new skills, and we’re finding they are enjoying the challenge of mastering the technology. It’s fun watching their faces light up when they connect with family or friends.”

Kim said that although it has been challenging adapting to all the changes over the last few weeks, the staff has found a rhythm in adhering to the new processes, which allows their creativity to shine. “We don’t do average. We never have,” said Kim. “That extends to finding new programming and innovative ways to keep residents and their families informed and engaged in what we are doing.”

Fish Creek resident Libby R. stays connected to her friends and family

Fish Creek resident Libby R. stays connected to her friends and family

One thing that hasn’t changed is the feeling of community. “It may be a cliche, but we really are all in this together. Residents have always been an integral part in all of the programming we develop. They give us suggestions and we put them in place.”

In United’s spring program guides, which have been put on hold for the time being, the theme for April was “A World of Possibilities”. While the April programs have been delayed, the theme remains all the more relevant.

“The collaboration with residents and employees means that everyone remains connected as a community. I think in many ways that feeling of community is stronger than ever. We have all come together in a difficult time, and when the time comes when we can lift some of the restrictions. we’ll be stronger for it.”

Photos by United Active Living. Videos by Sherana Productions.

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