Wellness sessions for residents of United’s two communities are lifting spirits and injecting a sense of optimism into their lives after more than 18 months of restrictions caused by COVID. United is one of the first communities in Calgary to bring a clinical psychologist into the communities to hold sessions of this kind.
“There was a sense of loss for the toll the virus took on lives, choice, freedom and routines,” said Kera Redlack, director of health and wellness. “Nobody thought we would be where we are more than a year later. We found we needed to acknowledge that loss, that things aren’t back to normal yet, and let the residents voice how this has affected them.”
“During the sessions, residents have voiced a sense of isolation, loss, loneliness and uncertainty,” said clinical psychologist Dr. Paras Persad who is facilitating the sessions. “They are grieving for lost family and friends. They haven’t been able to say goodbye, the meaningful ceremonies around that have been denied them by COVID restrictions. In a future session I’m going to hold a service of memory for them to help bring closure, and the residents want to have a give-a-hug session once they are able to, to bring back the human contact we’ve all been missing.”
“Paras has a very special way of connecting with people. He shows them a positive way forward that is tangible and realistic,” said Kera. “It’s a cathartic experience, and I’ve heard from residents that his sessions are some of the most beneficial experiences they’ve had. It’s exactly what the residents need.”
“I usually take my guitar and play songs for them that are light and fun,” said Paras. “It gets the residents moving, which gives them a healthy physical and emotional release. I also don’t lecture to them. I listen to their stories and affirm their experiences. They are given the freedom to express themselves. I can see it in their faces, their eyes and hear it in their voices. There is a renewed sense of hope that we will soon be able to return to normal.”
“I was very impressed with the session,” said Fish Creek resident Sheila Brinsmead. “His approach is very personable, low key and relaxed. He offered us very practical, simple ways to be more positive such as offering a kind word, thought or gesture to people we meet. We will feel better about ourselves and avoid some of the negativity that has come from being isolated. He really lifted our spirits and people left the session smiling and excited!”
With Dr. Persad’s help, United is expanding the sessions to include employees. “Employees are experiencing the same challenges as residents so it’s important that we recognize that, keep them informed, and give them the tools they need to be successful,” said Kera. “They too need to take the time to grieve over their losses. They haven’t been able to take part in family events such as birthdays, weddings and funerals. These are major events that normally bring people together. Residents have told us that they are getting so much from these sessions with Dr. Persad that they want to keep holding them. We will do that because everyone wants to get back to normal as quickly as possible.”
Photos by United Active Living. Videos by Sherana Productions.
Don’t hesitate to talk with one of our active living advisors about life in a United community. They can arrange for a tour at your convenience. If 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 future visit. We are happy to help!
To learn more about life at United’s Fish Creek community, watch this short video.
Or, to find out more about life at United’s Garrison Green, watch this short video.