Lead the way
Each month, United’s programming is built on a theme. May’s theme was “Lead the Way” — residents have opportunities to explore, learn, and share their experiences. Here are a few examples of residents who have spent a lifetime forging paths and blazing trails, and continue to lead the way — in ways big and small — in their community today.
Jean Geddes – artist, teacher, bear whisperer
“Wanna see something cool?” Jean has emerged from her studio with a bizarre contraption, along with a series of illustrated cards. Each card contains a pair of identical images. “This is my grandmother’s Stereoscope from the early 1900’s. Put the card in the holder, look through the viewer, and the image suddenly becomes 3D.” It is really cool — a precursor to the modern ViewMaster, though the ornate tin stamping suggests this was more of a parlour novelty, rather than the children’s toy we’re all familiar with.
It’s easy to see why she cherishes such an object — Jean is well known in artist circles for her oil paintings depicting a variety of subjects, most notably her paintings of North American landscapes. The Stereoscope — which puts a singular subject in front of your eyes to focus on — is much like how Jean’s paintings capture the light and depth of her subjects and draw you in.
“I spend a lot of time painting in nature. My husband Dean was my companion and lookout — I get so absorbed in my work that I’d often have close encounters with wildlife,” she laughs, “we had to make some hasty getaways back then — bears are a lot faster than you think!” Despite the bears, Jean still paints outdoors en plein air as often as possible.
Jean’s suite is eclectic — the art displayed on the walls are all from fellow artists who gifted and traded pieces with her during her tenure as an instructor. Along with her leadership roles in the Canadian arts community, Jean taught art classes at Swinton’s Art Supplies — giving budding artists the guidance and confidence to cultivate their own techniques. “I still love to teach. I facilitate watercolour workshops for residents in United’s Art Studio — it’s wonderful to watch people who claim to not have a creative bone in their body surprise themselves with a truly marvelous painting.”
Jean’s greatest gift as a teacher however, is not her extensive knowledge of colour theory, brushes, canvases or mediums — though she does note the importance of using the correct tools: “if you don’t have the right tools, you won’t create the right painting.” Rather, Jean focuses on developing observational skills. “A lot of times, we get stuck drawing what we think, not what we see — it’s easy to get stuck in your head, and forget the forest for the trees.”
Jean goes on to share her one sure-fire technique to create a successful piece, one she still uses to this day: “if your painting isn’t working, turn your reference image upside down and go from there. Now that you’ve taken logic out of the equation, you’ll be able to paint without making assumptions.”
“Art is my life — my soul couldn’t exist without it. I will continue to create, to improve, to learn, and to show others how art can make a difference in their lives.”
Anne McIntyre – librarian, teacher, Oregon trailblazer
If you make your way to the cozy corner in the Garrison Green library, you will likely find Anne quietly tending to the stacks — filing returns, tidying sections, and pulling titles to feature for her timely thematic displays. But this isn’t just a forgotten corner of tattered beach reads and dusty outdated encyclopedias — Anne curates and shares books that coincide with current events, local interests, global issues, along with a variety of other tomes that speak to nature, art, and science.
Anne has been a librarian since the early 80’s. Specifically, she began her career as an elementary school librarian in Edmonton — back then, she was the gatekeeper to the world beyond us. Little kids with big imaginations, eager for knowledge and adventure.
Anne, being the person she is, flung the gates open and implemented one of the first computer-based library systems in Alberta schools. Before long, she organized a computer club for the students, learning alongside the kids, navigating their way into the new digital age together. “We played games, mostly, and created a few graphics — it was nothing like it is today — almost no one had a computer in their house. But at the time, this was highly technical stuff. Trips to the computer lab were a treat — something special.”
When technology was inaccessible to most, and definitely off limits to sticky fingers, Anne helped lead the way to lay the foundations for a generation of kids who were speeding into a future where an entire library (and calculator) could fit in their pocket.
In a world where everything’s changing, there are still some refreshing constants. Anne is actively involved in the daily going’s on in the community — she participates in clubs, attends events, fervently cheers on the Oilers, and partakes in lively debate at every opportunity —never shying away from asking questions, or offering opinions. And the books. We mustn’t forget the books.
“I didn’t really keep up with technology after retirement,” Anne muses, “but books keep my mind and imagination active. I think reading opens up the mind and helps you understand that everyone has a story to tell. Listening to other people’s stories, regardless of genre can help you relate to others. It changes your worldview without leaving your living room.”
As the conversation inevitably drifts to what’s currently on her bookshelf, Anne lists off a selection of biographies, modern fiction, notable classics, and a few thrillers, just for fun.
Out of curiosity, have you ever dared to ask a librarian what their favourite book is?
Anne’s reply was simple. “All of them.”
Leaders live here
Jean and Anne’s stories may seem surprising and unique, but the truth is, they are just two examples of people who call United home who have spent a lifetime — past and present —creating, teaching, adventuring, inventing, mentoring, and learning.
Here at United, we’re proud to be a place where people continue confidently along their paths, and also have many opportunities to forge new ones. Our communities offer individually curated lifestyle and care options, bespoke programming, community partnerships with post secondary and arts organizations, and resident-led initiatives — all designed to encourage and celebrate each individual’s unique needs and desires. That’s why residents at United continue to ‘lead the way’.
Speak with one of our active living advisors about life in a United community. They can arrange tours of our Garrison Green and Fish Creek communities. 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!