When Schlegel Villages decided to make a concerted effort to change its approach to care and create a more “social model of living” for every resident, the leaders and team members from all villages created a series of “aspiration statements” to guide them through this culture change.
These aspirations are like beacons, helping steer through the challenges associated with rethinking entrenched approaches to long-term care and retirement living; they ground the team in eight key concepts that each make life a little better for residents and team members alike.
This summer in the Village of Erin Meadows, a series of culinary events in each neighbourhood, culminating in a massive Village-wide event on Main Street, brought several of these aspirations together. The Taste of Erin Meadows capitalized on the diversity of cultures that creates such vibrancy in the Mississauga home, and brought teams, families and residents together in exciting new ways.
“This is the best project I’ve ever seen at this Village, and that’s quite something to say,” says David Kent, president of residents’ councils and chair of The Village Advisory Team that helped organize the event. “I’ve never seen anything that could match this.”
Essentially, the series of events showcased a different part of the world through the smells and flavours of each region, and people from across The Village were drawn to each neighbourhood out of curiosity, enticing aromas and the sound of music. The first week focused on central and eastern Europe, with resident and team members joining forces to make pierogis and borscht. The following week brought forth the sweet spicy aromas of Caribbean staples, jerk chicken and rice and peas. India in all of its complex wonder took centre stage in the third week with vegetable pakora and chicken kebabs; it was amazing to see team members teaching others about their culture as they shared the secrets of the food, David says. The Howland neighbourhood then hosted a Mediterranean theme followed by the flavours of East Asia, complete with homemade spring rolls created by a team member’s mother. Lastly, the pleasures of Africa rounded things out, with this last neighbourhood party erupting into dance to the beats of African rhythms.
“It just kept getting bigger and bigger every week,” says David during a follow-up Village Advisory Team meeting to discuss how to maintain the event’s momentum. Perhaps the best part of each event was how accessible it was to all; people living with dementia enjoyed it as much as anyone else, while even who can’t see or speak could enjoy it, because “they can taste and they can smell,” he says, and the feeling of togetherness accompanied every meal.
To wrap everything up, a second event was created with the help of the hospitality, marketing and recreation teams, drawing more than 200 people into The Village from the community beyond. It was a complete success, says hospitality director Dan Villamere – not just the final large event but also the entire endeavor, from start to finish. Perhaps what made it so was the fact that residents played an important roll in making each event successful, working alongside team members, just as the aspirations suggest.
“To see that here just really shows you that life isn’t over,” he says. “There’s still purpose and meaning in life and you can see that in something like this.”