Reflections on the Stories of Our Well-Being

By Kristian Partington

Back in October as the coloured leaves of autumn were preparing the way for the white flakes of winter, leadership teams from across all of our villages were joined by neighbourhood caregivers, family members and a few residents for the annual Schlegel Villages Operational Planning retreat.

The topic of discussion over three days focused on the Seven Domains of Well-Being, as first presented by The Eden Alternative – one of the world’s leading organizations when it comes to reshaping the way societies view the support of our elders. The Eden Alternative presents an antidote to the plagues of loneliness, depression and helplessness that affects so many people who live in outdated, institutional care settings – those nursing homes that haunt younger people’s imaginings of the future.

In a nutshell, The Eden Alternative suggests that the seven primary Domains of Well-Being are key aspects of personhood that all people, regardless of age, should know in their lives in order to experience a strong sense of self. The absence of any one of the seven can detract from our emotional health and well-being; sadly, for many people living in the late stages of life, few – if any – of the seven are present.

As 2014 winds to a close it seems appropriate to reflect on a few stories from the year in the context of these seven domains of well being, thinking all the while of how best to carry our past successes into the future.

For reference, The Eden Alternative’s seven primary Domains of Well-Being are as follows:

  • IDENTITYbeing well-known; having personhood; individuality; having a history
  • GROWTHdevelopment; enrichment; expanding; evolving
  • AUTONOMYliberty; self-determination; choice; freedom
  • SECURITYfreedom from doubt, anxiety, or fear; safety; privacy; dignity; respect
  • CONNECTEDNESSbelonging; engaged; involved; connected to time, place, and nature
  • MEANINGsignificance; heart; hope; value; purpose; sacredness
  • JOYhappiness; pleasure; delight; contentment; enjoyment

In terms of identitythe story of Maria Nesci springs to mind. Maria lives in Lambton, a long-term care neighbourhood at the Village of Humber Heights, and part of her core identity is that of a strong Italian woman who loves nothing more than time in the kitchen. When she’s in the Lambton country kitchen, the smell of Italian comfort food let’s everyone know Maria is at home.

Linda Devine from the Village of Glendale Crossing in London shared her story of Growth as she described her decision to take control of her health by quitting smoking and working with the Program for Active Living team towards increased strength and fitness.

Back in May at the Village of Tansley Woods in Burlington, Cy Rideout proudly showed off the woodworking shop he had a hand in setting up. He and a fellow resident donated most of the equipment and in their choice to pursue a hobby that some might deem risky, they display a clear sense of Autonomy and the freedom to make their own choices.  

There are few better examples of Joy than the story of Annette Clark and Arthur Boudreau, who despite nearly 40 years of marriage were separated when Annette’s health took a tough turn. The team at Barrie’s Coleman Care Centre worked with residents and families to arrange for a place for Arthur in the village, and they were reunited in the summer.

Out of the Village at St. Clair, our newest village in Windsor, a story of Meaning and Connectedness emerged through the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge, when team member Jason Gignac met resident Leo McNeil, who lives with ALS. They became fast friends and decided to raise funds together through the ice-bucket challenge.

The idea of community Connectedness can clearly be seen at the Village of Riverside Glen in the dignity quilt created there by team members and residents to honour those in their community who’ve passed away. As one of the creators suggested, “this quilt is made with love,” and the ceremony that accompanies the passing of a neighbour brings everyone a little closer together.

Security can mean many things, but the Security that comes from knowing that a team of people will go great lengths to help you feel stronger and healthier, despite the challenges you face, means a lot. The smile on Pat Perrin’s face as she spoke with one of these team members about the wounds she lived with for years that were finally healed shows how safe she feels at the Village of Aspen Lake. 

Throughout the year, countless stories have emerged that highlight the relationships between team members and residents that each help to foster to well-being of all. Glance back through our archives to see them all, and if you have any questions, comments or a story to share, please contact Kristian at pwritingstudios@gmail.com.