Revamped Kitchen Brings a Neighbourhood to Life

At Emma’s in Arbour Trails, residents and team are inspired to bake a little more

Few could argue that in terms of comfort, not much beats walking into a room filled with the sweet smells of fresh baked goods wafting from the kitchen. The scents attract people, enticing them to make their way towards the source of goodness, inspiring them to conjure memories from the past. They remember their mothers’ fresh bread slathered in butter and honey; if a pumpkin pie is in the oven it instantly offers recollections of autumn harvest feasts.   

There's simple pleasure to be found in spending time
together cooking and baking in the revamped
country kitchen in Emma's at Arbour Trails.

The team in Emma’s neighbourhood in the Village of Arbour Trails, which serves people who are living with dementia, has noticed a new sense of vibrancy since revamping the country kitchen overlooking the great pond below. The investment they made was relatively small, simply making sure the kitchen was stocked with the tools and the ingredients needed to bring the kitchen to life, and now the comfort homemade food can bring is served on a regular basis.

“The cupboards were bare,” says recreation team member Jessica Rawlings as she points out some of the tangible changes in the revamped kitchen. She swings the doors open and the shelves are brimming with the core staples at the base of common baking. “It was interesting that we had the blank canvass to go through and we figured out, based on our Top-10s, what residents would be interested in doing,” she says. The Top-10 lists she refers to are individualized representations of important characteristics and facts that help define each resident. It’s not surprising that cooking and baking is high on many lists of things people enjoy.

Typically, “In the Kitchen” is a scheduled time on Wednesday mornings when the team will put a pot of coffee on and invite residents in to create something together. “It’s amazing,” Jessica says. “You bring in a couple residents and then others smell the cookies and they all come rushing in.”

The less tangible differences the team sees now are in the faces of residents when the kitchen comes to life, the conversations the smells can inspire and the simple joy people have when the scents of home waft through the neighbourhood. Guests of the neighbourhood have noticed too, Jessica says, as well as some of the casual team members who come from outside agencies to fill the odd staffing shortage in the neighbourhood.

“They’ll come in and will say ‘it’s interesting to see life actually happening in the neighbourhood,’ ” Jessica says. All too often people supporting those who are living with dementia are only focused on the tasks of caregiving, but the type of connection that comes from one-on-one in the kitchen over coffee while muffins are in the oven is what truly matters.

The revamped country kitchen allows for this, Jessica says, and the team and residents are both finding great pleasure there.