Bringing the Schlegel Villages Mission to Life in The Village at University Gates

Nearly 10 years ago, the first shovels carved into the earth on the edge of the University of Waterloo’s north campus to begin construction of The Village at University Gates long-term care home. 

Ron and Jamie Schlegel were with the team from The 
Village at University Gates to mark an amazing milestone
as the Village is at near full capacity, filling up with new 
residents, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In 2015, when the Right Honourable David Johnston, who was then Governor General of Canada, welcomed the home’s first residents and opened the adjoining Schlegel Centre of Excellence for Research and Innovation, he called the Village “a monument to innovation and excellence, a monument to a smart and caring community and a smart and caring Canada.”

The true vision of the continuum-of-care came to life at University Gates when the retirement suites opened in August of 2020 and, with great excitement, the team there celebrated the remarkable achievement of 95 percent occupancy in the 240 retirement suites less than 2 years later. On a bright, late-April afternoon, Schlegel Villages president and CEO Jamie Schlegel spoke about the fact that to fill a community this size at any time that quickly is a remarkable achievement, but to do so during the height of a pandemic is beyond belief.

“At the core of this incredible success is the wonderful group of team members at University Gates, who deeply value the meaningful connections and relationships they have with the residents and families,” Jamie says.  “Residents, team members, families, students and researchers have joined together to create a vibrant community that is welcoming to everyone; this thriving community combines the research and innovation that is occurring every day and it’s turning out to be an attractive place for older adults to live and stay engaged.” 

The continuum-of-care model at Schlegel Villages, which combines publicly-funded long-term care with retirement homes that are paid for by residents themselves, is unique in Ontario, and it is the success of this combined system that fuels the ability of the organization to spread its mission to more communities across the province. It begins with long-term care, ensuring that those who can no longer be supported in their own homes are cared for within a community that meets their physical needs as well as their need for meaningful connections, growth and life purpose. These LTC homes are not the nursing homes of the past, tucked away at the edge of town, but instead are designed as community hubs that welcome neighbours from the surrounding community.

Success is achieved when the amenities available at the Village connect people outside the walls with what’s available to them inside. The Villages become seniors’ centres when those living at home can benefit from coming to the Village for services and programs, and they are centres of education where future caregivers inside Living Classrooms learn from hands-on experience alongside team members and residents.

The connection of long-term care to retirement simply expands this vision and University Gates is a shining example come to life. Each resident, team member and community partner should be proud of how quickly the community has grown, for this is how the Schlegel Villages mission spreads.