For nearly eight years, Schlegel Villages has made a concerted effort to reimagine its approach to service and support for the residents who call the villages home. Beyond the villages, however, this shift in thinking is taking root as more organizations and agencies supporting older adults come to the realization that the antiquated, medical model of care of the past neglects the wellbeing and personhood of older adults.
The change in culture is spreading, partly because like-minded individuals and organizations are using the connectivity of social media to band to together and share stories and examples of this new way of thinking.
“Social media opens up easy access to a world of stories,” says Ted Mahy, online engagement manager with Schlegel Villages. “People are constantly searching for good stories or messages and can easily find them on their favourite social media site.”
And from afar, social media allows people to play an active role in some of the events that are redefining the culture of aging in our society. They can participate in webinars hosted by experts in the field, they can share the stories and videos that inspire them and they can connect with the people they love from around the world in ways that weren’t possible just a few years ago.
Take the Schlegel Village Olympics, for example, which were presented live through social media. Comments rolled in in real time from western Canada, Philadelphia and Boston. One woman patiently awaited her mother’s competition from across the Atlantic in England, offering her gratitude that she was able to take part in her mother’s moment of pride.
“When you share good news, it makes you happy,” Ted says, and there is no shortage of good news happening with the eldercare sector, despite what traditional media tends to focus on.
Sharing those stories of strength and success, Ted continues, “positively influences your connections, who then share that positivity with their friends, so in a sense you are spreading the good news and happiness with someone you may not even know.”
In doing so, the traditional views and stereotypes centred on aging and what it means to grow old are taken down, bit-by-bit, story-by-story, and a new narrative of life-affirming possibility plants its roots a little deeper.