Exactly three years passed to the day since members of each Village in the extended Schlegel Villages family shared space and time together for the organization’s Operational Planning Retreat in Niagara Falls.
The theme in October of 2019 was Honouring our Past, Defining our Future; that was a time to reflect on 10 years of combined effort to “change the culture of aging,” while collectively looking towards a future filled with potential to build upon past successes. With hope and optimism filling the room, nobody could have predicted what the immediate future would bring, for within a few short months, the scope of pandemic would reshape every aspect of life and bring the healthcare system to its knees.
The days, weeks and months since have been draining. Through grief and worry, however, the Village teams, residents, families and partners have forged ahead together with the Schlegel Villages values as the guiding star and, in doing so, they have shown the depth of their resiliency.
The 2022 retreat, which drew more than 400 leaders and team members together, was a chance to reunite and reaffirm the commitment to these values and learn from the collective experience that binds everyone together across 19 Villages.
Dr. Robyne Hanley-Dafoe set the stage on the morning of October 3, drawing on her scholarly experience specializing in resiliency, navigating stress and change, and personal wellness. In her keynote address, she honoured the immense pressure faced by those who serve the most vulnerable of our neighbours during the greatest health crisis in a century.
She began bluntly, honestly.
“People are very, very tired,” she said. “They’re feeling the weight of the world we are trying to navigate . . . and just because you carry it well, doesn’t mean it is not heavy.”
She then drew upon her deep studies into the inner-workings of people described as resilient to illustrate the common themes that emerge among those who “get up” versus those who “give up.”
The first factor she described was a sense of belonging among those who navigate the stress of life well, and she fanned her arms out across the room. The act of creating space for a Schlegel Villages Family Reunion alone offers a sense of belonging and, with it, psychological safety and trust among all who had gathered together. When one feels a sense of belonging, they navigate challenges with a sense of shared purpose.
Perspective; acceptance; humour; and hope all have a place in the resilient heart, Dr. Hanley-Dafoe said. One can choose to live hope-filled, and that in itself is “a form of rebellion against a challenging world;” as she said those words, the family of 420 people in the Sheraton Hotel conference room in Niagara Falls nodded in stoic defiance of the hardships that have dominated the past 30 months.
Over three days, the group shared their experience and perspective, learning from each other and recommitting to the goals and values of the growing Schlegel Village organization. They then re-entered their Villages, hope-filled and rejuvenated by the collective resiliency that binds them, and they carry their mission forth in every relationship and every interaction.
Watch for more stories to come from the 2022 Operational Planning Retreat . . .