The support of family member volunteers can go a long way
By Kristian Partington
When Ernie Ilson’s wife Norma moved into the Village of Erin Meadows just over a year ago, he became a permanent fixture in Derry Neighbourhood. He’s there nearly every day, choosing to not only give time to his wife but to all of her neighbours in whatever capacity he can.
Engaged family members have such an impact in their loved ones’ neighbourhoods, supporting both residents and team members in the quest to offer enhanced life quality. Ernie is a prime example of this in action. He’s a key part of the Move Moreteam, which spent much of the summer on an initiative meant to inspire residents to make more time each day for physical activity – not so much scheduled daily exercise classes or gym routines, but simple activity to break up the days.
“We just started to get the folks doing a little bit of exercise and have a little bit of fun,” Ernie says. “We do a bit of clowning around with the movements to keep the attention.”
He says he was more than happy to get involved with the initiative when approached by recreation team member Larysa Mikhnevych because, if anything, “I need a little bit of exercise too.”
Move More, as a concept, was developed based on research provided by the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging indicating that sedentary living can have far-reaching consequences for the aging population. A conscious effort to increase physical activity, especially among those living in long-term care or retirement settings, can have a positive impact. One of the aspirations that Schlegel Villages strives to achieve in terms of reshaping the culture of aging is the translation of age-related research into practice. Move More is one way that’s happening and people like Ernie and the team members he assists are making it happen.
“Their activities and such aren’t what they used to be,” Ernie says of his wife and her neighbours. “They could do a lot of things before and now they’re at a different stage of life where the body doesn’t respond as it used to. Any type of movement that we can get them to do is a good thing. We owe it to the residents and their families to give them the best quality of life and lifestyle that we can, as close to what they always had, and Move More gives them that opportunity.”
Some of the Move More activities are planned, Ernie explains – scheduled times when music will play and team members and volunteers get residents up and moving. At other times, spontaneity is king, like on the mid-September Saturday night when a Mo-Town dance party erupted.
“It just sort of happened,” he says, recalling how the beats and rhythms of 1960s Detroit soul got people moving that night.
He remembers Mateo, a fairly new resident who’s constantly brimming with energy. “Matt was absolutely unbelievable,” Ernie says. “We could not stop him. He was dancing from one end of the open area to the other and not just walking, he was dancing back and forth, back and forth – he was moving more than we’ve ever seen anybody moving before, and honestly, that went on for 40 minutes.”
Team members and residents alike shared that time together and the benefits they received were likely not even a consideration. It was simply a random bit of fun on a Saturday night, Ernie says, and he was happy to be a part of it. That, in essence, is what Move More is all about.