A Glimpse of The Village at University Gates

Each day new residents make their way into the village they’ll call home

By Kristian Partington

Though The Village at University Gates only began welcoming new residents in the late days of August and its immediate neighbours in the adjoining Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA) were not much earlier arriving, the place is already a vibrant hub of activity when I arrive on Sept. 9.  

Large group photo of the University Gates team
Team members from University Gates and the RIA get together during
orientation in the middle of August. Residents began moving in shortly after.

About four residents per day have been making their way to the village since the doors opened in August, while the RIA team has been there a few weeks longer, preparing to begin this new phase in its approach to the challenges of an aging society. To add to the atmosphere of this entirely unique environment on the day of my visit, a large group of Schlegel Villages team members specializing in RAI-QI (resident assessment indicators and quality improvement) from across the organization are holding a meeting, while downstairs a cohort of Conestoga College practical nursing students have started the second day of classes in their new Living Classroom. 

This village has come a long way since I was last there in late 2013 during the official groundbreaking ceremony at the north campus of the University of Waterloo, and everything is as it was intended to be – a place where research, education and practice all come together in a quest to enhance the lives of older adults. 

Despite the fact that it’s an extremely busy time, everything in these early days has gone smoothly, the team tells me, and at the centre of it all are the residents who make their home here. 

I have a chance to sit down with George Fritz, who moved from another long-term care home in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. We talk about the life that led him as a child from Germany to Canada where he’d eventually become an adventurer and entrepreneur, spending time in Montreal and the Okanogan Valley in British Columbia before settling in Ontario. He’s well travelled, having spent time in much of Eastern Europe in the 70s, and he’s got a story to tell for every step he’s taken.

“It wasn’t a hard decision,” George says when I ask why he chose to move to University Gates. The place he came from was “an institution more than a residence or a home,” he says, and he was attracted to the idea of the village design at his new home – the Main Street concept and the small neighbourhoods spread throughout.

“The place is new, yes, but for me, the best part is the people,” he says. “Anywhere you go you are forewarned because you don’t know what you’re getting into, but since I’ve been here the people have been pretty interesting.”

George is already considering getting involved with village life in a meaningful way, perhaps through residents’ council, he says, because “in any community where you live you want to have some control over what happens.” He’s also looking forward to learning more about how residents will be able to contribute to the work of the RIA next door and he says that overall, he gets the solid impression that there’s much to look forward to in his new home.