Java Mentorship Bringing Villagers Together

Program offers new opportunities for residents to support each other

By Kristian Partington

Nearly five years ago, when team members with Schlegel Villages support office pored over the results of the extensive resident Quality of Life surveys, one strikingly poor result stood out: few residents could say that people regularly seek their help or advice, a statement that can have a definite negative impact on life quality.

In response, the organization introduced a unique, evidence-based mutual support program into the villages known as the Java Music Club and since then, a new type of connection has been made among residents. The club meets weekly in nearly every neighbourhood, opening up conversations about some of the challenges of life and presenting an opportunity for residents to lean upon each other and share their wisdom and experience.

But for some people living in a long-term care or retirement village, the weekly gathering in a group setting is still a bit too far outside their comfort zone and so, the Java Mentorship Program was developed. Instead of bringing people into the supportive group environment, the support is mobile with two mentors visiting with residents who may appreciate the company in a short visit. The mentors may be residents, family members, team members or volunteers and in the program they receive education on subjects such as compassionate listening or supporting someone in the grieving process. The mentors then pair up and spend time with some of those who may be facing isolation and loneliness.

In December, Irene Grybas, an active long-term care resident at the Village of Taunton Mills in Whitby who began volunteering with the mentorship program not long after it rolled out in September 2015, spoke with The Village Voice about her initial impressions. She said then that she noticed a positive reaction when visiting with people who often choose to remain in their rooms, and she was discovering personal benefits as well.

“It helps us because we can do something to help somebody else and you know, we see that maybe they need us,” Irene said. “Some of them, they are lonely and for myself, I’m glad that I can help somebody. If I can help, I always do.”  

The conversations can be pretty wide ranging, Irene said, depending on whom she’s visiting. Sometimes they reminisce of travels in their younger days or they talk of growing up in different countries and the path that led to Canada. The fact is, everyone has a story to tell and the opportunity to share time with others can have a meaningful impact for everyone involved. It’s still early in the program’s implementation but its showing initial signs of success. Over the next few months, the results will be closely monitored to verify what many are already seeing: a deeper connection among those within the villages is a path to enhanced life quality for all. 

For more information on the Java Mentorship Program in your village, please contact a team member in recreation or email Kristian at