Momentum in Culture Change for 2015

The hard work persists, led by neighbourhood teams on the ground

By Kristian Partington

At the dawn of 2015, there is much to look forward to within Schlegel Villages, and as president and CEO Jamie Schlegel looks ahead, the word momentum comes up more than once. It’s not just the type of progress that carries one organization forward, but also the momentum of an entire shift in culture that will codify the belief in our communities that every person should have life-purpose and meaning at the core of their existence, no matter their age or ability.

When it comes to traditional elder care as most people picture it in long-term care and retirement settings, this shift – this culture change movement – can seem painfully slow at times, but progress is being made.

“We’ve got momentum, but that doesn’t mean that the momentum is going to carry us forward,” Jamie says. “We have to keep pushing and working at it, and there will be setbacks along the way and hurdles that we didn’t expect that we have to get over; that’s part of changing and innovating and improving. It’s never just a smooth upward trajectory but I think we do have momentum and with the good work of our neighbourhood team members that momentum will continue and accelerate.”

Jamie gives credit to current team members, and others who have moved on to influence the movement in other ways, for planting the seeds of change within Schlegel Villages. Programs and attitudes borne out of the LIVING in My Today dementia care philosophy create a better world for those whose perceptions of the world around them are altering with age, for example. In other ways, the Neighbourhood Team Development program is helping stronger, more cohesive care-giving teams provide more personalized care to smaller groups of neighbours within the same community in the village. Such programs and initiatives build upon each other to create space for enhanced life quality, and after close to five years of concerted effort to bring such initiatives to life, the signs of positive progress are becoming clear.

“It’s not glamorous work,” Jamie admits. “It’s hard work. Sometimes it feels like one step forward and one step back or even two steps back; it’s sometimes difficult work and it’s sometimes frustrating work but we’re creating those conditions for life-purpose and meaning to be realized more fully and I’d like to think that not only are we enhancing quality of life for our resident neighbours, but we’re also enhancing quality of life for our team member neighbours as well. That’s where I think we’re making progress.”

The upcoming year will bring much by way of growth. The new village being built at the North Campus of the University of Waterloo, which will house the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging and bring researchers, students, elders, caregivers and families together in new and exciting ways, is slated to open later this year.

Construction also continues at The Village of Wentworth Heights in Hamilton on what will be the organization’s largest collection of retirement neighbourhoods and in Mississauga, construction is set to begin in 2015 on expansion at The Village of Erin Meadows.

The work is endless it seems, but Jamie is calm as he looks ahead. The teams at work in each neighbourhood in each village are the key to the momentum he speaks of, and every day they grow more empowered to carry it forward, and the movement as a whole will be better for it.