Some 30 years ago after The Village of Winston Park first opened in Kitchener, a small group of The Village’s leaders gathered around the dining room table in the home of Ron Schlegel to envision the year ahead. This first incarnation of the Schlegel Villages Operational Planning Retreat was the foundation of an annual tradition where, at present, a gathering of more than 400 leaders, team members, residents, family members and partners would take stock of the past year’s successes and opportunities while planning for the year ahead.
When this group last came together in Niagara Falls in the fall of 2019, nobody could anticipate the turmoil that awaited, however. That event was filled with hope as people reflected upon a decade of concerted efforts to lead a Canadian movement to change the culture of aging in our communities. Schlegel Villages had been a leader in this respect, and the decade ahead seemed to hold so much promise.
Oceans away in mirror time, a virus that would come to be known as COVID-19 was beginning to spread and transform lives around the world and by March of 2020, everything had changed. Personal Protective Equipment, government mandates, locked doors, cancelled programs and absent visits replaced what we’d come to define as normal. The medical model of care that Schlegel Villages had worked so hard to replace with a social model of living was thrust upon us all, and still the virus wreaked its terrible havoc, and feelings of loss and sorrow dominated.
There was no Operational Planning last fall as a third wave of viral spread rolled through the province and the world held its breath for the arrival of a vaccine. As a year of pandemic was marked, immunizations were rolling out and hope began to gleam upon the horizon and as small groups gathered for a hybrid in-person/virtual retreat in early November, hope was the dominant emotion.
The theme this year as Village teams gathered in their respective locations and the central support office team gathered in theirs was simple: “Our Path Forward: Reflect. Restore. Reset.” Connected through technology, keynote addresses connected everyone and though many lamented the loss of physical connectivity among a large extended family, the spirit of the gathering was as pure as ever.
Day 1 was about reflection, and as Chief Operating Officer Paul Brown set the stage for the three-day conference, he acknowledged the pain, sorrow and sacrifice that few beyond the seniors living sector can ever understand.
“As caregivers and leaders, we have felt and seen the effects of COVID-19 with a different perspective than most,” Paul said. “It’s a journey that has tested the whole being: our social, emotional, physical, mental and spiritual selves.”
But as hard as the past 20 months have been, there have been silver linings and as much as it felt at times the quest for culture change was sidelined, the teams were challenged to reflect on them and restore the resolve to continue to push for excellence in the way we support those who call a Schlegel Village home.
Over the coming weeks, we will strive to share some of what the experience of Operational Planning 2021 taught us, and we will share some of our hopes for the future.
More to come . . .