Reflections on a Decade of Culture Change

In the first days of October as team members and leaders from across Schlegel Villages gather in Niagara Falls for the organization’s annual Operational Planning Retreat, they’ll be celebrating and reflecting upon a special milestone.   

Events such as the Festival of Flavours in 2015 offer an example of bigger culture changes efforts, but there are countless other small moments that define the movement.
Events such as the Festival of Flavours in 2015 offer an
example of bigger culture changes efforts, but there
are countless other small moments that define the movement.

It was 10 years ago that the organization made a conscious commitment to shift how it supports its valued residents in an effort to “change the culture of aging.” This broad term effectively shuns the medical model of care that has dominated the “nursing home” sector for decades and focuses on a social model of living, where both residents and team members lead richer lives through the strength of their relationships.

Central to this process is a series of eight aspirations developed early in the culture change journey to act as a compass to guide the organization’s efforts. Each Village has made concerted efforts towards progress in living each aspiration, and a glance back over the past decade highlights countless examples of what culture change can be.

It’s about resident empowerment: those moments when a resident fulfills their desire to learn something new or realizes a long-held ambition, like the time Edna from Tansley Woods experienced a hot air balloon ride or when Glendale Crossing’s Jim Sharrard sped around a racetrack at 100 miles per hour. These are examples of grand ambitions and the efforts of many to bring them to life, but empowerment can be something seemingly small, such as the opportunity Riverside Glen’s Sheila Lindsay was offered to work alongside the hospitality team there. Hard work, she said, is like a fountain of youth.

The concept of sharing meaningful activities among all Villagers is another central aspiration that helps define this ongoing movement, and through both large events and small, quiet moments, these wonderful examples help shift our thinking of what it means to live and work in the long-term care or retirement sectors. The story of how music and dance would transform Shirley from Taunton Mills each week when she joined neighbours from the retirement neighbourhoods for dance class springs to mind. Shirley was living with dementia, often closed and withdrawn within herself and she rarely spoke. When she joined the dance class, however, she emerged and her vibrant personality shone through again. The residents and team members who helped make this happen were as fulfilled as she was, and those meaningful moments stand out to this day.

From the idea of Flexible Living and Flexible Dining to Connecting Research and Innovation to Village life, the aspirations that guide Schlegel Villages every day are helping to define an ongoing culture change journey. The impact is lasting, and in both resident Quality of Life surveys and Team Member Engagement assessments, we see the lasting benefits of this mission.

We’d love to hear from residents, team members or loved ones to discover your shining examples of culture change in action. If you have a story to share, please reach out to Kristian at and let us know the good things you’re seeing within your Village.