‘We Invest in What we Believe In:’ Schlegel Villages and the Walk With Me Conference

Late in the evening on March 6 after arriving home from two full days in Niagara Falls at Canada’s only conference focused on Changing the Culture of Aging in our communities, I sent a question via e-mail to Paul Brown of Schlegel Villages.

Schlegel Villages delegates at Walk With Me 2018.

As the Chief Operating Officer of the family-owned long-term care and retirement provider, I wanted to know why his organization chooses to invest so heavily in the event. Not only was Schlegel Villages the platinum sponsor of the event, co-hosted by the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging and Alberta’s CapitalCare Foundation; they also invested in the education of nearly 40 delegates who both shared their knowledge with others in formal presentations and received new inspiration as knowledge recipients.

“Simply put, we invest in what we believe in,” Paul responded. “We believe in putting living first, and this conference provides a huge opportunity for us to learn from, as well as network with, like minded people who are not only aligned but serious about building communities that create a social model of living.” 

“We believe that it’s our neighbourhood team members who work hard at providing residents with an opportunity to live a life full of meaning and purpose, so we send a number of team members from across Schlegel Villages to attend the conference. It’s our team members who take these learnings and apply them in real time, which truly moves us along our journey. 

“Finally, the Walk With Me Conference helps others to join the movement, and we are always supportive in others who choose to make the transition.”

In 2011, when I began working with Schlegel Villages, they were early in their journey to transform their approach from an “institutional model of care” to a “social model of living.”

It’s a catchy phrase with deep implications, and while the idea sounds admirable, actually putting such change into practice requires steady determination and willingness to make mistakes and learn from them. For nearly seven years I’ve helped document the process, watching truly authentic relationships between team members, residents, volunteers and family members became the bedrock of the organization’s growth.

Watching 40 of these Schlegel delegates mingle with 300 other guests from across Canada and as far away as Japan solidified just how much progress the organization has made in its ongoing journey.

“This is a powerful cause,” said Barry Hickling, a resident attendee from The Village at Aspen Lake in Windsor. “We’re here united in one course to change the culture of aging. The issues that have been presented, both in the plenary sessions and in the courses, has been very eye-opening . . . and we’re all contributing to the purpose of how to deal with the aging process.”

“It has been a phenomenal experience.”