Thriving Villagers in Thriving Villages

Deep Reflections at the 2015 Operation Planning Retreat

By Kristian Partington

The Blue Mountain resort near Collingwood welcomed team members from across Schlegel Villages to the organization’s annual Operational Planning retreat Sept. 29 – Oct. 1, offering the opportunity for deep reflection on the past and an aspirational imagining of what the future might hold. 

A resident and team member sharing a laugh at a conference table
Tansley Woods resident Keith Woodley and Coleman Care Centre GM
Pam Wiebe at the 2015 Operational Planning Retreat at Blue Mountain.

The past five years has been a period of intense growth and change for Schlegel Villages. Several new villages have opened or become part of the family while others have expanded welcoming and even greater range of residents and neighbours. All the while a conscious shift in philosophy has reshaped the way support is offered for each resident moving away from the institutional “nursing home” approach to a social model of living that is not only centred on each resident, but directed by them. 

In years past, Operational Planning has often introduced a new program or concept for team members to implement as a tool to help align each village with the mission of the organization – the LIVING in My Today dementia education program (LIMT), for example, or the 8-module Neighbourhood Team Development (NTD) program. With so much transition recently underway, however, the core leadership team at support office decided this year’s retreat would be a chance for people to deeply examine where the organization is today and reflect on successes and challenges over the course of the journey. 

“Our greatest strength is this special culture that we have,” said CEO Jamie Schlegel as he addressed more than 270 people during his opening remarks. “Let’s re-centre and immerse ourselves in this culture. This year is a good time to take a brief rest, step back and take stock of how far we’ve come but also look with a critical eye at what has worked and what hasn’t.”

To that end, much of the first day was spent examining the aspiration statements that for the past five years have guided each village in the quest to change the culture and create the right environment for all villagers – team members, residents, volunteers and families alike – to thrive. These aspirations focus on things like creating opportunities for meaningful and shared activities or offering more flexibility in all aspects of life. Deep discussions were held on each of eight aspirations in order to determine if they’re worth the continued effort and ask if the particular focus is still relevant in the organization today. Overwhelmingly the consensus was positive, indicating that these aspirations are helping to inspire a more meaningful life for both team members and residents. 

This was reflected in the Keynote address by David Kent, who eloquently spoke about how his life was transformed for the better after moving into long-term care at The Village of Erin Meadows last year. For David, the relationships he’s built and the opportunities he’s had to honour his personal identity and find meaning and growth every day has given him a new perspective on life.

While Day 1 was about reflection on the past, Day 2 was about imagining the ideal future and the third day gave time for each village team to gather and design a realistic set of goals to achieve in the coming year.

“Sometimes we get discouraged or lost in how much more we have to do and lose sight of how far we’ve actually come,” Jamie said. “There’s been a huge amount of activity all centred around that ‘putting living first’ initiative and it’s important to acknowledge that.”

The key now is to make sure that moving forward, the values and efforts that have led to positive growth and change are nurtured so that every current and future resident at Schlegel Villages will have the opportunity to live a full life of meaning.