Below, we explore how each company has brought unique foresight to retirement living, with some perspectives strikingly original concepts in retirement living.
In our Inspiring Leaders Series, we interview visionaries driven by a passion for excellence that’s manifest in Canada’s most innovative retirement communities.
With OPAL, we see that we are not segregating seniors by any means. As a matter of fact, we're embracing aging and actually built OPAL [around] the desire to maintain family. That's why we have intergenerational living, the very first one that was ever built. We are able to have residents with their own circumstances, having dependent children live with them, and to continue to do so.
We also decided to embrace [having] children [around], where it's a big part of our residents’ lives, to build a space designed for the little ones, where they can go and play make believe or the older grandchildren [can] play ping pong or a game of pool.
Now, visiting grandma and grandpa is not boring, right? It's not an obligation, but it's fun, and [they are] even [included in] our recreational activities. The residents’ experience is to have a choice, and to be able to have normalcy. They don't feel like they're going into a seniors’ retirement community, but more like they're on vacation and they're able to bring everybody with them, but instead of vacation, it’s actually their day to day, and that's their home.
[At Scarborough Retirement Residence, our] culture is born out of the spirit of family, and so we really do see and act and behave very much like a family, very inclusive. We are very transparent. We do involve the residents to have a voice, and to help us do the job that we do. They really do inform us. We involve the families in a way that I think is very, very healthy. We see ourselves as an extension of the family. I'm happy to say that the families feel the same way and so do the residents. We must have achieved something because everybody feels quite familial. I think our management style is also quite familial. We have employees that have been with us since we opened the doors.
It comes from the moment that they actually walk in through the door. We want to know their story.
Yes, they want to move, and yes, we want to facilitate it. And yes, we have the clicks and bricks and we can show them the amenities and their suite and where they're going to live. But really, it's knowing what their story is. And when we really sit down and we listen to the story, we're telling them that we're really interested in them.
So, the cohousing idea is very big in Toronto right now. It’s moving down to this area [Niagara]. It's where you might have widows that can no longer stay in their family home, or it's too big or it's lonely, and they're just not managing as well in that family home. And they get together with three of the girlfriends and they live in a larger home and they share all of those expenses. Now they go down to one car or they pool for groceries or, you know, they all have their separate area, but they have that ability to have a common area where they meet or they eat together or they do different activities together.
So that's the friendship suites idea, that co-housing opportunity within the units, where you could have a larger unit and have a common area that's shared and two separate areas, where are your personal living space, your bedroom, your bathroom and your sitting area, with a common area that's a kitchen/living area that is shared with another resident.
I would say the resident involvement. By empowering people to be an active part of the community [that] just results in a very vibrant, happy place. So, you're walking in and you're seeing you're seeing life! You're seeing people moving and people engaging with each other. And I think that's critical because when someone's making a choice to move in, it's very challenging. Many of them are coming from being alone at home.
Having an environment, where they can see that there's a life … that that there's a lot to live for and a vibrancy. And the development of relationships … that's what we've been trying to really work for over the last couple of years. [We want] to make sure that the engagement level and the active communication with everyone—families, residents—is there, so that the information is available when they want it, and they know where to get it.
We have an expression that we use over and over again: “the Delmanor Experience.” So, for our team, when they join, people will say, well, what is this Delmanor Experience that you're talking about? And it really is about anticipating our residents’ needs before they even have to ask, or their wants. To me, delivering on a service promise, when you move in, you expect that day-in and day-out, and our team delivers.
This is not a job. It is a calling. The compassion, the empathy has to be built right into your DNA. You are helping people that, quite frankly, may not be able to help themselves in some respects. And they're coming to us for those services.
Being a general manager is truly about leading a great team of dedicated people. Certainly, we at Delmanor are very particular on who we hire because, you know, in order to be one of the leaders in the industry, you have to have the best people delivering on those promises to our residents, who have come to expect great things.
As we have built our organization, we've recognized the need and importance to seek wisdom, knowledge, [and] expertise. And whether that's through community partnerships with the likes of the Alberta Continuing Care Association in Alberta or with the B.C. Seniors Living Association in B.C., or through knowledge partnerships with the University of Alberta, as we've done in Edmonton or the University of Manitoba, [the question is] “How do we bring new knowledge, new research to the forefront?”
And that can manifest itself in many ways. Number one, it's about leveraging senior educators to come and deliver their knowledge, their know-how to our residents and employees, so that they can learn to live their best life, whether that’s around mental health, whether it's from suffering with incontinence, [or] whether it's about healthy aging. How do we deliver on that expertise?
It could be about new technologies and research that are coming in the background. We've spent a lot of time thinking about brain health, [to] find ways to stay strong in later years. And in our partnerships with universities, we're using state-of-the-art new technologies to ensure that, as we're delivering services, that those services are foundationally rooted with the support of leading-edge researchers, so that we can take advantage of their knowledge up front in helping residents live their best life.
The third thing in my mind is about technologies more broadly. And so, whether it's using a touchless security system that allows us to track, through GPS, the whereabouts of our residents, whether it's about ensuring that if they have a fall, we know exactly where they are and we're able to go and serve them right away. Touchless entries on doors and entry ways into their homes so that [for example] the spread of disease can be mitigated through that process. These are the types of things that we think about every day around how do we deliver the next level of services to our residents that allows them to be in a safer, healthier environment.