Tag: seniors art
While working as the head of the 124 Street Business Association, Helen Nolan received a call from a couple with a new business idea. The couple had been rejected by two other business associations in Edmonton before calling Nolan. She loved the business plan and got right to work making sure the rest of the association was on board for this new business venture.
“If I want something, watch out!” Nolan exclaims with a laugh. “The business plan was just so unique and I knew that 124 Street would benefit from this new business tremendously.”
A short while later, Duchess Bake Shop opened its doors and quickly became a staple not for just 124 Street, but for Edmonton as a whole. To this day, Edmontonians venture out to the Westmount neighbourhood solely for macarons and other French baked delights. Nolan’s business savvy and community building know-how made her 15 years with the 124 Street Business Association crucial in the area’s development as it’s become one of Edmonton’s new favourite areas for food and culture.
To commemorate her contributions, the park on the corner of 124 Street and 108 Avenue will be named after Nolan with a big celebration taking place on Saturday, September 23, 2017, starting at 1:00 p.m. For Nolan, her commitment to her work as the Executive Director with the 124 Street Business Association stems from early years.
“I grew up in Mitchell, Ontario, a small town where I was related to half of the population,” Nolan explains. “My whole family was in business there and that’s where I learned that small business is truly the back bone of our country.”
In 1960, Nolan married a Member of Parliament from Hamilton, Onatrio, and found her passion for politics, remaining a champion for small businesses in the area. The couple eventually moved to Calgary for work, and then to Edmonton a short while later in 1987. She immediately embraced the city. “I remember taking a bus trip in and looking at the Hotel MacDonald and looking into the River Valley and thinking just how beautiful Edmonton was,” she reminisces. “Since moving to Edmonton, I’ve never looked back.”
It didn’t take long for Nolan to build connections around Edmonton both in business and in politics (she even ran for City Council for Ward 1 in 1992). At 75 years old, she finally decided to retire. A couple of years after that, she moved into Pleasantview Place, where she now focuses on her creative and artistic side.
“I’ve been singing jazz professionally for about 60 years,” Nolan says. “I’ve done shows with big bands and small quartets all over Canada.”
You can still find Nolan singing with her trio for the seniors at Cantebury Manor, Devonshire, and other venues around the city. She also volunteers with Pleasantview Place working with some of the other residents and tenants in a drama group. Nolan explains that the group had so much fun with the plays, they took the show on the road and performed for other GEF Seniors Housing buildings.
For Nolan, the park dedication is a happy by-product of a life working to make other people’s lives better. Whether it’s joy and entertainment from singing an Ella Fitzgerald classic or finding business opportunities to help build communities, Nolan’s drive to keep going isn’t slowing down. Now at age 81, Nolan describes herself as having a bubble of happiness in her that spills out.
“Every day I want to do something positive,” says Nolan. “Even if it’s just saying hello to someone at the grocery store. I never miss an opportunity to say hello or say something silly. So many people put up walls around themselves, especially as they get older. They shut out life. I want to open up my heart and keep embracing life.”
This is a story that was published in the August 2017 edition of Edmonton Prime Times. The editor was Maurice Tougas.
In the summer of 2015, GEF Seniors Housing opened Ottewell Terrace, welcoming more than 50 seniors to their new homes and over 70 children. On the main level of Ottewell Terrace, Primrose Place Family Centre, one of Edmonton’s oldest not-for-profit daycare centres, found its new permanent home. A staple in the East Edmonton community, Primrose Place Family Centre approached GEF Seniors Housing with the idea of building a day care in Ottewell Terrace.
Next door to Ottewell Terrace are two other GEF Seniors Housing buildings: Ottewell Manor and Ottewell Place. Where Ottewell Terrace is a completely independent living apartment, Ottewell Manor and Ottewell Place both offer lodge accommodations, which means a full recreation program for the residents. GEF Seniors Housing CEO Raymond Swonek points out that it didn’t take long to make the connection between the lodge’s recreation programs and the operations at the daycare centre.
“In no time, the residents at Ottewell Place and Ottewell Manor were interacting with the children,” says Swonek. “The residents love reading to the children, taking part in arts and crafts, and just spending time with them.”
Intergenerational recreation is a trend that is picking up. More seniors associations and youth organizations are teaming up with the intent of providing meaningful connections for the populations they serve. The science and research behind intergenerational recreation programs brings up many interesting benefits.
The benefits for the children involved with intergenerational recreation include improved academic skills, better social skills, decreases in negative behaviours, and increases in social stability. Children see an increase in self-esteem, problem solving skills, and an appreciation for seniors and aging when involved with these kinds of programs.
Where the benefits for the children revolve around their development, the benefits for seniors focus on their continued health. A 2004 study in the Journal of Urban Health shows that seniors burn 20 per cent more calories per week, experienced fewer falls, were less dependent on canes and other walking aides, and had better cognitive skills. Another study from 2003 in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dimentias showed that older adults with dementia or other cognitive impairments saw significant improvements in their overall mental health during interactions with children.
The social and health benefits of intergenerational programs do not surprise Shelley Sabo, Community Animator with Sage Seniors Association. Her work on Sage’s Age-ing to Sage-ing program brought together seniors and youth in Edmonton’s Beverly neighbourhood. Activities included gardening with the Little Green Thumbs program, knitting and crocheting, organizing a back-logged school library, relaxation exercises, and helping out at school events.
“Seniors have so many gifts to share with the community and it is only a gift if it is given,” says Sabo. “This project created an opportunity for many seniors to share their gifts with their community and develop some caring relationships that benefitted both the seniors and the youth.”
Age-ing to Sage-ing focused its efforts in the Beverly neighbourhood because there are a high number of seniors and children who would greatly benefit from their company. Sage’s report on Age-ing to Sage-ing points out that some of Edmonton’s diverse neighbourhoods tend to have pressing social needs among seniors and youth including poverty, multicultural and intergenerational conflict, and declining community spaces. With a focus on recognizing that seniors have many talents, skills, and gifts they can share, Sage wanted seniors to realize that they still had so much to contribute to their communities, which was a new concept to many of the seniors who participated.
“The Beverly neighbourhood has so many strengths and it is important to keep their seniors in the community,” says Sabo. “One of the seniors involved with Age-ing to Sage-ing actually contacted Schoolboard Trustee Ray Martin and started a community conversation about turning the old Rundle School into a new intergenerational community centre. At the two community conversations hosted by the Edmonton Public School Board, more than 130 people turned out at each event to share their ideas.”
The seniors in the Beverly neighbourhood also saw some connection from the Abbottsfield Youth Project with the Love Grows Here program, which paired elementary school children with seniors living at Porta Place apartments and the Beverly Place lodge on an art project. The art piece was created over five sessions between the students and the seniors and saw a gala-style unveiling for the community on December 1, 2016.
Sabo sees the intergenerational programs all over Edmonton as much more than something to help keep seniors busy. At the core of every one of the programs has been the community connection that drives people to give something more.
“I remember one senior who was suffering from depression and she decided to take part in Age-ing to Sage-ing,” says Sabo. “For her, there was nothing better than going three blocks to her neighbourhood school where she had an opportunity to give something back.”
“I turned the key/Opened the door/One bedroom suite/Second floor/Grace Garden Court.”
Deepa Garbaria wrote this opening line to a poem when she moved into her new home at Grace Garden Court. The poem titled “Anxiety” outlines her struggles adjusting to both moving to Edmonton from Montreal and to moving into her new apartment.
“I didn’t like it at first,” Garbaria says with a chuckle as she points out that she moved into the building back in 2001. Needless to say, Grace Garden Court has grown to be Garbaria’s home and has become the centre of much of her poetic expression.
Garbaria discovered her love of writing poetry after she retired from working as a teacher. Originally from Nairobi in Kenya, she landed in Montreal with her husband and three children and eventually got a job teaching at the school on the Kahnawake reserve. She remembers being involved in many different arts programs with the children she taught including directing theatre productions and writing poetry.
“Some of my former students would go to see my sister because she was an eye doctor,” Garbaria reminisces. “They all remembered me teaching them poetry and would still talk about it.”
As her skills in writing poetry developed, she began taking part in poetry readings throughout the city and even had a collection of poems published by a teacher named Sandra Mooney called Seeking in 2010. In 2016, she decided to submit a poem to a Canada-wide contest with the Victoria, British Columbia, based Poetry Institute of Canada. She received a fourth place prize for her poem Rossington Cottage and her poem was published in the Island Tides anthology along with the other contest winners.
For Garbaria, writing poetry in English provides a special challenge that she finds joy in overcoming. She speaks Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu (all relating back to her relatives who were originally from India), and Swahili (the main language in the African countries she grew up and worked in) along with English.
“Direct translations never work right, so I sometimes struggle to find those right words I need to express what I’m feeling,” says Garbaria. “When I find the words, though, it makes me so happy. But the happiness doesn’t last long and I want to work on the next poem and keep building my self-confidence.”
The topics of Garbaria’s poems range from the spruce tree outside her apartment window to watching nature during the winter time. She even wrote a poem to commemorate former Grace Garden Court building manager Joyce Rebman after she left GEF Seniors Housing. Even at 89 years old, every one of Garbaria’s poems is another opportunity for her to grow.
“I have so much in my brain and it needs to come out,” Garbaria says. “I have so much culture in my background, being Indian heritage, being a part of the British colonies, living in Africa, and now living in Canada. I have seen and experienced so much, countries changing, capitals changing, kingdoms falling, and I have so much to share.”
Garbaria’s life experiences help drive her to continue being creative. As she explains, she gravitates towards poetry because of how far it can reach and how anyone can enjoy it.
“Poetry is so universal,” Garbaria concludes. “Right from the songs and lullabies that a mother would sing to her child, poetry is in every human being.”
Ruby Gibeault has spent the past 12 years living at Porta Place apartments in Edmonton’s Beverly Heights neighbourhood. She made the choice to move out of her house near Commonwealth Stadium and was immediately drawn to the community around her new apartment. If you ask her what she thinks of the East end area she calls home, she’ll smile wide as she tells you about the community she’s grown into.
“It’s like a little village,” says Gibeault. “It feels very senior friendly and you can walk pretty well anywhere. There’s a park just a block away that I spend a lot of time at when I’m out walking. I think most of the seniors who live in this area feel that connection to the community.”
That community connection grew when the Abbotsfield Youth Project approached the Beverly Lodge with GEF Seniors Housing and the connected Porta Place apartments to be part of Love Grows Here. The initiative sees elementary school aged kids from the North East Edmonton communities work with seniors on an art project that expresses what they think about their neighbourhood. Rebecca Prentice, another tenant with Porta Place apartments who took part in Love Grows Here, explains that having the opportunity to interact with the kids brought a whole different energy to her day.
“There were barely any quiet moments while we were all working together,” says Prentice. “We were constantly talking and throwing around ideas and trying different things. In the end, all of the ideas came together.”
The final project that came together was a tree with a different kind of artwork on each branch. The kids each painted something that represented what they thought of their neighbourhood. Some of the seniors were nervous about trying their artistic skills, so they used a little bit of creative ingenuity to express themselves.
“I found some old magazines and clipped out the pictures and I painted around that,” says Prentice. “We all did something different to express what the Beverly neighbourhood means to us.”
Jean Charchuk, who lives in Beverly Lodge, wrote a poem that reflects her regular walks through the neighbourhood. She explains that she had cousins who lived in the area while she was growing up, so she always had a connection to the neighbourhood. “I’ll walk through Beverly, into Rundle Park, and down to the river,” says Charchuk. “I see a lot of things when I take these walks.”
Audrey Weir, who also lives at Porta Place apartments, painted trees and a long roadway. “It’s a memory from walking along Ada Boulevard,” says Weir, who moved into Edmonton’s North East corner in the mid-1950s. “I remembered how the trees hung over the road.”
One of the most surprising things the ladies learned was how interesting they found the kids. The mix of generations helped everyone involved learn to appreciate each other more, learning that everyone has something to give. Prentice fondly remembers the ice-breaker game they played when they all first met. They each had to put a fact about themselves into a hat, then the facilitator would draw each fact one by one and the room has to guess who the fact belonged to.
“I think all generations need to mix,” says Prentice. “For a lot of people, they don’t get to see their grandkids, or the kids don’t get to see their grandparents. Programs like Love Grows Here help fill that void.”
After the five sessions, the final art piece was unveiled at the Abbotsfield Youth Project Society office on December 1, 2016. Since then, the piece has moved around to some of the schools in the area, to the Suncor offices (who sponsored the project), and is set to arrive back to Beverly Lodge later in 2017.
For Weir, as much as she loved creating for the final piece, she found that watching the kids create to be most intriguing. She says that to see the kids put a glob of paint on their brushes and stare off into space as they created something was really fascinating.
“I have grandkids and I’ll sometimes just sit back and watch and listen,” says Weir. “That’s when you get to see them for the people they are. I did the same with the kids while they painted and that was fun.”
Charchuk explains that she gravitated towards one of the older boys taking part in the project. She says that she noticed he was quiet and seemed to be almost daydreaming, which reminded her of herself at that same age. As the two connected, she learned how artistically talented he was and it helped to inspire her.
“I watched him draw and I remember thinking that he can really translate what he has in his head onto the canvas,” Charchuk says. “After the project, he and some of the other kids wrote me a letter to say thank you and I cried while I read it. It was such a nice letter and it meant so much to me.”