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Relationships Are Key to Healthy Aging

Kimberley Fowler
By Kimberley FowlerSeptember 2, 2015
Relationships are Key to Healthy Aging at Mulberry Estates

Mulberry Estates is anAtria Retirement Canadaindependent living community in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, where staff and residents share a special connection that’s more like a family. A community where everyone knows each other, and strong relationships, support and independence are at its core.

Healthy Aging at Mulberry Estates

The Canadian Community Health Survey on Healthy Aging showed that “social engagement — involvement in meaningful activities and maintaining close relationships — is a component of successful aging,” the CBC reports.

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But this isn’t news to the staff at Mulberry Estates. “Over the past 13 years the most heartbreaking thing I’ve seen is the resident who waits until it’s too late to enjoy all the wonderful amenities our community has to offer,” says Carol Bachiu, Hospitality Coordinator. “I’ve heard it too many times from the resident themselves and their loved ones ‘I wish I had made this move years ago!’ It’s amazing what scheduled exercise programs, activities, socialization and three nutritious meals a day can do for a person’s soul.”

From the smell of freshly baked cinnamon buns, a signature item for residents and tour groups, to cooking Wednesdays where residents challenge Leanne, the community’s gourmet chef, food is at the heart of the Mulberry Estates community.

The chef challenge is reminiscent of something you’d watch on the Food Network and winners have their recipes incorporated into the community’s meal plans, which is a great source of fun and pride for all involved. In fact, “residents have chef meetings which allows them to have their say in what they like and don’t like and it’s so important for them to give their input,” says Sharon Unsworth, Community Sales Director.

“I’ve heard it too many times from the resident themselves and their loved ones ‘I wish I had made this move years ago!” — Carol Bachiu, Hospitality Coordinator

Mulberry Estates Resident Activities

Residents have helped shape Mulberry Estates over the years through their input and participation in community decisions. The resident council holds 50/50 draws every month and they use the funds to buy whatever they need as a group. In the past they’ve purchased an extra shuffle board table and a paper shredder for the library.

“They run a lot of activities themselves,” explains Carol. “Whatever is an interest is developed over the years and they take off with it.”

This year the community added raised gardening beds with the help from the Western Development Museum. Interested residents organized themselves, shopping for the plants and transplanting everything. “They attend the beds together. Two are for flowers and one for tomatoes,” says Carol. It’s not uncommon for staff to go out of their way to accommodate resident hobbies and interests in this way.

Relationships Are Key in Senior Living

Take Darla, for example. “Darla has started a reading club and she is a professional ‘voice,’ so we had to find her the perfect location in our building for her equipment. Now she reads for our vision-impaired residents,” explains Dale Hackinen, Executive Director. In this way residents look out for each other, as they would in any family. “Our staff care and go above and beyond the call of duty doing odds and ends for residents who also do that for one another. It is the beautiful thing about life here — watching how they take care of one another,” says Carol.

The community is especially attentive to residents who need a little more help, like Florence, who has a severe vision impairment. “For every meal when she comes we make sure someone is near the elevator to guide her to the dining room,” Dale says. “If someone needs help with their wheelchair after an accident we ensure someone is there to help them navigate.”

The residents look out for each other and if someone is absent from a meal, they let staff know. “If someone is missing from a meal we check to see if they are okay or have gone out. If people aren’t feeling well we will take food up to them and there is no extra charge for that,” Dale explains. “Some communities don’t include these extra services,” he says. “It’s something we do because they are family.”

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Senior Living Pets Are Family

The Mulberry Estates family includes animals as well. The community won the Best Pet Friendly Senior Living award in 2014. Residents who want to bring their dog or cat with them are encouraged to and aren’t limited to certain floors of the building, a policy often adopted at other retirement residences. “Everyone loves animals here,” says Sharon. “We have lots of walking trails for dogs and there is nothing else like that in Moose Jaw.”

Situated across the street from a golf course the community was designed to include a quarter mile of beautiful walking paths and a quarter mile track, which helps residents and their four-legged companions remain active and healthy. “You’ll see one of our 90-year old residents who has lived here for 12 years and he walks his dog Bodacious every day,” Dale says. “Everyone in the dining room saves their leftovers for Bodacious.”

“This isn’t a job. This is something I’m passionate about because I’ve been through this with my Dad. I wish 15 years ago we had this choice. He might have had a better end of life,” Sharon Unsworth, Community Sales Director

Empowering Independence at Mulberry Estates

Resident care extends beyond the doors of Mulberry Estates as well with the community’s complimentary door-to-door bus transportation service, which is unparalleled in the area. Offered seven days a week, residents are able to do their own shopping, enjoy Saturday afternoon tea with friends or attend Sunday church services at their regular congregations, keeping existing friendships, maintaining their independence and being able to go out into the community as they please. “Our drivers will wait for them at an event if they have to,” explains Sharon. The community also organizes bus day trips throughout the year. Tours within an 80 mile radius of Moose Jaw include visits to museums and local watering holes for chicken wings.

But perhaps the one feature that sets Mulberry Estates apart is the staff. Glenys Hudson never thought she would be driving a bus for a retirement community, she used to work in the health care industry but she came back to Moose Jaw from overseas to take care of her mom. She loves the residents and is great with them and they love her, which is why she’s become a regular fixture in the community.

Although the staff all have varied, diverse backgrounds they share a passion for senior care, which often stems from a personal experience. “Everyone really is passionate about being here,” Sharon says. “This isn’t a job. This is something I’m passionate about because I’ve been through this with my Dad. I wish 15 years ago we had this choice. He might have had a better end of life,” she says. With such dedicated staff it’s no wonder Mulberry Estates feels like family; and more like a home than a residence.

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Kimberley Fowler
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Kimberley Fowler

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