Jul 12, 2018

By Chanelle Gunderson, Recreation Leadership Diploma Program Alumnus (2016)

I am a Recreation Assistant at The Waterford, which is a senior’s residence for independent living and complex care.

A typical day for me could involve teaching a fitness class (such as weight training, cardio, flexibility and balance), running a cognitive programs that helps keep their brains sharp (such as trivia, science experiments), and taking the seniors out on a bus trip (such as tours, lunches, concerts, casinos, shopping). I might also be bartending a social hour, setting up or taking down an event, or running other miscellaneous programs (craft beer tasting, baking, bocce ball, corn hole, arts and crafts, etc.)

When I’m in the office, I work on the activity calendar for the coming month, as well as a monthly newsletter, program posters, food requisitions, meeting agendas, booking entertainers and contractors for various upcoming events (such as travel shows, social hours, bands, choirs, yoga, tai chi, pet visits), and more. My team and I also do many in-house events, such as rooftop social hours, Diner en Blanc, outdoor picnics, carnivals, dog shows, Easter egg hunts, block parties, you name it!

I love my job because I get to make deep connections with the seniors I work with, and I get to show them that they are capable of doing so much more than they think they can at this stage of their lives (gymnastics and horseback riding, for example). For many of them, this will be the last place they live, and I strive to make the final years of their lives some of their best and most memorable. I make an effort to reach out to even the quietest of seniors, because something as small as a conversation and a smile can truly brighten their day. Often times in a residence like this, many of our seniors are at the beginning or middle stages of dementia, which is a stressful and confusing time for them. I try to design my programming around their individual needs. Some may need a little extra help, but that’s what I’m here for.

I think there’s a stigma about retirement residences that they’re depressing, quiet, lonely, and boring. But what we do here, and what the industry is starting to do, is just the opposite – our seniors are so busy with all of our offerings, they insist on booking their family visits and doctors’ appointments around these events so that they don’t miss out! As our population continues to age, there will be even more jobs available to work in seniors recreation, and I recommend anyone to give it a try. Had I not stepped out of my comfort zone during my Langara internship and taken a job working with seniors, I never would have realized what a rewarding career this is.


Photo - giving a free hand massage to Karlene Kennedy, a Waterford resident, at the Senior's Day Event at Tsawwassen Town Centre Mall on Saturday June 2, 2018