At Origin at Spring Creek, it’s all about the people: residents and staff make it a special place to live and experience genuine community.
Origin’s Meet the Team series shines a light on some of the remarkable individuals bringing positivity and care to the lives of Origin residents every day.
Want to make an impact while living in one of the most beautiful places in Alberta? Learn more about career opportunities at Origin.
Meet Rhea: Life Enrichment Manager
Rhea’s mom says that she manifested her life in Canmore years ago when she got a Three Sisters mountain peak tattoo on her foot. Living in Canmore had always been a dream of hers, so when she and her husband decided to call it home together in 2018, she couldn’t believe her luck. In her role as Life Enrichment Manager at Origin at Spring Creek, Rhea balances a lot of responsibilities, running programs and activities for residents, and fostering relationships with the Canmore community. To do it all with a view of the Three Sisters from her work and home is nothing short of dreamy.
How long have you worked at Origin for?
It’ll be three years at the end of May. Time flies by.
What got you interested in working at Origin and working with seniors?
I’m a recreation therapist by trade. I had previously worked in Calgary for ten years in a variety of settings, including a long term care program, a young adult day support program, a post-acute rehabilitation program, and also a transition program. I’ve worked with people aged 18 to 104.
I’ve always loved working with seniors; I’ve always had a connection with seniors, even in hearing about their life stories and hearing their advice.
Prior to me moving here, my husband had lived in Canmore for about fourteen years so when it came to deciding who’s moving where, Canmore has always been a dream of mine since I was little and I never thought it would actually become a reality. But here I am living in Canmore – living my dream!
The hardest part was finding work here because between working with seniors and being a recreation therapist, there aren’t a lot of options. Origin just magically fell in my lap. Not only do I get to work with seniors but I get to work with such a wide range of abilities. We have residents who are independent and are still golfing five or more times a week, and it goes all the way to a secure unit where there are residents who require 24/7 supervision.
What does the day in your work life look like?
So since being here I’ve taken on some new roles. Originally I managed Life Enrichment, so running all of our programs and activities here. Pre-COVID, that included booking entertainment in the Mineshaft Tavern, running a variety of programs for the residents in the secure unit and the main site, and spending a lot of time fostering relationships within the Canmore community, trying to bring the Canmore community in to Origin so we could really have that sense of community and bridging that gap. I think sometimes people think of a seniors residence and get scared off, but our residents are so active and engaged so we really want to blend those two together.
Then about two years ago we started a companionship program. It started with just one person being a companion, and now I have two full-time and one part-time companion, and I’m looking at expanding this to three full-time.
With the companionship program, our residents either qualify for some respite care through Home Care or they are private-paying for this one-on-one time with companions. We have sixteen residents paying for companionship plus a waitlist. It’s really blossomed and grown, so I spend a lot of time overseeing the staff and supporting the residents while also working with nursing to see if those residents require any extra support.
On top of that, I’m also managing our volunteers as well. With COVID we haven’t done as much with volunteers.
Tell us more about the companionship program
We provide training to our companion staff members on how to spend this resident-focused one-on-one focused time. It’s really individualized, and it depends on what that resident may require. For example, we have one resident who is receiving assistance working on the computer within that hour, and we have another for whom it’s time to do fitness together. Other residents honestly are just having coffee and a conversation with their companion. Another resident could be working on a project; we did a photography project working with Kristy Wolfe here in town, so the companion spent one-on-one time with that resident to develop that program. Whatever that resident would like.
We have one resident who receives one hour of companionship time a week, and we have two separate residents who are receiving thirteen hours a week, and then we have all kinds in the middle.
What are some of the most rewarding parts of your job?
There are so many things that are rewarding about the role. Working in Life Enrichment, it’s so nice that we get a different understanding and perspective of each resident. We truly get to know them on a more personal level. That’s pretty amazing. One of the classes I offer frequently is fitness (our residents here are really active), and it’s really neat to see the progress of the residents. For example, we maybe will have someone who had an injury or some health issues, and all of a sudden they started coming back to fitness and we’re able to progress every week and count those victories with them, or having someone go on the bus trip for the first time and be able to get out of the building and see it lift their mood.
Right now COVID has been really hard for everyone and it’s just nice to be able to help with those little moments. We’ve added lots of funny costumes this year and so we’ll just show up randomly at their doors in a bunny costume for Easter, or for Mother’s Day last year we dressed up as mothers or babies and delivered treats to all of the residents. For Father’s Day we had our suits and ties on. It was about trying to provide elements of surprise and humour. Humour has been huge through COVID. Just knowing that you brighten everyone’s days a little bit.
What activities or places would you recommend to visitors or newcomers to Canmore?
We just like going for hikes and walks here in town. For newcomers – one thing I like sharing is if they’re under the age of thirty, joining the CYAN group. There’s a lot of support there to connect with the community. That’s one thing I love about Canmore is that there really is a sense of community. Everyone seems to band together to support everyone. There is a Facebook Group called the Bow Valley Community Connection, and there are people on there offering their help for things, and you hear these good news stories. Our food bank has been bursting at the seams, so many people have been providing donations that they are actually reaching out to other communities. Everyone is here to help each other out and I think it’s really amazing to see.
My absolute favourite moment in Canmore is if you go outside for a walk in the evening (I like Cougar Creek), you feel like you’re in a snowglobe. When there’s a full moon and it’s super bright out, it looks like someone has turned a light on. You can see the mountains perfectly and the stars in the sky. Especially after a fresh snow, it’s so quiet outside, and then seeing the mountains and the stars – oh my goodness. It’s the most amazing thing ever, and it never gets old. Every day the mountains look different. No two days do they look the same whether it’s the light or the amount of snow. My favourite part is just looking up to the mountains every day. That’s my must-do.
What is one thing you wish the world knew about the work you do?
There’s so much life and activity and excitement that happens here. So often people think ‘retirement residence’ and the image is negative – nothing ever happens there. That is not the case here at all – everyone is so active and independent and social, and I think it’s amazing.
Through COVID we’ve had the best social life ever – we have a whole building of 110 residents and all of our staff members. It feels like a little community. We’re all in this together.
Learn more about career opportunities at Origin at Spring Creek and discover what makes Canmore an incredible place to work and live.