By MYRON LOVE
The residents of the Shaftesbury Retirement Home recently participated – along with their compatriots across Canada - in the 11th annual All Seniors Care (ASC) Seniors Games. Games organizer Ronna Goldberg reports that – in total – over 4,000 seniors – living in ASC’s 31 assisted living facilities in five Canadian provinces took part in the games that are held in the first week of February.
“Every year, we choose a different theme,” says Goldberg who is the ASC national event planner and community engagement person. “This year, the theme was tradition.”
(She observes that every retirement residence has its own personality reflecting the make-up of its residents.)
Each residence, she continues, created its own song based on the music from “My Favourite Things” from “The Sound of Music”. Thus, at the Shaftesbury with its large Jewish population, she points out, there was a lot of emphasis on Chanukah and Purim.
The week of activities, she reports, began with a non-competitive “Walk and Roll” exercise – modeled on the Boston Marathon. Residents walk or roll in their wheelchairs through the halls of their facilities. Other activities throughout the week included bocce and the similar petanque atout, Wi bowling, ladder golf, shuffle board and billiards.
On Friday, the last day of the competition, the focus, Goldberg notes, is on cognitive skills with participants trying their hand at Jeopardy, bridge or cribbage.
Each seniors games begins with an opening ceremony and ends with a closing ceremony at which the theme song is sung and – for the closing – in addition to the awards given out, representatives of all three levels of government are invited – generally the local representatives in each of the areas in Canada where the residences are located. Each residence also receives letters from the Prime Minister’s Office and from the Governor-General.
“It is really great to see the faces of our seniors,” Goldberg says. “They are so excited to be able to show that they can still function competitively. There is a lot of laughter and a great sense of camaraderie. It leaves me kvelling.”
Goldberg has been organizing the games and other activities for ASC for the past 12 years. Some readers however may recognize her name though from her previous incarnation as the proprietor of “Mindscape” on Corydon. Goldberg opened “Mindscape” shortly after coming to Winnipeg in the 1980s. Originally from Chicago, she met her future (and former) husband – who was from Winnipeg – on a kibbutz – and came here to begin her married life.
Initially, she worked for a time for the Folk Arts Council and the Winnipeg Jewish Community Council (as the Federation was then known).
“When I first moved to Winnipeg, this was still a conservative city in terms of business,” she recalls. “There were no evening hours and businesses were closed on Sundays.”
Her first idea for a business venture was to open a clothing store. “My husband suggested that I take a year to study the market and find a niche,” she says. “Mindscape specialized in cards and paper products. When I opened, I started with beautiful cards and paper products. I soon learned that customers wanted clever, funny or goofy rather than beautiful.”
Goldberg closed “Mindscape” in 2008 after 25 years in business. While contemplating the next stage in her life, a former customer who was the executive director at the Shaftesbury asked her for help planning programs at the facility.
“I had had some experience planning corporate events while operating Mindscape,” she says. “So I went pt the Shaftesbury and was soon asked to be the event planner for the entire organization.”
While the Seniors Games may generate the most publicity, Goldberg also organizes a number of other regular activities for the ASC residents throughout the year – and several of them involve outreach. For example, just before Christmas, residents at all the ASC facilities are encouraged to make Christmas cards and put together packages to send to Canadian soldiers stationed abroad as well as homeless veterans being housed at Cockrell House, a place in Victoria that provides safe transitional housing and social services to help ex-military personnel integrate back into society in a healthy way.
The ASC residents also provide cookies for the homeless in their communities at Christmas and chocolates and cards for the homeless and the bedridden for Valentine’s Day. “It makes the recipients feel that somebody cares,” Goldberg notes. “We also provide enough cookies so that the homeless recipient can share with others for Christmas.”
Coming up will be Earth Day activities on April 22nd. “We will be having silent auctions and other activities with nature themes to raise money for planting trees in each province where he have residences,” she explains. “A few months ago, we had a ‘Toonies for Trees’ campaign and we will be adding those dollars to the money we raise on Earth Day.
“Our programs help our residents to feel that they are still able to make a difference in the world,” she observes. “When I was in business, my focus was in selling my products. Now, my goal is to create wonderful experiences for the residents. I am working harder now than ever to create activities that everyone will enjoy.”