August 11, 2021
Camping, hiking, snowboarding, and exploring — these are just some of the ways that Jacqueline Siemens, active living manager at Berwick on the Park, loves to spend her time. Berwick on the Park is located in beautiful Kamloops B.C., which makes it ideal for Jacqueline as a lover of the outdoors. She tells us that “Kamloops is perfectly situated for adventure.”
It was the spirit of adventure that called Jacqueline to Berwick on the Park. She was intrigued by the recreation therapy program offered at Saskatoon Polytechnic in Saskatchewan and decided to pursue a degree.
“As soon as I got into the program, I loved it,” she says.
Jacqueline tells us she needed a senior living community to host her practicum and chose Berwick because she had a friend living in Kamloops at the time. “I thought it would be exciting to spend 8 weeks in the mountains and go back home at the end.”
But things didn’t quite go as planned.
“One thing led to another, and four years later I’m still here. Everything’s clicked into place for me and I couldn’t be happier.”
As an active living manager, Jacqueline spends most of her time coming up with programs and preparing everything that’s needed to run them. She’s supported by team members Janet and Paula, both industry veterans. Their role is on the facilitating side. While Jacqueline says her strengths are navigating and troubleshooting, she enjoys facilitating programs when she has the opportunity.
“It gets me outside those planning and brainstorming boxes that I sometimes get pigeon-holed in.”
Jacqueline’s favourite thing about her career is that monotony is not a word in her vocabulary. “Every day is different. It could do a 180 and before you know it, you’re going in a completely different direction. It keeps you engaged so there’s no mental checkout.”
She says that adapting to change is one of the most challenging parts of working in recreation. But change isn’t always a bad thing, she adds. She tells us about a recent surprise visit the Berwick team received. “We had one of the florists in town pop in last week to donate six bouquets to the building.” Jacqueline says taking the time to thank them and get some photos was well worth the change in her plans. “And who doesn’t love getting flowers?”
Jacqueline shares her best advice for staying flexible when programs don’t go as planned, which she received from her General Manager. “If you don’t share every detail of what a program is supposed to look like, no one will know the difference. As long as everyone enjoyed themselves, that’s a success.”
Perhaps the greatest test of Jacqueline’s adaptability came with the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s one she passed with flying colours. Jacqueline has been called a “total rockstar” at overcoming the challenges of the pandemic, which she says was a team effort. “Again, Janet and Paula with their creativity, they came through with some really great ideas.”
Jacqueline says that if there’s a silver lining to be found in the pandemic, it’s that it helped the active living team get out of their comfort zone and try new things. “We pretty much had to break down our activity calendar and rebuild it. But I find the residents have been very receptive to it.”
With dance parties, hallway sing-alongs, crafts, and puzzles, the team ensured the residents at Berwick stayed active and engaged throughout the pandemic. And they made sure to take care of themselves, too. “We were very aware of burnout and making sure we’re not overextending ourselves. We were trying to provide the best service we could give while taking care of ourselves and making sure we’re there to provide that service.”
As the world slowly returns to normal, Jacqueline is excited to get back outside with her residents. The community is situated with Peterson Creek Nature Park right in its backyard and offers a gorgeous view of the valley. Jacqueline takes advantage of the scenery when planning her activity calendars with outdoor games, picnics, scenic drives, and day trips.
Special outings have given Jacqueline some of her favourite memories on the job. She tells us about the time she took some of her residents on a road trip to Nanaimo for an island-wide picnic with the other Berwick sites. “I drove the bus from Kamloops to Nanaimo and we overnighted. It was a blast! It was such a fun time with such a great group of people.”
Berwick on the Park also hosts exciting events of its own, like the Berwick Rib Festival. Staff come up with their own barbecue sauce recipes, which are then made by the kitchen. Residents vote on their favourite sauce to choose the Rib Fest winner.
More recently, Berwick has been hosting its own 2021 Summer Olympics, which Jacqueline says was Paula’s idea. “We’ve just been doing our regular programming but we’re putting an Olympic twist on it. It’s been a huge success!”
Jacqueline explains that each floor is its own team. To encourage attendance, teams are awarded points when their members actively participate in programs. Jacqueline says there’s been some friendly competition. Floors have made their own team names, uniforms, and even banners.
Berwick on the Park has since held their awards ceremony. Congratulations to all the participants!
The amazing experiences that Jacqueline creates for her residents are exactly what we strive to facilitate with Welbi! We asked Jacqueline to share how Welbi has changed her operations.
“I actually can’t even remember what it was like using anything else other than Welbi,” she says. “It’s become such an integral part of my day!”
Berwick on the Park launched Welbi in October 2020. Before then, Jacqueline and her team were creating their calendars in Microsoft Publisher. Jacqueline says “the margin for error was actually quite big” with Publisher, so she appreciates the ease of Welbi’s calendar customization. “It’s fantastic being able to create multiple calendars at once and knowing that, if we wanted to transfer what we put on one calendar to the next, we can do that just by clicking a few buttons. Now that I know how to do it, it’s just lickety-split!”
Jacqueline also enjoys how Welbi’s insights help her set and achieve goals. “Being able to see real-time insights is really nice because we have metrics from head office that we have to strive to achieve,” Jacqueline explains. “We can see in real-time if there’s an area where we’re missing something that we can supplement in.”
We asked Jacqueline what she would tell someone who’s considering using Welbi.
“A hundred percent, do it! I know the growing pains sometimes feel like a lot but just persevere through it. The team that Welbi has for support is amazing. They’re quick with responding and so open to feedback. When we were giving our feedback when first launching Welbi with Berwick, they were so open to accommodating some of our wild requests. This company hears us. It’s been fantastic. The team at Welbi is awesome, and the program has come to be part of our daily work life.”
We love to hear feedback like this from our users. Thank you, Jacqueline!
To close our interview, we asked Jacqueline what she wants the world to know about recreation.
“It’s a really rewarding career path,” she says. “If you want to put a lot of hard work into it, you’ll get great things out of it. You work hard, play hard as recreation.”
She adds that many people think that recreation is all fun and games — and there is a lot of that — but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. “Everyone has a form of recreation; you need it for that balance. Without it, I feel like our lives just wouldn’t be complete. Recreation as a profession is needed.”
We asked Jacqueline how she thinks society’s view of retirement differs from what she’s seen at Berwick.
“I feel like there’s this misconception with retirement in general that once you reach a certain age, you slow down and your age limits the things that are available to you.”
Every day, the residents and staff at Berwick prove this stereotype about older adults false. The active living team is committed to empowering residents to pursue their goals and keep having exciting experiences as they age.
“Programs can be adapted to meet individuals where they’re at,” Jacqueline explains. “Just because you might have done something one way doesn’t mean that you can’t still do it, we just need to adapt it to make it work for you. There’s nothing that I’ve come across yet that would be too far out there. It’s just a matter of doing the legwork to figure out how to make it work.”
At Welbi, we’re inspired every day by recreation professionals like Jacqueline and her team who go above and beyond to make their residents’ dreams a reality. Thank you all for the remarkable work that you do! Recreation professionals play an incredibly important role in senior living communities keeping older adults safe, healthy, and living life to the fullest. Your hard work deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated. If you would like to get support from Welbi in your everyday operations like Jacqueline, chat with us or book a demo of the Welbi platform. We can show you first-hand how Welbi can save you countless hours on administrative tasks so you can focus on what matters most — spending time with your amazing residents.
See why hundreds of teams are using Welbi today.