A Foothills area residence is helping older adults with special needs live in a close-knit community.
Ridgestone Lodge, located near Oilfields Hospital in Black Diamond, offers assisted living for older individuals with developmental disabilities.
Kelly Henning, a licensed nurse practitioner who has worked with the residents of the lodge since shortly after it opened in late 2019, did not expect the sort of joy she experiences interacting with them daily.
“I have been pleasantly delighted at how amazing it is working with these folks, and how much they have to offer in life and how rewarding it is to be part of a facility that is looking at their best interests with absolutely every piece of their life,” she said.
“I think these folks would not be living as fulfilling lives, without facilities like this.”
Many of the residents, with the complex needs that come with not just aging but their disabilities, would possibly end up in hospitals, she said.
She said when those needs are met, the difference is immediately visible in the residents.
“The clients really lean into the staff and it just naturally becomes like a little family," she said. “There's flexibility in looking at all the aspects of the client's life and lots of different creativity with the staff looking at how we can make their life more fulfilling."
To keep the residents active and engaged, Henning said there's a number of programs in house.
These include a stretch and breath classes, drumming, as well as online bingo, Zumba, and music therapy streamed from SCOPE's Calgary locations.
They've been able to partake in puzzles, games, and crafts, but restrictions have made it challenging for the clients when it comes to sharing items.
"Clients love to go out and be in the community, and we are hoping that when restrictions lift, there will be more opportunities to volunteer and help them feel like a part of it," she said.
Henning gets out as much as she puts in.
“I have gained so much from working with these people that I never ever thought possible," she said. “It's just a pretty magical place, like a family.”
The lodge is the first of its kind, said Denise Young, director of community development for Calgary SCOPE Society, which operates Ridgestone.
“This is a fairly unique model that we have,” said Young. “The goal is to keep people within their home community. People like to stay in their community and stay connected with friends.
“We want to do that as much and as long as possible, but when it gets to the point where there's some physical barriers and some health barriers and people need a little more support, we want to support them in an environment that's going to be able to provide that.
“When they do have that one on one care, you really see the difference in the quality of their lives and how much exchange there is between the worker and the clients."
On its website, the Calgary SCOPE Society states its mission is 'supporting individuals with disabilities across their lifespan.'
Young said there are few programs that assist those with pervasive developmental disabilities (PDD) such as Down syndrome later in life, and fewer that offer them supportive living.
“People are in their home in the community, and they're having more trouble getting around," Young said. “The barriers that they'll often come up against is needing a little bit more support, either medically or physically in many cases.”
Ridgestone is designed to accommodate those needs.
Unlike a traditional seniors lodge, the facility doesn’t particularly cater to over-55 as a rule, Young added.
“Sometimes people with multiple disabilities, they have an older lifestyle a bit earlier," she said.
The lodge supports 17 residents, more than other such programs in the past.
“This kind of larger model is new to us, and it's fairly new to our sector as well," Young said.
Aside from the unique model, SCOPE also provides support for those living elsewhere in the community.
“Our sector has focused on supporting people as much as possible to live in homes in the community, to be neighbours with everyone else," Young said.
While COVID has slowed some of the social programs, the aim of SCOPE is to prevent those they help from becoming isolated.
“Prior to the pandemic, the focus was getting people out and about, them being active citizens and being involved in their community," she said. “Right now, that's a bit of a challenge for anybody, but particularly people who are vulnerable and have medical concerns around COVID.
“So our normal kind of agenda is a little bit off right now, but the idea is that people will be active involved in their community, attending community events, going to community businesses.
“Living at the lodge, but having lots of interactions in the broader community.”
As SCOPE lights the way and the new model takes shape, Young hopes it will create a template for other similar facilities.
“We’re very excited about it,” she said. “We as an organization are a learning organization, so we're trying to figure out how we can do this so other organizations can do it.
“Because we want people to have the best quality of life that they can have in the community as they age, just like any other citizens.”