Main Street in the Village of Wentworth Heights buzzes with activity. It’s Nov. 22 – the day after the exact one-year anniversary of the Retirement neighbourhoods opening and the day before the team and residents will officially celebrate the occasion.
The smell of soup wafts through the air, warming the chill of the grey pre-winter weather outside. SoupFest is happening this afternoon, a simple event to raise money for a fund to support team members facing hardship. Several volunteer team members made a different crock-pot of goodness and for five dollars villagers get three different bowls to sample before choosing their favourite offering. The Winner gets bragging rights while the compassion fund grows. It’s the type of community event typical of any small Canadian village where everyone looks out for one another. It’s fitting to see it here.
Perhaps what is most striking as I sit in the lounge watching the hum of activity along Main Street is how natural everything seems. It’s like these people have always been together; the village might have been this way for a decade. An Internet service technician walks down Main Street, greeting people as he heads to fulfill his purpose. Neighbours chat outside the post office while a mother takes her young daughter into the Pet Shop to say hello to the animals on the way to see Great Grandma.
It’s busy, but the good kind of busy.
I look towards the other end of the street where the retirement and long-term care neighbourhoods meet. Village chaplain Sharon Pearce is gathering residents from long-term care for the weekly hymn sing in the chapel. I offer to help bring residents over. The smiles of gratitude are wide as I’m thanked for helping guide a few wheelchairs into the chapel. I’m happy to do it and I choose to sit a while in the peace of the chapel.
Outside the tables are being set for the soup-goers but inside the music flows, led by the soft hands of a resident on the piano and the voices of a chapel filled with friends. Sharon explains the origins of some of the hymns as the music fades, and in a soft tone she offers thoughts and prayers for the faithful.
I consider how in this first year, the retirement and long-term care neighbourhoods truly have become one. All residents are welcome throughout the entire village for the entire village is their home. The same can be said for family and friends, students and volunteers. This was always the intention as the Village concept was conceived and refined through the growth of Schlegel Villages and at Wentworth Heights the vision has truly become reality.