Submitted by Vanessa Woznow, senior communications consultant, Communications and Public Affairs

A partnership with a local men’s shed association helped residents at Baillie House long-term care home build bird houses and take part in important social and recreational therapeutic activities.

(Photo) L-R: Mike Jennings, president, Men's Shed Association of BC; Jamie Dusome, recreation therapist, Baillie House; Richard Medurst, member, Burnett St. Men's Shed

Vincent is 73-years young. As a resident at Baillie House long-term care home in Maple Ridge, he enjoys working with the home’s recreation therapy team. One of the things he enjoys most is seeing his fellow residents take part in the many activities organized by the team, regardless of their age or ability.

“It doesn’t matter what activity I’m involved in, I always see very different people taking part,” he says. “Even something like ball toss – it doesn’t seem like much, but you see different people, some who may face limitations, be successful.”

It’s a good reflection of the ways in which the team at Baillie House tailor activities to ensure they are accessible to everyone.

“It’s so important that recreation workers remain open-minded to people’s abilities,” he says.

Jamie Dusome, recreation therapist at Baillie House, agrees.

“Residents in long-term care may be living with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s or the effects of a stroke, which changes the way they participate in leisure and recreation,” she says. “By providing just the right amount of modifications and support, our team ensures there is equitable access to activities for all residents. Our goal is that everyone participates, everyone feels successful and everyone benefits mentally and physically – together.”

She and her team are always looking for new ideas and projects to introduce to the home. Recently, she connected with a local men’s shed society in the hope of partnering with them on woodworking projects in the community.

Men’s sheds are places for men to get together and take part in activities like woodworking projects, cooking, bike repairs and music, with the idea of expanding traditional backyard sheds into collaborative, communal spaces.

“The idea of the men’s shed was brought to my attention via our recreation therapist practice newsletter,” says Jamie. “I thought the idea would benefit our seniors, so I got in touch with Mike Jennings, president of the Men's Shed Association of British Columbia, and a collaboration blossomed.” 

“It's absolutely amazing – this welcoming place for men,” says Mike. “They are a place where you can go get a cup of tea, work on a project and work shoulder to shoulder. And that's where men start to talk to one another.”

He jumped at the chance to work with Baillie House and bring the philosophy of the shed to its residents.

“Jamie invited us and we knew this was a good opportunity to do something for the community. The fact is, we have a small space that's inaccessible for a lot of people, so we decided to bring the ‘shed’ directly to the folks at the home.”

This included pre-cutting pieces of wood so that residents could assemble their own bird houses, which could then be erected around the property.

“Before long, they were right into it,” laughs Mike. “They were happy. There was pandemonium – all these guys hammering away. Some women walked by and saw what was happening and they wanted to take part, so they sat down and made their bird houses as well.”

Jamie loved seeing so many residents come together to take part in activities that connect to previous parts of their lives.

“Many male residents at Baillie House were very successful handymen, so we want to encourage and foster those positive feelings and skills, improve health outcomes and assist the participants to find new ways to participate in leisure activities connected to their past.

“A common goal for many residents is to find community, purpose and joy while living in care. The men’s shed provides an opportunity for like-minded individuals to get together and find companionship doing things they enjoy.”

She and Mike are already in conversation about the next collaborative project.

No matter what it is, participants find joy in working together and helping others.”

These projects are inspiring for the residents.

“I’d like to make candle holders next,” Vincent says. “Or maybe something we could showcase through an art exhibit.”

The staff are inspired by this work too.

“The gift of the men’s shed projects is the gift that keeps giving,” says Jamie. “These projects beautify the residents’ homes and make it theirs.”

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