I had the pleasure to sit down and talk with Ted Mahy, the Online Engagement Specialist for Schlegel Villages, and Carl Hiltz, a senior living at The Village of Winston Park. Ted has been working on #ELDERWISDOM for the last three years. I was very excited to shine a client spotlight on this project.
Question One: Tell me a little bit about yourself! How long have you been with the company? What do you like to do outside of work?
TM: I joined Schlegel Villages in 2003 as a recreation team member in Mississauga for a few years before becoming the Director of Recreation at the Village in Guelph. My current role is the Online Engagement Manager supporting and ensuring that our digital platforms are sharing the great things happening across all of the villages. Outside of work, I enjoy time with my fiancé and two dogs, Troy & Juno. We enjoy going on hikes, visits to the beach, car rides, and going on bike rides.
Question Two: Explain the #ElderWisdom project.
TM: The #ElderWisdom project was created as a way to engage our community on social media. We enjoy involving the residents living at Schlegel Villages in their communities, and to show the world all that seniors have to offer. We have a signature program at Schlegel Villages called The Wisdom of the Elder, which was created from Ron Schlegel’s mission to encourage seniors to share their wisdom and experience. https://schlegelvillages.com/signature/wisdom-elder We built the #ElderWisdom project into this signature program which encourages sharing their wisdom every day at the Villages.
Question Three: How were you involved with this project?
TM: In my new Online Engagement role with Schlegel Villages, we were trying to come up with something that could get the social media conversation going. A simple idea of having a conversation on a bench grew into what is now a social movement around the globe.
Question Four: What are some of your highlights of the project so far?
TM: There are so many individual highlights for those involved! New relationships between young and old, volunteer/job opportunities sparked, and relationships between villages and organizations in the community. We have had a variety of media, government officials, and city staff talk about #ElderWisdom on their social media (which is a key goal), and telling their followers how important seniors are in our communities. One highlight for me is Ron Schlegel and former Governor General David Johnston in conversation on the bench.
Question Five: Were there any challenges? How did you overcome them?
TM: One challenge that we have had was the booking of locations, and explaining the simple concept of a senior on a bench, sharing their wisdom with the community. Once someone sees it in action they understand, and help us spread the message. Another challenge is that there are requests from around the world to run #ElderWisdom and we don’t have a team to support that at this time. Our goals are to build an #ElderWisdom Guidebook that can support organizations to run a campaign and spread the important message about seniors in our communities.
Questions Six: How did FASTSIGNS help you achieve your goals?
TM: FASTSIGNS support was great as we were working through what our campaign would need. We received some great lettering for the benches to highlight #ElderWisdom as well as some A-frames and pull up banners. We are also presented with different opportunities throughout the year, including setting up a display at the Barrie Library. We needed printing for the window (but had to be backwards lettering) that would face to the outside.
Question Seven: Is there anything else you want to tell our readers?
TM: I encourage your readers to take a moment with a senior in their lives to ask them questions, to learn from their experiences, and to share stories with them. As well – take the #ElderWisdom pledge to honour the wisdom of the elder and to end ageism in our communities at elderwisdom.ca/pledge
I also had the opportunity to speak with Carl Hiltz, who has been a resident at The Village of Winston Park for the last two years. Soon after moving in to The Village of Winston Park, he has been an Elder that has shared his wisdom for #ELDERWISDOM. I really wanted to get his perspective of #ELDERWISDOM. Carl has sat on the #ELDERWISDOM Bench, sharing his wisdom many times. His favourite time was last year when he was able to sit downtown Kitchener at City Hall. While he was there, he was able to share his wisdom with the Mayor of Kitchener, the fire chief, a couple of the local MP’s, a university grad student and many more people.
I asked Carl what his favourite part about #ELDERWISDOM is. He said “I love building new relationships with people in the community and sharing all the wisdom I have learned throughout my life”. I asked him where he learned this wisdom, he said “Before I retired I used to volunteer at a program called Futures, for over fifteenth years. At this program I helped troubled youth, that were in and out of jail. During this time I learned the power of love and caring for other people. I wanted to make sure that no one felt alone”. Carl continues to say “In this day and age it is very easy to feel alone, even with technology at our fingertips, we are isolating ourselves away from the world with our smart phones. That’s why every day I greet everyone with a smile, a head nod, a greeting or a hug, so no one ever feels alone”.
After speaking with Carl, I really wanted to sit on the bench and get some Elder wisdom. I asked Carl “What do you wish you knew when you were in your twenties?” His answer was “To never stop learning and never be afraid to take some risks”. I couldn’t agree more with the wisdom he shared with me.
I really want to say thank you to Ted and Carl for sitting down to talk with me. This is an experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. If you would like to sit and get some #ELDERWISDOM please check out their website https://schlegelvillages.com/signature/wisdom-elder. If you would like to learn more about FASTSIGNS and everything we do please come and check out our homepage https://www.fastsigns.com/681-kitchener-waterloo-on.