#ElderWisdom: Stories from the Green Bench Goes Live – Podcast Guests Discuss Exceptional Care

Early on the second day of the Schlegel Villages 2023 Operational Planning retreat in Niagara Falls, a special panel of residents and a team member take their place alongside podcast hosts Evelyn Brindle and Kathy Buckworth. This unique panel comes together just as #Elderwisdom: Stories from the Green Bench reaches a milestone of 100,000 downloads – the perfect time for a live podcast recording. The audience of 500 people gathered in the convention centre are eager to hear the discussion about what it means to provide high-quality care in a senior’s living environment.  

“We are diving into what makes exceptional care, how people and relationships make an impact, and what people and care do for the quality of long-term care and retirement living at Schlegel Villages,” Kathy explains as she sets the stage. As co-host and a resident at the Village of Erin Meadows with her husband, Evelyn is the first to weigh in before welcoming the first guest, Ann Baxter, who lives in the Egerton Neighbourhood at The Village of Wentworth Heights.

“I visited a number of retirement homes before we moved into Erin Meadows,” Evelyn explains. “We found that the majority of them had a very lovely decorated main floor, but there were no people.”

“Whenever I’m in Erin Meadows, whether walking through the main street or in the elevator, I’m always greeted with a smile and often by name from many of the residents and the staff,” she continues. “People are everywhere and they’re enjoying the variety of programs and activities that are available.”

Indeed, it is in relationships that the foundation of quality care is formed, and Ann’s relationships with the team members at Wentworth Heights are strong enough that she jokes about wanting to adopt them. Their gentleness and compassion, even when offering intimate supports, is unwavering.

“One thing that really struck me, talking to a couple of the helpers where I live, each one individually said they considered their time, they didn’t say job, they said their time there is a vocation,” Anne shares. “I thought, that’s absolutely beautiful. It isn’t a job or a task, but it is a vocation.”

Anne is followed by Riverside Glen resident Barb Merkley and Tamara White, who works with the People Team at the Schlegel Villages Support Office. Theirs is a story of connectedness that illustrates how people of any age can find true friendship, just as they did while travelling to Pittsburg for a conference with several other Schlegel ambassadors. Barb also shares the story of how she arrived at Riverside Glen for a short stay following a medical procedure; she was instantly made to feel comfortable, so she chose to make her home there. Like Ann, Barb says the team is what made that sense of comfort so strong, and the third podcast guest, Royal Hamel, zeroed in in that same theme in his remarks.

Royal was struck with sudden illness that robbed him of his mobility and he urgently needed the support of a long-term care setting. He says he was blessed when he was placed at The Village of Winston Park. Royal’s insights are profound, and he speaks of the importance of residents acknowledging the team members when they see or feel those exceptional care moments.

He admits to being nervous when he first moved to the Village, because he wasn’t sure what the care would be like. Not long after arriving, however, he saw what compassion looks like in the interactions of a young personal support worker with a fellow resident. He later tracked the team member down to share his thoughts with her.

“She is a person who not only gives effective care,” Royal explains, recounting that conversation, “she gives affective care and she reaches out with compassion just in a natural way.” When he shared his insights with the young PSW, she teared up with gratitude.

As he wraps up the discussion on exceptional care in this live podcast recording, he offers some advice to the leaders in the room about what to look for in new team members.

“I think when people are hiring a person,” he says, “they should deliberately and specifically look for compassion.”

True compassion and genuine, meaningful connection are the key ingredients for exceptional care, and who better than the residents themselves to offer such valuable insights. Subscribe and listen to this episode and more on Apple PodcastsSpotifyAmazon Music and wherever you listen to podcasts.

Celebrating the Wisdom of our Elders During Senior’s Month

By Kristian Partington, June 29, 2023

June is Senior’s Month in Canada and in honour of the oldest generations who helped shape the nation, a Mississauga retirement home was transformed into a gallery showcasing the “Pursuit of Passions” that have guided 29 Ontario seniors throughout life.

The Village of Erin Meadows hosted the event, which featured elegant, museum-quality photographs of the residents of long-term care and retirement homes, along with short stories about their passions. The event is one of a series that coincides with a month-long campaign to combat ageism and celebrate the wisdom of the elder.

“Throughout my lifetime, I have learned so much from my connections with seniors,” says Ron Schlegel, the 80-year-old founder of Schlegel Villages, which owns and operates The Village of Erin Meadows. His passion for community building was one of the featured passions.

“Their wisdom and experience are the greatest of resources our nation holds, and we must take every opportunity we can to learn from our elderly generations,” says Schlegel.

One of the featured speakers was Evelyn Brindle, a resident at Erin Meadows who cohosts a podcast called #ElderWisdom: Stories from the Green Bench. The podcast features poignant interviews with seniors about their lives and has had close to 100,000 downloads since its first episode aired in mid-2020.

“It has turned out to be an interesting and enlightening experience,” Brindle says of the podcast. “One thing that stands out . . . is the amazing wealth of experience, knowledge, interests, and passions that every resident we interview brought to our discussions. “They certainly dispel any of the stereotypes that might be held against older people.”

Sheref Sabawy, M.P.P. for Mississauga-Erin Mills, also attended the event and he says taking the time to visit a senior’s community is not only about honouring the seniors but also hearing their opinions and learning from them.

“We’re celebrating seniors,” Sabawy says, “and we’re looking to seniors. It’s a good opportunity for us to communicate . . . and try to get our compass correct with what seniors’ needs are.”

Sabawy’s colleague, Brampton North M.P.P. Graham McGregor agreed that ageism is something everyone must be aware of, and we can combat it by listening to the experiences seniors offer.

“A lot of people in society find it easy to dismiss the views of our aging population,” McGregor says, “but we need to remember that Canada was built by our seniors and they’ve got some of the best, if not the best, views on what we need to be doing.

“An event like this where we’re explicitly celebrating seniors is so important,” he adds.

A Celebration of Passion and Wisdom

Jun 03, 2023 / Village Voice Posted by: Kristian Partington

Their passions are wide and varied. From motorcycles and magic to social justice and neuroscience.  

As Schlegel Villages marked the beginning of Seniors Month, the Village at University Gates was focused on the wisdom, experience and passion our oldest generations offer the world around them. All along the Village’s Main Street, a series of 29 exquisite photos highlighted the passion that guides some of the residents of Schlegel Villages.  

Guest chatting with residents who sits beside her photo in the exhibit

This was the first of a series of events across the province that celebrates the incredible stories and wisdom of residents who call a Schlegel Village home, but it is much more than that. It is an opportunity to combat ageism, challenge stereotypes, and create a more inclusive society that values and cherishes the experiences and contributions of our elders. 

As Ron Schlegel, the founder of Schlegel Villages, addressed the large crowd gathered in the Village’s Town Square, he spoke of his passion for community building and creating space where neighbours and friends converge and foster the relationships that keep a society strong. He also spoke of the responsibility older adults have to share their wisdom and recognize the role they have in inspiring the next generations. 

“Every one of us has a unique story,” Ron said, addressing the residents of University Gates and, indeed, all the seniors of our communities. “There’s wisdom in every story and we need to get out there and share it.” 

Bob & Emily hold up sweatshirt during speech

Emily and Bob Leland live at University Gates. From their suite upon the 8th Floor, they look northward to the Laurel Creek Conservation Area, and they spoke of their passion for the outdoors. They spoke of their passion for ongoing education in history, geology, theology, and music.  

They spoke of their passion for each other.  

In each of the 29 displays in this unique gallery, which will travel to four other locations throughout the month, we see individual beauty and dedication honed over lifetime upon lifetime.  

We see passion, wisdom, and strength, and all our older generations can offer the world around us.   

Here are the upcoming events: 

  • June 8th at The Village of Taunton Mills, Whitby 
    Doors open at 2:00 pm, formal agenda at 3:00 pm 
  • June 14th at The Village at St. Clair, Windsor 
    Doors open at 2:30 pm, formal agenda at 4:00 pm 
  • June 21st at The Village of Erin Meadows, Mississauga 
    Doors open at 2:30 pm, formal agenda at 3:30 pm 
  • June 29th at The Art Gallery of Hamilton 
    Doors open at 2:00 pm, formal agenda at 4:00 pm 

Visit the webpage here for more information.  

Pursuit of Passions x #ElderWisdom banner

The Gift of #ElderWisdom

June 30, 2022 – Kristian Partington

At the end a pedestrian avenue near Victoria Park in Downtown Kitchener, and older man with silver hair and a silver moustache stops walking to look over at a sign that has the hashtag #ElderWisdom upon it.  

Chris and Kristian share a conversation over philosophy and  ancient history; a beautiful dose of #ElderWisdom.
Chris and Kristian share a conversation over philosophy and ancient history; a beautiful dose of #ElderWisdom.

“There is a lot of wisdom in the minds and experiences of our oldest teachers,” he says in an accent that’s hard to place. It could be Serbian, maybe? Albanian? Greek?

“I came to Canada from Cyprus when I was 21,” he says.

Though I have never been to Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, I once travelled from Athens overland to the Southern tip of Europe’s mainland in the Greek Peloponnesus. His eyes light up when I tell him about my travels, and a long conversation ensues.

His knowledge of ancient history and theology in the region is vast. He describes the ancient Gods for whom theatres and monuments I saw were named, and he describes the simplicity of the Greek language in terms of how each work breaks down in parts logically.

I ask if he perhaps taught history at the university, or had a background in philosophy.

“I worked my life in construction with a pick and a shovel,” he says. His daughters are the ones with the advanced degrees.

“Intelligence is what you make it,” he tells me. “There are many books in the library, and when I would feel depressed or down, I would go to the library and read philosophy or history or religion.”

He says intelligence, no matter how it comes, allows you to know that what you are doing in life is good or bad and what the consequences of your decisions might be.

His name is Chris Kyprianou and for nearly an hour he shares his wisdom with me. He is not among the residents from five local Schlegel Villages who had come to sit upon the Green Bench as part of the #ElderWisdom campaign, but that is what makes this conversation special.

Throughout the month of June, the green benches have successfully descended upon five Ontario cities with various residents sharing their insights with others, reminding people of the wealth of wisdom our elders hold and encouraging them to take the time to learn from them.

The conversations have been varied and rich, just as this one is with Chris. He was a stranger when I met him and after an hour, we know each other as friends.

To all the residents, organizers and guests who took time to heed the message and share a moment with a stranger, offering wisdom and conversation, thank you. The spirit of the #ElderWisdom campaign will carry on well past the end of June, and we hope more people will take the time to see the life experience of our older citizens as a gift to be opened any time a conversation opportunity arises.

Stories from the Green Bench Celebrates 10,000 Podcast Downloads

April 20, 2021
By: Kristian Partington

When the idea of auditioning to co-host a new podcast alongside respected broadcaster Erin Davis was put forth to Lloyd Hetherington, he fully admits he didn’t have a clue what a podcast was and he’d certainly never taken the time to listen to one. Never one to shy away from a new educational opportunity, Lloyd, who calls The Village of Riverside Glen home, decided to go through the process, eager to help showcase and highlight the extraordinary lives of ordinary people who happen to be in their later stages of life.  

Ted Hudson (left) and Bryce McBain, General Manager at The Village of Riverside Glen (right), present Lloyd Hetherington with an award marking 10,000 downloads of the Stories from  the Green Bench Podcast, which Lloyd co-hosts. 
Ted Hudson (left) and Bryce McBain, General Manager at
The Village of Riverside Glen (right), present Lloyd Hetherington with an award marking 10,000 downloads of the Stories from  the Green Bench Podcast, which Lloyd co-hosts. 

“Much to my delight,” he says, “I was accepted as the co-host for this podcast; it excited me then and it excites me even now to be part of this lovely venture reaching out to people to share the wisdom of the elders.”

In mid-April of 2021, almost exactly six months after the first episode of Stories from the Green Bench first aired, Lloyd, Erin and the entire production team celebrated a remarkable 10,000 downloads of the show.

“We have always believed that the people we serve in our Villages have so much to teach us through the rich experiences of their lives,” says Ted Hudson, one of the key developers of the podcast and the online engagement manager with Schlegel Villages. “It’s amazing to know that this podcast is helping others discover a taste of that experience and maybe helping them rethink the role of older adults in our communities.” 

When Ron Schlegel, the community builder and visionary behind the Schlegel Villages organization, speaks of the immense amount of wisdom our community’s elders collectively hold, he describes it as the greatest untapped resource in our society. The #ElderWisdom campaign first brought the stories of Schlegel Villages residents to their communities in 2016 upon a “green bench” placed in prominent locations. It was a way to inspire others to recognize the wealth of wisdom seniors carry while “challenging ageist stereotypes,” Ted says, “and the podcast has been a way to carry that message forward.”

The idea of the podcast has been simmering for a few years, Ted adds, but when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, limiting the ability of residents to physically be out in their community, the green bench became a virtual symbol and the podcast conversations began. The short episodes are authentic and honest conversations between the hosts and their guests. Personal philosophies mingle with memories and lessons learned, and we are reminded that it is often the simple things in life that carry the most meaning.

“I just love Lloyd,” says co-host Erin Davis as she reflects on the evolution of the Podcast. “In a way, he reminds me of my Dad who is in a senior’s residence in B.C. and is soon to be 88 years old. My Dad and Lloyd and so many other of our guests on #ElderWisdom share their stories, their perspectives, their loves, lessons and losses. It’s like having a heart-to-heart every time and we really want to listen to what these elders say because when they’re gone, many of the stories they share will be gone with them.”

“That’s why this Podcast is such a gift,” says Erin, who is recently retired from a long career in radio and is now an author living on Vancouver Island.

The show is a preservation of history for us to savour, she says, remembering the wisdom of ordinary people who, over the course of lifetimes, lived extraordinary lives. 


Apple • Google •  Spotify • iHeartRadio • Podbean • TuneIn • Amazon
Or ask your smart speaker to play “Elder Wisdom stories from the green bench podcast

#ElderWisdom | Stories From The Green Bench Podcast

In October 2020, we launched our #ElderWisdom podcast featuring Erin Davis and co-host Lloyd Hetherington exploring friendship, tragedy, love, life, learning and so much more as they have conversations with seniors on the ‘virtual’ green bench.

Our Hosts

Erin Davis built a career as a morning radio host whose voice is familiar to hundreds of thousands of Toronto-area listeners. Today she is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, interviewer, and storyteller with a gift for conversation that brightens up each episode.

Lloyd Hetherington is passionate about education, spending most of his working life as an officer with the Salvation Army all across Canada and in the heart of central Africa. He’s a proud father, grandfather and he believes that no matter your age, there is always something to offer and to learn; he inspires others to find wisdom in their pursuit of education 

Subscribe and listen on your favourite podcast network using the links below

Apple Podcasts // Google Podcasts // Spotify // TuneIn // Stitcher

Podcast brought to you by Schlegel Villages

Dispelling LTC Misconceptions with a little #ElderWisdom

By: Kristian Partington

There’s an image of long-term care most people tend to carry in their minds that Kaye Brown would like to change. One of the best ways to do that is to venture out into the community and share her insights and wisdom with as many people as possible, which is how she came to find herself at the LaSalle Night Market recently on a lovely summer’s eve.  

LaSalle Mayor Marc Bondy joins Kaye on the #ElderWisdom bench.
LaSalle Mayor Marc Bondy joins Kaye
on the #ElderWisdom bench.

There she sat upon the familiar green #ElderWisdom bench, greeting passersby and making new friends with just about anyone who chose to stop by. She mentions that her father was the mayor of Windsor, England, so perhaps her chatty nature flows from the genes of a seasoned politician. 

Kaye may not seem like a “typical” long-term care resident; at 66 she much younger than most of her neighbours in The Village at St. Clair in Windsor, yet her health needs are such that she does require the support the Village provides. And yet, that doesn’t mean she isn’t active. She’s the chairman of the Village’s residents’ council, she participates in countless outings, she has ideas on how to continue to improve village life and she’s eager to share her knowledge with others.

“People don’t really know what long-term care is,” Kaye says. “They picture a lot of people laying around in their beds but it’s not like that. I’m very active and I have lots of ideas.”

She came to St. Clair not long after it opened five years ago, and she couldn’t be happier with the community and the friends she’s made in both team members and her neighbours.

Connecting with people at the LaSalle market offered another opportunity to make new friends and help dispel some of the misconceptions some people hold about aging and life in long-term care.  

“I think #ElderWisdom is telling people about what long-term care really is and how nice it can be,” Kaye says. “That is the most important thing.”

Perhaps the most important thing is the fact that The Village is so much more than a community: it’s a family, Kaye says.

“I enjoy living here,” she says. “I enjoy the people and we have an A-1 staff here. We’re all family here and that’s the lovely part about St. Clair, and that’s an important way to look at it.”

A Few Short Minutes of #ElderWisdom to Change Perspectives

A young lady named Ashley walks through Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park during her lunch break on a random day in June. A green bench comes into view with an older gentleman sitting upon it and another beside the bench in a wheelchair. The word #Elderwisdom adorns the back of the bench while curiosity draws her closer; she’s invited to join these gentlemen in a short conversation. 

This is a snapshot in time, a few short moments where perceived barriers between generations evaporate in the lovely summer air and strangers almost become friends.   

Sometimes a few moments are all that are needed for
two people to bridge the gaps of generations. 

In a message later sent to the Schlegel Villages #Elderwisdom campaign via Instagram, Ashley recounts what those moments meant to her and in her short message, she captures the simple essence of what this campaign is all about.

“Even though it was only for a short time,” Ashley writes, “I just wanted to let you know how great of an experience it was. What an extraordinary campaign that allows us to connect with the elderly in such a casual fashion.

“It brightened my day tremendously.”

John and Bob from Maynard and Fairview Nursing Homes in Toronto who sat with Ashley and several other new friends that day should be proud of the inspiration they offered.

Across the province throughout the month of June, stories like this unfolded in parks and public spaces where every Schlegel Village set up an #ElderWisdom bench and residents took time to speak with passersby who had a few minutes to spare.

A few minutes; that seems to be the key theme to emerge this year, as time and again people like Ashley commented about how those few minutes can make all the difference in changing perceptions of the role of the elder in our communities.

“The idea of taking those five minutes out of your lunchtime and chatting with a stranger, a senior, can give someone a whole different mindset,” says Ted Mahy, Schlegel Villages director of online engagement and a key spearhead behind the #ElderWisdom campaign.

“It’s not just about getting people sitting upon the bench. It’s the fact that they’re seeing what we’re doing and they’ve heard about why we’re doing it.”

And villages are taking this message beyond the month of June, realizing they can build connections within their communities any time of year. Karen Andrews from Coleman Care Centre in Barrie, for example, is working alongside residents to create events in July and in the fall at places like the public library and Georgian College. A local Starbucks is even looking to host an #Elderwisdom event.

“It really hit me that I could do more things with (the #ElderWisdom bench),” Karen says, “and I feel like when we’re doing these things we’re helping change people’s perspectives.”

Originally posted by Kristian Partington at Schlegel Villages | July 12, 2019

#ElderWisdom Twitter Chat with Ron Schlegel

On Monday, June 10th at 3:30 in the afternoon, Ron Schlegel joined the #ElderWisdom campaign on Twitter to answer some submitted questions to him. We will share some of those questions and answers here for you. If you wish to participate in the conversation, view the following tweet and the replies attached to it.

Q: A question from @SchlegelCentre to @RonaldPSchlegel. Given your incredible expertise and generosity, what advice do you have for young people looking for a career in seniors care?

A: It is a fulling and meaningful career. Senior living is a good area to select because it doesn’t take much to make a senior’s day. Very little interface with a senior and they are so appreciative and hence highly rewarding back to yourself.

Q: A question from @DaveJaworsky. Canada is an affluent country, yet there are still many needs. What advice would you give to someone who wants to get involved and help out?

A: There are many many needs in society so its important that one selects the area that interests them and to which they can contribute. It’s important to commit one’s self to continue until a difference is made. Passion needs to be demonstrated throughout.

Q: A question from @jjluhkim. If you had a magic wand and you were able to fast forward 10 years from now, what would that ideal future of Schlegel Villages look like?

A: We would continue with our town square/main street villages but adding more choice points for seniors. Including expanded fitness facilities, possibly swimming pool/sauna/hot tub. Also, add smart homes as an additional living choice on our campus.

Follow @RonaldPSchlegel on Twitter and feel free to ask him a question as he learns how to use this tool.

The Beauty of Human Connectivity Upon the #ElderWisdom Bench

By: Kristian Partington

On a sunny afternoon at the end of May, two old friends sit upon a green bench in a park-like setting in the city of Guelph. They are busy men in their senior years and it’s been some time since they’ve shared time and space together, though their conversation flows as freely as if no time has passed at all.

They are men of wisdom, earned through lifetimes spent in the service of community, and in their cases, the definition of community is broad. The Right Honourable David Johnston grew from humble upbringings in northern Ontario where he played hockey with Hall of Famers Phil and Tony Esposito before eventually earning a place in Harvard University’s Sports Hall of Fame along with a BA from the Ivy League institution. After a distinguished career in academia as a professor of law and eventually, principal and vice-chancellor of two of Canada’s most reputable universities, he served as Canada’s 28th Governor General.   

The Right Honourable David Johnston, former Governor General of Canada, and Ron Schlegel have been close for many years. They share stories and laughter upon the #ElderWisdom bench on a late spring afternoon in Guelph
The Right Honourable David Johnston, former Governor
General of Canada, and Ron Schlegel have been close for
many years. They share stories and laughter upon
the #ElderWisdom bench on a late spring afternoon in Guelph.

The friend beside him in this sunny spring day is Ron Schlegel, a dedicated academic in his own right, a philanthropist with a passion for building strong, connected communities and the visionary behind the creation of Schlegel Villages. The bench they sit upon is a symbol of elder wisdom, and throughout the month of June benches like this will spring up in parks and public place in cities across Ontario. Residents of Schlegel Villages will sit upon them, inviting passersby to join them in conversation while reminding their communities of the vast wealth of wisdom contained in the stories of society’s oldest generations.

Ron and David share stories between them this day. They talk of wisdom gained throughout the years – not the kind taught in university lecture halls or boardrooms, but that which is earned through life experience and the failures that so often define it. They talk of finding satisfaction in the joy of others, and seeing that in the eyes of their children and grandchildren.

“If you are a father or grandfather, as we both are, your aspirations are a little different than they were at 21 and you see your satisfaction in the joy of others,” David says as Ron nods in agreement. “I suppose that’s what I hope those of us who’ve been on this planet earth for almost eight decades can share with others.”

The entire concept of the Green Bench and the #ElderWisdom campaign during senior’s month is to encourage this type of sharing.

“Seniors have so much to give and it’s important to start sharing some of that wisdom,” Ron says. “We tend to put seniors off to the side in our society; we need to bring them out to the centre.”

David points out that isolation, not only among seniors but across all age groups in the wake of the digital revolution, is a great danger, and the simple act of taking time to spend a few moments upon a bench in conversation can symbolize a way past this concern.

“We have become, in a sense, a little less human in relationships . . . and I think isolation is one of the great problems in our society,” he says. “There is great comfort, great knowledge and great opportunity in bridging those generational gaps and seeing isolation as very much an enemy, very much a danger, very much something that should be seen as an obstacle to be overcome and diminished.”

The green bench and the wisdom of our elders it represents is a place for rest and reflection, a place to ask questions and offer advice. Upon it, even if only for a moment, the world can stop turning and two people can find connection. Within the ever-quickening pace of society, this concept offers simple respite, and all are welcome to take part and honour the beauty of human connectivity.