Ashley Williams is the Director of Recreation at Revera’s Westney Gardens Retirement Residence. She has worked with Revera for three years.
As a child, Ashley’s family enrolled her in bowling, which became a passion of hers. She won many awards and set high score records throughout her career, eventually landing a full NCAA Division 1 bowling scholarship. After a year at Coppin State University in Baltimore, Maryland, Ashley returned to Canada to be closer to family and complete her Recreation and Leisure Studies with a specialization in older adults. Since completing school, she’s never looked back. In addition to bowling, Ashley loves swimming, Sea-dooing, hiking, playing baseball, and spending time with her husband and two boys.
What made you want to become a recreation professional? How did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in this field?
I have always been very close with my family, especially my grandparents who raised me until I was four years old and have continued to be parental figures in my life. I wanted to gain more knowledge about active aging adults, so when the time came, I was prepared to communicate, care, and keep their minds active so I could give my grandparents the best quality of life as they did for me all those years. I also wanted to gain knowledge to plan and run successful and meaningful programs so seniors of any age could participate to their fullest and enjoy every moment of their life.
How do you know what programs your residents will enjoy?
Giving the residents a monthly forum to voice their opinions and suggestions has been a key factor to understanding which programs they will enjoy. We complete recreational assessments for all new residents and a yearly reassessment for all existing residents to gain information about their hobbies and interests, we also conduct needs assessments throughout the year to further our understanding.
Having great relationships with residents and family members in the community goes a long way, as it is very helpful with getting to know the residents and building better relationships. Listening is key! You must listen to your residents to be successful with the programs you offer.
What do you enjoy about working at Revera?
I enjoy working for Revera because our feedback is respected. Revera also acknowledges its employees by simply saying thank you. I love working at Westney Gardens as I get to be a part of the management team that opened the residence’s doors three years ago. Opening a new building has always been a goal of mine, because you get to create the staff culture and expectations, as well as build all the departments from scratch.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is knowing I am part of the reason why my residents are living their best lives. I am making a difference in my residents’ day by being there for them and listening. Residents enjoy telling us stories about their past and present life. I learn something new every day through the stories they share. It continues to inspire me.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
My mother was my greatest inspiration. She was a very successful businesswoman in her career. I aspire to be like her every day and keep motivating myself to have a work-life balance like her. She was my best friend growing up and she will always be remembered in my heart as I lost her on December 25, 2013.
What is your favourite type of activity?
My favourite type of activity must be events! I love putting on events as we dress up, create beautiful plated food and engage the entire residents, family, and staff. My favourite part is the décor and dressing everything up to fit the theme. At Westney Gardens, we have planned seniors’ prom, resident art galas, the Reel Youth Gala, our one-year anniversary, a 50’s car show, euchre tournaments, Hockey Night in Canada, beach day, casino night, mad hatter ladies’ lunch and holiday-themed events.
What is a favourite activity for your residents?
Our residents love group exercises, active games like Twister, bean bag toss, ladder ball and water pong. Along with a mixture of group programs, our residents really enjoy taking part in theme days. We have had a red day, rainbow day, PJ day, western day and sports jersey day.
What sets your residence apart from others?
Staff engagement and morale sets us apart from other residences. We have 100 per cent participation from all management and staff when it comes to theme days and events. I would go as far as saying we have almost all of our residents and families actively participating as well. Westney Gardens’ staff are happy to come to work every day and engage with our residents. Having a fun workplace makes for happy and long-standing staff.
When are you happiest at work?
I am happiest at work when I see staff and residents smiling. I am at Westney Gardens most days of the week. I love nothing more than seeing people happy. This building is my second home, and I enjoy every day with these smiles!
What have you learned from your residents?
Each person has a purpose here on earth. We were all put here to do something different but together live as one. Inspire each other and be kind to one another as you never know what that person is facing until you walk in their shoes.
What motivates you to come to work each day?
My residents motivate me every day to come to work. Every day at Westney Gardens is different. Different programs, different interactions, different feelings, different conversations and different learning experiences. Westney Gardens is my second home, and I try to take each day a step at a time. You never know what tomorrow holds. It’s not always butterflies and hearts but I always try to look ahead to see what I can look forward to next, this motivates me through some of the hard days like what we are facing now with the pandemic.
What would residents say about the lifestyle at your residence?
The residents would say the lifestyle at Westney Gardens is independent, with a wide range of activities and events to choose from. Staff and other residents are very friendly and accepting of all new staff and residents. A lot of our residents say, “this is their home, and they feel safe living here”. They love the atmosphere of Westney Gardens, as well as the freedom of the dining options.
What is the best compliment you have received from a resident?
The best compliment I receive from residents is when they stand up after a program or event to make a speech on how well the program was run, or the event was put together. It’s not expected, and it’s not rehearsed. The little speeches are genuine and sincere. I also love getting surprise thank you notes left on my desk.