Phase 5: Co-Develop and Implement Oasis Social and Activity Programming
Hire an On-site Oasis Program Coordinator for Each Site
While hiring an on-site Program Coordinator is listed as the first step in Phase 5, it actually did not happen until later in the programming development process. After consultation with Providence Care, the Oasis Board of Directors, and new Oasis members, our research team developed a part-time job posting to hire one Coordinator at each expansion site – a total of six positions. While the original Oasis site has one full-time Coordinator, these new positions would be supplemented with the continued work of the Community Developers, thus resulting in full-time support at each site.
Community Developers met with each new site to discuss the desired traits and skill sets they would like to see in their hired Coordinator. While the specific needs of each site resulted in slightly different requests, there were certainly common traits: patience, flexibility, respect and positive energy. They also described experience working in health and experience working directly with older adults as highly desirable skills.
The job posting (see Appendix 5a) was posted on the University Human Resources websites for two weeks at the beginning of 2019; it was also distributed to Oasis board members and other key stakeholders for circulation within their networks. While waiting for the position to close, each site nominated one or two members to directly participate in the hiring process. Interview panels were created that included members of the research team, an Oasis board member, as well as the representatives from each new Oasis site.
A full-time Coordinator is ideal, but we suggest that the minimum amount of time that a Coordinator is onsite is 2.5 days each week. This allows time to support programming, attend to specific member needs and organize future activities. This individual should be an independent worker and adaptable; the role changes day-to-day and this person should be flexible in what their daily schedule may look like. We see the health background as advantageous, but not essential; this role would also benefit from a person with customer service and/or activity planning experience. It is also important to consider possible training that you should offer or expect of your hire. We recommend First Aid/CPR and food handling course opportunities, as well as possible training in mental health, Alzheimer’s and dementia, or other training that matches the needs of your particular site.
Develop and Implement Weekly Activities
Shortly after the first few program development meetings, the Community Developers worked with each group to organize some weekly activities. Based on group suggestions, the Developers, and subsequently the Onsite Coordinators were able to identify activities that groups were particularly interested in and then proposed hosting these activities during the week. At the beginning of these meetings at one site, a member felt that there was too much discussion and not enough action; so, he developed a “Games Gang”, a group in which Oasis members could play various board games and have the opportunity to learn new ones from others. When the Games Gang started, there were just three participants; now, at the time of writing, there is a committed group of 12-16 people each week who enjoy playing a variety of games, including Wizard, Rummikub, Dominoes and more.
Members suggested other activities as well, but looked to the Developers and Coordinators to support them so they were not completely self-run. For example, when morning coffee started, the Developers would come by the building to put on a pot of coffee for the group. The group would then gather to discuss current events amongst themselves or do activities like colouring or knitting. Over time, the members took on the organizing and set-up for coffee hours, especially when it became a regular event in the weekly schedule. At the Belleville Oasis site, a member expanded on a coffee social hour and suggested an open afternoon of creative activities. Members were encouraged to bring any activities they like to do or would like to learn; the result was more than 20 members participating in sewing, knitting, wood carving, scrapbooking, jewelry making, colouring, and even playing games like crokinole and Mexican train dominoes. Many people would wander from table to table striking up conversations and learning about others’ crafts.
While social activities may have been the easiest to implement in terms of time and resources, there were many requests for other types of activities from members, especially for different types of exercise, which required more coordination on the Developer’s part. Exercise suggestions included sitting exercises, stretching, yoga, tai chi, Nordic pole walking, and dance. Based on these suggestions, Community Developers reached out to the local community to see what was being offered and who could support this type of programming within each building. For example, one Oasis site in Kingston was interested in Nordic pole walking. The Community Developer had seen a free introductory clinic being offered by a local physiotherapist. She called to see if they would be able to hold a similar clinic at the building; the physiotherapist was delighted and hosted a free session with 15 Oasis members to teach them how to properly use the walking poles and discuss benefits of the activity. There is now a group of Oasis members who walk with their Nordic Poles once a week around their neighborhood. Another Oasis group was really interested in line dancing. The Coordinator had no experience with line dancing, but one of the members did and offered to lead the classes. At least fifteen members attend these weekly classes and with the guidance from their peer, have learned many new songs. Other members who are unable to join the dancing are welcome to come and watch the group – it is an enjoyable time for all.
All Oasis activities were organized in two ways: either a day was decided and then people were encouraged to drop in, or a sign-up sheet was posted on the bulletin board to gauge interest. Examples of flyers for both methods are included here in Appendix 5b and Appendix 5c. Sometimes activities were popular, such as the Games Gang, but sometimes there was no interest from the group to move ahead with an activity. In some cases, there was limited interest, but those activities were equally encouraged by the research team. For example, a Deaf woman in one of the building offered to teach sign language to other members. Though only two or three came to the lessons, they were dedicated students. Throughout the process of program development, the Developers encouraged the group to try new things and not worry about how many people were participating. If something did not work out, they would try other things until a regular schedule began to develop. For a list of example Oasis activity suggestions, please see Appendix 5d. Please keep in mind that these are suggestions that were made by our Oasis members during planning sessions, and are not necessarily activities suggested by our team for you to run. Oasis activities should be determined by its membership and may include many different options, falling into the broad categories of social activity, physical activity and nutrition. This list is simply a reference to demonstrate how diverse activities can be.
Some of the Games Gang members playing Rummikub
We recommend hosting a planning meeting relatively soon after the information session on site, and spending time gauging the interest of the activities mentioned by Oasis members. As we mentioned, there were some activities that were clearly preferred by a large number of members, and were also fairly easy to organize – board game afternoons, coffee, etc. We suggest getting a few “low hanging fruit” activities started as soon as possible after the first planning meeting. By waiting too long to start, members may lose some momentum or feel that they are not being heard or able to take the lead. Keep in mind that the Coordinator’s role is to support the activities, not necessarily to run them completely. Encourage members to take ownership of activities and to spend time organizing them. For example, if a member demonstrates a specific skill or talent, they should be encouraged to share it. A member at one of the sites came forward with significant experience in doing and teaching crafts. She organized an event where she taught the group how to do a craft that they were able to keep for themselves at the end. Similarly, other members supported a larger event on-site (an Oasis open house) by lending their skills and expertise to write or copy-edit advertisements and brochures, prepare food, assign roles to others, develop a logistics plan, among other tasks.
Identify Community Partners for Programs
The example of the pole walking class demonstrates the ways in which the research team would connect with community groups in order to bring programming into the Oasis sites. Oasis members identified many community groups they wanted to connect with, whether they might lead activities or provide guest speakers. The research team connected with the Victorian Order of Nurses quickly because of growing interest in their SMART exercise program, as well as their foot clinics and transportation resources. Other groups included the Canadian Hearing Services and the Alzheimer’s Society.
A few Oasis communities started speaker series, hosting a guest speaker each month. These speakers included the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Queen’s University Elder Law Clinic, Diabetes Canada, local public libraries and city services, including public transit, recycling, and visits by City Councillors. Speakers were all suggested by Oasis members; the Coordinators simply scheduled the day and time and assisted with logistics on behalf of the group. These sessions were engaging and very well attended across sites.
Another way we identified community partners was through a meal program. As one of the key components of the Oasis program, we saw the meal program as an opportunity for nutrition and socializing. First, we asked each group how they envisioned the meal program: catered or potluck, lunch or dinner, formal or informal. Then the Developers reached out to various community caterers and organizations, primarily based on suggestions by Oasis members. We found that in particular, small family-run catering businesses were keen to participate and were able to offer healthful, home-cooked meals at a reasonable price. The Developers also reached out to local high schools seeking volunteers to assist with the meal program. While the new sites were not able to accommodate the same meal program that is currently held at the original site (catered meal three times weekly and supported by a team of four-five volunteers each meal), we saw volunteers as key to ensuring that Oasis members were able to enjoy their meal. Volunteers were recruited to set-up and clean up after the meals and to help serve and prepare coffee and tea for members. The volunteer recruitment advertisement can be found in Appendix 5e. We discuss the meal program in detail in Phase 6.
A Note about Volunteers: We would like to highlight the importance of volunteers in supporting Oasis programming. During the establishment of the new Oasis site activities, we engaged a number of volunteers who supported each type of activity. These volunteers were members themselves, high-school and university students, as well as general members of the community. Volunteers were recruited based on a particular skill set (i.e. an experienced quilter leading a sewing class) or just a general interest in supporting the development of Oasis in their local communities. Volunteers are critical to the success of Oasis – cast wide nets to recruit through volunteer organizations and engage local schools to create volunteer and placement opportunities for further support.
Develop a Social and Activity Calendar
Approximately four weeks into engaging each new site, the Community Developers designed a monthly calendar listing each week’s activities. This calendar template can be found in Appendix 5f. The monthly calendar was posted on the Oasis bulletin board the week prior to the first of the month; additionally, a number of copies were printed so that members could take one upstairs to post on their fridge for reference. Sometimes, the Coordinators slipped the calendar under each member’s door so they could ensure everyone got one. On the back of each calendar was a summary of the previous month’s meeting, along with any important notes or reminders – the first informal newsletter at each site. If changes were made to the calendar throughout the month, a new version was posted and communications went out to the group. Early on, members established the importance of checking the Oasis bulletin board for new activities and updates so that members knew what was going on; however, for the guest speaker series or other new opportunities, Community Developers would send additional emails or call Oasis members with friendly reminders.
We recommend establishing a monthly calendar early, even if there are many blank spaces. It has been cited as one of the most helpful documents for members to refer to, so that they can organize their weeks and remember when activities are taking place. While members continued to look to the bulletin board for more information, having a calendar in their apartment made it easier to stay up-to-date on activities. These calendars could either be left in the common space for members to take, or perhaps more effectively, distributed under the doors of each Oasis member by other members or the Coordinator each month.
A strategy employed at the Hamilton site was the use of signs in the lobbies of each of its three buildings reminding residents and members of the Oasis activities planned each week. The signs also housed copies of the monthly Oasis calendar and newsletter.
Another helpful document we wanted to mention here, is the creation of a brochure about Oasis. One landlord recommended members put together a brochure listing the benefits of the program and the daily activities that they would share with new tenants who move into the building. An example of this brochure can be found in Appendix 5g. We developed the brochures early on and kept them updated as activities were added or as other information about the community’s program evolved.
Purchase Needed Equipment
As activities were developed at each site, a list of necessary equipment was compiled by the research team. While some Oasis sites ran in apartment building common rooms or recreation halls, others ran in brand new dedicated spaces. Therefore, purchases varied by site and included furniture, office supplies, small appliances, and other items to create a welcoming space. These items were purchased through the university purchasing systems or received as donations, either from various departments on campus or by members themselves. One Kingston site was given a desk, TV stand, two bookshelves, as well as wall hangings by Oasis members who were trying to make their new Oasis space feel comfortable and homey. We have compiled a list of basic equipment that we feel were required at each site; this list can be found in Appendix 5h. While not all sites required this full list of equipment, we feel it covers the basics of what a new site could require to be functional. Additionally, our team purchased items like board games, puzzles, colouring books, crafts and exercise equipment to help establish activities at each location, though again, many items were donated by the members themselves.
We recommend members taking part in the initial planning meetings to discuss what items they need or would like to have on site in order to make a functional space that can host different types of activities. You can refer to our list of basic equipment required for a variety of different activities to create an Oasis space. However, depending on your space, your needs may be very different. The most important consideration is to discuss with your members how they envision the program and to include the landlords or building staff in these conversations to see how they may offer support.
Phase 5 Key Take-Aways:
Hire an onsite Coordinator for at least 2.5 days a week to help Oasis members organize and conduct activities
Involve members in the hiring process by co-developing the job posting or developing an interview panel of members
Host a planning session with members soon after initial engagement and encourage them to develop activities and compile a list of equipment or supplies that may be needed – suggest “low hanging fruit” activities first to get programming going with minimal resources as other, more complex, activities are organized
Don’t worry if activities aren’t successful right away – there may be some trial and error to see what the group wants to participate in
Look to members to facilitate activities, lead set-up, organizing and other leadership roles
Engage your local community organizations to support programming
Establish a monthly calendar early on, even if there are blank spaces. Make sure that calendars are publicly available to members – in common spaces and also available for them to take with them to their homes