Healthy Living in the North

A picture-perfect partnership: Prince George photographer donates photographs to reconnect long-term care residents with their community

Two female Gateway Lodge residents in motorized wheelchairs are in a hallway. They are admiring a picture hanging on the wall. The picture has a rusted bridge in the foreground and a river, trees, and sky in the background.

Gateway Lodge residents Ilse and Diana can admire photographs of places they know thanks to a partnership with local photographer Anna Michele McCue. Photo courtesy of Anna Michele McCue.

They say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Lynn AuCoin hopes the pictures hanging in Gateway Lodge bring more than words – even a thousand of them. She hopes each image helps residents reconnect with their community.

“We’ve been trying to make our facilities more home-like,” says Lynn, the Recreation Therapist Supervisor for Gateway Lodge’s complex care and Rainbow Lodge in Prince George. “Our residents enter a new stage in their lives. Suddenly, they’re getting regular care and help in a new place. We want to see our hallways filled with things that residents can relate to and talk about. Whether that’s milking the cow, riding the tractor, or enjoying the sunset or local places.”

In a beige hallway, a picture of a long haired, black and brown dachshund in a wagon hangs above a chair.

This image of a dog in a wagon is a favourite among Gateway Lodge residents. Photo courtesy of Anna Michele McCue.

Lynn is a member of a Prince George Facebook group that shares good news and local photography. In February 2019, she was scrolling through it and several stunning photos caught her eye. Lynn noticed they were all by a photographer named Anna Michele McCue, who goes by Michele. Lynn reached out to Michele right away.

“We didn’t have a big budget for this, so I was hoping we could work something out,” says Lynn. “Michele got back to me right away. She loved the idea of connecting residents with their communities. She offered her pictures at no cost!”

Thanks to Michele’s generosity, nine pictures are now hanging throughout Gateway Lodge.

A picture of a Prince George street in the fall hangs on a wall. The street is centred and continues for several blocks. It is covered in yellow leaves. On either side of the street there are tall trees with yellow leaves that have yet to fall, and houses.

Another example of a picture by Anna Michele McCue that is hanging in Gateway Lodge. Photo courtesy of Anna Michele McCue.

“I’m so pleased that my photography is bringing joy to people,” says Michele. “Seniors, who have contributed so much, are an important part of our community. It means the world to help remind them of how they lived, what they accomplished, and what they enjoyed.”

Michele isn’t the only one who’s pleased. These trips down memory lane are getting rave reviews from Gateway residents as well.

“They add beauty and colour to our empty walls,” says Margaret, a resident of Gateway Lodge. “We all enjoy finding out the location of where a photo was taken.”

Lynn notes that other Northern Health long-term care facilities may see local photography on their walls in the future.

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.

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Show us how you stay connected and win!

This fall, we’re running a contest (launching next week – stay tuned!) to share your stories of connecting and community! We want your photos and we’re giving you the chance to win $250 just for showing us how you stay connected!

Photo on top of a blanket.

A photo of Holly and her grandma on top of a blanket that her grandma made. How do you engage in deeper, richer connections in your community, and how can we ensure that others who are vulnerable, such as seniors, are valued and supported to connect, too?

I always looked forward to visiting my grandmother when I was young. She taught me to knit scarves for my Barbie dolls, we went on outings to the mall and the bakery, and she let me help make her famous cherry cheesecake tarts – which we then delivered as gifts to local shopkeepers.

As an adult, I also came to recognize that my Gram was extremely involved in her community. She would chat regularly with all the ladies in the wool department at Sears, she volunteered with the Canadian Cancer Society selling daffodils every April, she belonged to and regularly attended “the club” (the local seniors centre), and she was skilled in the crafts of sewing and knitting, often working on special projects for others.

I now realize how lucky I was to have the time with her that I did, as well as how fortunate she was to be healthy enough to drive, to have access to opportunities, and to have family close by. Too often, we hear of people getting older, losing their independence and their social networks, and lacking the support to keep contributing to, and stay involved in, the communities they love. Without a doubt, this has a negative effect on their health.

Here in northern B.C., our population is aging at a much faster rate than the rest of the province. Combine that with the fact that our region is spread over an area the size of France, many of our communities are rural and remote, and most of us have seven cold and snowy winter months and what do you get? A population of aging adults who have a lot of hurdles to jump just to get out the front door!

It’s time to change this story! I want all people – young, old, and everywhere in between – from all communities to benefit from staying engaged the way that my Gram benefited and the way that connecting with her benefited me!

This fall, we’re running a contest (launching next week – stay tuned!) to share your stories of connecting and community! We want your photos and we’re giving you the chance to win $250 just for showing us how you stay connected!

We want to draw attention to the importance of fostering welcoming and inclusive communities and the idea of social connectedness. How can we engage in deeper, richer connections in our own communities, and how can we ensure that others who are vulnerable, such as seniors, are valued and supported to connect, too?

The Ask:

Each week, we will post a theme related to social connectedness and ask that you submit an original photo related to that theme. Starting October 12, the contest page will be updated with a new photo category. And keep your eyes on the Northern Health Matters blog for great content to inspire you on the health benefits of social inclusion, how to support aging with dignity, and more!

The Prizes:

Each week, we will draw for a prize from all of the submissions for that week. At the end of the contest, a grand prize will be awarded to the photo from the entire contest period that best showcases the meaning of social connectedness – and that inspiring photographer will win $250 to put towards a healthy living facility or activity in their community.

So get your cameras and smart phones ready – the contest will be starting soon and I can’t wait to see how you, your family, friends, and community support social connectedness!

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is a Regional Lead for Population Health. She has a passion for healthy living and health promotion and is a foodie at heart. Originally from Ontario, she has fully embraced northern living, but enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She swims, bikes and runs, and just completed her first marathon.

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