Alyssa Trimm is the Director of Recreation at Birkdale Place Retirement Residence in Milton, Ontario. She has worked at Birkdale Place since 2017 and loves being able to interact with her residents daily. She enjoys hiking, travelling with friends, and was excited to visit her brother in China in 2016 where he was working.
What made you want to become a recreation professional?
I truly believe this job chose me. Before working at Revera, I had no experience working with older adults. I didn’t even grow up with grandparents. After I graduated from the Faculty of Kinesiology at Wilfrid Laurier University my experience was working with people with disabilities and I thought I would continue my career path working with them. When I was applying to jobs, I saw a position for a “Recreation Aide” in Milton. I applied and began working weekends at Birkdale Place, while continuing to work for Community Living Halton and a movie theatre. One thing led to another and I found myself working more and more at Birkdale until I was eventually promoted to the full time Director of Recreation position. I went on to be a Revera regional recreation award of excellence winner in 2020. I have truly enjoyed my experience at Birkdale Place and my residents and staff feel like family to me!
How do you know what programs your residents will enjoy and what are you goals in creating programs?
I have an open line of communication with our residents so they feel comfortable telling me what works and what doesn’t for them. I also hold annual recreation assessments and track attendance so I know which activities are more popular. My goal when I’m designing programs for our residents is to create an environment that is attractive for everyone because I think that will result in a happy atmosphere for everyone.
What do you enjoy about working at your residence?
Birkdale Place feels like family. We have a very warm and welcoming residence, and the residents and my coworkers make my day every day. I love seeing my residents happy and I love helping to create meaningful experiences for them.
What is a favourite activity for your residents?
Our residents are very active and are always eager for our exercise programs. I love seeing them push themselves and they’re always so happy and proud after a workout. Some other popular activities are trivia, especially Jeopardy. Their competitive spirit comes through and it’s always a great time.
What sets your residence apart from others?
I’ve heard from many of our family members and residents that what sets Birkdale Place apart is the warm community and family atmosphere. It’s not something that can be measured—it’s a feeling. Sometimes residents go to other retirement residences and they say, “they’re nice, but Birkdale is my home.” I’m so proud of our community. Our friendly and helpful staff welcome residents and create this warm atmosphere. Everyone who works at Birkdale Place loves what they do and we put our residents first.
What is your best memory from your programs with your residents?
There are so many, but if I had to choose one it would be our family appreciation dinner a few years ago. All of our residents and their families (we had almost 50 guests) were invited to join us on our front patio for a nice BBQ. We had live music, great food, a raffle and even an ice cream truck. It was one of my favourite events and our residents still talk about it!
What was an unexpected or a happy surprise about working with your residents?
For my birthday, all of our residents signed this giant card and decorated my office. I also received a happy birthday video from them. It was so sweet!
What have you learned from your residents?
The biggest lessons I’ve learned have been to be patient and be a better listener. Someone once told me, “You will forget what someone said, but you will never forget how they made you feel.” I think this is so true and I’m driven to make everyone feel appreciated.
What do you wish more people knew about senior living and the people who live and work there?
I wish more people understood the true meaning of retirement living. It’s not about losing your independence and having others do everything for you. Retirement is about simplifying your life so you can enjoy it. I want my residents to focus on what makes them happy, instead of worrying about what they will make for dinner that night. Retirement is a time for healthy, easy living so you can focus on what matters most to you.
What motivates you to come to work each day?
My residents. They mean everything to me.
What is the best compliment you have received from a resident?
“I don’t know what I would do without you.” I was actually told this recently and it truly hit home for me. During the pandemic when visits were limited, our whole team stepped up to do things we may not have normally done, but sometimes it still didn’t feel like we were doing enough to give back to our residents when they couldn’t be with their families. However, this comment really reminded me that we are all doing the best we can and our residents so appreciate us just being there with them.