A place for older adults to grow and thrive

Kim O’Brien of United Active Living talks about the physical and cognitive benefits of arts and cultural programs

Kim O’Brien is president and CEO of United Active Living Inc.

Kim O’Brien

What is United Active Living?

O’Brien: United Active Living is a Calgary-based company that offers older adults the opportunity to live in a community that promotes lifelong learning and creativity while also providing a variety of living options including independent living, assisted living and memory care.

Our operating philosophy is rooted in our commitment to choice-based living and to supporting our residents to live carefree, healthy, active lifestyle. We take pride in incorporating leading gerontology and medical research into our program development and care models, and also promoting the benefits of living in a diverse, inclusive community.

We employ a social model of care versus the traditional medical model of care. As a result, our residents are valued and respected for the individuals they are and are encouraged to contribute to the overall success of our communities.

So often aging is seen as a time of decline and loss. We’re proud that our communities offer something unique: a place to grow and to gain.

How do you differentiate yourselves from competitors?

O’Brien: We stand out in our industry by way of our integrative approach and understanding of active aging. There aren’t many older adult communities that aligned with the current research that points to the physical and cognitive benefits of arts and cultural programs – so we set out to change that. Having a robust arts and culture focus continues to be of great importance to us and we actively pursue and maintain partnerships with academia and prestigious cultural organizations throughout the city.

We also stand out in the way we welcome our residents who are living with dementia. In order to support them to live fully in our communities, we pioneered our United Minds program. We have no segregated or locked units and encourage – and support – all of our residents in their desire to participate in programming and their lives here together.

Resident choice and input is central to everything we do at United Active Living; from our approach to food services, to continuous feedback on program offerings, to the way we celebrate birthdays and welcome newcomers. We value each resident for the individual that they are and the way that they want to live their life.

Our ability to be successful in offering this unique approach stems from the dedication and commitment of our staff, and the ongoing training and support we provide them.

What’s the mission and purpose of United Active Living?

O’Brien: Our overarching mission and purpose is to transform the experience of aging. As a society we’ve typically looked at aging as a time of loss and decline. We’re working to turn that mindset upside down by challenging the stigmas of what people can and cannot do as they age.

We encourage this engagement by offering programming that taps into the International Council on Active Aging’s seven dimensions of wellness (emotional, environmental, intellectual, physical, professional, social and spiritual). We connect with our residents about their goals and desires, and our staff works together as an interdisciplinary team to bring them to life.

We choose to see our older years as a time to thrive. Whether attending the opera for the first time, reconnecting with a favourite hobby of the past, or engaging in discussions in part of one of our speaker series, our communities give our residents countless opportunities to prove that there’s always space for lifelong learning, exploration and personal growth.

These are some of the everyday ways that we make our mission a reality for our residents.

How many communities and residences do you have?

O’Brien: We currently have two communities; one in the southwest community of Garrison Green and one in the southeast, adjacent to Fish Creek Park. We opened our Garrison Green residence in 2009 and our Fish Creek residence in 2015.

What are the growth plans for the company?

O’Brien: This will be an exciting year for us at United Active Living. We are devoting our time to defining our strategic plan that will guide us over the next few years. As a part of that, we’ll be seeking strategic growth opportunities that will position us to be able to offer the highest quality of care and service for future residents.

This year, we will be particularly focused on developing our people strategy and our platforms to receive and respond to resident feedback and input. Constant engagement with our residents and our team is vital to our continued success.

– Mario Toneguzzi for Calgary’s Business


united active living aging

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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