Sunshine Spotlight: Canaries, Connections and Aloha at The Clairmont.

Sunshine Spotlight: Canaries, Connections and Aloha at The Clairmont.


At Sunshine Retirement Living, we like to think of ourselves as one big happy family, and each of our communities represents our offspring with its own individual quirks and characteristics. Every now and then, we like to shine the spotlight on one of those offspring and show how proud we are of them. This time we focus on The Clairmont in Austin, Texas, where Life Enrichment “Ninja” Tina Bertelle has been doing some amazing things.

“We’re all excited about what we’re doing here,” says Tina. “Residents love all the community engagement and outside relationships with our neighbors and nearby businesses. Many in the city are talking about our fun and unique programs.

“I know we have a lot of competition in our area, but our goal is to have a waiting list of people lying about their ages to get in, because it’s soooo fun!” she adds with a laugh.

What’s The Clairmont’s idea of fun? For starters, you’ve no doubt heard about dog and pet therapy. Well, this month, residents at The Clairmont got a sampling Canary Pet Therapy from their neighbor Heather Vice, aka “The Canary Chick.” On February 5, she brought a male named “Valentino” and his two “girlfriends” to live in The Clairmont’s Activity Room on a trial basis.

Heather found Tina through The Clairmont’s intergeneration connection to Pond Springs Elementary School, where Heather’s children are students. A teacher there mentioned that The Clairmont was making great strides in connecting with local schools in Austin to engage with their seniors. Heather reached out to Tina, thinking that the canaries would enjoy the extra attention and bring great joy to the residents while they are breeding and nesting.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the residents to watch the birds and their mating habits, to name the females, and to witness the eggs hatching,” said Tina. “We already have one egg in the nest.”

Heather will come back every week to visit and answer questions. And if all goes well, she will bring some of her chickens to The Clairmont’s outdoor carnival this spring.

“We want to stand out as true pet therapists having not only live dogs, birds and fish, but streaming YouTube funny animals,” says Tina. “I’ve created playlists on YouTube Red to enhance the experience through videos on TV. It’s been a huge success thus far!”

Another undeniable success has been The Clairmont’s ongoing relationship with nearby McNeil High School. Students in the “HS Seniors Helping Seniors” Program are making a binder that tells which of them are available to help with apartment organizing, walking dogs and other useful household chores.

“Many students are willing to build lifelong relationships with our seniors,” says Tina. “It’s an exciting and innovative way to get the youth actively engaged in respecting our older generation.”

McNeil High School also brings their deaf and disabled students to clean chairs and tables and rearrange them in the Activities Room. And earlier this month, students from McNeil’s French Poetry Society shared some readings and provided an easy French lesson for residents.

That, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of The Clairmont’s unique activities this month. Here are a few more offbeat offerings:

  • On February 6, The Clairmont hosted Beer Tasting & Trivia with Brian Trivitt from Magnolia Hospice.
  • In addition to a Chocolate Strawberry Grab & Go Station and live music for Valentine’s Day, high school volunteers came to dance with residents.
  • The day before Valentine’s Day, master art teacher Kellie helped residents stay “young at art” by painting a love-themed watercolor on canvas.
  • On February 28, many residents will participate and listen in on the Play That Ukulele Live Musical Workshop.
  • In March, The Clairmont will get another dose of ukulele and aloha with a Luau Showcase Dinner and Hawaiian Show.

“Tina is very in tuned with our seniors’ daily activities and provides an exemplary quality of life for them,” says Executive Director Joanne Green. “She has touched the lives of so many of our residents socially, physically, emotionally and intellectually. We are proud to have her on our team at The Clairmont.”

According to Tina, it’s all about “learning, loving and empowering” – three things we hope shine brightly through all of Sunshine’s offspring.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, February, 2019.

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