Look Closer – See Me!

Oct. 29, 2018

Look Closer – See Me!

“What do you see, tell me, what do you see?

Who are you seeing when looking at me?

A crabbit old woman, not very wise.”


This poem, Look Closer- See Me!, is attributed to a nurse who worked in a Scottish hospital in the 60s. It served as a simple reminder to all that older people matter and reflect a lifetime of living and wisdom and deserve our love and respect. Adopted by hospitals worldwide, this very poem found its way to Arnprior’s Grove Nursing Home and the desk of Sonja Buder.

Born in Arnprior, Sonja graduated from the Arnprior and District High School (ADHS) and then moved to Cornwall where she completed a diploma in nursing at their hospital.  Following graduation she moved to Renfrew to become the director of care at Bonnechere Manor. After her marriage she and her husband, Glenn, decided to relocate back to Arnprior where she found a position at the Arnprior & District Memorial Hospital reporting to Isobel Munro. 

In 1981 Norman Frieday, the Arnprior & District Memorial Hospital administrator, asked Sonja if she would be interested in becoming the first director of the new Grove. Sonja welcomed her new role with open arms. Why? She loved working with seniors!

The early days of the Grove saw a unique approach to resident engagement. Regular church service was offered every Wednesday and all religions were embraced.  Literature from other religions was welcomed and available to residents. Within the regular church services, some residents had difficulty reading so a volunteer came in and created pictures which were then attached to a piece of flannel. This simple interpretation helped residents understand what was being taught.

The aptly named, Activation Department, was staffed by employees and volunteers whose role was to encourage exercise by each resident. Passive exercises were used for those that were limited in mobility. On Sports Day, staff and volunteers dressed up in tennis outfits and even bathing suits to promote the theme!  A monthly birthday party ensured each resident’s day was celebrated and every Canada Day another celebration was held with volunteers dressed in red.  Families of the residents were also encouraged to attend.

With the start of the Gulf War In the early 90s Grove residents and staff  and volunteers came together to support the effort. They adopted the Canadian ship, the HMCS Terra Nova, and raised monies to buy personal items like soap and candy for the ship’s sailors. All were packed into boxes, and courtesy of the local MP, Len Hopkins, all the packages were shipped for free to the boys at sea. Thank you letters and a video from the seaman flowed back to the Grove, in thanks.

Sonja has fond memories of the many residents, staff and volunteers who walked in the front door. The very first resident was Mrs. Mabel Mayne, who taught math at ADHS. Jayne Gillies volunteered her time to teach residents arts and crafts. Diane Petryk helped facilitate animal appreciation day and even brought a donkey to the Grove one day! Under the leadership of Donna Slater Hyland, the Grove volunteers spent many hours assisting the activity department with programs such as games, yoga, parties, teas, and even helped in the dining room.

As the Grove expands to 96 residents, more staff and volunteers will be welcomed to continue this compassionate, caring, dedicated work.

Sonja Buder’s approach to resident care was simple – residents needed to be engaged on a regular basis. That very principal continues today where resident engagement is lively and fun.