Perley Rideau makes activities available online — for free

Ever considered taking up the ukulele? That's just one of the many activities available to residents of the Perley and Rideau Veterans' Health Centre in Ottawa — and they're now being made available to the general public.

New website includes video tutorials for art, music and even games

The Perley and Rideau Veterans' Health Centre has for years provided unique therapeutic and recreational activities for residents. (Jay Innes)

Ever consider taking up the ukulele? Or perhaps making a mandala out of string?

These are just a few of the activities available to residents of the Perley and Rideau Veterans' Health Centre — and they're now being made available to the general public.

"If you're living here at the Perley, you're really, really fortunate to have access to all these activities," said Carolyn Vollicks, the centre's community outreach director, on CBC Radio's In Town and Out

"The idea was, what if we could take all of the resources we have here and we can share them with the community?" 

The centre is one of Ontario's largest long-term care homes. Residents can take part in programs that include pottery, music, chair yoga and horticulture.

Now, a recent grant from the Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation — an organization focused on new ways to stimulate aging minds — has allowed Perley and Rideau to launch a new website and make some of those programs free to the public. 

Keeping the mind active

The fact residents have responded well to the programs is an encouraging sign that those outside the Perley and Rideau will pick them up, said volunteer Joan Olinik.

"I think it's great that were reaching out, outside of the Perley community," Olinik said. "I'm not a really good computer person [but] I found the website really easy to manoeuvre through."

The website offers video tutorials and written instructions for various arts and crafts projects, and visitors simply click on the activity they're interested in.

The centre's residents helped build the tutorials, too.

"You got to be active or you don't get anywhere," said John Newel, a resident of the centre and a Second World War veteran. 

"I've done everything — wood working, all kinds of things. I've always been active all my life."

Veteran Jack Dodds shows CBC Ottawa's Teri Loretto some of the art he has completed at the centre. (Jay Innes)

Another veteran of the Second World War, Jack Dodds, also credited the centre's arts program with keeping him active.

Dodds has used the centre's art training to paint some of his memories from the war, particularly from his time with the air force's paragliding division.

"I'm not a a very good artist but my memory is still pretty good, I'm just taking advantage of it," Dodds said.

Hear the full story on CBC's In Town and Out.

With files from Teri Loretto