From a young age, Katie, a Therapeutic Recreation (TR) student, knew she wanted to work with people.
What she didn’t know is that one day she’d become a trailblazer for the future of senior care — and it started as a way to spend more time with her grandmother.
“My grandma was admitted into long-term care and I volunteered just to see her regularly,” says Katie. “In Grade 11 they offered me a position as a recreation assistant, and I found it really interesting.”
Making connections amidst chaos
Naturally, Katie gravitated to Waterloo’s TR program, where she has honed her skills in creating and facilitating programming for older adults. She has also thrived through its interactive learning environment and three co-op work terms, the last of which was completed during a global pandemic.
“COVID-19 really opened my mind,” says Katie. “It was hard to find a balance between keeping residents healthy and maintaining their well-being. It taught me to be adaptive.”
Where one might see adversity, Katie saw opportunity. She was struck with the idea to look at recreation not just as a series of activities, but as a lifestyle, and decided to broaden her education with an entrepreneurial spin.
Creating change via customized education
Katie became intrigued by Waterloo’s world-renowned co-operative education and entrepreneurship program, Enterprise Co-op (E Co-op), as a way to explore her vision. Though students enrolled in the program typically have a science, technology, engineering or math background, Katie was still inspired to apply.
Today, her ambition is paving the way for other Faculty of Health students who share her entrepreneurial spirit and passion for bringing ideas to life.
Learning the skills by doing the work
A big picture thinker and natural leader, Katie flourished within the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Building on prior experience gained via Waterloo’s elective course, Foundations of Venture Creation, E Co-op has enabled her to map her short- and long-term goals, build a network and learn business skills.
Among other aspiring entrepreneurs and supportive advisors, Katie developed her start-up, Elevate — an innovative senior home-care service designed to deliver truly engaging and client-driven care. She even won $5,000 in the E-Launch Awards entrepreneurial pitch competition.
“It was a big step where I got to take risks and explore new roles,” says Katie. “I can work on any part of my business and I’m growing all the time. E Co-op is awesome!”
Elevating a generation
From her high school volunteerism to an unprecedented co-op experience, Katie has seen first-hand the gaps that exist in promoting a healthy and happy lifestyle for older adults. With the knowledge and skills gained in her TR program, Katie feels she has the confidence and ability to face those challenges head on.
Through Elevate, Katie aims to spark a new wave in TR and overall senior care by integrating technology and encouraging her clients to get involved in planning, and even leading, their own activities. She believes this approach will help break the stigma around aging while enabling seniors to stay engaged, maintain a sense of purpose and have fun.
“I want to have an impact on older adults,” says Katie. “I see their needs aren’t being met and I hear their stories. That’s what gives me the drive to succeed.”