Next month Seona Stephen slides into retirement from her duties as nurse, counsellor, psychologist, detective, financial advisor and dishwasher.
She’s performed each of those roles in her work as executive director of Carlton House for nearly 10 years, since the retirement residence opened.
“It’s never really felt like a job,” she said in her light Scottish brogue. “It has been such a rewarding experience as the residents have enriched my life with their personal stories and ability to still have fun.”
The touch of accent remains from her homeland, where she did her nurses training in Edinburgh. As a registered nurse, she brings to the job a wealth of experience in acute care hospitals, including Victoria General and Royal Jubilee; over the years she has managed surgical units, emergency, intensive care, operating rooms, worked with a staff of more than 200 and balanced a budget in the millions of dollars.
All prepared her for her work at Carlton House, but the residents there have only added to her education.
“I can learn a lesson or two from them. We’re always spending our time running around trying to avoid change,” she said. “Their tolerance and acceptance of things they cannot change, such as specific health issues, is amazing.”
She’ll take those lessons to her home community of View Royal where retirement plans include volunteer work and travel.
“First of all I’m going to learn all about consignment stores and take all my business suits in to recycle,” she said with a laugh.
But she’s already started to pursue her interest in Emergency Management Response and is enrolled, with her husband John, to become volunteers with the Emergency Support Services Program.
“I do have a need to give back to the community. I think that will be really rewarding,” she said. “I’ll still be able to help people and use the skills I’ve developed over the years and put them to good use.”
There she’ll utilize the vast knowledge gained from residents and her work at Carlton House. It’s also a personal interest that harkens back two decades when the couple lost their Brentwood Bay home to a fire.
“It served us a purpose,” Stephen said, as they’ve overcome it and reached out to others in similar situations over the years.
The couple also has grand travel plans to get back to their roots.
“It’s a passion that both John and I share,” Stephen said. “Our next trip is in August, we’ll go to visit family in Scotland, Ireland, then over to Paris, down to the south of France and then into Monaco.”
But this month she’ll help ease in new executive directer Terez Payette who takes the helm in August.
The roughly 100 residents are what Stephen expects to miss most about coming to Carlton House every day.
“They’ve been part of my life for nearly 10 years. They’re like part of my family.”