The Bria Bee-Well Project

Seniors at an Apiary
Seniors Harvesting Honey

This spring, The Waterford began to buzz with the sounds of the Bee Well Project. This unique partnership between The Waterford, Master Beekeeper, Julia Common and Southlands Tsawwassen brings sweet benefits to our seniors and the planet with the healing power of bees.

At the heart of the Bee Well Project lies a shared commitment to enhancing the lives of seniors, pollinators, and the entire Tsawwassen community.

“Public awareness about the vulnerability of pollinators is high; public awareness about the vulnerability and marginalization of our older generation isn’t as widespread,” notes Julia Common.

Julia has been keeping bees for five decades and is a well-respected leader amongst Canadian professional apiculturists. She continues, “This project connects and educates seniors on the value of protecting pollinators. It also maintains our community connection with seniors and helps people re-think aging.”

The partnership emerged when the team at The Waterford initiated a conversation with Julia. Tanya Snow, Director for Bria Communities, explains, “We had a positive experience with beekeeping at one of our seniors’ residences in Langley. The residents loved it, and we wanted to do something similar in Tsawwassen.”

What initially started as a plan to sponsor hives became a program with monthly events for Waterford residents to participate in. In April, Julia came on-site to educate residents about pollinators and together, they placed Mason Bee houses strategically around the exterior of the building. The following month, residents painted hives red in preparation for hosting bees. June and July included visits to local apiaries, with a unique trip to the rooftop garden and apiary at The Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver.

Seniors at The Waterfront's rooftop apiary

August was the most exciting month of all, with the honey from The Waterford’s hives harvested right on-site with residents getting their hands sticky and walking away with big smiles and jars of honey. Watch a short video of the honey harvest.

Through the summer, Julia kept hives on a small piece of un-farmed land close to the intersection of 56th Avenue and Southlands Drive. Gradually, The Southlands team turned an undeveloped plot into a senior-friendly, easy-access apiary surrounded by a pollinator meadow. Southlands Tsawwassen is renowned for its commitment to connecting people through vibrant community engagement and food experience. Collaborating with Julia and Bria Communities to develop the open-to-the-public apiary is a venture that will continue to benefit the entire community in the coming years. In September, Julia hosted a group of residents from The Waterford as the first guests to visit the apiary. They toasted with champagne to celebrate a positive partnership and pollinator project!

The Bee Well Project is an innovative way to promote health and wellness among the older adults who call The Waterford home. “We’re committed to cultivating a lifestyle for our residents modelled around the International Council on Active Aging’s seven dimensions of wellness,” says Tanya Snow.

“This project touches on so many of them: it fosters environmental, vocational, social, intellectual and even spiritual wellness. It’s good for seniors, it’s good for pollinators, it’s good for the community of Tsawwassen.”

“I love this partnership,” says Julia. “As a beekeeper and steward of the land and pollinators, I’m always looking to educate and implement projects that sustain humans and pollinators. As someone with aging siblings and friends, I am passionate about keeping our elders engaged, stimulated, and connected.”

The Bee Well project will continue into the fall, with residents participating in candle rolling and salve-making workshops using the by-products of their hives. The winter includes a plan for a ‘Buzz-aar’ where residents will sell honey, candles, salve and honey-themed baked goods to raise money for the pollinator project.