Celebrating success to elevate the health of older British Columbians

By Sarah Lusina, Director of Strategic Partnerships, AART; Executive Director, Active Aging Society

Special feature: The Active Aging Society works closely with the UBC Active Aging Research Team (AART) to implement and adapt Choose to Move with community-based seniors’ service (CBSS) organizations across British Columbia. In this blog we start to unpack the role of the Society in the scale-up of Choose to Move. Stay tuned for more blog posts that feature the Active Aging Society.

Summary:  In this blog we showcase how we celebrate the success of our partners in the delivery of Choose to Move and the progress that our Choose to Move participants have made on their physical and social health journeys. We highlight the science that backs the importance of celebrating successes and the link between celebrating success and the achievement of shared goals.

In team work—be it within an organization or with external collaborators—celebrating success should not be viewed as a “nice to do when we have time.” It is essential. Celebrating success yields a host of positive outcomes. Linked to the dopamine response in the brain, a feel-good chemical that supports learning and strengthens our sense of connection to others, celebrating success can reduce stress, improve cognitive performance, and reduce burnout.1,2 As a result, teams and collaborators strengthen their relationships and increase their group trust while deepening their desire to go above and beyond for one another and the work.3

The Active Aging Society and UBC Active Aging Research Team (AART) heed the evidence stemming from the ‘celebrating success’ literature. We know from experience that celebrating success is an important factor in maintaining healthy collaborative relationships. Also, a bit of festivity goes a long way in solidifying learnings. Together, celebrating success creates the conditions for continued achievement and strengthens the ecosystem for continued collaboration towards those shared goals.

“Celebration is an important opportunity to cement the lessons learned on the path to achievement, and to strengthen the relationships between people that make future achievement more plausible.” – Whitney Johnson, Harvard Business Review 

The Active Aging Society and AART aim to promote older adult physical, social, and mental health in British Columbia and beyond. Strong, committed, and collaborative relationships in the community-based seniors services (CBSS) sector underpin our ability to meet our mission, including the scale-up of Choose to Move, a health promoting program for older adults. Celebrating successes with our CBSS partners is especially important at this present time as the CBSS sector endeavours to secure stable footing after the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard in all domains of their operations.4,5 Despite the many operational challenges, our CBSS partners remained committed to engage older adults in Choose to Move, knowing that keeping older adults active and connected is one of the best ways to protect their health and enable them to remain living independent in community. To honour their efforts and to reenergize our shared goal of improving the health of community dwelling older adults, we knew a little festivity would appreciated—and would go a long way to foster more capacity for a deeper commitment to our goals moving forward.

Over the course of 2022 the Active Aging Society made intentional efforts to celebrate the successes of all of our CBSS partners and Choose to Move participants. We share four snapshots that showcase our commitment to celebrate in ways that were meaningful for each unique community.

1.  The West End Seniors Network (WESN) has offered Choose to Move since 2018. Welcoming new and past participants of Choose to Move, WESN leadership hosted a social—and super fun—dance party on a sunny day this past summer. A big thank you goes out to Miel, our groovy Choose to Move activity coach who is so skilled in health promotion and community engagement—as well as inclusive, super fun dance instruction. The dance party reinvigorated Choose to Move participants’ commitment to their physical activity goals and reconnected them to each other. AART and Active Aging Society staff got a chance to laugh and be creative with our valued WESN collaborators.

2.  We shared some circle time and fresh, local fruits with the Fall cohort of Choose to Move at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH). In 2020, Eda initiated CNH’s online delivery of Choose to Move, navigating the complexity of community programming in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. When public health measures eased, Eda and Masa joined forces to provide in-person sessions. With participants and activity coaches, we reflected on our personal physical and social activity goals and the influence of community design and programs on goals achievement. Unique to this cohort is the fact that many of the participants live in the same apartment complex. Choose to Move brought them together for the first time, creating new and long-lasting connections to one another, CNH programs, and the CNH staff. The celebration felt meaningful—everyone left with a renewed sense of accomplishment and connection.

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3.  On a rainy day in November we ventured to the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House to celebrate their success in adapting Choose to Move to engage Chinese older adults who are often unable to participate in mainstream health promotion programming due to language barriers. Offering Choose to Move in both Cantonese and Mandarin since 2021, Zhen, the Choose to Move activity coach, tailored the program to the community’s interests and strengths. After a brief presentation on the history of Choose to Move and our commitment to deepening our equity-centered programming, we celebrated by sharing tea, snacks, and ideas on how to further support isolated groups of older adults to connect with community organizations and learn about important health topics.

4.  Leanore, the Choose to Move activity coach with the Seniors Services Society, celebrated the successes of their Choose to Move participants by offering certificates of achievement—and a little party—to mark the end of their summer cohorts. Finding a gathering place was the easy part as all Choose to Move participants are residents of same apartment building and the 12-week program and party were held, conveniently, in their common room. The party solidified all that they had learned and accomplished, individually and collectively, on their Choose to Move journey. In a program debrief meeting with Leanore she glowed with enthusiasm as she explained the strides her participants made on their activity journeys. She casually shared a thank you letter she received from her participants expressing their gratitude to her for the responsive and thoughtful personal touches she applied to the program to meet their strengths and needs. The letter, bursting with appreciation, underscored the importance of pausing to revel in the many ways that our Choose to Move partners make positive impact in the lives of the older adults with whom they interact.

Celebrating success should not be viewed as an accessory activity to consider if we have time, budget, and a space. However small or grand—a circle dialogue with tea and oranges to a day-time dance party—the opportunity to celebrate the successes is essential in fostering productive, meaningful work that sets the foundation for future achievement and positive impacts. For us at the Active Aging Society and AART, celebrating success with our partners and participants goes a long way in to achieve our goal to keep older adults active and connected and to strengthen the CBSS sector—a goal that we are unwaveringly committed to.



[1] Schultz W. Reward signaling by dopamine neurons. Neuroscientist. 2001 Aug;7(4):293-302. doi: 10.1177/107385840100700406. PMID: 11488395.

[2] Seppälä, e. & Cameron, K. Proof That Positive Work Cultures Are More Productive. Harvard Business Review. December 01, 2015. Product #: H02IMC-PDF-ENG

[3] Johnson, W. Celebrate to Win. Harvard Business Review. January 26, 2022. Product #: H06U4Q-PDF-ENG

[4] BC’s Not-for-Profit Sector – Stronger Together. The Vantage Point Blog by Cherie Payne. December 6, 2021

[5] UNRAVELING | Non-profits, COVID-19, and the Fabric of BC Communities | A SNAPSHOT 8 MONTHS IN. The Vantage Point, February, 2021.

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