In life, it is often said that everything old becomes new again.
So is the case at North Riverside’s Caledonia Senior Living & Memory Care — formerly known as the Scottish Home — where the 103-year-old organization is resurrecting the cherished tradition of tea time years after the overflowing saucers of tea and old-fashioned scones were last served.
Caledonia’s tea time program, called A Cup O’ Kindness, is a daily event in Caledonia’s living room, where residents can enjoy a cup of tea, engage in meaningful conversation and enjoy a reflective story time with fellow residents and staff members.
According to Sian Stevens, chief operating officer, the program — which kicked off on July 22 — has been in the works for several months, as Caledonia officials worked to both rebrand the organization and find a way to combine the organization’s 21st-century methods of care with the Scottish traditions the center was founded on.
The idea for A Cup O’ Kindness came about when Stevens and Gus Noble, president of the Chicago Scots, worked through branding workshops with staff and board members of Caledonia. The one thing Stevens always noticed was that at meetings and interviews, tea was always offered.
Originally hailing from England, Stevens said something about having tea felt like all the comforts of home.
“I think that when a lot of people talk about what makes [Caledonia] different and coming to an over 100-year-old community, is that it feels like almost like a bed and breakfast — that comfortable home and cozy welcoming feeling,” she said. “A lot of times at a bed and breakfast, there’s that tea time where people come and gather, and you get that sense of community.”
Noble said because Caledonia and the Chicago Scots cherish both preserving Scottish culture and making the senior living facility feel as comfortable as possible, bringing back tea time was a no-brainer.
“There’s so many things that recognize tradition for the organization for the residents, their families, and the whole community,” he said. “In the U.K. and Scotland, one of the cultural things is the coming together to have tea. It’s such an important part of family life and cultural life — the actual act of sitting together and connecting over a cup of tea is culturally a very significant thing.”
While researching old marketing materials from the Scottish Home, Stevens and Noble found photos and documents showing the home used to have morning and afternoon tea for its residents. Thus, Stevens said, bringing back tea time felt extra special.
“We are embarking on this plan to renovate our historic building, and our theme for that renovation is ‘reimagining tradition,'” she said. “We have all these new, innovative programs that we want to offer to residents, but there’s also something special about bringing back those things that were so special in the past. As we renovate the building, we hope to do that to keep the character and bring it out more.”
The weekly program will provide residents a spot of tea with both morning and afternoon offerings, with programs scheduled Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 3:45 p.m., Tuesdays from 11:30 a.m. to noon, Fridays from 4 to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 3 to 3:45 p.m. and Sundays from 2:30 to 3 p.m.
Over the past few weeks, Stevens said Caledonia has hosted a few trial tea times, all of which have had strong, positive responses from the nearly 100 residents.
“I think today’s residents respond to that sense of community and camaraderie as they did 100 years ago,” she said.
In addition to helping foster a strong sense of community between residents and employees at Caledonia, the tea program is also open to prospective residents, and Stevens and Noble are working on initiating popup tea parties out in the greater North Riverside community to introduce the public to tea time and the traditions of Caledonia.
Local residents are also invited to donate gently used teapots towards the A Cup O’ Kindness, helping add a personal touch to the program. Patrons are welcome to stop by Caledonia, 2800 Desplaines Ave., to donate their teapots and share personal stories about their donation, which will be shared on Caledonia’s social media with the hashtag #shareacupokindness.
This summer, public tea times for local residents will be offered on Aug. 17 and Aug. 22 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. The public is also invited to Caledonia’s 103rd summer picnic on Saturday, Aug. 3 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.