OTTAWA -- Nissa Coghlan-Kerr’s job is to keep the seniors she cares for as fully engaged as possible.  Despite the fact that some of them suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia, they still have a lot of living to do.

“I wanted to do something a little different. I just like to think outside the box with activities, “said Coghlan-Kerr, who is the activities co-ordinator at Stirling Park Retirement home in Nepean.

For years during Winterlude, seniors would be driven around the city to look at events. But Coghlan-Kerr wanted a richer experience for them, on the Rideau Canal Skateway.

13 residents, family and friends took to the ice on Dow’s Lake last week, with seniors riding in sleighs. Volunteers skated and pushed some of the seniors who hadn’t been on the canal, or any ice, for years.

“They loved it,” said Coghlan-Kerr.

Coghlan-Kerr spent weeks preparing for the outing, securing sleighs on the canal and contacting all the families of seniors who were venturing out on the ice.

The weather co-operated with sunny skies, little wind and temperatures around -10.

“We loaded up the sleighs with 5 or 6 blankets. They lasted an hour and a half. Nobody had to come back because they were cold,” said Coghlan-Kerr.

For one senior in particular, it was a very special.

“Being out there brought back memories for her. It sparked memories of being at Dow’s Lake,” said Coghlan-Kerr.

The retirement home posted dozens of pictures on their Facebook page and the response from family members, and complete strangers, has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We try to keep it fun, they still can do this. Life is not over,” she said.