Independent and supportive living residents at Timberstone Mews community in Red Deer completed a 24,000 piece puzzle during the COVID-19 pandemic. The puzzle is now displayed on a wall in the basement of the building. (Photo by Byron Hackett/Advocate Staff)

Independent and supportive living residents at Timberstone Mews community in Red Deer completed a 24,000 piece puzzle during the COVID-19 pandemic. The puzzle is now displayed on a wall in the basement of the building. (Photo by Byron Hackett/Advocate Staff)

Red Deer residents complete 85-square foot, 24,000 piece puzzle

With recreation programs shut down due to COVID-19 last year, Karen Radchenko was trying to find ways to entertain the residents at Timberstone Mews retirement community.

It was around March last year when the facility was gifted a 24,000 piece puzzle. Initially, Radchenko a recreational therapist was skeptical that anyone would want to go through such an undertaking.

With nothing but time on their hands, residents responded to the poster asking for participants and the project took off.

“It was something for them to do to keep them occupied when we first went into lockdown here at Timberstone,” Radchenko said.

Ten self-professed puzzlers took about three months to complete the approximately five-foot-tall and 17-foot long, 24,000 piece puzzle.

Independent and supportive living residents as old as 90 helped out, finishing sections of the puzzle that were put in bags by the previous owner. There were about 16 sections with around 1,500 pieces each and some residents completed more than one section.

The seascape image, filled with boats and marine life, was particularly difficult because of the size, which made it challenging for the residents to figure out how their section fits into the bigger overall puzzle.

“I like looking at the pictures, so figuring out what piece I had and then taking a picture and trying to figure out what we had going on added to the challenge for sure,” said 82-year-old Betty Fraser, who worked on sections of the puzzle for a few hours a night with her husband Stewart.

“I know after a few days, I would have given up, but my wife kept it,” Stewart said with a laugh.

The residents had to complete their section in their room because of gathering and visitor limits and the sections were collected in a room once they were finished.

From there, it was a giant undertaking to get all the sections together and find a place to hang the finished product at the facility.

“We just didn’t know how to frame it. It’s hanging on our basement wall (now),” Radchenko said, adding they stored the puzzle in an empty suite for quite a while until they figured out a way to frame it and hang it.

She said the residents were thrilled with the final product and she was happy to give them an avenue to be creative during such a difficult time.

“We wanted to show people even if there’s a pandemic, you can still do things,” she said.

Phyllis Munson, Bob Munson, Stewart Fraser, Betty Fraser, Glenn Gordon Lance Miron, Barb Miron, Irene Silversides, Jennie Psikla, Bertha Stromquist and Samanta Bowers helped complete the project.

“I think everybody is very pleased who has come and seen it. Some other residents are really surprised with how big it is and that people actually put it together,” Radchenko said.

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