Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How to get lifesaving drugs to can help

I'm an enthusiastic supporter of a humanitarian bill currently moving through Parliament, Bill C-398, that I believe will ensure more affordable HIV/AIDS drugs (anti-retrovirals) get to where they are desperately needed in Africa. The bill actually seeks to streamline earlier CAMR (Canadian Access to Medicines Regime) legislation passed in Canada in 2004, which made it possible to produce inexpensive generic drugs in Canada (carefully monitored) to send to Africa. Well, that legislation was so complicated and cumbersome that only one shipment of drugs has been sent in 8 years!
Now we have the chance to pass a better bill that cuts the red tape and encourages the manufacture of drugs here that can go to help save lives in Africa...with no cost to Canadian taxpayers! What a difference this could make! So, I'm part of GRAN (the Grandmothers Advocacy Network), a group determined to see this bill through, and on November 1, 2012, we'll be rallying across Canada, on various hilltops, (at noon on the hill above Clover Point in Victoria) to send the message to Parliament Hill that we want Bill C-398 passed. You can write or email PM Stephen Harper, ( or your MP, and raise your voice too: Pass Bill C-398 and save lives!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My friends the Sisters of St. Clare are celebrating!

I have friends in Duncan who are celebrating an unusual anniversary, the 100th anniversary of their  order of contemplative nuns, the Sisters of St. Clare (or Poor Clares) on Vancouver Island. It's also the 800th anniversary of the order itself...that's a lot of anniversaries!
The Poor Clares have been a part of my life for the last 19 years (and I consider that worth celebrating too!), ever since they called and asked if I would do a story on another event they planned. I accepted that challenge (a first for me to meet monastic nuns) with the proviso that I'd like to come and spend time with them and learn about their a "day in the life of" story on nuns in Canada in the 20th Century.
Little did I know that would be the start of a relationship that has impacted my life ever since...a friendship with a group of witty, funny, thoughtful, and perceptive women who happen to centre their lives on prayer and contemplation, but also feel a deep connection with the rest of the world, and hold us all in their prayers. In fact, you can make prayer requests now via email or on their website, by the way). Never say these women aren't up to date!
I find when I'm amongst the Sisters as a visitor in their sunny parlour, I feel a sense of comfort and ease I rarely find elsewhere. The commitment the women have made by choosing the monastic life is not an easy one, yet when you feel the sense of joy they emanate, you can begin to understand their decision.. The Sisters have become cherished friends (something I never expected to happen), and I envy their clarity of purpose and admire their devotion to the spiritual life. Their most recent  member of the group is Monique, a delightful woman of 43 who chose this life after losing her husband to fact, he helped her choose this monastery! Monique says that while the life she has chosen is difficult, "she's never been happier." She feels this is the "fit" she had longed for, and somehow, when you see her, you can sense that starting from her smile..
The Sisters will celebrate publicly on Saturday, August 11 at a Eucharistic Celebration at 10 a.m. at St. Andrew's Cathedarl, 740 View Street, Victoria, with a reception following at St. Patrick's Parish Hall. You can bet I'll be there.
(For more on the Sisters and the friendship we share, go also to the Times-Colonist's Spiritually Speaking blog at

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Spiritual Tourism and the NYNO

Machu Picchu at Dawn   Photo by Sean F. White
I love the fact that more and more people, especially us NYNOs (Not Young Not Old) are choosing spiritual tourism for our explorations of the world. I think of this type of journey as "deep travel" and it really means to travel with intention and openness, to sites that may be sacred or may transform you in some way, to listen and be attentive to your surroundings. to learn more about the sacred place you find yourself, maybe from the wisdom keepers in the local area. That is, to journey with intention AND attention. And that's the way I hope to  travel each time I leave for a trip or personal pilgrimage, but when you prepare for and plan for this journey, it can be even more meaningful.
At the NYNO stage of life, we often have the time, the money, and the health, coupled with the keen desire, to undertake this type of inner and outer journey, and that's confirmed by the fact that the vast majority of "pilgrims" worldwide are age 50 and up. Maybe it's also because, as writer Phil Cousineau explains it, we often need the added motivation of a life crisis or a time of transition and unknowing,  to push us onto and into a spiritual journey as we make big decisions and ask the big questions.
Djenne Mosque Photo by Sean F. White
I was wonderfully moved recently by Sean F. White's newest film Terra Sacra Time Lapses and Sean has very kindly allowed me to use some of his images here (Thank you again, Sean!), .so you'll see what I mean. He captured the "Sacred Lands" of our planet both creatively and movingly in the 6-minute film he created...and reminded me of the incredible beauty and sacredness of  our world.
I asked Sean what were some of the most memorable places on earth for him, and he mentioned Machu Picchu, the Pyramids and the supernatural energy of the Salar De Uyuni in Bolivia. He also said the only place in the world where he actually felt he wasn't even on Earth was Antarctica because of the massive ice world there. But he says the "most special place" he's ever been is Angel Falls in Venezuela, the world's tallest waterfall. He said it's "out of a dream world." Looking at the photo of Djenne Mosque, I become so fascinated that I've decided it should be on my bucket list too.
Do you have a favourite sacred place? It's the question I asked each person I interviewed for my book Havens in a Hectic World: Finding Sacred Places, and it's an endlessly fascinating question to me. And there are so many well-known and personal sacred sites around the world that you could start journeying to them today and keep going the rest of your life.
My very favourite book on this topic is Phil Cousineau's The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker's Guide to Making Travel Sacred, and I carried that book with me all the way to the top of Mt. Olympus in Greece...I simply couldn't bear to leave it behind....Look for it and I don't think you'll be disappointed.
There are now travel tour companies that specialize in spiritual tourism too...and the one here in BC is called Sacred Earth Journeys and is located in Burnaby. Not too coincidentally, I think, Phil is leading their next tour to Greece...small world.
Isla del Pescado, Bolivia   Photo by Sean F. White
I also talked to Wil Davis recently, an 84-year-old "explorer" who fulfilled a lifelong dream recently by returning to Palestine and Israel to walk the roads of the Bible and especially to see the Dead Sea scrolls, which were discovered when he was serving in the British Air Force in that area in 1947-48. Wil admitted to me that he's been a sort of "doubting Thomas" type all his life, never really believing the Bible stories, but at the same time anxious to have proof that might make him feel differently. When he took off on his spiritual journey this spring, he knew he wanted to spend time in the very area where the scrolls were discovered, seeing that cave in Qumran firsthand, walking the streets of Bethlehem, Jericho, Jerusalem, Jaffa and Tel Aviv, standing beside the Jordan River. After his transformative journey, Wil has joined a church and says he "believes the Bible so much more now." Being there, where it happened, was enough for him. Here's to sacred journeys for all of us.
Wil Davis with a replica of the Dead Sea scrolls

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Body Image and the NYNO Woman

 A full  25% of  NYNO women surveyed chose their "whole body" as the "part of the body they feel best about",  and love the fact they feel strong, are physically active, and continue to hike, ski, garden, play tennis, or take a daily walk. Many women also make sure they protect their skin with a hat, sunscreen, and moisturizer or practice meditation or yoga daily.

 Okay, so I was do NYNO (that is, Not Young Not Old) women in British Columbia feel about their body image at this point in life. What do they feel worst and best about? Would they consider cosmetic surgery? I surveyed my Focus Group of Women 40 and up, and was surprised (and pleased) with the findings. For example, 25% of women in the survey (of women mostly in their 50s and 60s) chose their face as their best body part, and another 25% chose their "whole body." I loved hearing this. Over 40% said they would not choose plastic surgery, but prefer to let nature take its course. Fifteen percent said they would  definitely consider plastic surgery and the largest group, 45%, said it would depend...with the most commonly mentioned procedure they would consider having done being eyelid surgery (which I've been told by an expert is a "simple procedure" provided you choose a surgeon who knows what he or she is doing!)
Another 20% of NYNO women chose their legs
as their "best" body part
The part of her body that most annoys the NYNO woman seemed to be, overwhelmingly, her thickening midriff, which one woman described as "a monster house on a small lot!"
Other parts women rail against included upper arms, and saggy skin, but a good 15%  chose "none," that is, NO disliked part, also a cause for celebration, in my mind. Additional "best" or favourite body parts included legs, hair, breasts, and skin.
Overall, NYNO women here in BC seem to be pretty darn content with their changing body image, and I think that's both reaffirming and healthy. Btw, talking to someone in the surgical field in New York, I was told that, after years of observation, she found that the plastic surgery with the biggest "happiness ever after" rate was breast reduction, which, literally, takes such a load off some women's shoulders (and backs). A plastic surgeon in Victoria told me it was abdominoplasty (that is, surgically removing excess skin, usually after big weight loss) that gave him as a surgeon the greatest satisfaction.
He also told me (which was eye opening to me) that he refuses to do 20-25% of the cosmetic procedures people ask him to perform, basically because he feels the result may not look right or it's not appropriate. That sort of honesty is what we should look for if and when any of us consider cosmetic surgery, in my book. In the meantime,
here's to the confident NYNO woman enjoying her active lifestyle in BC...and smiling all the way!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Piazza of Learning for young and old

102-year-old Lawrence Durelle, a former boxer, musician, and repairer of Stradivarius violins, among other things,
talking to the Sociology of Aging Class last year

I've stumbled upon a sampling of classes in BC where the young and old come together and learn from each other in a safe environment, and find the idea quite exciting. Most recently I heard about Mary Ann Murphy's Sociology of Aging  280 Class at UBC's Okanagan campus in Kelowna. Mary Ann recruits seniors for her class, giving about 20 talks a year to various seniors' groups, (and anyone over age 65 gets free tuition at UBC for most classes!) and the older people join the class of 20-somethings for a stimulating learning environment for all.  Storytelling is a fine art and the Gen X and Y-ers hear about WW11, concentration camps, the women's movement, work in the Dirty Thirty's, and the Holocaust, while the older set ask about tattoos, and how young families make ends meet. Great learning for all in our increasingly intergenerational society!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Can Mindfulness Meditation slow the onset of Dementia?

Dr. Colette Smart
 It seems to me that half the world (at least my world) is anxious to find ways to slow or avoid dementia, as we all march towards those "at risk" older years of our lives, or are concerned about our parents and others we care about who are already elderly.

So, it was with keen interest that I learned of Dr. Colette Smart's study at the University of Victoria focusing on the subject of dementia from a rather creative (at least in my mind!) point of view. Can applying the techniques of Mindfulness Meditation actually affect our brains as we age, and, hopefully, actually slow or halt possible dementia in the elderly? What a shocking premise....and it's exactly the hypothesis that Dr. Smart and her colleagues at UVic are examining in a study underway this spring of 2012.

I heard Dr. Smart speak on Mindfulness Meditation: A New Frontier in Dementia Prevention and Intervention at a UVic colloquium this spring and interviewed her later about her work as a neuropsychologist whose interest is in "self-regulation and cognitive rehabilitation" with a focus on applying contemplative (i.e. meditation) practice to facilitate brain recovery, or, in the case of dementia, to ward off decline. Her current study includes a control group of older adults who feel everything is functioning as usual in their brains and a second group who have self-identified as "cognitive complainers", i.e. those who feel they are "losing it" as far as remembering things, etc. and who may indeed be headed towards dementia.

Each group is divided in half and then exposed to either the techniques of mindfulness meditation (or learning how to pay attention to the present more completely and let go of certain anxieties) or to more traditional psychoeducation techniques (like studying the different types of memory and how to address decline in various areas). In a few months, when the study is completed, I'm anxious to hear the results! The participants have brain scans and other measurable markers (through tests, etc) done before and after the we'll hopefully learn if the meditation is effective, and really does result in new brain growth (through neuroplasticity). Pretty exciting stuff and can't wait to hear more in the future!
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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Learning about our plastic, trainable brains

I've only recently become aware of the concept of neuroplasticity, that is, the now scientifically-accepted principle that we can indeed change or train our brains throughout our lives, and target areas of weakness to respond to specific "exercises." Through careful application of various forms of brain training, we can develop, build up, or actually  "change" our brains.
Wow. What an idea....still too soon to see how it may apply precisely to conditions such as dementia, but one person who has been proving that this sort of brain exercise works for people (especially kids) with learning disabilities is educator Barbara Arrowsmith-Young. Barbara was born with profound "learning disabilities"and in her 20's discovered ways to work on her areas of weakness (for example, she could never tell time before she started training her brain to do so).

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young working with students on brain-building exercises that target weak areas of the brain
Now, 30-some years later, Barbara's Arrowsmith Program of exercises targeting 19 cognitive defects in various areas of the brain, is used in more than 30 school settings in North America, including her flagship Arrowsmith School in Toronto.
And the world will hear more about this with the release this month of Barbara's book The Woman Who Changed Her Brain, And Other Inspiring Stories of Pioneering Brain Transformation. I interviewed Barbara about her work and her book for my Not Young Not Old column
(it should be posted there by May 7, 2012) and was fascinated by the work she is doing, and the discoveries she's made along the way. Barbara's vision is for all school children to be assessed in the early years of their schooling, using tests she's developed, so they can get help then and not have to go through years of struggle and low self-esteem the way she did.
Barbara will be at the Fairmount Hotel in Vancouver at 7 p.m. on May 24, 2012 talking about her work and her doubt this will be a thought-provoking evening.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Telling true stories at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Leona Canute Jones was inspired to tell her truth at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission  Regional Event in Victoria in hopes it will help her children and grandchildren have better lives
I went to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission regional event in Victoria recently, and was extremely moved by the people I met, the things I heard and saw, and the camaraderie I felt between all those present, native and non-native. The Commissioners noted the size of the non-native crowd (apparently about 1,000 of us), the biggest white crowd so far at one of these events, and said how much they appreciated the support and desire to listen on the part of the greater community. I felt, quite frankly, honoured to be there and to witness and be welcomed to such an intimate sharing, and to see cultural events and learn from the exhibits as well.
One of the people I met there was Leona Canute Jones (you'll see her above surrounded by her grandchildren and children) and I learned that she was speaking at the sharing panel to tell her own story of what it has been like to be an "intergenerational survivor", that is, the child or grandchild, even great-grandchild of a residential school student, or 'survivor". It was particularly poignant to me to realize anew that the impact of the dysfunction, low self esteem, and anger felt by students at the residential schools goes on...generation after generation. It is widely known, so this category of "intergenerational survivor" is part of the TRC vocabulary. It is estimated there are 287,350 intergenerational survivors in Canada. 
So, I listened to Leona talk about how her parents' experiences in residential school marked them, drove them to alcohol and contributed hugely to the problems Leona and her siblings and relatives face, and have faced, all through life. The quiet courage of Leona and others who told their stories, not sparing themselves from admitting they are part of the cycle of abuse and drug and alcohol addiction, is amazing and moves me every time I think about it. Thank you, Leona and all those who told their truths, difficult as that is...we hope it will start the healing process for you and for all of us.
One of my former students in the Aboriginal Employment Training Program in Cowichan, where I taught for nine years, who has become my friend and is in touch often, also agreed to tell me again the horrific stories of her experiences at Kuper Island Residential School in the 60s. These memories included the suicide of her 10-year-old cousin, who couldn't face life after being beaten yet again by the teachers, those very people who were supposed to protect and guide him. My friend also remembers when two boys at the school tried desperately to escape and set out in the water, only to be "captured" and severely punished later. Others died trying to leave. It is hard to believe, I know, but it is undeniably true. How could things have gone so horribly wrong for so many children...and those entrusted with their care???
It is a part of our history we all need to hear and remember and pledge to never let happen again. It reminds me of the power of story, and here is one of my favourite quotes about the need for our stories, as quoted from Barry Lopez's book Crow and Weasel,
"The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive; that is why we put these stories in each others' memory. That is how people care for themselves. One day you will be good story-tellers. Never forget these obligations."
Thank you to all of you who are not forgetting your obligations, who are having the strength to give your stories away where they are needed. We all need to hear them.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Family Caregiver Week coming up in BC

Family outings now often include 4 generations

Family caregiving, that is, the unpaid care we give to the people we love who need assistance, especially as they age, is both a joy (so often now we have four or even five generations together, enjoying each other!) and a challenge...when caregiving becomes difficult or overwhelming for families who can't easily afford the time or the money to be there as much as they'd like for their parents or elderly friends. In BC, nearly 75% of family caregivers (which may include those who help out part or fulltime) are also part of the workforce, so juggling all the demands on their lives can be quite a feat.
But we're lucky here in Victoria to have the Family Caregivers Network  Society (FCNS)  that offers so many programs, workshops, and support groups for those involved in family caregiving, and aims to be the hub for family caregiver resources for all of BC.  Look for the workshops and opportunities coming up during Family Caregiver Week in BC May 5-11, 2012, and be part of the celebration.
And while it's great to celebrate our long-lived families, we know that more and more of us are feeling burned out, stressed, and exhausted from the demands of fulltime caregiving with a parent at home....and if you are one of those people, you may find support and some surprising assistance for you at the FCNS. They have a great newsletter you can sign up for online too. And I think you'll love the upbeat attitude and warm understanding of ED Barb MacLean and the others at FCNS who are there to help's a great resource.
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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Seeing Eye to Eye (i2i), inter-generationally!

Friends, photo by Sharon MacKenzie

For a long time, I've regretted the fact that there seem to be so few opportunities in our North American society these days for multigenerational friendships and shared times with people from other age groups. Even weddings are sometimes "no kids please" and that was one of the few places where we could be sure that generations would mingle.
So, it was with great joy that I learned about Canada's own i2i (eye to eye) Intergenerational Society, the brainchild of Sharon MacKenzie, a teacher and activist who has made it her mission to create opportunities for young and old and middle aged to come together and learn from each other, form friendships and have fun too.
Hugs are great at any age!
 Photo by Sharon MacKenzie
Sharon has promoted the idea of Intergenerational Learning (IG) for many years, including setting up an "immersion" program known as the Meadows School Project, in Vernon, which offered classes to middle school students right within a retirement home for 8 weeks of the year....and daily opportunities to learn with seniors as buddies. That program is now being duplicated in Williams Lake in a new project they refer to as "Too Cool 4 School." Graduates of the Meadows School Project, including both former students and elders, rave about the difference it made in their lives and in the lives of both young and old. A whole variety of intergenerational projects from across Canada, are listed at the i2i website, and will warm your heart, frankly, as you read about them. They've certainly moved me!

IG nature walk. Photo by Sharon MacKenzie
June 1, 2012 is Intergenerational Day, and June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, an event
that some of the i2i kids are helping to promote as they join the fight against elder abuse, another
impressive side effect of the work of the i2i Society. This group does, and oversees, such good things...
it's worth checking it out and I hope you will.
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Thursday, April 5, 2012

The True Meaning of an Elder

May and Skip Sam with multi-generations of their family  

I've thought many times, for many years, about the way the term Elder is used by the First Nations here in British Columbia, and I wish, quite frankly, that we had an equivalent concept, history, and application in the non-native population. I wanted to learn more about how Elders themselves understand the term, so I interviewed five Coastal Elders recently, and it was moving to hear them talk about the roles they play in their communities, and their hopes for the children and the future. In fact, when I called May Sam, (pictured above with some of her large family), to set up a time to come to see her and her husband Skip, May immediately suggested I come at 3:30, so I could be there after school and would see them within the family setting that includes great-grandchildren and all the generations of their family. 

Scott Sam
May and Skip's son Scott, a "young Elder", or "Elder-in-training", as he puts it, talked to me about the two uses of the term elder in his culture. It can be simply a term to describe all the older people ("We'll invite the elders"), but it can also be the carefully applied title describing those people who have accumulated great wisdom and who are consulted as a respected advisor on family or community matters. This is the use I wanted to hear more about. May and Skip are often called on to help a family in crisis, to pass on their teachings of the Coast Salish to the younger generation (May does this often with university students too) or to pray with a family facing illness or death. Scott is often called too as a witness at important moments or family events.

Alberta and Dan Billy and me (Star) at the Quadra Island United Church

My longtime friends Alberta and  Dan Billy are Elders of the We-Wai-Kai band of the Kwagiulth nation on Quadra Island and they told me about how they were chosen, even as children, to be taught the ways of their people, so they could pass on these teachings to the next generations. Dan has been a band councillor now for more than 40 years, working on Treaty negotiations most recently, and Alberta worked for years to bring about the apology from the United Church for the abuses of residential schools,  while she was also an active member of the Quadra Island United Church herself. I think that's one of the things I admire most about Alberta: her ability to bridge cultures as she works for the betterment of all of us. She's now involved with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but also with workshops and ceremonies that help the non-native culture understand the wisdom and history of BC's First Nations.

May Sam with her great-grandson, reading  Yetsa's Sweater, 

I'm always so impressed with how important it is to the Elders to pass on the teachings to the younger people and especially to the children. May Sam is an accomplished knitter of Cowichan sweaters and was the "model" for the wonderful children's book Yetsa's Sweater, which, as a matter of fact, I'm giving to MY granddaughter as a birthday gift this year. It's time for us to spend more time learning from each other, building bridges, and celebrating the rich heritage of all the peoples of British Columbia. We are so lucky to live here, and to have the Elders to learn from.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Paid Companions for the Elderly: They're great, but why do we need them in BC?

My mom with Alice, a nurse and "paid companion" who has become a close family friend
I've just returned from a visit to see my Dad and family in Pennsylvania, and was once again touched and impressed by the care and affection of Dad's "paid companion" Mary. Although Dad is now in extended care, with a good staff to patient ratio, Mary provides the added personal attention and stimulation that makes Dad's life so much fuller each day. My brother and his wife also live nearby, and are there almost daily too, and are caring and attentive and do so much for Dad, and his other "kids" visit often, but we as a family have long ago realized the added dimension that private caregivers contribute, and also how lucky we are that Dad has been able to pay for this care, first for Mom (who passed away 4 years ago) and now for himself.
And yet, I can't help but worry about the increase in the numbers of paid companions over the last 20 years here in British Columbia, where we used to have far more home support services offered through our government health care system, but where now the aides and nurses are almost overwhelmed much of the time simply doing the necessities, with little time to sit and chat and have a personal interlude with any of their clients.
As I researched this topic with the help of Linda Outcalt, a project manager and research assistant at  the Centre on Aging at the University of Victoria, who wrote her master's thesis on paid companions and their elderly clients in BC, I realized that the reason for the huge increase in this job category in BC is because of the cutbacks to community care services which used to include many of the functions now being filled by privately paid companions, or caregivers. In other words, thanks to government cutbacks and a philosophy of "do it yourself...whether you can afford to or not" that is part of our political climate, the reality now is that those who can afford private care will pay for it and get better care, and those who can't, well....they just have to do without.
And yet, according to Linda, backed up by research done at the Centre on Aging, it is actually cheaper for the government to cover these community care costs and avoid institutionalization of the elderly than it is to offload the costs to the elderly and their families and make them pick up the tab for private care. If this is accurate, and I believe it is, then why does our government carry on with these cutbacks instead of the win win of reinstituting and even expanding community care and/or additional caregivers for our growing elderly population? Scandinavian countries do this very well, it seems. And the current vogue is to encourage people to "age in place"....which means, at this point, take on your own costs at home if you can. I'd like to see more publicity of this topic and more stats and a societal attitude in keeping with our Canadian belief in socialized medicine and health care for all.
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Monday, March 12, 2012

March is the month to "embrace" that possible?

So, "embrace aging" you say? If you're like me, you think that idea may be just a bit over the top....I mean, I'm working on trying to gracefully accept aging, never mind embrace it! But, since the alternative isn't great either, I suppose the idea makes least, the Victoria Eldercare Foundation thinks so, and they are sponsoring a wide array of free workshops all during the month of March, where you can explore everything from how to avoid scam artists to how to write your obituary (a writing exercise that is often used in journalism classes, by the way, to get you thinking about what's do now!). You can also learn about how to get shoes properly fitted, or be introduced to Tai Chi, or even find out how to get the most of our your next doctor's appointment! To register for these free sessions or find out more, go to the Eldercare Foundation website or call them at 250-370-5664.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Legal Matters Matter

At a certain point in a NYNOs life, it's a good idea to take a look at your legal affairs....okay, so when did you last do a will?  Do you even have a will?
We finally did this, at the urging of our financial consultant, and now we can feel quite smug that we've done the basics, and all is well.
If you are so inclined, a bit of advice: Expect the will and accompanying documents you'll need (i.e. Power of Attorney and Representation Agreement, if you live in British Columbia) to cost you around $1,000, for a couple to have these things done.
Make sure you choose to assign your Power of Attorney to a person you trust, and further, make sure it's an enduring Power of Attorney, that is, goes on after your death or if you become incapable of making decisions. Next, our unique Representation Agreement (think of it as a POA for medical and personal health care matters, or even a living will) is important to have in place...BC is the only place on earth that has them....and think about an Advance Medical Directive that your doctor keeps in his/her office, and that spells out your precise instructions to your doctor about what to do in medical crises if you can't make decisions then. It's very worth it to take the time (and spend the money) to get these documents, at least, in place....then you'll be sure that you, and not the courts, are in charge of deciding who might make decisions on your behalf when you can no longer do so. Your will only applies after your death, but the POA and Representation Agreement may kick in when you are alive, but no longer capable of decision making. Get these in place for peace of mind! For more on this, take a listen to my March 8, 2012 column (Legal Matters Matter) at  my CBC url page.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Fashion Funk after 40

My NYNO column this week was a lot of fun....asking a cross section of women in Victoria, BC where they shopped for funky, yet age appropriate clothing, for the 40 and up woman. Never had so many responses so fast!
What I'm asking is, where do you shop for the fun stuff that you love to wear but that doesn't make you look like a mutton dressed up as a lamb! And the responses poured in.
I learned about a line of clothing, Canadian-made, called Sympli, that is growing in popularity, and found out a lot of Victoria women are discriminating consignment store shoppers. And also love a wide variety of other stores and boutiques in our West Coast creative, casual town. To hear the full list go to my CBC url, and click on the Fashion Funk Feb. 23, 2012 column.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Silver Skier

So, how are all those older, or should we say, mature, more experienced skiers faring these days on our BC mountains? As the number of senior and almost-senior skiers increases, turns out the ski hills of BC are taking note and responding!
I think some of us have worried that by the time we get there, all the deals for seniors will be long gone, but at the moment, the opposite seems to be happening...not only are Age 65 (or sometimes even age 75) discount rates for ski passes skill in effect, but more perks are being added as mountains cater to the growing numbers of older skiers. Good news!
You can hear more of the details by clicking onto my Feb. 16, 2012 CBC NYNO column on The Silver Skier (which is, or will be, posted very soon), but in the meantime a few fun facts:
*A man at Whistler/Blackcomb is still racing at age 86
*The oldest ski instructor at Whistler is 85!
*You can ski FREE at Mt. Washington at age 75 and up.
*More than 300 people are members of the Whistler Senior Ski Team.
*At Sun Peaks, more than 100 are members of the Sun Peaks Antiques!
*Big White and Silver Star have a new Club 65, with several perks, for the senior skier.
*Shaped skis are much easier on the knees and have extended people's ski life, as have more groomed slopes, more comfy boots, and lifts that slow down for onloading and offloading....All these things of course are great for other skiers as well. Happy Skiing!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Making Metchosin Age-Friendly

The rural community of Metchosin, BC that I live in is engaged in a process...(one that I talk about more in my Feb. 9 NYNO column for All Points West on CBC Radio One in Victoria.) It's a grassroots-driven attempt to really look at the community, get feedback from seniors and "seniors-in-waiting" through workshops and discussion, and come up with a list of top ten (or 20, or 30) priorities for making Metchosin more age-friendly, a  place where residents can truly age in place and in community. I attended some of the workshops and found the discussions stimulating, the people (many of whom I didn't know) engaging and honest, and the process very satisfying....being a small part in a community initiative that felt truly worthwhile.
So, what came out of this so far? A report to council, that summarizes the findings and suggests directions to move in....the most urgent of which seem to be around Communication and Transportation improvements.
Taking a closer look at possible Housing options is another priority, a way to help make it possible for residents to age in place when they can't "run the farm" anymore. 
There are a variety of options to study, including perhaps some form of senior-friendly cottages that share a common area.
The idea of an information hub, or data centre that seniors can access by computer or call to talk to someone (hopefully a "seniors' advocate") on the phone, a central depot for all sorts of pertinent info...everything from who to call to get your roof fixed to how to access home care, or where to take the bus,... was overwhelmingly endorsed, and Metchosin has just received a grant to work further on this "one stop shop" idea for seniors.
Looking at more transportation options, like expanding the existing volunteer drivers' program in the community, or using the municipal van for outings for elders, is another hot topic.

The project is only really getting going now, and it's a long road, but I'm proud of the fact that the process is underway and people of good will are taking the time and making the effort to make Metchosin a community where people of all ages can continue to live vibrant, useful, engaged lives, to "live in community," with the active support of that community, for as long as they choose.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Under the same roof...and loving it

View of Lokhorst common living room and patio
Here's a creative idea for intergenerational "estate" house or mansion (an older home in Saanich, BC with a large addition that includes two in-law suites, plus a common living and dining area, and elevator.) The Lokhorst family lives here: David and Kathy and their 3 teenagers, plus BOTH, yes, both, sets of grandparents, each in their own lovely new suite, which the grandparents were able to design themselves.

It's a living arrangement motivated by David and Kathy's (the "sandwich generation") desire to be there to help out their parents as they age and may need more assistance, plus by the desire to see more of each other. At the same time, everyone has their own private space and independent lives. 

View from living room of in-law suite
It might not work for everyone (you've got to all get along, for one thing), but this is one family that is committed to being there for each other, in good times and bad. And in today's society of expensive housing, and long lived elders who may need help or care eventually, it's an approach that is worth thinking about. You can hear more about my visit to the Lokhorst's home, with CBC's Jo-Ann Roberts, at All Points West. Scroll down and see the Not Young, Not Old column on the Lokhorst "mansion." And thank you to the Lokhorsts for sharing their home and lives with us! It was a treat.

Large common living room

Lokhorst "estate" house

Three generations, one roof

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cohousing, an idea to think about

I've recently been talking to people about the concept of cohousing...a quite fascinating idea of designing a housing complex that combines private ownership of homes (or townhouses) with shared group facilities like a big common house with a large kitchen/dining area, guest rooms, a workshop, or a craft area. The idea is to create an "intentional" community that encourages a neighbourhood feeling and interaction with the people who live around you. It's appealing in our age when so many people feel so isolated and many of our traditional support systems are weak. Yet, will it work in our very individualistic culture? Can we create a community with good planning?
When I talked to Margaret Critchlow of Sooke, BC about the idea, her enthusiasm for the concept was contagious. Margaret is spearheading a project in Sooke to build a senior cohousing complex there, designed for the 50 and up crowd. It's an alternative housing idea that has a lot of merit, even though it's not for everyone.
I've done a column for CBC on this (my columns are aired on CBC Radio One 90.5 FM on Jo-Ann Roberts' show All Points West on Thursdays at 4:35 p.m.) and if you are interested in learning more, here are some helpful websites:
Canadian Senior Cohousing (the Sooke group), and
Canadian Cohousing Network: You can also hear my recent columns by going to: CBC Radio One's All Points West
and scroll down to the NYNO, Not Young Not Old column.
Would love to hear what you think of cohousing. Most of the developments now completed are intergenerational, and family focused.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

new course at UVic

My column this week for CBC took a look at a new course at UVic...Exploring Aging Through Film. My interviews for this reminded me of the energy and enthusiasm people, young and old, have for learning....and of how many fascinating people are out there. We have so much we can teach each other, and and I love the idea of an intergenerational approach to learning, like this course will provide, with UVic students and continuing studies participants all discussing the films and listening to each other.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Password Proliferation: How many do YOU have?

Okay, so, how do you keep track of your passwords...for everything from banking to accessing your email to booking a ferry? It's pretty clear that almost no one does what they're supposed to do (except maybe people on the job who are required to follow procedures), and it's a universal headache!
Here are some of the ways people admitted to me they keep track of passwords. Sound familiar?
*Keep them on a post-it note on their computer
*Email the list to themselves, or keep them in a word document
*Use the same password, or two, or three, over and over
*Keep one "stronger" one for vital accounts, and use an easier one for the rest
*Just keep the same one for years
*Use the "forgot my password" option and keep changing them each time you go to that file
*Use one super strong password for all, or to access a password manager account where the rest are stored

The official advice about creating secure passwords is, quite honestly, simply not within the realm of possibilty for humankind: i.e. choose a word not related to you in any way; not found in any dictionary; add upper and lower case, numbers, and characters and make it long; don't write it down, have a different one for each account, and change it frequently. Sounds a little like theatre of the absurd.

We NYNOs (Not Young, Not Olds) are really the first generation to come face to face with the dilemma of passwords. When we were growing up, Password was a TV show! But even the younger generation is at a loss as to how to safely keep track of passwords, from what I'm hearing.

Despite this,maybe it's time to try to follow more of the “rules” of password security, at least for your most sensitive and such. I know people who create a strong password (most accounts, like gmail, will let you check to see if your password is strong or weak) by choosing a mnemonic (or phrase), like: No one will ever be able to guess my password, and then add numbers and upper and lower case and special characters. Then take the first letter of each word, or substitute a number, add a character or two and you could wind up with something like: N1wEbA2gMp!$ Simple, yes? If it weren't so important to our lives, we could all write this off as some sort of Monty Python skit, but the truth is, it IS important. There are password manager programs, but I've only spoken to one person who is using one.

So, like the challenge we put out on my CBC radio column, I call on security analysts in the business to come up with an easier way to manage and secure our passwords! If no one follows the rules, we've got to come up with new rules, right? I live in hope, waiting to hear suggestions for a user friendly doable password plan for the average person.