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Holiday Stories from the 30s & 40s ~ Alice’s Story

Christmas in Yellow Creek, Saskatchewan Growing up on the prairies during war and depression was challenging. But Christmas was always a wonderful celebration in our home.   We decorated the tree with popcorn strings and paper streamers - the whole atmosphere in our tiny home was remarkably joyful.   Our most important tradition, being Ukrainian, was our Christmas Eve dinner when mom would serve a 12-course meatless meal. One course for each of Christ’s apostles and the absence of meat to mark Mary and Joseph’s difficult journey on the eve of Christ’s birth. As my father explained – they had to really struggle so we were meant to experience a sacrifice – a lesson in gratitude was the theme of this Read More...

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Holiday Gift Giving for Seniors

Consider the 3 Es: Experiences, Expressions and Edibles ’Tis the season of joy and of course, you want to spoil your favourite senior! The question is… what can you give your loved one that they will cherish, without overwhelming them or adding clutter to their simplified living space? Don’t stress, consider one of the three Es! Experiences (1) Together Time You can never get enough precious moments together. Consider getting tickets to an event they would love, such as the symphony, the ballet, a music concert, a sporting event, or live theatre. Plan the gift of a special lunch out with friends, or an afternoon movie with grandkids. Take them to the zoo or take in a planetarium show at the Science Centre. Visit a museum of interest or an art gallery. If they are well enough for travel, consider  Read More...

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Holiday Stress and Seniors

Lois Helinsky is excited to know she will be spending Christmas with her granddaughter and her extended family but she is also a bit anxious about it. “I’m not used to all kinds of food and activity so it can throw me for a bit of a loop. I’m just not as adaptable as I once was – you find this as you get older,” she told her granddaughter Jessica.   Stress and anxiety may be status quo for most of us during the holiday season, but we don’t always stop and consider that even our aging loved ones, who have less responsibilities, can be overwhelmed by the hype and hustle of the holiday season. Add to that, seniors commonly experience depression at this time of year, as they revisit old memories and mourn the losses and change of times.  Read More...

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Senior Loneliness — How You Can Help

For many, the holiday season can be a particularly lonely time. This is especially true for seniors who are living on their own and don’t have close family ties.   “My husband and so many of our friends have passed on now,” said 79-year-old Donna Watson of Calgary. “I have a nephew in town but I don’t like to burden him over the holidays, he has his own kids and grandkids to occupy his time.”   New research shows that isolation and loneliness is a growing trend for ageing Canadians, and this problem can lead to a deterioration of physical and mental well-being. In some instances, loneliness in the senior population is considered an epidemic and is linked with dementia and premature mortality.   For Donna, regular attendance at her local YMCA is key for her overall health, but she  Read More...

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Remembrance Day – The Power of Stories

A young high school student in Alberta recently shared with us an interesting story about an English assignment he had just completed. The task was to write an essay about someone in his life who had experienced adversity, and to describe how these hardships shaped that person’s character.   The boy wrote about his grandfather.   He began with: “My Papa recently lost his balance and took a fall while on his daily walk with his small dog. He didn’t break any bones, but he was bruised and battered.” The boy went on to share how this recent fall reminded him of the stories his 88-year-old grandfather had shared about his experience as a WW11 soldier. He didn’t often like to talk about those days, but when he did; the boy listened carefully and reflected on the lessons.   He wrote  Read More...

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Hanging Up the Keys

For some, one of the most distressing aspects of aging is the prospect of losing their driver’s license. The freedom and independence of driving is something most of us take for granted for several decades of our lives. Giving it up can be quite a struggle.   If you are in this predicament with your aging parent, or if this transition is in your imminent future, you may be wondering how best to determine when it’s time to hang up the keys. Obviously, there is no definitive answer that suits all seniors in all circumstances. For instance, an aging farmer may be just fine driving within a short radius of his property until age 85, while a healthy senior living in a busy city may feel pressed to stop driving at age 75.   I spoke to a driving instructor  Read More...

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Planning a Trip with a Senior

Planning a trip with (or for) an aging parent can be a wonderful way to grant a wish, or give a gift of immeasurable joy. Perhaps you have a parent who is longing to see a special friend or distant relative, or to visit a land that holds special memories or appeal. Whatever the circumstances, here are some tips for planning a trip with a senior.   Research and plan extensively: Yes this is a given with any travel plans, but when it comes to travelling with a senior, thoughtful organization, careful planning and pre-emptive measures are mandatory. Also, once you have created an itinerary, it’s important to sit and go through it with your parent/s so they can ask questions and mentally prepare for the trip. This can help ease any anxiety and give them a chance to vocalize  Read More...

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Meet Our Resident ~ Bruce (Harmony Court Estate)

Bruce Murray has always been a bit of a contrarian; not one for following norms, opting instead to sample a life of variety, and forge his own unique path of adventure. Born in 1940 and raised in Vancouver, Bruce finished high school and went on to attend UBC – taking an unprecedented seven years to obtain a degree in physical education. “Eventually the had to throw me out with my bachelor’s degree,” he said with a chuckle, from his suite at AgeCare’s Harmony Court Estate in Burnaby. “I was busy enjoying myself with friends, being on committees and what not … I’m a very social person.” After graduating, Bruce worked as a camp director for the Boys and Girls Club, and sampled a variety other career paths, including a training program in Gestalt Therapy. None of these endeavours captivated him,  Read More...

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Meet Our Resident ~ Shirley (Harmony Court Estate)

Shirley McLeod loves life at Harmony Court Estate, in fact in her own words, “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”   At 82 Shirley is Chair of the Resident’s Council, a position that allows her to consult with fellow residents and weigh in on decisions related to activities and practices in the warm, vibrant retirement community.   “It’s just a really nice place to call home,” said Shirley, in an interview in August. “The people and staff here are really great. Everybody gets along. And there’s no shortage of activities to get involved in,” she says, citing exercise, crossword and cards as some of her favourite pastimes.   Shirley was born in a small hamlet in Central Alberta called Red Willow. Some 80 years ago there were around 100 people in the small town but a more recent census shows  Read More...

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Grandparents by any Name … are SPECIAL!

Grandparents are special. This sentiment was echoed repeatedly across the wide and varied sample of people I interviewed, asking them to share a grandparent story, a special tradition, or a treasured memory. The names people attach to their grandparents vary extensively, sometimes according to heritage - sometimes by favour. But the feelings of nostalgia, love and belonging were unmistakably universal. Here are just a few of the sentiments people shared:   Sydney’s Baba Baba has always played a huge role in my life, teaching me to bake and cook, to embrace nature (fields of canola, butterflies, ladybugs, worms even!), to appreciate the arts (music and live theatre), and to connect with people. She taught me the importance of believing in myself, being open and honest, laughing at myself, and diving deep for the pleasures and joys life has to offer.  Read More...

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Blended Families — The Importance of Cooperative Decision-Making

Recently at a celebration of a friend’s 50th birthday, I was surprised to learn that three of us at the gathering were in blended families and are experiencing tension related to family decision-making. Specifically, 10 per cent of us in the room had aging parents in second marriages, forcing a need for collaborative decision-making between adult kids and step kids. This, we agreed, can be tricky business. We also surmised that this business of merged family decision-making is on the rise, since a 2011 survey by Statistic Canada found that 43 per cent of marriages in Canada end in divorce. The agency stopped tracking marriage stats six years ago, and there are no real numbers on second or third marriages, but based on the trend, stepfamilies are now commonplace. Most of us agreed that while there can be many challenges  Read More...

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