Friday, 28 November 2014

One bad egg.....

It never ceases to amaze me how many people have no problem taking advantage of the most vulnerable in our society. Be it children or older people, there is always someone who chooses to take their trust and take advantage or abuse them in return.

 This morning I read yet another article in the paper about a retirement home that despite being denied a license, has refused to close (this home has been profiled several times in the same paper over the past couple of years). It continues to house seniors - likely without families to advocate for them - in poor conditions.

It took a long time, but a couple of years ago, the Ontario government came out with legislation to protect seniors in retirement homes. Until then the industry was self regulating and most operators did their best to offer residents housing with respect, dignity and care. That being said, there are always a few bad eggs that give everyone a bad name and so, the legislation was a welcome relief to all of us who work in the field. It truly is something every province should replicate though few have done so to date.

The Retirement Home Regulatory Authority was created to ensure that the legislation is being followed and clearly they are taking their role very seriously and appreciate the position they have been given to protect the vulnerable senior sector. However, there are still those who don't respect the authority they have been given and simply refuse to comply.

I suppose there is no legislating things like kindness and caring about your fellow human being.

On the one hand, I am bothered by news articles that only point out only the negative about an industry or profession. I suppose that is what sells papers but, it is also a very slanted perspective and doesn't allow for a  'reality check'. I worry that people reading something like what I read, would be worried about moving to a retirement home and not make a decision that would benefit them for fear of something negative happening to them. Truly there are a few bad retirement homes but many, many good ones. However, if the news media didn't publicize things like this, the public would never know what or who to avoid. I suppose the lesson from this particular situation is that we should read the negative so we know the specifics of what or who to avoid but also, keep an open mind and research the other options available.

One bad egg should never spoil it for the rest.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Is 'senior' the right word?

I spoke with someone recently who had issues with the word 'senior' to denote people over 60. The logic is that it is in some way derogatory and that most people in that age bracket and beyond prefer to be called 'elder persons'. I frankly have trouble wrapping my head around that terminology and think that being called an 'elder person' is far more negative (one of the synonyms for 'elder' according to the dictionary is 'ancient'). The term 'senior' denotes more prestige to me. We have Senior Vice-Presidents, Senior Officers, Seniors in High School or College, and Seniors in life. Doesn't senior conjurer up someone who has earned respect and a distinction as someone with experience and expertise? Somehow "Elder' does not give me the same warm fuzzy feeling! Elder maybe too close to 'older' and while some communities have 'Elders' who run them, most do not.

So I went to a thesaurus to see if there could maybe be a better term to describe senior folks - I quite like 'Chief' but I don't know if others would. The interesting thing is not the synonyms but the antonyms (opposites) - 'minor, behind, inferior, junior, unimportant'. Perhaps that says more about the true value of someone with age and experience behind them than anything else. So maybe we should not be so worried about the words we use and focus more on what they mean........

Regardless of how old you are now, one day with any luck, we will all be 'senior' - if you aren't there yet or even if you are, what do you think the best word to describe someone over 60 is?

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

About Remembrance Day

November 11. Remembrance Day. As a child, I recall the assemblies we had in school every year to give tribute to those who fought in the first and second world wars but the true meaning of the sacrifices people made was mostly lost on us. It is not something most children in the free world can comprehend. The irony is we could not comprehend it precisely because of those men and women who fought hard so we could live in a world free of oppression.

In my early years as a social worker, I worked with many veterans and came to understand the true meaning of sacrifice. I learned that every veteran remembers his vet ID number as if it is his name. I learned that when you are fighting for your life with others, you understand what a 'brother' truly is. You learn the importance of looking out for each other. You learn true fear. You learn about being brave. You learn not to 'sweat the small stuff'. You learn what is important in life. You learn how horrible war is. You see the worst in people and the best. For those who serve in a theatre of war, you are changed forever.

Today is about so many things. Its about remembering the men and women who fought for this amazing country we live in today. Its about the men and women who are fighting now for other countries to be as blessed as we are. It's about understanding that freedom should not be taken for granted. It's about never forgetting about the people who lost their lives or those who survived who were changed forever by what they saw and experienced. It's about recognizing how fortunate we are. It's about thanking the people now and in the past who keep us safe and value freedom above their own lives.

Lest we forget.

Friday, 7 November 2014

About Mustaches

So it's November. Or actually it might be better stated to call it Movember. I am fascinated how renaming a month for a cause has caught on so well. And how so many people do their part to support it. Much like the pink ribbon is known universally as a breast cancer symbol, a mustache in November seems to now be synonymous with raising awareness of and money for, men's health issues. It's actually quite a brilliant idea. While women are quite open about health and body issues, the opposite seems true of most men. Perhaps the best way to open the conversation, was to create something like this....

For those who might not be in the know, and I would imagine the number would be very low, the idea is that men grow a mustache for the month of November and other 'sponsor' them to do it. I've seen young boys sporting 'stick on ones' and have read some interesting suggestions for women to participate...........

According to the website, it is estimated that in 2014 in excess of 23,000 men will receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer and 4,000 will die of it. Risk increases with age. Younger men are at risk for testicular cancer with approximately 1,000 diagnosis anticipated in 2014.

As with many illnesses, the more awareness we have of our bodies, the earlier we will catch a problem and the better the outcome as a result. It is good to see a growing movement like this, focused on taking the stigma out of talking about a personal health issue. It will hopefully translate into lower mortality rates and early intervention in higher numbers. It's equally encouraging to see the annual  outpouring of support for this cause. The count for registered participants world-wide according to the Movember website noted above is close to 600,000 as of today - total raised is almost $19,000,000!!!

To donate visit

Thursday, 16 October 2014

October - Breast Cancer Awareness Month

How many people do you know who have had breast cancer? Off the top of my head, I can think of 4 in recent years who I have known personally; many others who are friends of friends. And in terms of those who have had other forms of cancer, I can can think of many more. The figures are staggering. It seems that those who 'escape' this dreaded disease as a whole, will be less in number than those who will get it. Thankfully, survival rates are going up with each new discovery and new treatment. But there are still many who fight the battle and do not survive. Statistics indicate that a woman has a 1 in 9 chance of developing breast cancer, if she lives until the age of 90. 25% of all cancers afflicting women are breast cancer and 1 in 30 women will die of it. Men are also able to develop breast cancer but the number of those impacted is far less. 

And then there are the hidden victims; the families of those who get one form or another of this disease. 

I suppose the great efforts to fund raise (the last statistic I read stated that over 25 million dollars this year has already been raised for Breast Cancer Research in Canada) is a testament to how many people have been impacted in some way or another by this disease but it also speaks to the great job being done to increase awareness of it and need to be vigilant in seeking out help if there is any concern. The universal pink ribbon that has become a synonymous with Breast Cancer, serves to remind us of those we have lost, those who have fought and won, and the importance of looking after one's health. 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Friends Forever

Yesterday I had the great privilege and honour to be part of a fantastic event. V!VA Pickering (Retirement Community) hosted a contest called "Friends Forever" where people could enter by submitting a story about a valuable friendship. Open to people 65+, participants had 250 words to tell a story which often encompassed a lifetime of memories. I was asked to be one of 3 judges. The hosts narrowed the submissions down to 9 and had us rate each story across several categories. We then came together and figured out a 'winner'. I have to say all of the stories were remarkable and it was not an easy job coming up with a winner.

We heard about friendships that were a lifetime long, some 50 or 60 years some less but as intense. Each story was unique, touching and special in its own way. The person who wrote it, read it and their friend was there to hear them read it. You could see how visibly touched people were - I think we often don't realize the impact we have on others and for some, their friend was their lifesaver.

The stories captured shared travel, moments of great happiness, shared experiences and in some cases, sadness. The common thread in all was not the specifics of what was shared, but what was underlying all of these great relationships - caring, love, compassion, being a confidant and lifeline, knowing each others needs and acting on it. One entrant said their secret was 'don't sweat the small stuff'' and really, when it comes to sustaining a lifelong relationship, that is likely the key.

People come in and out of our lives for many reasons. The ones that stay a lifetime are incredibly special. Finding one that will last a lifetime is truly a gift and all of the people yesterday, recognized the importance of what they had - Forever Friends.

I walked away feeling absolutely wonderful to have been part of such an event, and to being a 'witness' to such amazingly special stories. It really didn't matter who 'won' - they all won - they all had the best gift anyone could ask for - friends who will stand by you through thick and thin. The afternoon was inspiring and uplifting. Thank you V!VA Pickering! And congratulations Dianne and Lynne!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

National Seniors Day - October 1, 2014

Today is National Seniors Day in Canada. An opportunity to recognize and celebrate the contribution of seniors across the country. Events are being held in different areas but a search of the internet, leads one to think that there are many areas where this day is going unnoticed. I suppose there are several 'national days' that the government creates and I wonder if because of that there is a bit of 'collective apathy' around acknowledging such days. Perhaps our lives are too busy to stop and 'celebrate' all days, or we are just unaware of so many. I have not noticed articles or much publicity at all about October 1 and I am 'in the senior business'. If you are not, then you may simply not absorb the information if you see it.

While I think it's great that we have a seniors day and seniors month (as an aside, since both are government created, why are they not in the same month?), unless we publicize it better and encourage all communities to do things to acknowledge seniors, there is little point to declaring a celebratory day. That being said, I wonder why we need a national day at all. Shouldn't we make it a priority to recognize people who have contributed to building the country we are blessed to live in? Shouldn't every day be Seniors' Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day and virtually any day that celebrates the importance of every person who touches our lives?