About Prime of Life:

The Prime of Life was a monthly column by the Saskatoon Council on Aging in the Sunday Sun, a weekend feature of The Saskatoon Star Phoenix. Prime of Life was discontinued in 2012 with the replacement of the Sunday Sun by the Saskatoon Phoenix.

Prime of Life Stories


Seek Help Early for Dementia

How Age-friendly is Saskatoon?

Volunteering Enriches

Oral Health in Long Term Care Facilities


Saskatoon Council on Aging: Provincial Election 2011

Dementia by Andrew Kirk, Professor and Head of Neurology University of Saskatchewan

Keep Your Brain Fit

Saskatoon Council on Aging Winter Programs


Christmas Gift Ideas from SCOA

The Healing Power of Art

Age-Friendly Saskatoon Initiative

Council On Aging is a Hub of Activity

Work to begin on Seniors' Care Strategy in 2010


Council on Aging Activities resume for fall

Great holiday gifts for grandma and grandpa

Walking in a winter's wonderland

Seniors going digital

Seeing the person, not the age

Older Adults face stereotypes, discrimination

Caregivers invited to take a break on April 30th

Please don’t call me “dear”

City Hall keeps seniors in mind as back-alley trash phased out

Simple steps can prevent power of attorney abuse


Seniors learn to protect themselves

Saskatoon seniors enjoy continued learning at U of S

Seniors and pets find home at Sherbrooke

Saskatoon Council on Aging sends Christmas greetings

Council on Aging to offer art, photography classes

Use it or lose it: Keeping your memory alive and well

Former nurse retires again at 85

Brad Johner to appear October 1 at Spotlight on Seniors

SCOA centre offers one-stop shopping

You can’t live at home any longer


Senior Volunteers make valuable contributions

Are vulnerable seniors getting adequate dental care?

April is Dental Health month – have you had your check-up?

Century Club provides social outlet to seniors 90 and up

Making the big move

The hidden face of elder abuse

Spotlight on Seniors: more than meets the eye

Spring a Busy Season for the Saskatoon Council on Aging

Seniors may face holiday blues

New column highlights seniors’ issues


Oral Health in Long Term Care Facilities (April 2012)

Leslie Topola, Program Manager, Oral Health Program, SHR- Population and Public Health; Dr. Uswak, Dean, U of S College of Dentistry; Dr. Teekasingh, Program Director, General Practice Residency Program, U of S, College of Dentistry; Carol Karppinen, LTC Oral Health Coordinator, College of Dentistry.

The Saskatoon Council on Aging thanks the authors of this article. Our Vision: Positive Aging for All. Contact us at 652-2255 or at www.scoa.ca 

Residents in long term care facilities are vulnerable to oral health problems, which are often the result of multiple medications and physical and/or cognitive impairments.   This results in increased dependence on their caregivers for daily oral care. Older adults are also retaining more of their natural teeth than before, which requires a lifetime of oral health care needs. Studies show that there is a proven link between oral health and the overall health of an individual. By improving oral health and access to dental services, residents will be able to live free of dental pain and discomfort. This will improve their general well being.

Access to dental care is an essential part of ensuring optimal oral health for long term care (LTC) residents.  The ability to access dental services is a barrier for residents living in LTC facilities.  It can be costly and difficult for residents to arrange and attend appointments outside the facility.  For some residents, traveling out of their facility for a dental appointment is not possible.

The need to improve oral health care for these individuals has been identified. It is being addressed by the introduction of a pilot project to provide dental services within Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) LTC facilities. The project is a collaborative effort among SHR Continuing Care and Seniors’ Health, SHR Population and Public Health, and the University of Saskatchewan, College of Dentistry.

This pilot project is funded by a Community Wellness Grant. Dave Gibson, (Director) and Vanessa Ripley (Continuing Care and Seniors’ Health Associate), are working with the LTC oral health initiative to integrate dental services into continuing care and quality of life programs.

The project involves providing dental services at Parkridge Centre and Sherbrooke Community Centre in Saskatoon.  Residents in both centers are receiving dental care by dentists who are completing an additional year of training in the College of Dentistry’s General Practice Residency Program at Royal University Hospital.  Presently, this is the most cost efficient and effective method to provide dental services within a LTC facility.  Dr. Gerry Uswak, Dean, College of Dentistry, and Dr. Mohan Teekasingh have extended the General Practice Residency program to include the LTC pilot project. This will assist in assuring quality dental care standards are implemented at the facilities.

The pilot is evaluating a new model of care by hiring a Long Term Care Oral Health Coordinator who is a dental assistant.  The LTC- Oral Health Coordinator works cooperatively with the LTC staff to schedule oral assessments and treatment for the residents. This involves obtaining examination and treatment consents, creating individual daily oral care plans and increasing awareness of the importance of daily oral care to residents, their families and caregivers. The LTC- Oral Health Coordinator also works with the SHR- Population and Public Health-Oral Health Program staff to provide prevention services to staff, residents and families.

A dental examination is provided to consenting residents with regular recall and treatment appointments occurring after the examination. New LTC residents receive an examination shortly after admission into the facility. All residents will have individualized oral care plans, including those who do not have natural teeth (with or without dentures). The plan is reviewed and updated after each oral examination and is based on the needs of the individual.

Daily oral care is necessary to maintain oral health and to improve quality of life for residents.

The LTC Oral Health Coordinator provides support and guidance with daily oral care for residents and LTC staff. The coordinator also ensures that the required mouth care supplies are available.
The initial oral examinations of residents at Parkridge Centre and Sherbrooke Community Centre are underway.  Early results indicate that over 95 percent of the residents require some type of dental treatment in addition to basic professional oral hygiene services. Future plans to improve the oral health of residents include involving other oral health professionals, such as dental assistants, dental hygienists, and others, as part of the team.

The pilot program has been well received by residents, families, caregivers and the staff at Parkridge Centre and Sherbrooke Community Centre. This model of oral health care delivery will be evaluated to determine if the coordinated approach, involving an oral health professional in the LTC facility, is beneficial.

Smiling for life is achievable and important in keeping LTC residents healthy!

Volunteering Enriches(March 2012)

By  Virginia Dakiniewich

 “It lightens my day,” said Phyllis Brown when asked what she most enjoys about being a volunteer with the Saskatoon Council on Aging (SCOA). Phyllis began as a volunteer assisting with registration and other duties at the SCOA long-running, free Blood Pressure clinic. Now expanded to a Wellness clinic, the event is held the first Tuesday of every month from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Council office. As a retired nurse, Phyllis found she “thoroughly enjoyed” working at the Blood Pressure clinics.        She still assists at the clinics and is also a welcome face at the SCOA’s reception desk, answering phones and greeting visitors. She also helps with a wide range of volunteer work from stuffing envelopes to working at the annual Seniors Day Walk.  Some of her favorite memories involve the people in the SCOA community.  “I enjoy meeting all the beautiful people who come through this office and the extraordinary and dedicated staff.”

“I enjoy meeting all the beautiful people who come through this office and the extraordinary and dedicated staff.”

Phyllis feels that volunteering gives her a greater understanding of people, especially of older adults. She also appreciates “the many things the SCOA does for older adults.”  The Age-Friendly Saskatoon Initiative is a very encouraging project for older adults. With the rapid growth of Saskatoon, she feels good to know that work is being done to improve the lives of older adults in the city.

Spotlight on Seniors, the SCOA annual showcase and largest event for older adults in the province, is a favourite for Phyllis. She “absolutely, positively enjoys Spotlight and the activities at the show.” Held in partnership with TCU Place, the event is a highlight in Saskatoon and a very special day for older adults. For Phyllis and many older adults, Spotlight on Seniors is an opportunity to learn what is available for seniors and what they can do for themselves.                                                                                                                             With a variety of programs, the SCOA provides many opportunities for social interaction for older adults.  Phyllis attends many of the SCOA events and enjoys the positive atmosphere.  Meeting other volunteers and SCOA staff has been a “pleasure and a privilege.” Phyllis definitely urges seniors to get involved with SCOA as “this is where the action is."                                                                                                                      The Council on Aging has a strong tradition of volunteerism with many achievements and milestones along the way. In existence for over twenty years, the SCOA began with a committed core of volunteers who shared the vision of a resource centre for seniors and a desire to address issues of concern to older adults such as elder abuse, isolation and caregiving. Now expanded to involve over 120 active volunteers, the SCOA offers programs and services, undertakes advocacy work on behalf of seniors, operates an Older Adult Abuse Task Force and has recently completed Phase One of Age-Friendly Saskatoon Initiative to improve the lives of older adults in the city. Many of the Council’s programs and services would not be possible without the support of these dedicated volunteers.                                                                                                     Volunteering has many benefits for older adults and is an excellent way to remain active and engaged in the community. Organizations and agencies also benefit from the skills and experience of older adults, which ultimately benefits the community in general. Staying active and connected to the community supports healthy aging and the SCOA’s overall vision of positive aging for all.

The SCOA is pleased to present the Hats Off to Seniors Luncheon on Thursday, April 19th at the Western Development Museum to acknowledge and honour the work of our volunteers. Master of Ceremonies will be Steve Shannon. The highlight for this year’s event will be a vintage fashion show featuring an 1890’s wedding gown and outfits from more contemporary times. In keeping with the Hats Off theme, a prize will be awarded for the Most Unique Hat.                                                                                       

The SCOA thanks our Luncheon sponsors. Presenting Sponsors - Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy and Saskatchewan Blue Cross; Major Sponsors   -  Retire at Home, Dakota Dunes Community Development Corporation, Saskatoon Media Group;  and Event Sponsor SaskEnergy,  for their generous support. Tickets are available at the Council office – 301, 506 25th St. East in the Saskatoon Community Service Village.  For more information phone the office at (306) 652-2255 or visit our web site www.scoa.ca.


How Age-friendly is Saskatoon? (February 2012)

By Candace Skrapek, President, Saskatoon Council on Aging, and Mercedes Montgomery, Chair, SCOA Communications Committee

     The Saskatoon Council on Aging (SCOA) has completed Phase 1 of the Age-friendly Saskatoon Initiative. This project reflects our commitment to a vision of Positive Aging for All within the context of an age-friendly city where policies promote and support the dignity, health, and independence of Saskatoon’s older adults.

On February 6 Candace Skrapek and Murray Scharf, project co-chairs, presented the Age-Friendly Saskatoon Initiative: Findings report to City Council. In Phase 1 of the Initiative we talked to Saskatonians about the opportunities and challenges associated with aging in our city. The report summarizes what we heard from older adults, their caregivers and service providers about what it’s like to live in Saskatoon now and what it could be like in the future.
We heard that Saskatoon is a “Tale of Two Cities”.

Participants reminded us of the striking difference between Saskatoon in summer and Saskatoon in winter.  They talked about improving public transportation, housing options to keep them connected to their community, safety, improved access to shopping and services and resources to help them maintain their health and fitness. Responses varied depending upon the individual’s financial resources, available support systems, health status, level of mobility and their neighborhood.

Nearly ninety percent of older adults live independently in Saskatoon and want to continue to do so. For that to happen, they will need the kinds of facilities, programs and services that support successful aging. Citizens told us they expect their local leaders to set clear policy directions that support positive aging and that older people want to be active participants in the process.

In the new City of Saskatoon Strategic Plan it was disappointing to note that, although there are strategies and priorities that relate to quality of life and explicit information regarding some community issues, it is silent on policy directions specific to older adults. We see this as a significant gap in the plan. Therefore, during the presentation SCOA asked the city to begin developing innovative policy solutions, engage Saskatoon’s older adults in the process, and incorporate principles of World Health Organization (WHO) age-friendly model within the strategic plan implementation strategies.

The report generated interest from the City Councillors who thanked SCOA for the extensive assessment undertaken during this project. The Findings report was referred to Council’s Executive Committee for further review and to set up a meeting with steering committee members.
The report is intended to be a useful resource for promoting the development of Saskatoon as an age-friendly city. It provides the road map for all stakeholders interested in promoting quality of life for older adults.

The demographic changes that are beginning to affect our city will forever alter how our community looks and functions and we need to prepare. By beginning now and working together, new approaches can be developed to adapt successfully to an aging population.

The prospect of higher numbers of older people in our community is an exciting opportunity – one that will challenge us to make positive changes in our city, our institutions, and our attitudes. We need new systems and policies in place that will facilitate successful aging and improve the quality of life of Saskatoon’s older citizens.
This is an opportunity for our community leaders to champion innovative strategic directions. That commitment is an important part of engagement with the community and empowering citizens to be directly involved in future plans that promote active aging.

We encourage everyone to review our report. Talk with one another about what you envision for our city. Share the report with others. Consider solutions to barriers and obstacles to aging actively in Saskatoon and talk about them with your Councillor and other community leaders. The Findings report and the full technical report can be found at www.scoa.ca.

Phase 2 of the Age-friendly Saskatoon Initiative will be underway shortly. The intent of this phase is to meet with key community stakeholders regarding the findings from Phase 1 and to work toward developing a community action plan that would provide the framework needed to promote activities to make Saskatoon truly an age-friendly city.

Seek Help Early for Dementia (January, 2012)

By Darla Ewaskow and Mercedes Montgomery

This article is the third in a series on dementia offered by the Saskatoon Council on Aging (SCOA). Our vision: Positive Aging for All. 

Dementia is a term used to describe a brain disease that makes thinking and functioning more difficult over time.  A key feature of dementia is memory loss. Every day in Canada, twenty people are diagnosed with dementia.  Aging is the most common risk factor, but rarer forms of dementia do occur in younger people. The most common, Alzheimer’s Disease, makes up about half of all dementias. In many cases the dementia is a combination of several types.
Memory problems are not just a normal part of growing old.  As we age, it can take longer to remember things or events, but we do recall them.  It is not normal when memory loss makes it difficult to do daily tasks.  You may not be able to recall the details of yesterday.  You may find it difficult to find the right word in conversation and make frequent pauses. Friends and family may realize you no longer recognize people you frequently see nor recall their names.
In the beginning, short-term memory is most affected by dementia.  This memory holds the information and details of the last few minutes or days.  At the start long-term memory of things from years ago is usually good. Think of memory like an ice-cube, with the inside of the cube holding the long-term memory and the outside holding the short-term memory.  With dementia, the ice-cube keeps melting and recent details keep falling off.  Day–to-day tasks and conversation are quickly forgotten.  Eventually, the person no longer recognizes their spouse, and remembers little.  
Changes in behavior, mood swings and a history of frequent falls or difficulties with balance may also be indications of dementia.  Early diagnosis provides a chance to learn more about helpful strategies and allows time to plan for the future. 

Think of memory like an ice-cube, with the inside of the cube holding the long-term memory and the outside holding the short-term memory.  With dementia, the ice-cube keeps melting and recent details keep falling off.

Seeing your family doctor and a geriatric or brain specialist is an important first step for an accurate diagnosis.  Don’t assume you know what is happening or that you can diagnose dementia yourself.  Express concerns about yourself or a loved one to your doctor.  Include a spouse or family member to assist you in this discussion.

If memory symptoms have occurred suddenly and worsened quickly, it is likely not dementia. The doctor can rule out other causes of memory loss or changes in function.  These can include a brain tumor, stroke, heart damage, pneumonia, bladder infection or bone fracture.  These conditions can cause symptoms of a delirium or depression.  The doctor can order blood tests to rule out a low thyroid or a low vitamin B12 level.  Medication you take or the interaction of several medications could also cause some of these symptoms and need to be investigated. 

Unfortunately, there is no single blood test or scan that can diagnose dementia in the early stages. A thorough health assessment and interview with your doctor will reveal the symptoms you are experiencing.  A physical check-up and specific memory testing, such as a Mini-Mental Exam, will help to find specific memory concerns.  Blood tests, CT Scans and MR Imaging assist in putting it all together.  The doctor may make a diagnosis quickly, but usually, this process takes several months or longer.  If you are seen in the early stages, the doctor will continue to monitor you, as every person’s experience with dementia is different.

There is no known cure for dementia, but getting help early is crucial. Understanding dementia and how it might progress will help you remain as healthy as possible.  Your doctor will guide you in considering medication that could slow the disease and help you access the care you need.  Making the most of what you are able to do and being socially and physically active is important.  You and your family will want to do legal and financial planning.  Your doctor can guide you in a plan for retiring from driving when the time is right.  This helps to decrease the stress of your family having to take away your keys.

Being a caregiver of a loved-one with dementia will become increasingly challenging as the dementia progresses.  You may feel anxious, overwhelmed, fearful, angry or guilty.  Plan to take breaks from care giving and do one good thing for yourself each day.  Your physical and mental health will predict how long a loved one can live life fully and remain at home.  It is essential to take good care of yourself and accept help from others.

We thank Dr. Jenny Basran, a geriatric specialist and dementia expert at Saskatoon City Hospital’s Geriatric Evaluation and Management Program, for her guidance in writing this article. To quote her concluding words: “Remember, that if you have concerns about your memory and function, seek care early!  Don’t assume this is normal aging.  How you take that road of dementia can be improved by seeking help as early as possible. You can go down that road a little better – make the journey as good as it can be”.

Living with dementia is incredibly demanding.
Resources in the Community that can help:

  •  Alzheimer’s Society Saskatchewan www.alzheimer.ca is an excellent resource to learn as much as possible about dementia including tips for daily living, helpful routines and how to increase your circle of support.  They provide one-to-one education and support, sponsor many events, and offer group education across the province.  Alzheimer support groups provide help, a sense of hope, and a safe place to vent feelings and talk.  See also the section on Reducing Caregiver Stress.

  • Saskatoon Council on Aging Caregiver Support and Education Center www.saskatooncaregiver.ca/index.html,  306-652-4411

  • The Saskatoon Health Region’s Client Patient Access Services (CPAS),

 306 655-4346

  • Public Legal Education Association (PLEA): 306 652-1868 www.plea.org

  • Revenue Canada www.gc.ca, Disability Tax Credit and deductions for caregivers.

Ewaskow is a public health nurse with the Saskatoon Health Region, Older Adult Wellness Program and a member of the Caregiver Support and Information Committee of the Saskatoon Council on Aging. Montgomery is a former nurse and a SCOA volunteer. 
Visit www.scoa.ca  for SCOA programs or call 306 652 2522.


Saskatoon Council on Aging Programs Winter 2012 (December 2011)

Whether it is learning how to use a computer, paint with acrylics or about basic car maintenance, trying new activities has many wonderful benefits for older adults. Engaging in lifelong learning can keep the mind sharp, provide the opportunity to socialize with others who share similar interests and develop new relationships.  Even more good news for lifelong learners - new research indicates that using the brain in new and stimulating ways may protect against the effects of aging. Lifelong learning supports active aging, a crucial facet of our services.  Covering a wide range of interests, our roster of winter 2012 programs is designed for participants to develop skills, build independence, form social networks and last but not least - have fun.  
We are particularly pleased to offer two new educational series.

The Saskatoon Council on Aging and partners Lissa Klassen and Marlys Schroh of Gordon of Investors Group Financial Services – Stonebridge are pleased to bring you a series of presentations on Financial Management in Retirement. This educational series will provide information on a broad spectrum of important issues to consider in your retirement years. Topics and times for the series are:
1. Introduction to financial Management – January 26, 2-3:30 p.m.
2. Taxation in Retirement and Estate Planning Essentials – February 23, 2-3:30 p.m.
3. The Cost of Health Care and how it can affect your Financial Plan – March 22, 2-3:30 p.m.
4. A Checklist for Snowbirds – April 26, 2-3:30 p.m.
These free presentations will be given at the Saskatoon Council on Aging, 301-506 25th St. East. Please call 652-2255 to register as space is limited.

SCOA is proud to present a new educational workshop series for women taking on new roles. On My Own: women learning new life skills together  brings women together to overcome new challenges to living independently. The first two workshops are Car Care and Money Management.  In Car Care, you will learn about your vehicle’s maintenance, how to check for problems, what’s in your owner’s manual, and what to do if you run into trouble. This workshop will be held at Jubilee Ford on January 30 at 6:00 p.m. and costs $10.00. The Money Management workshop will teach women how to determine their net worth, develop a budget and track expenses, and about credit and debt management. It runs on February 27 at 2:00 p.m. at the YWCA Studio room and costs $10.00. Please call 652-2255 to register.

Winter art and computer classes are available too! Our art classes include Painting Nature with Watercolour: Mondays January 30, February 6, 13, 20, and March 5 from 1:00-4:00 p.m.  Experiencing the Wonder of Acrylic is available Wednesdays, February 29, March 7, 14, 21, and 28 from 1:00-4:00. The fee for each of  these classes is $95.00 and registration is required as enrolment is limited. Two Beginner Internet classesare available. The first runs February 21, 22, and 23 from 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. and the second runs February 27, 29, and March 1 from 1:30 p.m. -3:30 p.m. They will be held at the Saskatoon Public School Board and cost $75.00. Please call to register as space is limited.

For caregivers in the community we have two evening presentations planned for this winter. The presentations provide an opportunity to connect with other caregivers and learn about resources available in the community. Topics are:
1. Fall Prevention- January 26, 7:00 p.m. at the W.A. Edwards Family Centre, 333 4th Ave N.
2. Communication – February 23, 7:00 p.m. at the W.A. Edwards Family Centre, 333 4th Ave N.
These presentations are FREE and require registration. Please call 652-4411 to register.

SCOA has ongoing free programs available to any older adult in Saskatoon. Our FREE Blood Pressure Clinic runs on the first Tuesday of every month from 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Refreshments are provided. Join us for our FREE Drop-In Program on the third Wednesday of every month at 2:00 p.m. in the YWCA Studio Room at 506-25th Street East.

Keep Your Brain Fit   November 2011

by Darla Ewaskow 
The choices we make each day involving food, sleep, physical and mental activity and socialization can affect our brain health. While the location of key brain structures is similar in everyone, the pattern of connections between brain cells is built on our unique life experience.  Our brain responds and rewires itself in relation to what we put into it.
Memory is not a single function but a series of processes in the brain.  When we are exposed to new information it is registered in the brain, stored in memory to be retrieved at a later time.  Our brain’s ability to sort out memories retrieved from storage is influenced by our health, emotions, stress and the environment around us.   Some change in memory happens with aging; how big the change varies greatly among people. 
Consider the following strategies for brain health and fitness:

  1. Work your body. Increasing physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your brain.  Exercise enlarges the blood vessels so they pump more blood and oxygen to the brain.  Physical activity also increases levels of BDNF, a growth factor that nourishes brain cells.  Strive for 30 minutes of brisk walking or moderate exercise most days. 

 Studies show a decline in balance is a predictor of future dementia so include balance exercise such as standing on one foot and rising from a chair to a stand without using your hands.  Yoga and Tai chi are well known for their benefit to balance.

  1. Protect your brain from injury.  Always wear your seat belt in a car and wear a helmet for sports such as biking, skating, skiing and sledding.  Older people who injured their head in a fall were twice as likely to have dementia five years later.  Fall-proof your home.  Improve lighting to the bathroom. Make stairways safe. Reduce clutter. 

  2. Expand your social connections.  When you actively engage with others you engage  your brain. Researchers believe that socialization helps to manage stress.  With a strong social network you have people who look out for you and on whom you can lean in times of need.  Increase your socialization; volunteer in your community or help a local charity.  Join a book club, garden club or any group that you would enjoy.  Talk to people like the mail carrier or the waitress serving coffee.

  3. Work your brain.  How mental activity improves brain function and reduces dementia is not clear.  A leading theory is that mental stimulation drives the brain to develop stronger connections between cells.  As we age our ability to retrieve a memory and to store new information is reduced.  It may be harder to learn a new skill.   Engage in activities that stimulate and challenge you like Scrabble or Bridge, and do puzzles like crosswords and Sudoku.  Learn to use a computer, play a musical instrument, learn a new language or take up a new hobby or craft.  Simple tasks like balancing your cheque book manually can make a difference.

  4. Feed your brain. A nutritious diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fats that includes brightly colored vegetables, especially green vegetables like spinach, fruit and berries, fish, whole grains, nuts and seeds slows cognitive decline and improves heart health, which is closely linked to brain health.  One to two glasses of red wine or alcohol a day can benefit the brain, but more than 14 drinks a week doubles the odds of developing dementia. 

  5. Control your blood pressure.  Hypertension causes tiny bleeds (clots) in the blood vessels of the brain that clog vessels, shuts off oxygen and food to brain cells, causes cell death and loss of memory, increases the risk of dementia six times, and doubles your chances of a stroke. Help control hypertension by reducing your weight, increasing physical exercise and reducing salt and saturated fat in your diet.

  6. Manage stress.  When you feel stressed, the body produces hormones such as cortisol that over time can destroy brain cells and reduce growth of new cells, thus shrinking your brain.  Actively choose to focus on the positive and minimize the negative each day. Find a solution instead of complaining about a problem.  Meditation and relaxation exercises are proven stress management techniques.  Meditation can boost the immune function, lower blood pressure and increase blood flow to the brain.  Be open to seeking professional advice, counseling and medication to reduce stress and anxiety. 

  7. Sleep and rest well.  Why people can remember better if they’ve had a good night’s sleep is a mystery. But we do know that sleep is necessary to consolidate what we learn into long-term memory, so sleep in a cool, dark and quiet room. Try a relaxing bedtime routine of a warm bath, music and reading. Going to bed and getting up at about the same time each day enhances good sleep.  Limit daytime naps to less than one hour, avoid caffeine for eight hours before your bedtime and exercise regularly.

When should I start incorporating healthy brain habits?    It’s never too early or too late to begin a commitment to good brain health.

References: The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, www.dana.org and 100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Memory Loss, by J. Carper. 

Ewaskow is a public health nurse with the Saskatoon Health Region, Older Adult Wellness Program and a member of the Caregiver Information and Support Committee, Saskatoon Council on Aging. 

Dementia by Andrew Kirk, Professor and Head of Neurology University of Saskatchewan (October 2011)

We all experience a slight decline in memory with age.  Unfortunately, in many people the decline is much worse and is not a normal part of aging.  Dementia is the word used to describe a worsening of cognitive abilities which include memory, language, judgement, and behavior.

Dementia is a common problem.  A large Canadian study showed that about one in twelve Canadians over 65 suffer from some form of dementia while a staggering one-third of those over 85 are afflicted.  The aging of our population is cause for concern as projected health care costs for people with dementia by 2030 rival what we now spend on everyone’s health care.

Dementia is not a single disease.  It’s an umbrella term for a number of illnesses that affect our mental abilities.  In the same way that there are many causes of pneumonia or of headache, there are many causes of dementia.  Over half of people with dementia suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.   This illness usually affects the elderly but can start in the 50s or even 40s.  It usually presents gradually with memory trouble.  People can’t remember where they put things; they forget appointments and names.  Often the problem is more obvious to family than it is to the person affected.  As the illness progresses, carrying out familiar tasks like using a remote control can become difficult.  Disorientation and trouble finding one’s way can be a problem.  Often there are changes in mood or personality.  Judgement is affected, making people financially vulnerable. 

People with Lewy body dementia (named for globs of an abnormal protein that accumulate in brain cells) often have visual hallucinations and their trouble with memory and thinking may fluctuate dramatically.  They may be almost unresponsive one hour and seem nearly normal the next.  They also often show features of slowness and stiffness resembling Parkinson’s disease and are prone to falls. 

Vascular dementia is usually due to multiple strokes, each one taking its toll on thinking as well as physical abilities. 

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) often affects somewhat younger people than the illnesses mentioned above.  Many people with FTD are still working and raising families when they gradually develop either progressive trouble using language or a change in personality and behavior.  People with this condition may become indifferent to others and say or do inappropriate things they never would have previously.  Self-care may be a problem.  They may spend money irresponsibly.  Motivation can disappear and people may spend the day in bed or watching television.  Sometimes they develop dietary cravings, especially for sweets.  It’s important to recognize this condition as an illness and make the diagnosis before a person loses his or her job for poor performance.  The person with FTD is often completely unaware there’s anything wrong.  Although there is still no cure for the conditions discussed above, medications help some people with dementia. 

Timely diagnosis is beneficial as medications are often more effective when started early.  Also, people can then plan ahead and make decisions about their finances and future wishes while they’re still capable of making their own choices.  If you or a family member are experiencing symptoms suggesting dementia, consult your family doctor.  He or she will perform a careful history and examination.  This can help rule out illnesses like depression that sometimes mimic dementia.  Blood tests will be done to exclude other conditions like vitamin B12 deficiency or an underactive thyroid which can also affect memory.  A CT scan of the brain is often useful. 

Although family doctors are very capable at diagnosing and managing dementia, they may refer more complex cases to a specialist or seek neuropsychological testing to fully assess a person’s memory and thinking when it’s not clear whether early dementia is present or not.  Sometimes people present with mild memory complaints yet are fully functional in day to day life.  This has been called Mild Cognitive Impairment.  It’s important to closely follow people with this condition as sometimes, over the course of a few years, it turns out that this is actually the earliest stage of dementia whereas some people never get any worse or even improve. 

You are not alone with dementia.  The Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan can be an invaluable resource for people affected by dementia and their families.  They can be reached at 1-800-263-3367 or info@alzheimer.sk.ca.  You can find them on the internet at www.alzheimer.ca/saskatchewan.

We still don’t know how to prevent dementia but exercise, a healthy diet, control of blood pressure and diabetes as well as quitting smoking and maintaining social relationships and challenging hobbies all appear to be helpful.  Studies to determine the causes of dementia are vital to our future as is research to find better ways to care for those affected. 

Saskatoon Council on Aging: Provincial Election 2011
Where We Stand

The Saskatoon Council on Aging (SCOA) envisions an environment in Saskatchewan that addresses the widespread prejudices of ageism, enhances the age-friendliness of communities, enables healthy, positive aging and supports the well-being of older adults across the province. SCOA would like to ensure that the diversity of seniors’ perspectives is reflected in government programs and services. Saskatchewan demographics highlight the need to bring positive aging to the forefront of the social policy agenda.

The future for older adults in Saskatchewan will be dependent on actions taken now by seniors.
The following policy initiatives are proposed with the intended outcome of promoting a healthy, positive aging perspective in Saskatchewan.

1. Creation of a Provincial Positive Aging Strategy
The proposed provincial strategy would cover virtually every aspect of society and provide a wide range of approaches and solutions, a broad framework for adapting to an aging population and meeting the needs of older adults and serve as a guide for government sectors to create senior-friendly initiatives. The expected outcomes of a positive aging strategy: a reduction in medical costs, prevention of premature institutionalization, and saving of taxpayers’ dollars.
There is need for a “policy lens” to rule out age-based assumptions whereby the needs of older adults will be accurately reflected; as well, a public policy statement on age discrimination and an awareness campaign to address ageism and age discrimination.  Saskatchewan, the province with one of the highest percentages of older adults in the population, is one of the only provinces in Canada that does not have this type of policy approach.
2. Establishment of a Seniors’ Secretariat (government department) to focus on Seniors.
A single point of entry to the government would provide the umbrella framework required for inter-departmental strategic planning and coordination. Thisapproach is essential to attain the attention and funding needed to support initiatives affecting the growing population of older adults in Saskatchewan. This new department should have stable funding and an advisory group of older adults from across the province.
3. Age-friendly Communities
Advancing the WHO Age-friendly Communities model in Saskatchewan is a critical way to support older adults to age positively in our province. Making cities age-friendly is one of the most effective policy approaches for responding to demographic ageing. An age-friendly community is an inclusive and accessible urban environment that promotes active ageing.
4. Accessible Care and Services for Low Income Seniors
Providing a financial supplement to individuals is an essential approach needed to address the present gap in subsidized services for low-income seniors with personal care needs. This supplement would apply to those seniors whose assessed care needs exceed the present allowable maximum levels of Home Care but who do not meet eligibility requirements for special care home admission. Providing the financial supplement to the individual requiring care allows opportunity for choice of how to receive the care required.
5. Safe and Affordable Housing
Safe, affordable housing appropriate for all older adults, including those at low incomes and with health conditions and functional limitations, is a key determinant of health and essential for the maintaining the dignity, health and independence of this growing segment of the population. 
6. Property Tax Relief Options
The government should make retention of principal residence among low-income seniors a priority and implement property tax relief provisions. Given a fixed income and the increased financial burden placed on older adults by the property tax increases, it is imperative to find tax-relief mechanisms that will support older adults to remain in their homes.
7. Enhanced Support for Caregivers
A provincial caregiver strategy is needed that will integrate informal caregiver needs into a policy approach that formally recognizes them as an essential part of the care provider team and provides the additional resources needed for care receivers and caregivers.  This approach acknowledges the full spectrum of care services as appropriate for meeting the long-term needs of older adults.
8. Abuse Free Environments
A provincial Older Adult Abuse Strategy is needed to provide the strategic direction and coordinated response necessary to preserve the health, dignity, and quality of life of older adults by raising awareness of older adult abuse and providing direction for the development of appropriate prevention and intervention strategies.
The government should review current practices and determine the minimum levels of education and training of care providers in settings where at present individuals with little or no training provide direct care to vulnerable older adults.
The government should undertake a study of Protection of Persons in Care legislation, such as the current legislation in Manitoba. The purpose of such legislation would be to help protect adults from abuse while receiving care in all types of health facilities in Saskatchewan.

For a more detailed description of Where We Stand and for suggestion about questions you might ask election candidates please check out our website at www.scoa.ca.


Work to begin on Seniors' Care Strategy in 2010: Ross Jan. 3, 2010

By Dale Worobec
This fall, Regina-Qu’Appelle MLA Laura Ross personally visited more than a dozen Saskatchewan communities to hear the concerns of older adults.
The consultations were held to give seniors, their families and communities a key role in helping develop a new provincial Seniors’ Care Strategy. The Saskatoon Council on Aging recently spoke with Ross, the legislative secretary responsible for surgical wait times and long-term care, for an update on the process: 
How was the response during the community consultations in September and October?
It was wonderful. People sometimes ask me, as an elected representative, what is the best part of the job? For me, the best part is to go out and really connect with people, and I had a chance to do that across the entire province.
I was able to hear their stories and their concerns. One of the interesting things I also heard was how people appreciated being consulted – this was the first time anyone had come to ask them what they thought.
In terms of numbers, as you’d expect, we had more people attend in the larger communities. Yet, one of the most interesting consultations was in Pinehouse, which isn’t a huge community. But that day, I had 45 elders come out to meet with me. It showed this was a community that ensured their elders weren’t just put on a shelf – what they have to say matters.
For people not able to come to a consultation meeting, we have also been receiving written submissions. We’ll be receiving those submissions from individuals and organizations until the end of the year, so we have really tried to get a wide spectrum of input.
How is this input being used?
Starting in January, we’ll be compiling all of the information we’ve received from the community consultations. Using what we’ve learned in the consultations and in the Patient First Review, we’ll then develop a new Seniors’ Care Strategy. This will be a working document with good, realistic policy for the seniors of Saskatchewan. 
When will the Seniors’ Care Strategy be completed?
We’re looking at completing this in spring, with a report going to Health Minister Don McMorris.
Is there anything else people should know about the upcoming Seniors’ Care Strategy?
In order to put together a strategy that really matters, you need to have input from seniors. We’ve made sure to do that. I feel really good and confident that the Seniors’ Care Strategy is being based on real information – it’s based on input from consultations across the province, and the Patient First Review. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
What’s new at SCOA:
The newly-updated Directory of Services and Social Activities for Older Adults will be available after January 18th. This is a free resource to help older adults find useful services and programs in Saskatoon. The directory is published by SCOA in partnership with the Saskatoon Health Region and the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Kinesiology. Pick up your copy at the SCOA Resource Centre, at 301-506 25th Street East, or call 652-2255 for more information. The directory will also be online at www.scoa.ca.
Dale Worobec is communications manager for the Saskatoon Council on Aging, a non-profit organization that promotes the dignity, health and independence of older adults in Saskatoon and area. He can be reached by e-mail at worobec@scoa.ca.

Council On Aging is a Hub of Activity
By June Gawdun

Some might think the Saskatoon Council on Aging mainly serves older adults. While the Council does offer many services and programs to adults 55 years of age and up, anyone can benefit from the main focus of the Council’s work, which is to promote positive aging for all. This is done through education, services, programs and advocacy. The Council served over 10,000 individuals during the past year.

The Council’s Information/Resource Centre offers resources for many age groups, including people who find themselves in the role of caregiver. Pamphlets contain information of interest to older adults and others about housing, health, transportation, and legal issues. A Directory of Services and Activities for Older Adults compiled by the Council can be viewed on-line, downloaded, or a hard copy can be picked up at the Resource Centre. 

As the agency has grown so have the programs and projects it offers.  These include Photography, Art,  Advocacy, Bishop Klein School partnership, Blood Pressure Clinic, Century Club, Computer Lessons, Drop in Program, Education, Caregiver Information Centre, Older Adult Abuse Task Force, Resource Centre, Ski For Life , Speakers Bureau , Age Alive Photography Exhibit,  Age Friendly Training  and  Spotlight on Seniors.

Want to improve your computer skills? A limited number of spots are still available for Council’s beginner Microsoft Word computer course and the beginner internet computer course. The Microsoft Word course runs from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon and the internet computer course from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on November 22, 24, 26. Gudrun Lettrari is teaching both courses.  “I enjoy teaching and meeting new people. That is one reason I have volunteered for the Council for the past 15 years,” says Lettari. Jean Carrol, who volunteers for Council, recently took the course offered in September. She says, “I feel more confident using my computer at home after taking this course.” Phone 652-2265 for information.

There are openings for the second five-week acrylic art course starting on Wednesday, November 3.  Giselle Bauche is the instructor. Call the Council for information.

Council is currently looking for participants to be part of a new program called Men-torship for older men starting in January 2011.  This program will begin with cooking classes. Funding support has been provided by Affinity Credit Union. 

The Council is accepting registrations for upcoming courses in Watercolours starting in February 2011 and a March program titled, “Healing a Wounded Heart: Grief, Loss and Transformation”.  Digital photography course dates will be announced in the happenings section of Sunday Sun and on Council’s website.  

If you want to check out the Centre, come and attend a free Blood Pressure Clinic the first Tuesday of each month from 9 a.m. 1:30 p.m. or the free Drop in Program the third Wednesday of each month from 1:30 - 3:30 p.m.  The next Drop in Program on November 17 is “An Affair to Remember - celebrating our Veterans.” 

The Council is run by talented volunteers and staff who work as a team to promote dignity, health and independence of older adults through programs, services, education and advocacy. 2011 will mark Council’s 20th Anniversary and plans are under way to have a celebration to acknowledge and thank the founding board members and volunteers of Council. 

If you would like more information about any of the programs mentioned in this article please contact the Council on Aging’s Resource Centre at 652-2255 or e-mail June Gawdun, Executive Director at june@scoa.ca.
June Gawdun is the Executive Director, Saskatoon Council on Aging, a voluntary, non-profit organizations that promotes the dignity, health and independence of older adults in Saskatoon and area.  For more information visit www.scoa.ca.

Age-Friendly Saskatoon Initiative

By Brett Makulowich and Candace Skrapek

 The Saskatoon Council on Aging (SCOA) is excited to launch its Age-Friendly Saskatoon Initiative. This significant initiative advances SCOA’s overall vision of Positive Aging for All and is intended to support older adults to lead healthy independent lives, to be active, and socially engaged.  It will involve the greater Saskatoon community and will be led by older adults. In 15 years Saskatoon residents over the age of 65 will comprise approximately 25 percent of the city’s population. Planning to accommodate this segment of the population must begin now.

“Older adults are an increasingly diverse and valuable resource in our community. The Age-Friendly Saskatoon Initiative will undertake research and consult widely to develop strategies to enable older adults to remain active, maintain their health and well-being and participate fully in our community. I am pleased to be involved in this important initiative,” said Dr. Vera Pezer, Chancellor, University of Saskatchewan and Honorary Chairperson, Age-Friendly Saskatoon Initiative Steering Committee.

 This initiative is Phase 1 of the proposed implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO), age-friendly city model.   An age-friendly community has policies, services, settings and structures that support and enable people to age actively. The prime motivator for SCOA to undertake this project was the recognition that older adults have not had a public voice and have not been adequately engaged in developing policies and programs for older adults or addressing issues of concern to themselves and their caregivers.

 To that end, over the next few months the Age-Friendly Saskatoon Initiative will hold focus groups of older adults, caregivers, and agencies that serve older adults. The participants of the focus groups will be asked about their experiences with respect to growing older in Saskatoon.  They will be asked to provide their ideas and suggestions in making Saskatoon more age-friendly. This information will form the basis of a strategic plan for creating an Age-Friendly Saskatoon. The first focus group took place on January 14th and involved hearing from eminent Saskatoon older adults.

What is an age-friendly community?
An age-friendly community is an inclusive and accessible urban environment that promotes active aging. An age-friendly community is one where policies, services, settings and structures support and enable people to age actively by:
- Recognizing their wide range of capabilities, talents and gifts
- Responding to their needs and preferences
- Respecting their decisions and lifestyle choices
- Protecting their inclusion in and contribution to all areas of community life.
(Age-Friendly Rural and Remote Communities: A Guide, 2007)

The WHO has identified eight features of an age-friendly city
1. Outdoor spaces and public buildings that are pleasant, clean, secure and physically accessible.
2. Public transportation that is accessible and affordable.
3. Housing that is affordable, appropriately located, well built, well -designed and secure.
4. Opportunities for social participation in leisure, social, cultural and spiritual activities with people of all ages and cultures.
5. Older people are treated with respect and are included in civic life.
6. Opportunities for employment and volunteerism that cater to older persons’ interests and abilities.
7. Age-friendly communication and information available.
8. Community support and health tailored to older persons’ needs.
(Source: http://www.who.int/ageing/publications/Age_friendly_cities_checklist.pdf)

The Age-Friendly Saskatoon Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada through the New Horizons for Seniors Program and Affinity Credit Union.

What’s New at SCOA
Healing a Wounded Heart: Grief, Loss, and Transformation art class runs February 28, March 1, 2, and 3 at 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.
Beginner Photography Classes run Feb. 16, 23, March 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 at 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Advanced Photography Classes run Feb. 16, 23, March 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 at 12:00 - 4:00 p.m.

To register call the Council at 652-2255.

Candace Skrapek is the President of the Saskatoon Council on Aging and Brett Makulowich is the Community Development Coordinator for the Saskatoon Council on Aging, a non-profit, community-based organization that promotes the dignity, health, and independence of older adults in Saskatoon and area. Visit our website at www.scoa.ca, drop-in at 301-506 25 St. East, or phone 652-2255 for information.

The Healing Power of Art

By Brett Makulowich of the Saskatoon Council on Aging

The Saskatoon Council on Aging (SCOA) is offering two art classes in the New Year by professional artist and workshop facilitator, Gisele Bauche: “Experiencing the Wonder of Watercolour” and “Healing a Wounded Heart: Grief, Loss, and Transformation”.
Gisele received her Bachelor of Theology from St. Paul University in Ottawa, her Masters of Theology from the University of Jerusalem in Israel and Newman Theological College in Edmonton, and her Bachelor of Education from McGill University. Gisele was the Director of Queen’s House of Retreats for eleven years. Before that she was the Director of the Catholic Centre & Pastoral Office of Religious Education for 18 years.  

I interviewed Gisele Bauche to find out her inspiration behind the classes.

BM: What is the Healing a Wounding Heart art class about?

GB: Our losses are many and varied. They range from the loss of a significant other due to death, loss of a child, loss of self-esteem, loss of physical ability, loss of a job, to the breakdown of a marriage. Losses can lead to debilitating grief and painful emotions. Art is a powerful healing agent that can help transform the pain of loss and grief into renewed life and growth. The four sessions will use creative expression, story, music, reflection, and sharing to help participants voice their grief and loss and transform into new life.

BM: What was the inspiration behind the class?

GB: It came from my own life experience. You can’t talk about grief unless you’ve experienced it. Grief is a slow, long process. It is not predictable. The key to healing is time.

BM: You’re also teaching a Watercolour class?

GB: Yes, in the watercolour workshop we will push the boundaries of watercolour. Participants will be encouraged to look within, following their intuition and at the same time experiencing the wonder of free flow with watercolour. This workshop is for beginners and advanced participants. There will be demonstrations, practicum, critiques, and group reflection.

BM: How long have you been an artist?

GB: I have been facilitating art workshops to people of all ages and creative abilities for 20 years in a variety of art mediums (acrylic, watercolour, acrylic and mixed medium, healing and art, creativity and the creative process). I have had 10 art exhibitions since 1999. I have been published in Augsburg Fortress Publications and Novalis Publications. I do commissions for national and international institutions. I have taught art at SCOA since 2007.

BM: What is your advice for beginner artists?

GB: Have fun with art. Don’t be uptight about what step is next, let yourself enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy something it won’t last.

BM: What do you love most about art?

GB: Art is learning and growing. I see the creative process and life experience walking hand in hand. When I paint, I use bold colors, simplicity of style, form, and shape. In my paintings I try to illicit intensity, energy, inspiration, and beauty.

BM: What does aging mean to you?

GB: Aging means growing in wisdom.

BM: Thank-you for the interview Gisele.

What’s New at SCOA

  • The Survival Cooking Program for Men in January is now full; to be on the waiting list for the next session, call Murray at 374-0874.

  • Watercolor Art Lessons run February 28, March 7, 14, 21, 28, 2011 at 1:00-4:00pm

  • Healing a Wounded Heart art class runs February 28, March 1, 2, and 3 at 6:30-8:00pm

  • Digital Photography Lessons will be offered in 2011

  • Computer lessons will be offered in 2011

To register call the Council at 652-2255.

Please note that the Council’s office will be closed December 24, 2010 – January 2, 2011 for the Holidays.

Brett Makulowich is the Community Development Coordinator for the Saskatoon Council on Aging, a non-profit, community-based organization that promotes the dignity, health, and independence of older adults in Saskatoon and area. Visit our website at www.scoa.ca, drop-in at 301-506 25 St. East, or phone 652-2255 for information.

Christmas Gift Ideas from SCOA

by Brett Makulowich

Christmas is only 27 days away! Have you bought all your gifts yet? If not, don’t worry; the Saskatoon Council on Aging (SCOA) has great Christmas gifts ideas for you!

A Taste of Time is the Council’s cookbook. It is the perfect gift for those who love to cook, bake, and enjoy history. The cookbook contains 222 recipes ranging from accompaniments to main courses, and also has medicinal/household tips.

Some interesting recipes include: Dandelion Wine, Jamaican Dumplings, and Pumpkin Trifle. The book also offers cooking and household anecdotes such as old-fashioned hints on bread baking, 60 uses for salt, and 30 uses for vodka! Some of the recipes in the cookbook are from the “old country”. Learn the traditional way to make: Beat Leaf Holubtsi, Lefsa, Haggis, Klaus, and more!

What sets A Taste of Time apart from other cookbooks is that it is also a collection of stories. The stories tell the history of the recipe or the history of the person submitting it. It is a great read, especially for older adults who can relate to their mother or grandmother’s unique way of cooking.

All proceeds from A Taste of Time go towards the Council’s programs that promote the dignity, health and independence of older adults. Please see the end of the article for how to purchase A Taste of Time.

Looking for something unique? Give an older adult a gift of your time. Offer to run errands, give rides to appointments, or fix things around the house.

Do you know an older adult who is a caregiver for a family member or friend? Offer the caregiver some time off while you look after their loved one. If you are feeling generous, throw in a gift card to their favorite restaurant or spa to make their free time extra special.

Registering someone for a class is a gift that keeps on giving and may lead to new interests. But make sure to ask the person first unless you know exactly what class the person would enjoy. SCOA offers a wide range of classes: art, photography, fitness, cooking, and computers. 

One last Christmas gift idea: make a donation in someone’s name to a charitable organization. For example, a donation can be made to an organization that offers programs and services for older adults.

Saskatoon Council on Aging would like to thank the anonymous donor who made a generous donation to the Council through the United Way. This donation will be used towards the Council’s programs. Donations to SCOA can be made directly or through the United Way.

Happy Holidays from everyone at SCOA!

What’s New at SCOA

  • The Survival Cooking Program for Men begins January 11th, for more information call Murray at 374-0874

  • Watercolor Art Lessons start February 28th

  • Digital Photography Lessons will be offered in 2011

To register call the Council at 652-2255     

Cookbooks can also be purchased in person at the Council’s office for $15.00.

Brett Makulowich is the Community Development Coordinator for theSaskatoon Council on Aging, a non-profit, community-based organization that promotes the dignity, health, and independence of older adults in Saskatoon and area. Visit our website at www.scoa.ca, drop-in at 301-506 25 St. East, or phone 652-2255 for information.


February 22, 2009

Simple steps can prevent power of attorney abuse

By Dale Worobec

For many of us, a day will come when we’re no longer able to manage our own affairs. 

It can be a tremendous relief knowing that a trusted family member or friend is ready to assist. Cheques will be deposited, investments managed and bills paid.

“What’s important is that plans are in place, so things happen the way you want them to when the time comes,” says Cheryl L. Kloppenburg, a Saskatoon lawyer.

This is done by granting power of attorney, a legal arrangement through which another person is given the authority to act on your behalf in personal, property or financial matters. Common sense dictates that we decide well ahead of time exactly who we can trust to this extent.

Most of the time, people choose to grant power of attorney to a family member, says Kloppenburg. And often, with the right precautions, everything happens as it should.

But not always: A 1998 study at Simon Fraser University found that eight per cent of older adults had been financially abused and lost, on average, $20,000 each. The study’s definition of financial abuse wasn’t limited to misused power of attorney, but also included various forms of theft and fraud.  

While there are few other studies on financial abuse of older adults, it is commonly believed the biggest losses happen close to home at the hands of dishonest family or friends. And to a person who needs or wants money, power of attorney can provide the means and access.

Your first step is deciding who can be trusted with your power of attorney. Kloppenburg says that power of attorney can be granted to more than one individual; alternately, institutions such as trust companies can also be assigned power of attorney.

“Whatever your choice, there are some safeguards,” Kloppenburg notes.

One of the most important safeguards involves legislation that allows for scrutiny over individuals holding your power of attorney. You or your family members can at any time ask to see an accounting of all matters related to power of attorney. Or, your power of attorney documents can name a person to whom accounting must be provided. If the person holding your power of attorney will not provide the information, a concerned family member or friend can contact the Public Guardian and Trustee of Saskatchewan.

“If the case is made that there are suspicions about financial mismanagement and there are questions to be asked, the public trustee can demand an accounting. Unfortunately, these provisions are not that well known and therefore not acted upon very frequently,” says Kloppenburg.

Her advice to older adults is to outline some accountability measures in the power of attorney agreement itself to ensure responsibilities are clear from the beginning.  

“From the outset, you want it to be clear that this is part of the deal. By accepting this appointment, the attorney not only manages the financial affairs but also provides an accounting of how this is being done. This helps to keep financial abuse from occurring and, if things aren’t being done properly, will make it easier to take remedial steps which could include having the power of attorney removed,” Kloppenburg says.

Another issue involves the power of attorney documents themselves. Typically, most agreements are drawn up long in advance of the day they’ll be needed.

“Unfortunately, we don’t always recognize when the time has come (to hand over power of attorney). One of the mechanisms our law office uses is to hold the documents in safe keeping, together with a written letter authorizing us when to release power of attorney.”

This way, she says, it’s in writing that your power of attorney can only be released when you specify it, or upon written medical certificates that verify you’re unable to attend to your own affairs.

“It’s a cautious approach, but it does assure you that power of attorney will not be accessed before you intend it to be,” concludes Kloppenburg.

The information contained in the column is for general guidance only. As such, it should not be used as a substitute for advice from your own lawyer.

What’s new at SCOA:
There’s a story behind every recipe, and SCOA’s upcoming cookbook will feature plenty of food favourites and the tales that accompany them. The 200-page cookbook, titled A Taste of Time, will be published later this year; submissions are now being accepted. For information on submitting a recipe, story or photo, please call Sandra at 652-2522.

Dale Worobec is Communications Manager for the Saskatoon Council on Aging, a non-profit organization that promotes the dignity, health and independence of older adults in Saskatoon. He can be reached at worobec@scoa.ca.

Sunday, Feb. 1, 2009

City Hall keeps seniors in mind as back-alley trash phased out

By Dale Worobec

Love them or hate them, shared back-lane garbage bins will soon be a thing of the past in Saskatoon.Over the next two years, neighbourhoods still using shared bins will be switched to individual roll-out trash carts. More than 20,000 residences still use shared bins, but in the past decade all new neighbourhoods have used individual containers that are rolled to the street on trash day.

Although the 100-gallon individual containers are relatively easy for residents to move, City Hall has made provisions to help seniors and those with special needs as neighbourhoods are converted. Before any neighbourhood is converted, residents will receive a flyer in the mail, informing them of a meeting where they can ask questions and see what the bins look like.  Also at that time, residents who believe they may qualify for special needs service can request an assessment.

“We recognize there will be people with disabilities or medical conditions, including some older residents, who may have trouble with rolling the container out for trash pickup. Or the property itself may have physical barriers,” says Tim Bushman, Environmental Operations Manager for the City of Saskatoon.
“Where there’s a demonstrated need, the City is providing special needs service,” he says.

Those approved for special needs service will not be required to roll their cart out on trash day. Instead, a City worker will take the filled cart to the street and return it empty.In neighbourhoods where service has already been switched to individual carts, those who believe they may qualify for special needs service should call the City to request an assessment. The number to call is 975-2486.

The conversion to individual roll-out carts is expected to yield savings of approximately $500,000 per year once all the conversions are complete. Nearly half the City’s savings will come from not having to replace back-lane containers burned by vandals. Other savings will include reduced lane maintenance costs and less damage to property and trucks. 

“The back alley containers seem to attract a lot of fires, and all sorts of graffiti and vandalism. You also see illegal dumping, and when someone throws an engine block into the big container it’ll cause a lot of damage to our trucks,” notes Bushman.

Another important benefit: in neighbourhoods where individual roll-out carts are used, waste generation per household is 12 per cent less than for households using 300-gallon shared containers. Bushman says the response has been largely positive in neighbourhoods that have undergone conversion to roll-out containers, with cleaner back lanes, a significant reduction in bylaw and complaint calls, and lower lane maintenance costs.

Arson has also dropped significantly. In one core neighbourhood, the number of container fires decreased from 49 in the year before conversion to nine fires in the following year.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Please don’t call me “dear”

By Dale Worobec

Imagine a group seated around a restaurant table. The waitress takes everyone’s order, in turn, and it’s business as usual until she comes to the oldest person in the group. The server’s voice now rises in volume, and she speaks more slowly: “And what are we having today, dear?”

It’s an example of something professionals call elderspeak – a sweetly belittling way of addressing older adults that can be a source of frustration for those on the receiving end.   

The problem with elderspeak is that it involves much more than hurt feelings, says Saskatoon Council on Aging Communications Chair Mercedes Montgomery.

“It’s an insidious example of ageism, and studies of older adults are showing that people respond to how they’re treated. If you’re a resident in long term care and you’re addressed as being dependent, frail or incompetent, you might react by feeling depressed and assuming dependent behaviours,” says Montgomery, a former nurse educator.

Ageism was coined as a term in 1969 by psychologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Butler. He wrote that ageism “allows the younger generations to see older people as different than themselves, thus they subtly cease to identify with their elders as human beings.”

While the term has existed for decades, social workers still hear reports of ageism and elderspeak from patients or concerned family members, says Elliot Paus Jenssen, a retired social worker and the volunteer coordinator for SCOA’s Older Adult Abuse task force.

“It’s much more than older adults upset over being called “dear,” says Paus Jenssen.

“Ageism can have an impact on the cognitive and physical functioning of older adults. And even on someone’s will to live,” she explains.

In fact, Paus Jenssen cites one study in which participants were presented with either negative stereotypes or positive images about aging. They were then asked to make a choice about how to deal with a hypothetical, potentially fatal disease. The older participants presented with negative stereotypes about aging tended to refuse treatment that could save their lives, while those presented with positive images chose to pursue life-saving treatment.

The good news is that more people – including health care professionals – are taking notice of ageism and its effects. During Social Work Week in March, Paus Jenssen was invited to deliver a series of presentations to health professionals and interested members of the public. Those talks had a snowball effect, and PausJenssen was subsequently asked to deliver the presentation to other groups.

How can we combat ageism and its negative effects? PausJenssen has several suggestions:

- Identify the myths and misinformation:
Recognize and challenge the myths and negative attitudes about older adults. Such myths range from humourous (older adults are forgetful) to horrifying (older adults’ lives are less valuable).

- Go beyond the stereotypes of aging:
A label like “elderly” or “senior” says as little about a person as the term “middle aged.” Look beyond age at the person as an individual.

- Speak up about ageism:
When someone disparages an older adult or uses ageist language, let them know you find such comments offensive. If you see examples of ageism in the media, write or email the editor, TV sponsor or movie producer.

- Build intergenerational bridges to promote better understanding:
Ageism often stems from ignorance. The more that generations realize they’re connected and affect each others’ wellbeing, the greater the opportunities to reduce negative attitudes against both old and young.

- Watch your own language:
Most people – including health professionals – may use terms and expressions that perpetuate ageism. We depersonalize older adults by referring to them generically as “the elderly” or “our seniors.”

- Listen to people who have experienced ageism:
Hearing their first hand experiences may change your own attitudes.

This column is first in a three-part series.

Dale Worobec is communications manager of the Saskatoon Council on Aging, a non-profit organization that promotes the dignity, health and independence of older adults. He can be contacted at worobec@scoa.ca.

April 19, 2009

Caregivers invited to take a break on April 30th

by Dale Worobec

When you provide care to a family member or friend who is ill, frail or has a disability, it’s a labour of love. But it can also seem overwhelming – especially when there are additional demands coming from life, family and work.
On April 30th, the Caregiver Information Centre is holding a day-long forum in Saskatoon to give unpaid caregivers some practical strategies for handling the challenges of providing care to a loved one.

“There are several challenges to caregiving, and probably the biggest involves time constraints,” says Caregiver Information Centre Coordinator Pat Harcolt-Peever.

“Many caregivers have their own family and other obligations, such as work, so they’re trying to juggle everything and make sure they are still looking after their care receiver.”

The April 30th forum is titled Caregivers: Take a Break and the theme, says Harcolt-Peever, is intended to remind caregivers that they must also look after themselves. Presenters at the event will include Joyce Tremmel, MSW (advice on caregiving and dealing with stress), and Laura Harris, MSc (Dynamic Meditation), and the day will also include group discussions among caregivers themselves. In keeping with the ‘take a break’ theme, the students of Marca College will be offering free manicures to those in attendance.

Caregivers provide more than 80 per cent of the care needed by individuals with long-term conditions, and it is estimated they contribute more than $5 billion of unpaid labour annually to the health care system, according to the Canadian Caregiver Coalition.

More than four million Canadians provide care to a family member or loved one, according to the Coalition. This number is expected to grow as our population ages and needs support to remain independent at home.

In Saskatoon, the Caregiver Information Centre exists to provide information, referrals to counselling and other support to caregivers. Harcolt-Peever says the Centre handled more than 800 telephone requests and walk-in clients last year, and more than 1,600 “hits” on the web. She says the Centre is also seeing more interest from the public in its twice-yearly forums.

The April 30th forum begins at 8:45 a.m. and will be at Mayfair United Church (902 33rd St. W.) in Saskatoon. The cost to attend is $15, which includes lunch and refreshments. When registering, be sure to inquire about free onsite elder care; also, a limited number of respite subsidies are available to assist people who cannot attend without hiring someone to look after their loved one. Limited free transportation will be available to and from the event – inquire when registering.

For more information or to register for Caregivers: Take a Break, call the Caregiver Information Centre at 652-4411 or email caregiver@sasktel.net. Information is also available online at www.caregive.sasktelwebsite.net.

Sunday Sun, May 20, 2009

Older Adults face stereotypes, discrimination
By Dale Worobec

It may be the last acceptable prejudice in North America.  
In a society where it’s now taboo to discriminate on the basis of gender or skin colour, ageism flourishes. Older adults are the butt of birthday card jokes, the “before” photo in skin cream ads and the grumpy neighbour in TV sitcoms. And too often, they’re subject to serious institutional discrimination: for example, doctors with a “one complaint per visit” policy force older adults to choose which symptom to discuss. Sometimes, the undisclosed symptom is signalling the most serious health problem.

“The stereotypes are important to address because they’re at the root of the problem,” says Elliot PausJenssen, a retired social worker and the volunteer coordinator for SCOA’s Older Adult Abuse task force.
PausJenssen says the list of stereotypes is a long one. Older adults may be viewed as dependent, asexual, depressed or frail. Other stereotypes cast them as cognitively slower, less intelligent, rigid in thought or unable to make their own decisions. They’re also sometimes considered less healthy, and certain problems or diseases are considered “normal” to aging. 
Such stereotypes result in age prejudice, which may seem benign but really isn’t, says Saskatoon Council on Aging communications chair Mercedes Montgomery.

“One manifestation of age prejudice is the use of baby talk to older adults. It’s the tone of voice also used for babies and pets, complete with simplified sentence structure and content. Most at the receiving end find it patronizing,” says Montgomery.

“It’s the thought that older adults are less than they once were – that they are to be pitied. And at the extreme end, that they are less worthy of respect and less deserving of services.”

The rationale for such arguments is that older adults don’t contribute to society – a glaring stereotype that’s not based in reality. Montgomery notes the role played by energetic older adult volunteers in organizations like the Saskatoon Health Region, the Council on Aging and many others.

And when older adults do face declining mental or physical health in their final years, Paus Jenssen says, the stereotypes and prejudices are especially harmful. “Age prejudice can have very negative effects for those on the receiving end. People internalize these ideas and may believe they’re less capable than they really are. As a society, we need to recognize this is wrong.”
This column is second in a three-part series. The first column, Please Don’t Call Me Dear, was published in March and can be viewed online at www.scoa.ca.

Sunday Sun, June 2009

Seeing the person, not the age
Workshop participants tackle challenges for older adults in care settings

By Candace Skrapek and Elliot Paus Jenssen

How would you feel being treated as if you were invisible? What if people spoke over you and not to you, as if you were incapable of making your own decisions??

This can be reality for older adults who, because of age-related disability, find they are treated differently by some professionals and even some family members.

“I feel they’re treating me as a child, and I’m an adult,” says Mr. Woods, a stroke survivor who recently moved into a care facility after his aging wife could no longer look after him at home.

“I can think and answer for myself – you can talk to me directly,” said Mr. Woods, who is actually a fictional character. He was part of a dramatization during a June 11th workshop in Saskatoon to recognize World Older Adult Abuse Awareness Day.

The dramatization showed a meeting of the patient, his family and the facility’s staff to resolve the family’s worries about the care Mr. Woods was receiving. Professional actors portrayed many of the common differences of opinion and misunderstandings that can occur; they also showed how effective communication can lead to a satisfactory resolution of contentious issues.
It can be devastating to become frail and dependent, and it can be equally as devastating for families to have to give up responsibility for the care of a loved one to non-family members. The challenge is for patients, families and care providers to develop respect and trust in their relationships, and use that as a foundation for quick and mutually satisfactory resolution to disagreements and conflicts that will inevitably occur.

During the WOAAAD workshop, more than 130 participants gathered at McClure United Church to explore the complex issues that arise in situations where older adults require care. The workshop, titled “Building Communication within the Circle of Care,” focused on increasing public awareness of approaches that promote seniors’ well being in a range of care situations.
The workshop was sponsored by the Saskatoon Council on Aging in partnership with the Saskatoon Health Region and McClure Place Foundation. It provided a forum for care providers, care receivers, families and health care agencies to come together and work to develop a common understanding of the approaches needed to build strong and effective care teams.

Since 2005, SCOA’s Older Adult Abuse Task Force has been working on a range of initiatives to combat the many types of older adult abuse. The work of the Task Force parallels what has been found in other research, which is that abuse-free care environments are possible only when the principles of respect, valuing the individual, good communication and fair and equal treatment create the foundation from which the Circle of Care functions. These beliefs formed the basis of the themes for the workshop.

Participants also learned about the impact of ageism on all older adults and especially on those who are vulnerable and in need of care. Ageism, which is discrimination on the basis of age, includes negative stereotypes and prejudices about older adults. The impact of ageism is felt not only through individual acts but also through policies, procedures and practices of institutions in all sectors of society. Ageist attitudes, both individual and systemic, promote the treatment of seniors as children, reduce choice and decision-making and create barriers to supports and services.

Sunday Sun, August 9, 2009

Seniors going digital

Popular photography class instills confidence

Story and photos by Karin Melberg Schwier

Today’s changing technology is enough to give the most computer savvy person whiplash, but half the battle is keeping an open, curious mind. Dr. F. Barry Brown, a professional photographer and retired university professor, teaches a digital photo class to seniors through the Saskatoon Council on Aging. Without exception, Brown says older students are not only passionate about pictures, but are keen to master the tools of this new technology.

Last year, when a class of 17 quickly filled with students responding to the course announcement in the Prime of Life column in the Sunday Sun, a second section was added. Because student experience and knowledge varied from competent photographers to beginners learning to use the digital camera for the first time, Dr. Brown engaged each student in the class, made the course relevant and ventured beyond the basics into using a digital camera and computer to create, view, enhance, organize, share and archive photographs with particular emphasis on formatting, sizing, emailing and presentation of images.

“One of the most important things to remember about adult learners and continuing education’, says Brown, “is that people have to feel comfortable in the the learning setting.  This class felt secure enough to ask questions and to try different things.”

Natalie Maruschak, an insurance broker from Alvena, has pursued lifelong learning for years, “but my experience with digital photography could best be characterized as winging it,” she admits. “I’ve just hoped the camera would do what it was capable of doing.” When Maruschak realized Professor Barry Brown was the same instructor she had for a 35 mm black and white photography course she took at the University in 1980 while working on a Bachelor of Education degree she decided to enroll. “My experience with Dr. Brown had been so positive – he was so knowledgeable and a great teacher – and now that I am a senior, I was delighted to have the same instructor again to learn about the digital camera. Professor Brown creates an environment where all students, young or older, feel free to ask our questions and enhance our knowledge,” says Maruschak.

Gord Novak, a principal and teacher for more than 31 years, is the Chief Instructor for the Corps of Commissionaires, responsible for the training of instructors and security guards. Like many seniors, digital photography took on a personal urgency when his first granddaughter was born.

“It has been mostly ‘point and shoot' with the dial never moving off automatic,” admits Novak, “but in this class I’ve learned how to use all the functions of my camera. Signing on has been one of the best decisions I made recently.”
Brown has been impressed with the devotion SCOA students show for learning and says it all adds to the success of the class. “It’s been great fun,” he says. “So many seniors are really getting into it and want to learn. Every senior I know wants to be able to take good pictures and email them to the kids and grandkids!”

Audrey Sadler is also a grandmother with impetus to become more familiar with her camera. Feeling lucky to get into such a popular class, she feels confident now in documenting her granddaughter's development and in photographing “the flora, fauna and landscape of the province” to use for her watercolour paintings.

“I have not found re-entering the classroom intimidating but rather the opposite. It’s invigorating, even though I'm new to digital photography,” Sadler says. “The class has been extremely informative and well organized. Barry's practical and technical knowledge along with his anecdotes and sense of humour made it a very enjoyable experience!”

Brown, who retired from the University of Saskatchewan in 2007, has had a life-long passion for photography that began in 1956 when his Aunt Lina in Strasbourg saved 1,200 popsicle wrappers so that her 14-year-old nephew could send away for his first camera, a Falcon miniature, circa 1947, which he still has and shows off in the History of Photography class he teaches.  Equipped with a 50 mm Graf lens and rigid viewfinder, it took 16 pictures on 127 film. Brown has done photography for the U of S Sheaf, the Greystone and The StarPhoenix and is self-taught except for a class he attended at the Sam Newhouse Communications Center at Syracuse University during doctoral studies in 1972.  

Even though he’d taken hundreds of professional photographs and studio portraits, Brown recognized JoAnne McMillan, a student in a recent SCOA class. McMillan laughingly recalls, “Barry had taken a photo of me, scantily-clad, advertising a Monty Carlo Night for the College of Education’s The Educator 40 years ago. The photo made me blush at the time, then in class when he said I hadn’t changed, I really blushed.”  Taking this class has updated her knowledge. “There’s a lot to learn at whatever level we happen to be and Barry takes that into account when he plans the course.”

Maruschak agrees. “This is my first SCOA class and I’m sure I’ll be taking others,” she insists. “People in this city are so fortunate to be able to access the range of classes offered by the Council. Learning keeps one young and the mind alert.”

Karin Melberg Schwier is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer.

Sunday, November 1, 2009 

Walking in a winter's wonderland
With the right steps, walking can be a year-round activity

by Dale Worobec

In winter, how can you stay physically active and also keep yourself safe?
Walking is a relatively safe and effective form of exercise, but one that many older adults ignore in winter due to concerns about tripping, slipping or falling on ice or snow. And when older adults fall, the consequences may include chronic pain, loss of independence, and fear of future falls that can limit an active lifestyle.
One way to avoid winter hazards is to exercise indoors. Some people choose to exercise at home, while others find it easier to keep a routine with friends involved.A number of Saskatoon malls offer walking programs or encourage the activity, including Confederation Mall, The Mall at Lawson Heights and The Centre. The city’s leisure facilities are another option, with programs to fit a range of needs from rehabilitation exercise to more intense workouts. Facilities like the Saskatoon Field House allow the use of walkers, strollers and walking poles.

One popular offering is Strollin’ and Pollin’, a program at the Field House that makes use of walking poles. The program runs three times per week in November and December and includes pole rentals. The program is also expected to run in 2010 – call the Field House at 975-3354 for more information.
Carol Olson and Sharon Bibby are strong advocates of walking poles. The two 60-something friends, both retired nurses, say the devices provide a better workout while offering extra stability.

“I use them a lot, and I’ve even taken my poles when I travel. I’ve had them in Cuba twice, where people had never seen anything like it before. In one rural area people would stop their horses and just look,” recalls Olson.
Both women also participate in the Field House program and say it lets them enjoy brisk walking without the worry of slipping on ice.

“Physical activity has always been a part of my life, but with arthritis I need solid footing and the Field House has a great walking surface,” says Bibby.
For those interested in buying their own poles, Saskatoon retailers carry a number of brands with different features and price points. Retailers such as Brainsport, Eb’s Sail and Sport and Ecco Shoes tend to carry more fitness-oriented products including Nordic poles (lighter weight) and trekking poles (for hiking on varying terrain). A third type of pole is intended for rehabilitation exercise and fall prevention and can be found at Freedom Living Devices, Sage Seniors’ Resources and Nordon Drugs.Many poles feature interchangeable or adjustable tips to accommodate surfaces from indoor flooring to outdoor ice.
Whether you’re doing it for fitness or just taking out the trash, winter walking can bring a greater risk of slipping or falling.
Janet Barnes, a senior recreation therapist with the Saskatoon Health Region’s in motion program, offers the following advice:

  • Choose good, lightweight winter footwear with a non-slip tread and wide, low heels.

  • Ice grippers on footwear can help, but can be dangerously slippery indoors and must be removed. Slip-on curling grippers or toe rubbers are a good substitute and don’t need to be removed when indoors.

  • A cane can help with balance but it must be the right height. When you put your arms by your side, the top of the cane should be at wrist level. Attach an ice pick to the end of your cane for outdoor use.

  • Trekking poles with ice picks can also help stabilize you while walking.

  • If you must cross an icy patch, slow down and think about your next move. Always keep your base of support at least twelve inches wide. Bend your knees slightly and take a small step, putting your whole foot down at once. Then, shift your weight slowly to this foot and bring your other foot to meet it in the same way. Some people may prefer to drag their feet, or shuffle.

  • Get a copy of the Older Adult Physical Activity and Healthy Eating Guide. Find out more by calling in motion at 655-DO IT (3648), or visit www.in-motion.ca.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Great holiday gifts for grandma and grandpa
Finding the perfect gift for older adults on your list

By Dale Worobec
Say what you want about Christmas becoming too commercialized. The fact remains: Most people like receiving gifts, and older adults are no exception.
The challenge is giving a gift that will be truly appreciated. Many older adults are trying to get rid of clutter, not collect more.
But that doesn’t mean a gift isn’t appreciated. It’s gratifying to know someone has thought of you and spent time choosing an item they hope you’ll enjoy. The bonus points come when the gift is well-thought and appropriate to the receiver.
How can you surprise an older adult with a holiday gift they’ll really like? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Avoid “clutter” items. That singing toy or coffee table book might be fine for someone at the office or school, but many older adults don’t want more “stuff.” In many cases they’re trying to downsize and simplify their lives.

  2.  Think of the individual’s personality. What are their hobbies and interests? Present them with a gift certificate from a store that caters to a favourite hobby.   

  3. Consider a gift made by your own hands. That could mean something knitted, crocheted, painted or carved, but the thought and talent you put into a handmade gift will always be appreciated.

  4. Give the gift of your own time, with a “gift certificate” that can be redeemed for something the person needs – “I’ll paint the inside of your kitchen cupboards,” or “Redeem this coupon for a month of snow shovelling.” Other alternatives could include offering to help organize papers and correspondence, or giving the house a thorough cleaning. Then be sure to follow through.

  5. A family might discuss purchasing a larger group gift – a remote starter for a parent’s car or a new television set. Some families could consider a trip to visit relatives in another city or province.

  6. Clothes can be tricky to buy for someone at any age. Instead, why not make a gift of taking an older adult on a shopping trip? If they don’t need or want anything, help them select gifts for other family members – it may be their only shopping trip of the season.

  7. Older adults can sometimes feel isolated, particularly when they no longer drive a vehicle. If transportation is a problem, offer to drive them to Bingo night, their book club or a favourite museum. Or, give them the gift of independence with a gift certificate from a taxi or transportation company. 

Need even more gift ideas? Did you know the Saskatoon Council on Aging offers numerous programs and courses designed to help older adults learn new skills, develop their artistic abilities, stay physically active and reconnect socially? Here are some of them:

  1. Cross Country Skiing: Five lessons, starting January 8th and winding up on January 21st. Lessons are from 1-3 p.m., and the cost is $50. The registration deadline is January 2, 2010.

  2. Acrylic Art: This five-lesson course begins on January 18th and ends on February 15th. Lessons are from 1-4 p.m., and the cost is $90 plus supplies. The registration deadline is January 13, 2010.

  3. Tao of Watercolour: Five lessons, starting February 22nd and ending on March 22nd. Lessons  are from 1-4 p.m., and the cost is $90 plus supplies. The registration deadline is February 19th, 2010.

  4. Internet Use for Beginners: Lab sessions start in mid-January, running three days from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The cost is $75 and space is limited, so register early.

  5. Advanced Digital Photography: This course runs on Wednesdays from 1-4 p.m. (February 2 to April 7). The cost is $200 and the registration deadline is January 31st, 2010.

  6. SCOA Drop-In Program: Happens from 1:30-3:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month. December 16th – Christmas Social. January 20th – Manicures by Marvel. February 17th – Antarctica Slideshow by Dr. Barry Brown. Refreshments are provided. Free.

  7. A Taste of Time: SCOA’s newly-released cookbook, with recipes, handy hints and numerous stories and pictures from older adults in Saskatoon and area. Sales of this book help the Council on Aging raise funds to continue offering its programs and services.

Saskatoon Sun September 26, 2009

Council on Aging Activities resume for fall

by Eleanor Williams and June Gawdun

Like many volunteer-driven organizations, the Saskatoon Council on Aging winds down some activities over the summer. And every fall, like kids returning to school, more than 100 SCOA volunteers – most of them older adults – enjoy coming back to catch up with friends, work on their next projects and even try for some good grades!

We know people are interested in hearing about SCOA’s fall programs and events, so here is a quick rundown. For more detailed information, see our calendar online at www.scoa.ca, or watch the weekly event listings in your Sunday Sun.

Many SCOA offerings, such as blood pressure clinics and drop-in programs, start back up this fall. Blood pressure clinics will be held on the first Tuesday of each month (9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) at the SCOA Resource Centre, and drop-in programs will be on the third Wednesday of each month.

Seniors Week happens this year from September 28 to October 4. SCOA plays an important role in Saskatoon’s two biggest Seniors Week events: the Seniors Walk and Lunch on September 30, and Spotlight on Seniors on October 6.

Also, the new Directory of Services and Activities for Older Adults is available. This comprehensive directory is published by SCOA in partnership with the Saskatoon Health Region and University of Saskatchewan’s College of Kinesiology. You can pick up a copy free of charge at SCOA’s Resource Centre, or view the online version at www.scoa.ca.

Another publication you may wish to check out: SCOA’s brand new cookbook, titled A Taste of Time. This special publication is the result of hundreds of hours of work by Sandra Schweder, SCOA operations coordinator, volunteer Karen Heise and other volunteers. The cookbook features 100 pages of recipes and stories about the way food connects the generations, submitted by seniors or their families in Saskatoon and area. The publication also features the original illustrations by Helen Johnson, an accomplished local artist.

The Saskatoon Council on Aging is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the dignity, health and independence of older adults in Saskatoon and area. SCOA works on a range of issues affecting older adults, often in partnership with other public- and community-based organizations. The Council also provides assistance to caregivers through the Caregiver Information Centre, the only centre of its kind in the province. For more information on the Council on Aging, call 652-2255 or visit www.scoa.ca.


Saskatoon Sun, Sunday, March 23, 2008

You can’t live at home any longer

by Elliot Paus Jenssen

Imagine being told it’s no longer safe for you to live in your own home.

Many seniors dread the day they will be given such news. They would rather stay where they are: in their own home. When they run into difficulty, they have always managed to find a way to work around it. Many do their best to hide any problems they are having from others.

As a senior, what can you do when a friend, loved one or health professional suggests it’s no longer safe for you to live at home?

The first step is talking to people like your doctor, CPAS coordinator or Home Care nurse. Also, talk to family and friends. Discuss the advice you’ve received and how you feel about it. Be frank about your health and how you are coping at home. Try not to be defensive about any difficulties you are having – they are not signs of personal failure but the consequences of health conditions or aging itself. Ask for advice on other ways of doing difficult tasks, and be prepared to accept help.

Also ask about the options available to you. If you have the financial resources, you may want to hire additional help that can make you safer at home and let you remain there.

Look into alternative housing options. You might surprise yourself with what you learn. Some seniors discover they are happier in a new residence, with more supports available than in their own home of many years.

To consider the best options, some of the questions seniors can ask include:

1. If I’m not safe at home, is the only alternative a nursing home?
Every situation is different, but a nursing home may not be necessary. There could be other, more appropriate options – for example, enriched housing or personal care homes.

2. What is enriched housing?
Enriched housing offers you the opportunity to live in a private suite in an apartment-style complex. Meals take place in a common dining room and there is also weekly housekeeping and linen service, social and recreational programming and usually an emergency response system.

3. What is a personal care home?
A personal care home provides accommodation, meals, assistance or supervision with personal care. Personal care means assistance with the activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, grooming and taking medications. Usually, residents have a private bedroom and share a bathroom with others.

4. What is a special care home?
Special care homes are commonly called nursing homes. They provide 24-hour institutional, long-term care to help people with needs that cannot be met appropriately in the community. Special care homes are provided through regional health authorities in Saskatchewan.

5. How do I know what is best for me?
It is a good idea to discuss your situation and your wishes with the Client Patient Access Services, better known as CPAS. CPAS is the part of the Saskatoon Health Region that helps people learn about resources and sort out what is best for them.

All admissions to special care homes must go through CPAS, which also screens people to determine eligibility for Home Care services. The CPAS telephone number is 655-4346.

6. It all sounds very expensive. How much do these different types of accommodation and care cost?
There are no set fees for enriched housing or personal care homes. Each operator or manager determines the fees for their facility, and they can vary widely. Fees for special care homes are set by the provincial government and the amount charged to any resident will depend on his or her income.

7. Will the government help me pay?
The provincial government provides subsidies only to residents of special care homes. Residents of personal care homes and enriched housing must cover the costs on their own.

Note: some of the above material was excerpted from Housing Options for Saskatchewan Seniors, compiled by the Provincial Advisory Committee of Older Persons and published by Saskatchewan Health. 

Elliot Paus Jenssen is a happily retired social worker who worked for many years on the Geriatric Assessment Unit, SHR, with older adults and their families. She is now a volunteer with the Saskatoon Council on Aging.

Saskatoon Sun, Sunday, August 17, 2008

SCOA centre offers one-stop shopping

by Dale Worobec

Call it “one-stop shopping” for resources and information of interest to seniors in the Saskatoon area.

The Saskatoon Council on Aging’s Resource Centre provides this, and a growing number of programs and services, at one easy-to-find location in downtown Saskatoon.

“For seniors or caregivers looking for information, the SCOA Resource Centre is an ideal place to start. Everything is here in one place, and our staff are knowledgeable enough that if they can’t directly answer a question or provide information, they can point you to the right place,” says SCOA Executive Director June Gawdun.

At the Centre, seniors can browse through literally hundreds of brochures and booklets on topics such as seniors housing options, physical and mental health, government programs, senior drivers, and avoiding frauds and scams. Office staff are available to lend assistance or provide suggestions, adds Gawdun.

One of the most popular publications is produced by the SCOA itself, with assistance from the U of S College of Kinesiology and the Saskatoon Health Region. The annual Directory of Services and Social Activities for Older Adults is a comprehensive, 125-page guide to resources, services and social activities. Copies are available free of charge at the Resource Centre, and the information is also available online.

Visitors will also notice something called the Caregiver Information Centre. This service operates from the SCOA office to provide information, support and regular events for those who provide care to older adults.

Beyond providing information and referrals, the SCOA Resource Centre serves as a hub for a wide range of regular programs and services, says Gawdun.

“Throughout the year, we offer blood pressure clinics on the first Tuesday of every month, and starting in the fall we have classes for older adults interested in art or digital photography.”

Seniors can also sign up for computer lessons, and in past years have been able to take cross country skiing lessons through the SCOA.

The Resource Centre also hosts a monthly drop-in program on the third Wednesday of each month. The program usually features a topic such as chronic pain, dealing with grief or exploring housing options; other times, the agenda will involve a field trip to attractions such as Saskatoon’s Western Development Museum or the RCMP Heritage Centre in Regina.

The Saskatoon Century Club, for seniors 90 years and up, is also operated through the SCOA and occasionally holds events at the Resource Centre.  

“It can be a busy place, and it’s really apparent that we fill a growing need in the community for information resources and services,” says Gawdun.

The Saskatoon Council on Aging’s Resource Centre is located at 301–506 25th Street East in Saskatoon, and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Information is also available by phone, at 652-2255, or online at www.scoa.ca.

Saskatoon Sun, Sept. 27, 2008
Brad Johner to appear October 1 at Spotlight on Seniors
by Dale Worobec

Don’t expect a lot of smoke and flashing lights when country singer Brad Johner takes the stage at Spotlight on Seniors on October 1.
Not that the show won’t be entertaining. It’s just that Johner, whose career spans decades and includes numerous albums and awards, knows what different audiences want.

“What I really notice, in going out and playing, is that seniors generally aren’t as impressed with the flash and smoke and lights. In that way, it can sometimes be easier to impress a younger crowd. But with seniors, it comes down to entertaining them with songs they enjoy, talking and telling some stories,” says Johner.

Spotlight on Seniors is Saskatoon’s premiere event for older adults and will feature a trade show, activities and entertainment throughout the day. Johner’s performance will begin at 1:15 p.m., and the Saskatchewan-born entertainer says the audience can expect to hear a number of tunes
from his 2005 CD, The Classics.

“I had been singing some of these songs for years – I’m My Own Grandpa, What a Wonderful World, I Wish I Was 18 Again – and decided I wanted to do a whole album of these good, old standards. And one of my grandma’s favourite songs was Don’t Fence Me In, so it’s on the album for her,” says Johner.

As someone with strong family values, Johner takes pride in embracing his heritage as “just a regular Saskatchewan boy, from the farm.” It’s important, he says, to know where you came from and to maintain the connection between generations.

“From an early age I tended to write songs in a retrospective way, and even wrote some songs about my grandfather in the early days. You need that sense of history and perspective, and I think an older audience really can appreciate and enjoy that.”

Spotlight on Seniors happens on Wednesday, October 1 at TCU Place (35 22nd Street E.), with doors open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Besides Johner’s performance, the day will include a fashion show, free manicures for the ladies from Marvel Beauty Schools and an appearance by the Meri Misfits senior performers. TCU Place will also be displaying its 40th Anniversary exhibit, with autographed celebrity photos, newspaper articles, and other memorabilia from the venue’s four decades of operation.

Admission is at the door. The $5 fee includes coffee and afternoon tea and cookies, and lunch will be available at a low price. Limited transportation will be provided free of charge to those who qualify.

Spotlight on Seniors is presented by the Saskatoon Council on Aging and sponsored by Quality Hearing Centre. For more information, call the SCOA at 652-2255.

Saskatoon Sun, November 23, 2008

Former nurse retires again at 85

by Dale Worobec

This month, 85-year-old Mary Levers celebrated her second retirement.

Her first retirement was from the nursing profession in 1988. Not long after that, Levers was part of the group that worked to create the Saskatoon Council on Aging in 1993.

That same year, she spearheaded the formation of a monthly blood pressure clinic to raise the non-profit organization’s visibility and provide a needed service to the community. Levers stayed to coordinate the clinic as a volunteer for 15 years.

“I was 70 when I took this on, and I thought I’d do it for 10 years. Then when I was 80, I thought, “Well, maybe a couple of years more.”

“Now I’m 85, and it’s time to bow out. It’s time for someone younger to come in with some fresh ideas, and maybe even try some new things,” says Levers.

Approximately 100 older adults attend the clinic, on the first Tuesday of each month, to have their weight and blood pressure measured. Since the program’s inception, the dozen or so retired nurses who staff the clinic have taken more than 23,000 blood pressure readings.

“When we first started, the idea was to do something to help take the strain off the doctors’ offices. But it’s also important to have blood pressure readings taken in a relaxed setting, and the Council is a friendly atmosphere where people can feel at home,” says Levers.

In fact, she notes the social benefits are possibly just as important as the medical ones. Isolation can be an issue for seniors who live alone or face mobility challenges, and the clinic is a warm and welcoming place.

“Our nurses are the type of people who take the time to listen,” adds Levers.

“I’m really proud to say that – they all have a great ear. Over the years we’ve listened to a lot of problems, sad things that people couldn’t talk to anyone else about. It’s important as a way of helping.”

Levers says her wish to help others meant it “just felt natural” to devote some of her time in retirement to volunteering in the community. Besides her work with the Council on Aging, Levers worked with her church to establish visits to shut-ins and also became involved at Sherbrooke Community Centre while her late husband was a resident.

“The reason I got into nursing, as a young woman, is that I’m a people person. So it was natural to be active and volunteer after I retired. But you also hear people say that you get out of it as much as you give, and that’s very true,” says Levers.

Lorraine Kroeker, a retired nurse from St. Paul’s Hospital, has now assumed responsibility for coordinating the blood pressure clinic. The clinic is held on the first Tuesday of each month, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m at the SCOA Resource Centre (301-506 25th St. E). Coffee and cookies are served, and everything is free of charge.

Saskatoon Sun, February 17, 2008

Use it or lose it: Keeping your memory alive and well

by George James

To stay healthy, seniors are told to exercise their brain as well as their body.
But how?
One easy way is to take a class. Learning can be enjoyable whether you’re exploring a completely new subject or looking into an area you do know something about. Either way – be a “lifelong learner.”

There are many options in Saskatoon but one easy, accessible and inexpensive route is through the University of Saskatchewan and Saskatoon Seniors Continued Learning (SSCL). Classes are non-credit and designed especially for older adults, and feature no homework or exams while covering an extraordinarily wide range of subjects.

Interested in the bigger picture? Take a class on the sociology of global change. Want to enrich your reading? Take a course on language and linguistics. You might also be interested in the sustainability of prairie agriculture, the history of the Cold War, introductory Archaeology or the Russian Revolutions of 1917.
Many studies have linked learning activities with an improved sense of well-being. This does not mean that learning can cure all ills. What it does mean is that if you become involved in a learning activity, you end up feeling better about yourself and your life.

A Saskatchewan study about ten years ago showed that a high percentage of older adult learners were motivated by both a wish to learn and an interest in the subject matter. Once involved in a class, all of the participants surveyed were “satisfied.” Some were “challenged” and others were “excited,” but none were bored.

All participants felt the class (or classes) were a strongly positive experience. All participants felt they were able to contribute and participate in class discussions. They thought the experience was enjoyable, that it stimulated and extended their intellectual capacity, and that it provided positive social interaction. In short, the vast majority of those surveyed felt their participation had improved their quality of life.

Most importantly, no one felt ill at ease. All participants found the level of the classes to be appropriate. A significant number also found the content challenging, but all stressed that this was a good thing since it added to the stimulation. No one found the level to be too high. This, despite the fact many had not taken classes before at the university level.  So don’t feel that classes might be “too hard” or that you are “not qualified.” There is no correlation between one’s level of formal education and their ability to enjoy these classes.
One lady who took a class on “Internal Security Policy in Eastern Europe” was heard to say, “Some of this was a bit complicated, but boy! Did I ever learn a lot.”
George James is a retired Extension Specialist who operated university-level classes for older adults.                                                         

For more information on course offerings or to request an application form, please contact Saskatoon Seniors Continued Learning at 306-343-6773 or visit www.ccde.usask.ca/go/seniors.

Saskatoon Sun, Sunday Jan. 13, 2008

Council on Aging to offer art, photography classes

by Dale Worobec

Want to try your hand at something creative?

Beginning in January 2008, the Saskatoon Council on Aging will offer a series of classes for older adults with an interest – but little or no experience – in basic drawing, watercolour or photography.

The classes will be taught by Ralph W. Loader, an award-winning artist specializing in pen and ink, as well as pen and ink with watercolours. In addition to his art work, Loader spent more than two decades as a commercial photographer in Toronto before returning to his native Lloydminster. He now resides in Saskatoon.

“I’ve taught classes for more than a dozen years, and I really believe anyone can learn to draw to a certain point, as long as they have some interest and show a little dedication to it,” Loader says.

Seniors, he adds, can make some of the best students because they often show more dedication to learning and can usually devote more time to practice.

The classes are casual and relaxed, and Loader describes them as “open concept” lessons.

“The idea is to help people develop their own interests rather than the instructor’s, and the classes follow that idea. You’ll finish the class feeling as though you’ve accomplished something, and that you’ve developed enough to continue on your own or take more advanced instruction,” Loader says.

Classes will be held at the Council on Aging, at 301-506 25th St. E.

Saskatoon Sun, Sunday, December 21, 2008

Saskatoon Council on Aging sends Christmas greetings

by Dale Worobec

Every month, Prime of Life has provided Saskatoon Sun readers with a glimpse into this city’s growing community of seniors. The Sun and the Saskatoon Council on Aging have used this space to provide information, cover events, profile people and organizations, and highlight valuable programs and services for older adults in Saskatoon.

This Christmas, we wanted to highlight some of the Council on Aging’s own people – by letting them tell you, in their own words, a little about what Christmas means to them. We hope these stories stir your own favourite memories of the season. Merry Christmas!

When I was little, during the years of WWII, I had no sense that times were tough – Christmas was a time of way too much fun and family! When I was five, I was thrilled to get skates, not realizing that they were my brother’s old hockey skates polished up and looking great. When I was eight, I was given my mom’s bicycle. It was black and had real leather handle grips. That year, the war ended and we had real candy for the first time in my life. Gift opening at my grandparents’ house down the street included all the cousins, aunts and uncles. Bedlam! Everyone then came to our house for Christmas brunch and supper. I treasure those times. In that same vein, each year we now have a Boxing Day party for all my relatives. There are about 50 of us and I love seeing the newest additions and the fact that my nieces and nephews are getting older…and I’m not!
Eleanor Williams

Waiting for Dad
I grew up in New Glasgow, a town of about 10,000 in Nova Scotia. Every year on December 24th my Dad would take us children out to the countryside to cut our Christmas trees, a big one for the family and small ones for each child’s room. We had fun walking through the woods and choosing the perfect trees - once we got going! We would wait (and it would seem forever) for Dad to come home from the office. He was a newspaperman and there was always someone phoning him or a story that had to be written for that day’s paper. And December 24th was especially busy. But somehow, no matter how long the wait, the perfect trees were found, put up and decorated; and presents were delivered to friends and family before a birthday supper at our home for our great-aunt on Christmas Eve. And later that night it was magical lying in bed looking at our Christmas trees glowing in the dark.
Elliot Paus-Jenssen
Volunteer Coordinator (SCOA task force on older adult abuse)

Up in ashes
We lived on a farm – five miles from town and one mile from the one-room school my brother and I attended. With the cars put away for the winter, we traveled by horse and sleigh. At Christmas we wrote our letters to Santa and gave them to Dad to “mail” when he went into town. But one December it was very cold and, reluctant to make the trip into town, Dad got a better idea. Instead of mailing the letters at the post office, why didn’t we just put them into the fire in the kitchen stove? Yes! The paper would burn, but the words would float up the chimney and go right to Santa - in no time at all! Well, we did and it must’ve worked, because Santa brought us everything we’d asked for that year!
Mercedes Montgomery
Chair, SCOA communications committee

Bottom half of the tree
Christmas time growing up for me held many special memories. Our family is pretty small (I have an older brother and sister, and a younger brother and sister). Mom and Dad moved from Scotland to Canada when I was very little so our Christmas gatherings were small, as all my other relatives were back in Scotland. One special memory I have is that us kids got to choose and decorate the family Christmas tree each year. When we were small we couldn't reach that high so only the bottom half of the tree was decorated.
As we grew so did the decoration coverage of the tree! I guess families do carry on traditions as I remember now my own children doing the same thing when they were little. I have three daughters and my middle one, who is now 16 years old, is about 5-foot-ten, so needless to say our tree is decorated to it's fullest plus the star on the top!
June Gawdun
Executive Director

Saskatoon Sun, Sunday, June 1, 2008

Seniors and pets find home at Sherbrooke

by Dale Worobec
Dmytro Hnatiuk smiles as he introduces me to Misty, a friendly tabby who’s found a sunny spot on the retired farmer’s bed at Sherbrooke Community Centre, a long term care facility in Saskatoon.

At 98 years, Hnatiuk is hard of hearing and it isn’t easy for him to hold a conversation with other residents or staff. But to communicate with Misty, all that’s needed is affection and kindness. Misty returns it ten-fold.
While other long term care facilities might offer pet therapy visits, Sherbrooke’s philosophy is to encourage companion animals. Some of the animals at Sherbrooke are owned by individual residents, while others belong to those living together in smaller neighbourhoods within the community.

“It breaks my heart that people in long-term care are forced to give up companion animals,” says Cheryl George, Leader of Education Services at Sherbrooke and a proponent of the facility’s pet-friendly philosophy.
“What better way to alleviate loneliness, helplessness or boredom than to have another living thing there with you. I heard a quote recently that we are born with the need to be loved, and never lose it. The animals are so loving to our elders, and to deny them that opportunity for love and affection doesn’t seem right,” says George. In total, Sherbrooke is home to a dozen cats, one dog, numerous birds and fish, and even a rabbit. Many staff members also bring their own pets to work on a regular basis.

“Sherbrooke is designed to have a community atmosphere, and in keeping with that, it’s normal to have companion animals in our community,” says Brenda Booker, Team Manager of Environmental Services and a member of the pet committee at Sherbrooke.

Booker admits there is some effort involved – for both staff and residents – in caring for any animal, and of course some animals don’t adapt to living in such a large community. To that end, considerable effort is put into making sure that any animal brought into the facility will tolerate the busier atmosphere of community life.

All of the animals at Sherbrooke are documented and have a “care plan” to ensure, for example, that fish are fed regularly or cages and litter boxes are cleaned. And in the event there is a complaint of a mess or other problems, there are mechanisms in place to deal with that, too. But overall, it’s well worth the effort, says George.
“You might have a resident that is feeling lonely or helpless, or at times is in physical pain. But anytime they can start thinking outside themselves, looking outward and caring for something else, it achieves something that medicine can never do as quickly or effectively,” says George.

There are many examples at Sherbrooke of how the unconditional love of a companion animal can make a difference in the life of an elderly person. George recounts one that is particularly moving:

“I think about one woman whose husband visited her every day, and had daughters who would always visit when they were in Saskatoon. But she hadn’t communicated for months. One day, one of the managers had a budgie with her, and stopped to talk to the husband. The elder noticed the budgie and reached out her hand. It was her first purposeful movement in months. Then, in a few weeks, she even said a few words, so the family bought her birds for her birthday. It made a difference.”

“I think that the animals help us to connect to each other, and connect to life again. It’s a part of helping people lead a truly full and rewarding life,” concludes George.
Sherbrooke Community Centre opened its doors in Saskatoon in 1966, and today is home to 270 residents and 100 community day program participants. The centre is structured as a community, with streets, neighbourhoods and places to work, play, worship, paint, garden and volunteer. For more information about Sherbrooke, visit www.sherbrookecommunitycentre.ca or contact Cheryl George at cheryl.george@saskatoonhealthregion.ca.

Saskatoon Sun, Sunday, November 30, 2008

Saskatoon seniors enjoy continued learning at U of S

by Dale Worobec

For seniors in Saskatoon, taking a university course is easier than you might think.In three sessions per year, individuals over the age of 55 can enrol in a variety of courses offered through Saskatoon Seniors Continued Learning (SSCL).

“It’s a fun way to learn about something you’ve always wanted to know more about. And the really fun part: There are no essays or exams,” says Barbara Wilson, an organizer with SSCL and an enthusiastic senior learner herself.
Although SSCL classes are held at the University of Saskatchewan, there are no educational prerequisites to enrol and attend. Wilson says the students come from a variety of backgrounds and former professions.

“In past years, many people had other things on their plate besides education. Maybe they had to leave school early or take care of their family, so their education was cut short. But it doesn’t matter what level of education they have – all they need is the desire to learn,” says Wilson.

“What I like to say to people who wonder if it’s right for them, is ‘Just try it.’ It’s non-complicated, fun and stimulating to the mind, and its great to have the interaction with fellow students,” Wilson adds. Last year, SSCL celebrated its 25th year of providing affordable continued learning to seniors in Saskatoon. The non-profit organization works closely with the U of S Centre for Continuing and Distance Education.

A total of 329 people attended courses during SSCL’s fall 2008 session. Of that number, 114 were new registrants taking their first course.
Registration for Winter Session courses happens December 3-12th. The two-hour classes will be held one day per week from January to March 2009. The winter 2009 schedule will feature classes on the history of Saskatoon, music appreciation, the sustainability of Prairie agriculture and current issues in Canadian Politics.

At $45, the registration fee is affordable to most. Registrants must also purchase an annual SSCL membership for five dollars.
For more information or to register, older adults can call SSCL at 343-6773 or visit www.ccde.usask.ca/go/seniors.

Saskatoon Sun, Sunday, July 6, 2008

Seniors learn to protect themselves

by Dale Worobec

It started with a simple phone call. Agnes, 87, learned she had won the Quebec lottery.

Never mind that she didn’t remember entering. The caller’s enthusiastic questions – “What are you going to do with all the money?” – soon had the Saskatoon senior caught up in the excitement of her supposed win.

There was just one small catch: The sales tax was due before any winnings could be paid. Agnes was asked to send $25,000, an amount she didn’t have. When she told this to the caller, she was asked to send the money she did have to a post office box, in cash. She was cautioned not to tell anyone because it would spoil the publicity campaign.

In the days to come, Agnes was talked into borrowing against her credit cards, and she sent thousands more to the same postal address. But instead of the promised winnings, all she received were more phone calls. At one point, the senior was even contacted by someone claiming to be a lawyer representing the lottery. She was told she would be sued if she didn’t send more money.

As it turns out, Agnes was lucky: A vigilant clerk at her postal outlet noticed something wasn’t right, and called police. The officer who took the call was Sergeant Brian Trainor.

“I phoned Agnes, and she started crying. I said, “Put on the teapot, I’m coming over,”” recalls Trainor.

After hearing the full story, Trainor started tracking down the source of the calls. The phone number and postal box were registered to a 93-year-old Quebec man, a victim of identify theft. The postal box in question was emptied every morning by a 10-year-old boy. The case had organized crime written all over it, says Trainor.

Thanks to Trainor’s intervention, the phone calls to Agnes finally stopped. Her credit card company was told of the fraud and credited her account, although the senior still lost $6,000 of her own money. The file was handed over to police in Quebec.

Trainor made sure Agnes installed a Caller ID phone, which he calls “cheap insurance.” The senior also learned how to deal with such calls – hang up the phone immediately.

Trainor told Agnes’ story to a workshop filled with seniors, and those who work with seniors, to illustrate how easy it is for criminals to separate people from their money. The June 12 workshop, called “Dollars and Sense: Become Informed, Protect Yourself,” was sponsored by the Saskatoon Council on Aging and other local organizations to recognize the third annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Trainor, retired from the police service, now works with Affinity Credit Union to raise awareness and prevent fraud. He describes his current job as an extension of his work as a police sergeant – protecting “his seniors.”

Aside from the “too good to be true” scams such as lottery or vacation prizes, Trainor says one of the most common scams involves being asked for valuable banking or credit card information.

“They’ll call you, and can sound really convincing – they’ll tell you they’re from the bank, or the government, or the police, complete with “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am” and it all sounds really official. But they’re reading from a script, and are very good at it,” he says.

To protect yourself, don’t give away sensitive information to any callers, no matter who they claim to be. You can always call back, using contact information listed in the phone book, to determine if the request is legitimate.

A Caller ID telephone can also be helpful to differentiate between calls from “real” or “fake” toll-free numbers. Genuine toll-free prefixes – 800, 866, 877 or 888 – usually aren’t from scammers, because such numbers cost money to use. But watch out for calls from such prefixes as 856 or 809, which are often used by scammers.

Fraud is a big business, notes Trainor.

“It’s the number one crime in the world, and last year accounted for $68 billion in losses. In Canada, the amount lost was something like $132 million. It’s a massive industry – don’t think these people are amateurs,” he says.

Yet, for seniors, the worst financial abuses are not from these unknown scam artists. Instead, they originate much closer to home, in such forms as power-of-attorney fraud.

No matter the type of fraud or financial abuse, says Trainor, the time is right for financial institutions, police and regulators to step up their prevention and enforcement.

“When my generation – baby boomers – starts retiring, it’ll be the largest and richest group of retirees ever. Because of insurance, inheritances and pensions, just imagine the money that’s going to be out there.”

“It’s going to be a feeding frenzy for crooks, and it’s just a good thing we’re starting to deal with this now,” says Trainor.


Saskatoon Sun, Sunday, September 23, 2007

New column highlights seniors’ issues

by Bubs Coleman

   People – like cheese – improve with age and we are here to help the aging process.

   Whether you are a teenager helping out with grandma, a boomer anxious about the future, or a senior having fun, this new column will be of interest.

   The Saskatoon Council on Aging is planning a monthly column about issues affecting our senior population – and thereby every one of us.

   The council is a non – profit volunteer – led organization founded in 1988 and dedicated to the promotion of dignity, health and independence of older adults.

   In its many projects aimed at bettering the lives of older persons in our population ages, information concerning the aging process itself and its associated life changes must increase and be widely disseminated.

   Issues could include health, transport, abuse, safety, finances, exercise, fraud, housing or any one of the myriad of details that occur as circumstances change.

   “I had no idea” is the phrase most commonly heard in the Saskatoon Community Service Village – a reference to the abundance of issues and problems encountered on the road to aging.

   So it will be the aim of this column to inform. To do so, we will use the resources of the council’s Information Centre and reply on help from community professionals working in all aspects of seniors’ care and concerns.

   Although it is now common knowledge that Saskatchewan has the highest population of older person in the country and the aging trend is not expected to level out for almost 20 years, many Saskatonians do not know the difference between independent and assisted living, who is eligible for what forms of health and home care, or who pays. The list is endless.

   Last year the National Advisory Council on Aging informed the Prime Minister that “we consider Canada ill – prepared for the important demographic changes about to occur.”

   So, recognizing there was a knowledge gap to be filled here in our city, a partnership between the council and The Saskatoon Sun was formed.

   This column is the result.
   Beginning in October and continuing monthly, it will attempt to deal with some of the major issues affecting Saskatoon’s seniors and we invite your participation and feedback.

   We also invite you to check out the resources available to assist seniors living in this city among them the Saskatoon Council on Aging’s Information Centre.

   It has more than 800 information pamphlets, all free to the public, a directory of services and host a free blood pressure clinic monthly.

   We hope you will watch for prime of Life each month and recognize that the old stereotypes of Canadian seniors as “old, a burden and utterly useless if not senile” are dead.

   Today’s senior is a vital, dynamic and contributing member of society – exemplified by the council’s logo – a crane: the symbol of longevity, pride and grace, in the circle of life.

Saskatoon Sun, Sunday, December 30, 2007

Seniors may face holiday blues

by Dale Worobec

For some seniors, the season usually associated with good cheer can actually be a time of stress, loneliness and even depression.  
“There are a lot of expectations surrounding the holidays. We’re expected to be full of happiness, celebrating with family – the whole Norman Rockwell image of the season,” says Liz Letwiniuk, a nurse with the Community Mental Health and Addictions Services Seniors Program, in the Saskatoon Health Region.
But holiday cheer may be the last thing you’re feeling when it becomes physically or emotionally difficult to deliver everything expected of you. The gifts, cards, holiday decorations and traditional big spread of food are a tall order for people of any age, and an even taller one for seniors who may be dealing with health problems or financial worries.

On the other hand, some seniors might be facing the prospect of a lonely holiday season. If you’ve lost someone, or have loved ones who are distant or busy, the sights and sounds of holiday joy only serve to accentuate the loneliness.
“Working exclusively with seniors who have depression, stress or anxiety, I can say there definitely is an increase during the holiday season,” says Letwiniuk.
“Added to all of this, is that as we get older there generally is an increased risk of depression because of factors like decreased social contact, loss or chronic illness.”

At any time of year, seniors themselves may mistakenly believe the symptoms of depression are a normal part of aging. However, long-term feelings of sadness, fatigue, low self-esteem or loss of interest don’t inherently come with growing older. These are symptoms of depression and can be treated.

“The first step is to visit your family physician, and be sure to address how you’re feeling. You need to rule out physical illness or changes in medication that can cause, or mimic, the symptoms of depression,” says Letwiniuk.
A physician can refer you to a specialist, and also help you learn whether Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is the culprit. SAD, a concern during winter months, can be treated with light therapy. The Saskatoon Health Region also offers information and a light therapy program for SAD sufferers.
Seniors can also make an effort to keep structure in their lives, whether it means volunteering in the community or church, keeping current with medical appointments and physical examinations (including blood tests and blood pressure checks), and trying to maintain regular times for waking, bedtime and meals.

 For family or friends who are concerned a senior is depressed, Letwiniuk has a number of suggestions. First, consider the individual: Some people are simply more social and active, while others prefer spending time alone. Look for changes to usual routines or habits.

If the depression or anxiety seems related to the demands of the holiday season, offer to help with the turkey or shopping for gifts. If you know a senior is alone, you can invite him or her out to dinner, or drop off some food and stay for a visit. If you’re in a different city, regular phone calls or letters can be an important way to stay in touch.

“If you’re worried someone is depressed, the most important thing you can do is give them an opportunity to talk – and then really listen. Be there for them, and if they don’t feel like talking at that moment, make sure they know you’re available.”

 “Sometimes, the most helpful thing is just asking someone, “You seem to be feeling down, is it ok to talk about that?” If your intentions are good, there’s not a lot you can say that’s bad,” says Letwiniuk.Finally, remember that some seniors may believe there is a stigma attached to mental health issues like depression, and can be reluctant to discuss the symptoms the way they would talk about physical health, says Sarah Nixon-Jackle, a public health nurse with the Saskatoon Health Region’s Public Health Services, Older Adult Wellness Program.

“But we do need to be aware that depression is a reality for some seniors, and not sweep it under the carpet. It’s important to remember that help is available,” says Nixon-Jackle.
For more information about depression and mental health programming, including SAD light therapy, contact the Saskatoon Health Region at 655-7950.

Spotlight on Seniors: more than meets the eye

by Dale Worobec

Egyptian belly dancers. Mini-golf. Brad Johner. Blood pressure readings, manicures and Mayor Don Atchison.

These are just a few of the highlights of the past decade for Spotlight on Seniors, Saskatoon’s premiere event for older adults. An annual happening, Spotlight routinely draws more than 1,000 seniors and their family members to TCU Place.

People come for a variety of reasons: to browse the tradeshow for products, programs and services; to enjoy great food and entertainment; and simply to get out the house for a few hours.

But there’s much more to the event – or to be precise, more that the event itself represents:

Take a closer look at a crowd of seniors and you’ll notice they span more than just one generation. A 95-year old (who lived through the Great Depression and remembers the “victory cabbage” of World War I) will have little in common with someone born in the boom following World War II. But many people see grey hair and assume every senior is alike, when in fact they are not. Which leads to the next point…

Fighting ageism
Ageism was coined as a term in 1969 to describe stereotyping or discrimination against individuals or groups because of age. Such discrimination can be casual (the clerk who speaks loudly and calls you “dear”), or systemic (the doctor who sees an 85-year-old heart patient as a lower priority than someone in his 50s with the same affliction). Ageism is often called the last acceptable “ism.”

Wander through an event like Spotlight on Seniors and you’ll gain a first-hand appreciation for something demographers have told us for years: Canada is aging. In fact, Statistics Canada predicts that in just a couple of years, elder care will have replaced child care as the primary concern for Canadian workers. And as the baby boom turns grey, politicians at all levels will have to balance the needs and wants of this voting segment with the fiscal reality of having more seniors and fewer younger citizens. 

Twenty years ago, few people would have predicted that motorized scooters would outnumber bicycles in some Saskatoon neighbourhoods. Or that the number of hearing aid retailers would rival the number of tanning salons. But demographics drive business, and the exhibitors at Spotlight are just the first in a coming wave of companies that will serve the growing senior market.

With all this in mind, what will Spotlight on Seniors look like in another 10 years? Probably quite similar to the one happening on October 6th – food, fun, entertainment and maybe even Don Atchison in attendance. Just expect a much bigger crowd.

Dale Worobec is communications manager of the Saskatoon Council on Aging, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the dignity, health and independence of older adults in Saskatoon and area. He can be reached at worobec@scoa.ca.

Saskatoon Sun, Sunday October 14, 2007

Spring a Busy Season for Saskatoon Council on Aging
by Dale Worobec

Spring a busy season for Saskatoon Council on Aging
Ever spring, the Saskatoon Council on Aging holds its annual general meeting. It’s an opportunity to take stock of the council’s activities over the past year and to plan for the one ahead.

But more than that, the annual meeting brings together the SCOA’s many volunteer board and committee representatives, and a good number of our 1,249 members, to discuss how the organization can better meet its mandate: to promote the dignity, health and independence of older adults in Saskatoon and its nearby communities.

This year, the SCOA’s annual general meeting will be held on May 22, starting at 1:30 p.m., in Room 3 of the Frances Morrison Library (311 23rd St. E.) The agenda begins with a brief business meeting followed by refreshments, after which provincial Health Minister Don McMorris will address the crowd.

The month of June will also feature a workshop called “Dollars and Sense” on the important topic of older adult abuse – in particular, financial abuse. Brian Trainor, a retired police sergeant with an extensive background in fraud investigation, is the main speaker. Dollars and Sense will be presented on June 12, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at McClure United Church (4025 Taylor St. E). Admission is $15 and attendance is limited; registration at 652-2255 is recommended by June 5. Transportation may be available to those who qualify, and hearing devices will available at the workshop.

The SCOA’s mandate also includes providing support and information to the growing number of caregivers in the Saskatoon area. One new development is the Caregiver Club, which offers informal support meetings on a monthly basis to those providing unpaid care to a spouse, parent, relative or friend. The club is organized by the SCOA’s Caregiver Information Centre and several other local organizations. It happens on the first Wednesday of each month from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., at the Saskatoon Community Service Village downtown.

The Caregiver Centre also organizes a twice-yearly Caregiver Forum. The next forum will be on May 15th with the theme “Who Cares for the Caregiver.” The event is at Mayfair United Church (902 33rd St. W), from 9:00 a.m. until 3 p.m., and the registration fee is $15. For more information on the Caregiver Club or to register for the May 15th forum, call the Caregiver Information Centre at 652-4411.

The SCOA takes every opportunity to encourage seniors and their families to celebrate life, and celebrating Mothers Day is a perfect opportunity. This year, celebrate Mothers Day by attending brunch on Sunday, May 11 at one of two Saskatoon Co-op locations. A dollar from each $4.99 brunch will be donated to the SCOA. The brunches will take place at Co-op Greystone Centre (8th St. & Emerson) and the Co-op Westview Centre (33rd St. & Ave. P), from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Summer BBQ’s are another form of celebration, and the SCOA will be holding four BBQ fundraisers over the summer. Stop by and enjoy a burger or dog on June 14th at the Lucky Dollar (743 7th Ave. N), 10 a.m. to 3 pm.; July 5 at Jubilee Ford (Saskatoon Auto Mall), 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; July 20 at Sobeys (8th St. & Cumberland), 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and August 10th at Sobeys (McKercher & 8th St.), 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Many of the events mentioned in this column happen with the help of volunteers, and the SCOA itself operates with a board and committees made up of members who are, for the most part, seniors themselves. Volunteer Week (April 27-May 3) is an opportunity for the SCOA and other community organizations to thank the volunteers who dedicate their time and make so much possible. To our volunteers – thank you!

For more information about any of the events listed above, or for information on aging-related programs and services in the Saskatoon area, call the SCOA’s Resource Centre at 652-2255 or visit us online at www.scoa.ca.

Saskatoon Sun, Sunday, October 14, 2007

The hidden face of elder abuse

Neglect and abuse of seniors does happen in Saskatchewan
Fr. Mark Miller, Ph. D

   “But it doesn’t happen here in Saskatoon!”
    Of course it does.
We’re talking here about the abuse of older adults – a social problem compounded by secrecy and complacency.
Nothing can ever justify abuse and neglect, but they do happen. By talking openly about them we can help increase the individual and community action that will make them socially unacceptable.

Over the years in my work as an ethicist within the Saskatoon Health Region and across Saskatchewan, I have spent a good deal of time with home health care providers.  Too often, I hear of Saskatchewan seniors who suffer physical, psychological or financial abuse and neglect.

Most of us assume that parents and grandparents will find support and proper care in their senior years, especially when they are carrying the burdens of frailty, physical ailments or even cognitive impairment.

Yet, at times, some seniors live in fear of their own children.  They are yelled at, occasionally “imprisoned” in their own home (or bedroom) lack proper hygiene or clothing, and may be undernourished and cowed.

Indeed, in one situation where there were no children, an 80 year old lost his wife.  In his loneliness and diminishing ability to look after himself, he hired a woman to cook and clean.  Within a month she lived in the house; within another month they married; and soon she had total control of his finances and was in Hawaii to “rest up”.  Home care workers providing assistance were horrified to see him restricted to one room.  When they suggested he “do something,” he replied: “It’s OK.  I don’t want her to get mad at me.”

Later I heard of a husband whose wife had a serious, chronic illness.  Home care provided top-notch service but became suspicious of bruises on her legs.  She claimed to have fallen out of bed but later admitted that her husband hit her and yelled at her.  “He just doesn’t understand my being so ill and helpless.”

Financial abuse is another common way in which seniors are victimized.  We have all heard of scams aimed at seniors.  What we do not hear is how often family members steal from parents or control bank accounts for their own purposes – sometimes through power of attorney which legally permits the control of finances and assets.

It is frightening to see how trusting seniors can be and how vulnerable they often are.  And how varied the causes of abuse and neglect can be:  physical abuse may arise from caregiver exhaustion; emotional abuse may stem from ignorance (A son yelled at his mother who has Alzheimer’s: “You’re just not trying”) or maliciousness (“Stay in your room and do not make any noise or else you won’t get supper.”)  Financial abuse is a total breach of trust.

I have long puzzled over these issues and suspect that I have only glimpsed only the tip of the iceberg.  There’s much to learn about the abuse and neglect of seniors: how it happens, why it’s not reported, and the role of factors like gender, dependency and disability.

But I do believe awareness is the first step towards addressing this enormous issue: knowledge helps seniors retain control over their lives, reducing the risk of abuse.  Seniors need to know their rights.  Seniors and caregivers in both home and institutional settings need to know about prevention and intervention strategies.  And community resources need to be in place to support these strategies.

In Saskatoon the Council on Aging is working to address the major questions relating to abuse of older persons.  But if the older adult is in immediate danger, phone the local police, RCMP, or tribal police.  If you want to talk to a community agency about an older adult you suspect is being abused call Crisis Intervention Services which respond to all forms of family violence and other forms of crises:  Saskatoon 933-6200, or Health Information Line where a mental health nurse can talk to you about your concerns: 1-877-800-0002.
Father Mark Miller is an ethicist within the Saskatoon Health Region working of out St. Paul’s Hospital


Making the big move - One senior’s thoughts on downsizing into a condo
By Jeanette M. Dean

Recently, we had a small crisis in our household – we needed our salad bowls and they were nowhere to be found.

We had moved a short time ago from a large home into a condo, and somewhere along the way the salad bowels had disappeared. Did we give them away? Sell them in one of our garage sales? Or, were they lost in the depths of a still-unfamiliar pantry? The bowls haven’t surfaced yet and we are left with a sense of loss.

For many seniors the time comes when they have to leave the home they’ve lived in for many years, and settle for something smaller and more convenient such as an apartment or condo.

The physical details of moving (with good planning and lots of help to pack and carry boxes and clean corners) can be managed successfully, but the aftermath can be difficult. Leaving the home you’ve renovated several times and the yard that, at last, has a reasonable number of perennials feels like losing a dear friend. The house may be getting old, inconvenient and shabby, but it has seen many Christmases and birthdays and has always been there to welcome your return. You’ve had good neighbors and have grown to love the area.

Now, everything is new and unfamiliar. There are new people and new surroundings and everything is so small. There’s nowhere you can throw things when an unexpected guest appears, and nowhere for visiting family to sleep.

However, the move has happened so you have to cope. Here are some strategies that might work:

First and foremost, remember that a move is much harder for a man. He has lost his yard and his treasured workshop in the basement, and worse yet he has no place to consider his refuge. He needs a place of his own, so make that extra bedroom or den his to do with as he pleases. Once he’s settled he can deal with all the unfamiliar things that don’t work as they should.

If the new place needs renovation or redecorating it’s tempting to get it done before you move, but wait if you can. For a little while, live with the insipid blue carpet and ferociously pink walls and enjoy planning and looking for what you really want. Do the same with additional furniture – it’s been a long time since you felt justified in buying a new chair or coffee table. But don’t wait too long to get the lighting as you like it – gloomy rooms can really get you down!

Get to know your new neighbors! They are close by and they’ll help you understand the special features (or problems) of your new home. Pick their brains and get ideas from what they have done with drapes and room arrangements.

Then look outside! There are new streets to explore, different stores nearby and fresh places for coffee. Maybe you can now walk to the library or to a civic leisure centre.
You should have a little more free time so try something new. If you have always volunteered on committees, give them up and do more hands-on projects. Maybe you’ve always wanted to write a novel or learn to quilt, but never had time. That time has come, so seize the opportunity.

Remind yourself every day of the advantages of your new home – no snow to shovel, better parking, no stairs, and no worries about the house burning down or getting burgled while you’re away.

Eventually, the time will come when you’ll stop describing the move as “hard,” and you can drive by your old home without a pang. Your new place will really have become your home to be enjoyed for years to come. 

We are almost there. But where on earth are those salad bowls?

Jeanette Dean is a volunteer and past president of the Saskatoon Council on Aging, a voluntary, non-profit organization that promotes the dignity, health and independence of older adults in Saskatoon and area. For more information, visit www.scoa.ca or call 652-2255.


Century Club provides social outlet to seniors 90 and up
By George James

What can you do to enhance your social life when you reach your 90th year?

The Saskatoon Century Club provides a network for seniors 90 and up – a way to stay active, healthy and involved in the community. The club organizes six events per year and recent trips have included the Diefenbaker Centre, Bishop Klein School, Spotlight on Seniors and the Mendel Art Gallery. The events usually include refreshments and snacks to enhance the social atmosphere.

The latest event was a special performance in February by members of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra at McClure United Church. Nearly 50 club members were treated to an intimate concert by a string quartet consisting of symphony principals Michael Swan (first violin), Oxana Ossiptchouk (second violin), James Legge (viola), and John Payzant (cello).

Lorrie Elian, the Symphony coordinator for the event, says the musicians enjoyed playing for the group and fielding questions after the performance. Century Club members spoke highly of the music, the performers and the informal conversations.

She says the event was a way for the SSO to promote its Music for a Sunday Afternoon Series.

“For seniors, transportation is often a barrier to attendance. With support from the Saskatchewan Arts Board, we’re able to offer free transportation for seniors to and from these concerts,” Elian says.

The concerts take place at the Bessborough Hotel and the performing orchestra members are core principal players. The next two performances in the series are April 25 and May 16; older adults who wish to attend and need transportation should contact the Saskatoon Symphony Box office at 665-6414.

The Saskatoon Century Club is a branch of the larger provincial club, which was created in 2004.  The organization was the brainchild of the late Dr. William Riddell of the University of Regina, who noticed the number of people enjoying life after 90. The idea was to organize events and provide opportunities for learning, social interaction and friendship. The Saskatchewan Century Club is provincial in scope but structured so that branches may be formed in individual centres.

In the summer of 2004, the Saskatoon Council on Aging (SCOA) undertook to form a Saskatoon Branch of the club. More than 150 people joined and in September 2004 former Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan Lynda Haverstock hosted a tea for members at the Western Development Museum.

Members pay no fees, but must register with SCOA as Century Club branch members. In this way, they are assured of receiving event information and registration details, including how to book free transportation. Members may bring one companion of any age to events. SCOA uses its records to forward birthday greetings to members.

The Saskatoon Century Club is funded through Saskatchewan Lottieries, via the Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism.

George James is a long-time Saskatoon Council on Aging volunteer. SCOA is a non-profit organization that works toward the dignity, health and independence of older adults in Saskatoon and area.


April is Dental Health month – have you had your check-up?

By Mercedes Montgomery

Eat a healthy diet. Avoid sugary snacks. Brush your teeth twice a day, floss once. See your dentist once a year. Good advice? Absolutely!

In fact, thanks to good dental habits and advanced treatment options, a high proportion of today’s older adults are dentate, which means they have their own teeth and plan to stay that way.

“It’s a myth that as we get older we will lose our teeth. It just doesn’t have to happen,” says Cynthia Ostafie, a dental health educator with the Saskatoon Health Region.

Keeping your teeth means following some basic guidelines, says Ostafie: Treat your teeth gently, use a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, floss thoroughly, have professional cleanings followed by a fluoride rinse, and see a dentist each year for that all-important exam (including a check-up for oral cancer).  

My own interest in teeth goes back to my early nursing days when it was common for patients to have no teeth at all. People expected to lose their teeth or have them extracted. Dentures often fit poorly and had to be kept clean. They had to be placed in a denture cup at night and put back into the right mouth in the morning. Occasionally, patients would misplace their dentures or abandon them because they hurt. Many a nurse had to look for dentures in the hospital’s dirty laundry.

It was then I decided to do whatever it took to keep my natural teeth. Today, I’m an   older adult who is dentate (well, the roots anyway and lots of crowns) thanks to advances in dentistry, my commitment and my ability to pay – since much of the dental work occurred before I had a company dental plan.

Over the decades, as people began to understand that many dental problems could be prevented with regular care and visits to the dentist, the shift to prevention and maintenance really got underway. Keeping teeth for life became a real possibility thanks to early intervention, improved treatment of tooth decay, periodontal care (for gum disease), and restoration work including crowns. Company dental insurance plans came along to offset the cost and good dental care became manageable for many. 

Still, not all older adults have fared well, and some people in their middle years will never reach old age with their teeth intact. For many reasons - lack of funds, fear of dentists or other circumstances - they have had only sporadic access to even minimal dental care in the past. At that stage, faced with gum disease and extensive restoration, few affordable treatment options remain, even for people with dental insurance. Most plans provide adequate coverage for preventative services but are much less generous for treatment services like restoration. For example, coverage for dental implants
is rarely covered.  

My friend Marj, also an older adult, has a great new smile after three implants. She saidher new mouth was great but also expensive –  it had cost her $15,000.   

As dental care has shifted to prevention and maintenance and new procedures have become available, many adults have actively denied the myth that loss of teeth is inevitable with aging by “putting their money where their mouth is.” Marj is part of this group, but there are others not so fortunate. 

However, both groups must be concerned about dental care in the future. The mobile, robust older adults of today will become the less mobile, frail or institutionalized older adults of tomorrow. That’s inevitable.

So, what then?

Look for Part Two in a future column.

A former nurse, Mercedes Montgomery volunteers with the Saskatoon Council on Aging and is chair of the communications committee.

Are vulnerable seniors getting adequate dental care?

By Mercedes Montgomery

Is Saskatchewan failing to provide its long term care residents with adequate dental care? The answer may be yes, if some of the examples presented at the first meeting of a new Oral Health Coalition are any indication. The coalition, initiated by the Saskatoon Health Region’s Oral Health Program, brought stakeholders together on May 27th to start working collaboratively with partners to improve the oral health of health region residents. The coalition will meet twice yearly, and is expected to meet again this fall.

Dr. Raj Bhargava is a dentist who runs a mobile clinic for residents in two long term care centres – a pilot project for the Saskatoon Health Region. He recalls one incident where a long term care resident was given antibiotics several times for a facial infection that refused to heal.

When Dr. Bhargava was called in, he found the reason. An intra-oral appliance (fixed bridge) had loosened, became lodged in the patient’s mouth and was causing recurrent gum infections. The resident finally recovered after the appliance and decayed teeth were removed.

Dr. Bhargava has seen other unfortunate outcomes of poor oral health care and asks the question: Why is there no policy for oral health care in long term care facilities in Saskatchewan, including a mandatory baseline standard?

Good oral health is an important contributor to the quality of life of dependent older adults. Scientific evidence links tooth decay and gum disease to problems like heart disease, strokes and aspiration pneumonia, which underlines the importance of daily oral care.

But as Dr Bhargava points out, “That works well until the person is no longer able to look after their own teeth and can’t communicate the need for professional dental intervention and maintenance. With existing medical conditions, several medications, soft diets, and no intraoral care (brushing and flossing), the resident is at a high risk for oral disease. Without access to daily oral hygiene and professional dental services on site – and most patients can’t be taken out – the health of the mouth rapidly deteriorates. Eliminating the risk through good dental care would vastly improve the residents’ quality of life and result in a significant cost saving on health care.” 

Dr. Gerry Uswak, Dean of the University of Saskatchewan College Of Dentistry, speaks of the need for a “coherent oral health care strategy based on research.” This would include private and public groups working together to address oral health needs. 

With dental care delivered on a user pay model, the ability to pay is one of the major reasons for gaps in oral health services. Access is another. The vulnerable older adult may not have the resources to access or pay for treatment.

Dr. Uswak believes that “funding for dental care should be available, at the very least, for the vulnerable groups including those in long term care.” He advocates an assessment-treatment-maintenance model. This would include a regular oral exam on admission, daily oral health care and professional dental care on a regular basis. Improving oral health care education for care givers, family and other health care professionals is essential, along with the crucial introduction of oral health care providers in long term care.

Dr. Bhargava agrees there is an urgent need to have dental care services delivered by a team of dental health professionals, integrated into existing health care services in long term care. Different models of delivery exist in other provinces, but he is convinced that mobile dental clinics could be the answer to providing care for dependent older adults either at home or in long term care centers.

Dr. Uswak likes the mobile clinic idea. “It’s doable, but would need government as a partner, especially to go province wide,” he says.

At present, dentists donate most of the services they provide to vulnerable populations.

Turning to solutions, the meeting generated ideas including a multi-disciplinary approach to oral health care in long term care with medical, nursing and dental professionals collaborating on standards of care and best practices.

But public health policy must also recognize the importance of oral health to overall systemic health with funded programs for preventative care of vulnerable populations, and include dental treatments with other healthcare services. The framework must be established now, along with collaborative efforts of all stakeholders, as long term care populations are set to explode in the coming decade.

A former nurse, Mercedes Montgomery volunteers with the Saskatoon Council on Aging (SCOA) and is chair of the communications committee. SCOA is a voluntary, non-profit organization that works toward the dignity, health and independence of older adults in Saskatoon and area.o

Senior Volunteers make valuable contributions

By Dale Worobec
I’ve noticed something interesting about older adults who volunteer: They seem happier.

Not an earth shattering revelation, especially since the physical and mental health benefits of volunteering are well publicized. But still important to mention.

Seniors’ organizations like the Council on Aging work to prevent problems like depression and isolation, and encouraging older adults to stay active and engaged is always a good thing. I’ve personally met and worked with volunteers in their 80s or 90s who seem twenty years younger than their chronological age. Genetics and healthy living surely play a part, but so do being active, maintaining strong social networks, and making a difference by helping others.

Saskatchewan’s seniors tend to be more active as volunteers than the national Stats Canada average (nearly half our residents over the age of 65 are volunteers, second only to PEI).

But that statistic doesn’t tell the whole story, says Christine Epp, manager of Volunteer Saskatoon, a program of the United Way of Saskatoon and area.

“There is a misperception that seniors volunteer at higher rates, but it’s not really the case. The volunteer rate is actually much higher among the younger age groups,” Epp says, noting the volunteer rate for 15-24 year-olds in Saskatchewan is nearly 70 per cent.

In fact, Saskatchewan’s seniors volunteer at lower rates than all other age groups in our province. Seniors are the only age group with a volunteer rate of less than 50 per cent.

Still, our senior volunteers do contribute significantly more hours: They volunteer an average of 177 hours per year, far above the 116 average hours volunteered by those aged 15-24.

“It’s important to realize that older adults are making a valuable contribution, but the statistics tell us that a few are doing much,” Epp explains.

She says it’s a wakeup call for charity, church or non-profit groups that rely on older adults as volunteers. Organizations need to make it more fulfilling and easier for seniors to be involved – something that will only grow in importance as today’s boomers enter their senior years. This means helping potential volunteers find the right “fit,” whether it means stuffing envelopes a few hours a month or taking a more demanding role as an organizer or committee member.

As for making it easier to volunteer, Volunteer Saskatoon keeps an inventory of opportunities across the city and can match individuals to the roles that fit them best.

“Our inventory of volunteer opportunities is available online or on our bulletin boards, or people can call. And we try to make volunteering a win-win situation. I tell people they need to ask themselves about their reasons for volunteering, how much time they’re willing to commit, and go forward from there,” Epp says.

Older adults interested in learning about volunteer opportunities can contact Volunteer Saskatoon at 975-3477, or visit www.volunteersaskatoon.com. The Saskatoon Council on Aging can also provide information about volunteering in many of its own programs, and can be reached at 652-2255 or by visiting www.scoa.ca

Saskatoon Council on Aging
2020 College Drive Map
Saskatoon SK S7N 2W4
tel: (306) 652-2255
fax: (306) 652-7525

Hours of Operation:
8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Closed over lunch
12 noon - 1:00 pm