Saskatoon Council on Aging - Age-friendly community

About Prime of Life:

The Prime of Life was a monthly column by the Saskatoon Council on Aging in the Sunday Sun (2007 t0 2012), 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. For articles prior to 2010, contact SCOA 306-652-2255.

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



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





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 

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


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

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:

 306 655-4346

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  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, 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  You can find them on the internet at

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



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
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

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 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


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.

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, 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

To register call the Council at 652-2255.