Thursday Tidbits

Posted on January 17, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment

Mini library at Redfern Park – Victoria, B.C.


I think it is fair to say that young children, who have been read to by parents or grandparents, have a distinct edge, not only when they start school but with life in general. Young people are sponges and learn at an astonishing pace. When the light finally goes on and they start to string words together, it is absolutely magical.

But what happens at the other end of the spectrum when the light begins to dim, when eyesight fails or words themselves become incomprehensible? The aging process robs many people of their innate abilities and very often their dignity.

I spend a lot of time with an elderly population, performing music at one of our excellent local nursing homes. I see the power of music as it reawakens memories of the past. In the last days of my mother’s life, when conversations about everyday things was no longer possible, we spoke to each other through music.

Most of us know how difficult it is when a loved one is ill, hospitalized for a long time or is spending their final days in a nursing home. You run out of things to talk about. Much of the conversation revolves around health and how they are feeling on any given day. It often leads to depressing small talk. This grows old quickly and become tedious for all involved. What can one do to fill this void?

Story telling.

I read an excellent piece in last weekend’s Globe and Mail by Meghan Cox Gurdon called “Magic Words.” Here’s what she had to say: “Reading aloud is something we associate with children and bedtime stories. But for grownups, and especially the elderly, it can also tie us together, improve our minds and ease our loneliness.” While her piece is not ground breaking it certainly reaffirms that reading at every age has positive outcomes.

Not everyone can sing or play a musical instrument but most people know how to read. The next time you visit someone sick or infirm, why not try bringing along a few books and reading a paragraph or two.  I have found that playing songs from a different era easily engages the elderly. It’s what they know and what they like. My hunch is that it would be the same with books. But one never knows. Something splendid and spellbinding like Harry Potter might work too!

More and more nursing homes are seeing the value of therapy dog visits, cats wandering the halls, birds chirping in cages, along with art classes, gardening, writing classes and improv. Let’s face it; these are all the things of our childhood that made life joyous and wondrous. We were constantly improvising, spending time with pets and drawing, singing and reading.

I just wrapped up my three week dog sitting gig in Victoria. I am not a lifelong dog person but I really enjoyed my twice daily walks with Cooper and having his company around the house. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!

Have a great weekend.

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on January 10, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

Logged a few kilometers yesterday… 32.5 to be exact.


I do a lot of thinking about my health these days which is pretty standard practice for the over 65 crowd. I can’t think of too many people my age who don’t have a health issue of some sort whether it is creaky bones, poor sight or questionable hearing. Questionable hearing is not to be confused with selective listening especially if your spouse or partner is on the other end of the communication. Many others have afflictions far worse.

A few years ago, I attended a most interesting lecture at St.F.X. University. The guest speaker was Ryan Meili, author of the book “A Healthy Society: How a Focus on Health Can Revive Canadian Democracy. Don’t go to sleep on me here. He talked about the social determinants of health. According to a Government of Canada website, “determinants of health are the broad range of personal, social, economic and environmental factors that determine individual and population health.”

I won’t list them all. There are eleven including (surprise, surprise) income and social status, education and literacy, healthy behaviours and access to health services. To see the full list click on this link:

I want to focus here on number 6 which is social supports and coping skills.

I’m doing a lot of walking these days with my brother out here in Victoria. He is a walking machine. He walks at least twice a day to keep him and his dog in good shape. Very often he walks with friends. Of all the social determinants of health, friendship might be the most underrated. Friendship is a form of social support and having good friends can make a huge difference in a person’s physical and mental health. Walking is good for the heart, the mind and the soul. Add liberal doses of talk and laughter along the trail is an added bonus.

We may not be able to rearrange our DNA or easily change our economic status, but staying connected and walking with friends can be achieved by almost everyone.

Which leads nicely to my brief rant on health care. I know some retired professionals in Victoria who have to get up in the wee hours of the morning to stand in line before a walk-in clinic opens, in the hope of seeing a doctor of their choosing. Getting a family doctor has become as elusive as tracking down Nessie. I don’t know a damn thing about health boards or how the health care delivery system is administered but something seems terribly out of whack when people in one of the most privileged countries in the world can’t find a family doctor.

None of us should become blasé about this. Record numbers of family doctors will retire in the next 5-10 years… including yours. Do you have a plan going forward?

I still naively believe that more dollars spent on prevention of disease and providing incentives for healthy living might be a long term solution but more often than not, the decision makers (politicians) are constrained with the immediacy of getting elected in 3-4 years.

In our own community, we have the ongoing story about a well loved and respected surgeon who finds herself on the outs with the Health Authority.How could this happen? Small communities are desperate to attract and keep good doctors.

Is our health care system broken?

Have a great week.

P.S. I arrived at my brother’s house the other morning for the first of two walks that day. We normally walk for 90 minutes just to get the heart started. “We’re doing an epic walk this morning,” he informed me. Three and a half hours and 16k later we arrived at our destination – the Jubilee Hospital. How appropriate. I thought an oxygen mask would come in handy!

P.P.S. My new book is available now on Kindle.



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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on January 3, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

Au Revoir to Christmas 2018



I am writing this post on New Year’s Day. Mercifully, I’m not hungover. I took care of that eight years ago, one New Year’s resolution that I have actually honored. I didn’t see many people out doing a 10K walk at 6:00 a.m. this morning!

Today is a day when many people look backwards and forward at the same time.

I attended a very civilized, low keyed New Year’s Eve potluck. There’s was lots of discussion about politics, pipelines and POTUS. A few of us, who had logged over 22K of walking that day, chose not to stay around and play games. We did, however, ring in the New Year but we cheated a bit. We decided to go with Nova Scotia time and clinked our glasses at the stroke of 8:00 p.m. Pacific time. This is a sure sign of aging when you have a pretend New Year’s Eve so that you can get home and under the covers long before the fireworks begin. The definition of boring!

We did stick around long enough to play one simple game. What was your most memorable event of 2018? It didn’t have to be necessarily good or bad but merely the one thing that stood out in 2018. I thought about the amazing job that our small community did in hosting the National Special Olympics last summer. That was unquestionably a high point for Antigonish but the question posed was more about personal highs and lows.

One of the people in the room had authored a prize winning scholarly book. Hint – it wasn’t me! Another couple who have one child felt the pains of watching their daughter go off to university in Montreal. There were lots of other interesting observations. When it came my turn, I didn’t have to think for even a second. Our mother’s passing on May 17th was a seminal event for the family. The memory of that time (and there were plenty of them) that will remain with me forever was singing one of mom’s favourite songs, “Abide With Me” along with my seven siblings at her funeral.

So, how about you? Can you easily pinpoint the highlight or lowlight of the year just passed?

Have you trotted out your resolutions for 2019? If it’s doing something about your waste line (pun intended), that doesn’t count. On this day, there is plenty of self- loathing going around. Too much food, too much drink, and credit cards that are too hot to the human touch. I implore you. DO NOT get on a bathroom scale today. You will hate yourself and will probably kick that scale around the bathroom floor, realizing that it has played a cruel trick on you. We’ll all self-regulate in the days to come and return to some semblance of normalcy, whatever in the hell that is.

There will be lineups at gyms and yoga studios for the next month and slowly but surely the old habits will creep back in unless you are supremely disciplined and determined. Treadmills in your basement will once again occupy their rightful places as convenient locales to hang laundry on the handrails. These same treadmills will become a common item at the curb in the summer during yard sale season.

Am I suggesting that you are spineless, lacking a shred of willpower? Not at all. I am just an observer of the human condition. It was Robbie Burns who said, “The best-laid plans of mice and men go awry.”

What will you do to make the world a better place this year?

All the best in the year ahead.

P.S. Thankfully our apartment is too small for a treadmill. That’s why I find walking a very reasonable and cost effective alternative!


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