MURANews Spring 2020 issue in PDF format
In this issue:
Your Money/Your Health, cont'd
For the first time in MURA’s 35-year history, our MURA newsletter is being published only electronically. The newsletter team and your MURA Council regret that almost 600 retirees who usually are sent their MURAnews by postal mail won’t be receiving this issue because of the lack of availability of printing services, as well as a safe way to prepare the mailing.
“Benefits payable from the [Defined Benefit] pension plans are not impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on financial markets. The plan assets are held in trust, separate from the University’s general revenues. The plans are, and will continue to be, funded in accordance with applicable legislation. The University’s pensioner payroll, delivered by CIBC Mellon Trust Company, remains fully functional and the University does not anticipate payment delays at this time.”The full response can be read here.
Questions about your pension benefit can be directed to email@example.com.
MURA Member Survey
As most of you know, MURA conducted a survey earlier this year to collect information to improve MURA’s programs and services, and to determine how MURA can remain meaningful, helpful and relevant to all retirees.
We had a 28 percent response rate, which is excellent for a survey of this type. Thank you to the almost 600 retirees and spousal survivors of retirees who replied. We’ll have lots of information to share in the report that we’ll send to you as soon as it’s ready, but here are some highlights.
The survey respondents have led productive and engaged lives during the past 2 years:
A profile of respondents shows:
My best wishes to you all.
What’s happening at Mac
photo courtesy of McMaster
Lager Lecture Online
If you enjoy the Lager Lecture series sponsored by the McMaster Alumni Association, check out the online presentation on McMaster’s YouTube channel Move It or Lose It by Dr. Stu Phillips from the Department of Kinesiology.
A full list of Alumni webinars can be found on McMasterUTV.
Two of McMaster's renowned exercise physiologists Martin Gibala and Stuart Phillips, teach a free, four-week online course - Hacking Exercise for Health. In this course, you’ll follow Marty and Stu as they teach you the basics about the way your body boosts its fitness and strength. Next, they’ll apply that theory, providing you with a series of do-anywhere workouts and, most importantly, teaching you what you need to know to design your own sessions. Register here and head back to school...online!
News from MURA
Annual General Meeting and Luncheon Postponed Until Further Notice
On March 22, your MURA Council passed a motion to postpone the MURA 2020 annual general meeting, scheduled to be held on May 28, due to limitations imposed by COVID-19. It will be held as soon as possible. As stipulated by Article 5.06 of the MURA constitution, the current Council and Executive will remain in office until an AGM can be held.
It is most likely that the meeting will not be convened until autumn. Once we can be sure of the timing, MURA Council will set the date and send a notice to all members at their last known active postal or email address at least 30 days prior to the meeting.
Your Money/Your Health
Medical Alert Systems
courtesy of Meanwhile in Canada
by John R. Horsman
The COVID-19 pandemic notwithstanding, our health care system is overloaded as evidenced by wait times to see specialists, over-crowded hospitals, and wait lists for spots in care facilities. It behooves us to be as knowledgeable as possible about the state of our own health and in this age of near instant information we must be cognizant of the reliability of that information. The McMaster Optimal Aging Portal provides a summary of credible information related to healthy aging. The portal or web-site provides easy access to hundreds of topics of interest and relevance to older adults. An article in the Winter 2020 issue of the MURAnews gave advice on how to access the Portal.
While the Portal is not a COVID-19-specific resource, it does provide relevant resources that can help us adjust to this new reality. New Blog Posts and Evidence Summaries based on high-quality evidence provide advice on maintaining health during challenging times. The Portal uses a positive voice to share practical tips for older adults on topics such as: exercise you can do at home, dealing with misinformation, and support for caregivers.
Even during a pandemic, life goes on. The Portal remains an excellent source for health information on health problems related to aging, such as low back pain.
Low back pain (LBP), chronic or acute, is a common problem in older adults. Most doctors will tell you that, in most instances, LBP will resolve itself within a few weeks with rest and relaxation. Maybe, but in the meantime life goes on. Activities of daily living at the very least must be performed. And what if the pain does not go away or returns with the slightest bend, twist, turn, lift — more rest, pain killers, chiropractors? What does a review of the evidence summaries in the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal reveal?
Using the Portal’s Search function with the keywords “Low back pain” results in 19 Evidence Summaries. You can also change the dropdown to the right of your search terms to retrieve Web Resource Ratings, Blog Posts, and Patient Decision Aids. The results are pre-sorted by “Highest rated”, but you can reorder them by “Most accessed” or “Most recent”. Scanning the 19 titles retrieved I concentrated on the 13 articles citing “low-back pain” in the title and have summarized those that are most relevant to LBP in particular.
I started with “In people with acute or chronic low-back pain, some non-drug treatments can provide small to moderate improvement in pain and functioning”, a summary of the published article by Chou R, Deyo R, Friedly J, et al. Nonpharmacologic Therapies for Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review for an American College of Physicians Clinical Practice Guideline. Ann Intern Med. 2017; 166: 493-505. The review question asked if non-drug treatments improve pain and functioning in people with LBP. The authors note that:
a) LBP is very common;
b) has many causes;
c) can be acute, lasting less than four weeks, subacute, lasting 4-12 weeks or chronic, lasting more than 12 weeks; and
d) treatment is difficult and often not very effective at improving pain or functioning.
After reviewing the evidence, the authors recommended that the first choice for treatment in most people with acute and subacute LBP should be superficial heat, massage, acupuncture, or spinal manipulation. For chronic pain they recommended that treatment should begin with non-drug treatment, such as exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, acupuncture, mindfulness-based stress reduction; or yoga, tai chi, progressive relaxation, motor control exercise, electromyography biofeedback, low-level laser therapy, operant therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or spinal manipulation. The review concluded that the benefits of these treatments clearly outweigh the risk or burden of treatment.
A follow-up article from the same systematic review and by the same authors asked if drug treatments improve pain and functioning in people with LBP who do not respond to non-drug treatments. For acute or subacute pain there were strong recommendations (benefits outweigh risks) for the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or skeletal muscle relaxants. For chronic pain the recommendations were weak and the benefits of treatment are finely balanced with the risk or burden of treatment including the use of NSAIDs or Tramadol or Duloxetine. Tramadol is used to help relieve moderate to moderately severe pain. It works in the brain to change how your body feels and responds to pain. Duloxetine is used to treat depression and anxiety but also used to help relieve ongoing pain due to medical conditions such as chronic back pain. NSAIDs and Tramadol had small to moderate effects on improving pain but neither Tramadol nor Duloxetine had more than small effects on improving functioning. The recommendations go on to suggest that if NSAIDs, Tramadol and Duloxetine fail then opioids may be considered.
A study of people with chronic non-cancer pain who were prescribed opioids did find a reduction of pain by a small amount. The cause of the pain varied considerably amongst the patients in this study, but did include LBP. The study concluded that improvements were very small and would not be noticeable by most people and that although the opioid and placebo groups differed, the differences were not large enough for most individual patients to consider important.
Spinal manipulation, including chiropractic therapy, was found, in general, to improve LBP by a small amount for up to six weeks and improved functioning somewhat at three to six weeks but that the effects of spinal manipulation were quite different across studies and that there is a dearth of information about the adverse effects of spinal manipulation compared with other therapies.
What about yoga as treatment for chronic non-specific LBP? The Cochrane Collaboration reported on 12 studies with over 1000 participants to answer the review question “Does yoga improve back-related function and pain in people with chronic non-specific LBP?” Compared to non-exercise there was low-to-moderate evidence that yoga was probably better in improving back function at three-, six-, and 12-months but the effects were not considered clinically important. When compared to back-focused exercise, there may be little or no difference between yoga and other exercise in improving back function at three- and six-months. It is uncertain whether yoga added to exercise was better than exercise alone for back function or pain.
Yet another study asked how well acetaminophen works for non-specific LBP. Acetaminophen (paracetamol) is one of the most commonly prescribed medicines for people with LBP. The study looked at two trials with 1785 participants with acute LBP testing acetaminophen against a non-medicinal placebo. They concluded that acetaminophen does not produce better outcomes (pain, disability, quality of life, activities of daily living, side effects and quality of sleep) than placebo for people with acute LBP.
A study of herbal medicines for the treatment of LBP noted that up to 35% of the population can be affected in a given month. The study concludes that there is low-to-moderate quality evidence showing four herbal medicines may reduce acute and chronic LBP in the short-term with few side-effects, although there is no evidence that they are safe or efficacious for long-term use. Cayenne (Capsicum frutescens) reduced pain more than placebo, and there is low-to-moderate quality evidence that the following may also reduce pain more than placebo: Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) aka grapple plant or wood spider, white willow bark (Salix alba) nature’s aspirin, Common comfrey (Symphytum officinale) and Solidago chilensis (a plant native to Chile and Argentina, not to be confused with Sinezona chilensis, a minute sea snail), as well as lavender essential oil applied by acupressure.
Other blog posts and evidence summaries recently added to the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal are concerned with a variety of health-related issues important for today’s older adult including:
- Management strategies for sufferers of osteoarthritis of the hip or knee;
- Online support services available for caregivers during the global pandemic calling for social distancing;
- Ways to stay active while at home;
- Urban green spaces associated with positive health, social, environmental outcomes;
- Echinacea may help to slightly reduce the risk of getting an upper respiratory tract infection, but does not decrease length of illness.
Use these links for direct access to the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal and the portal’s COVID-19 resources.
Stay safe, be healthy.
courtesy of Meanwhile in Canada
Computer Tips & Tricks
Streaming Music Services
by Nora Gaskin
Wish you could hear any piece of music you want, whenever you want, without having to own a copy on CD or MP3? Streaming music services give you access to huge catalogues of music from a wide variety of genres and time periods, and are relatively inexpensive (or free).
Streaming differs from downloading in that no copy of the music is saved to your device, though most services have a paid tier that allows downloading, which is useful for times when you’re not connected to the internet, or want to limit your data use. Access is available on a wide variety of devices.Paid Music Streaming Subscriptions
Both Spotify and Apple Music allow you to create your own playlists, share them with others, and access curated playlists organized by theme, genre or time period. They also offer music discovery features that suggest music based on your preferences and listening history.Spotify
- Library size: 50 million tracks
- Audio quality: 320kbps
- Platforms: iOS and Android apps, desktop app, web player, smart TV apps, connected speaker support, cars
- Spotify Premium monthly charges: single user $9.99; duo (couple under one roof, 2 accounts) $12.99; family of up to 6 accounts $14.99; university student $4.99; free trial period 3 months
- Library size: 60 million tracks
- Audio quality: 256 kbps, but better quality ACC codec
- Platforms: iOS and Android apps, macOS, Apple Watch, Apple TV, CarPlay, HomePod, Windows, Chrome OS, Amazon Echo, Sonos, and Web
- Price: monthly individual $9.99; annual individual $99.99; family (includes up to 6 family members) $14.99; student $4.99; free trial period: 3 months
Other notable paid streaming services
- Tidal: high-quality audio and music-related articles
- Amazon Music Unlimited: offers a price cut for Amazon Prime members
- YouTube Music Premium: listen ad-free, offline and with your screen turned off
- SiriusXM Internet Radio: satellite and outside-the-car options available
Free Music Streaming Options
A number of options are available for free music streaming, though most include ads, exclude offline listening, and have more limited functionality and poorer audio quality than the paid services. Top free music streaming services include:
- Spotify Free: play music in shuffle mode only
- Google Play Music: access to 40 million songs on “curated radio stations”; upload 50,000 songs from your personal collection
- iHeartRadio: live radio, customizable stations and podcasts
- YouTube Music: a tailored interface to YouTube oriented towards music streaming
- Last.fm: focuses on recommending music based on your listening habits
- Amazon Prime Music: free for Amazon Prime members
- Business Insider: The best music streaming services you can subscribe to
- CNET: Best music streaming service for 2020: Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon and more
- Finder: Music streaming finder
- Gizmodo: The Best Music Streaming Services If You Don't Want to Pay a Dime
- What Hi-Fi?: Best free music apps: free music on Android and iPhone
courtesy of Meanwhile in Canada
Virtual sites to explore while waiting out the COVID-19 pandemic
compiled by Helen Ayre and Denise Anderson
Now that it is no longer possible to visit museums, galleries and famous landmarks in person, many custodians of these sites have opened up their treasures for virtual exploration. The following are a few of the many sites that can be enjoyed from the quiet of your own home:
- Heart and Soul Fitness — do a search using keyword “seniors”, and you’ll find easy and gentle workouts while seated or standing
Beginning to tire of decluttering and catching up on Netflix? Need to broaden your horizons? An online course to sharpen skills or learn new ones can be a fruitful and involving way to spend some time, and Lynda.com can help with that.
Lynda.com – Free Online Learning Tool
by Nora Gaskin
Update from CURAC – Your National Retiree Association
Welcome new members
Martin Butcher, Oncology
Lori Cole, Engineering Physics
Michele Drummond-Young, Nursing
Linda Frenette, Medicine
Marianne Hannon, Family Medicine
Sonia Hawrylyshyn, Human Resource Services, Health Sciences
Peter Koudys, Civil Engineering
Dina LoPresti, School of Graduate Studies
Brian MacDougall, Maintenance Services
Catharine Oudshoorn, Medicine
Rocco Piro, Computer Services Unit, Health Sciences
Peter (Yuanyuan) Shi, Medicine
Ruta Valaitis, Nursing
Angela Vanderlaan, Chemistry & Chemical Biology
Stephen Webb, Psychiatry
And a belated welcome to:
Annette Di Diodato, Treasury Operations
Dale Tomlinson, National Pain Centre
Joseph Adamson, English, Apr. 3/20
Stanley Bayley, Biology, Dec. 27/19
Mona Callin, Nursing, Mar. 7/20
Carolina Castellanos, Materials Science, Feb. 6/20
Eugene Combs, Religious Studies, Feb. 16/20
Joyce Gillies, Public Relations, Feb. 28/20
Grace Gordon, Religious Studies, Jan. 21/20
Gordon Richard Hayes, Library, Jan. 14/20
Edward Kingstone, Psychiatry, Mar. 29/20
Juan Arturo Lopez, Central Animal Facility, Jan. 13/20
Mary O’Dowd, Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Dec. 4/17
Nancy Pollock, School of Rehabilitation Science, Feb. 24/20
Ludvik Prevec, Biology, Mar. 29/20
Yolanda Ricci, Office of the Registrar (Admissions), Mar. 30/20
Reginald Ripton, Sociology, Jan. 27/20
Michael Stein, Political Science, Jan. 19/20
William Warriner, Chemical Engineering, Jul. 20/19
Chauncey Wood, English, Mar. 26/20
courtesy of The Toronto Star
Parking Permit Expiry Renewal ReminderRetiree parking permits are issued on a 12-month basis and must be renewed annually. Renew prior to your expiry date, by email or in person (during the pandemic by appointment only) at the Parking Office (T32 room 106). Your transponder number is on the front of your transponder. If you have questions or have not made a note of your expiry date, please contact McMaster Parking Services by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 905-525-9140 ext. 24232.
Note that central-campus parking (with a transponder) is available to McMaster Retirees as follows:
- May to August each year:
- Access to lots B, C, D, H, I, K, M, N, P and Underground Stadium at all times.
- September to April each year:A note to retirees without parking transponders
- Access to Lots B, C, D and I will be permitted after 12:30 pm on weekdays.
- Access to Lots H, K, M, N, P and Underground Stadium at all times on weekdays.
- Access to Lots B, C, D, H, I, K, M, N, P and Underground Stadium at all times on weekends and holidays.
Free parking on campus is available to retirees. To take advantage of this perk, go to the McMaster Parking Services web page or visit the Parking Office in Room 106 in T32 (building adjacent to the McMaster Children's Centre) between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday to Friday (during the pandemic by appointment only). There is also service available at the Parking Services and Photo Identification Kiosk in the Campus Store in Gilmour Hall; call (905) 525-9140 extension 23018 for current hours of operation (N.B. closed during the pandemic).
MURAnews is produced by MURA members Denise Anderson (Production Editor), Helen Ayre (Co-News Editor), Helen Barton, Phyllis DeRosa-Koetting, Marju Drynan, John Horsman, and Mary Johnston (Co-News Editor). We welcome submissions from MURA members.
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