MURAnews Spring 2023 issue in PDF format / in accessible PDF format
In this issue:
As I write this message we are experiencing a burst of summer weather, which feels very strange, if not unwelcome, after winter seemed to last forever. I know this will not last more than a few days, but most of us are making the most of it, accelerating lawn and garden care while we can. Next week we will launder our shorts and sleeveless tops, and put them away for another month or so. But at least we had a taste of what lies ahead.
News from MURA
Notice of Annual General Membership Meeting
Special Presentation to the AGM
Maintaining Good Health in Retirement
Is there a health-related change you need or want to make? If so, then don't miss this presentation where you’ll learn research-based approaches that have been proven to help people reach their goals, whether it be starting a new exercise program, losing weight, or managing a health condition like diabetes.
Dr. Diana Sherifali is a tenured Associate Professor in the School of Nursing at McMaster University and the inaugural holder of the Heather M. Arthur Population Health Research Institute/ Hamilton Health Sciences Chair in Inter-Professional Health Research at McMaster University. Dr. Sherifali’s health services research has focused on co-designing, evaluating, and implementing diabetes interventions to support patients and health care providers. Dr. Sherifali has explored the role of coaching through pilot studies, community-based studies, and evidence syntheses. More recently, Dr. Sherifali has co-designed, implemented and/or evaluated technology solutions to support individuals living with type 2 diabetes, collaborating with industry and academic leaders in digital diabetes self-management. Finally, Dr. Sherifali is the Lead of the McMaster Evidence Review & Synthesis Team (MERST). MERST produces high-quality literature reviews, which are the bedrock of evidence-based healthcare. Her work has been funded, published, and presented nationally and internationally.
2023 Nominating Committee Report
MURA Council 2023/2024
In accordance with Article 8.01 Section 3 of the MURA Constitution: “Further nominations for the nominated positions will be received by the Secretary of the Association up to seven (7) days prior to the date set for the annual general meeting from nominators who are regular members of the Association together with the verbal or written acceptance of the nominee. Nominations will also be received from regular members at the annual general meeting.”Honorary President *: Alvin Lee
Proposed Changes to MURA’s Constitution
The proposed constitutional changes accomplish the following:
We have experienced a number of changes in lifestyle since the MURA Constitution was last amended in 2006. Many of the changes are proposed to update the Constitution to our collective new reality.
Explanation of Proposed Amendments
Welcome New Retirees
Compiled by Kathy Overholt
Susan Emigh, Public Relations
MURA Spring Fling 2023
Welcome to the nicer weather! It’s been a while since MURA Council has felt comfortable enough to plan an in-person gathering. We are hoping the time has come.
We have booked the Phoenix Patio in the Refectory Building for Tuesday June 6 from 11:30 to 2:30 and hope that you will join us. We will be outdoors on the best patio in Hamilton. (Unless the weather turns really bad, in which case we will move inside).
A BBQ will be served from 12:00 to 1:00 (vegetarian or non-vegetarian options), along with salads, potatoes etc., non-alcoholic drinks, and dessert. The cost per person is $25.00. A cash bar will be available.
Space is limited to 125 people, so please make your booking ASAP to avoid being disappointed.
Please buy your tickets online with a credit card at https://campusstore.mcmaster.ca/MURA. Ticket purchases are limited to two per person. Please note any special dietary needs in the Comments box on the checkout page.
If you do not have a credit card or online access please call Mary Gauld, MURA’s event coordinator, at 905-906-5604 on or before May 19. Mary will facilitate your registration.
While masks are no longer required on the McMaster campus, we encourage you to bring and wear a mask if you are most comfortable doing so.
We hope that you can join us. It has been too long.
Complimentary Parking for the Spring Fling
MURA thanks Parking Services for their generous support
Retirees who do not have a McMaster parking permit and transponder will have access to any parking lot showing “Visitors – Open”. The Sterling Street campus entrance shown on the map leads to Parking Lots B, C and D and the underground Stadium lot.
Park in any parking lot showing “Visitors - Open”. Take an entry ticket from the machine at the lot entrance and exchange it for a complimentary Rebate Voucher at the luncheon registration table. Your Rebate Voucher can be used at the exit gate to “pay” for your parking when you leave your parking lot. If none of these lots show “Visitors - Open”, use the Help button at a lot entrance that indicates “Full to Visitors” to gain access or be directed to an available lot.
Retirees with valid transponders may park in any lot that shows “Transponders – Open”. During May to August, retiree parking permits allow access to Lots B, C, D, H, I, K, N, P and the Underground Stadium at all times.
For the mobility impaired: If you have an Ontario Accessible Parking Permit and require reserved accessible parking, or the walking distance from the parking lots to the Phoenix is problematic for you, please call Mary Gauld, MURA’s event coordinator, at 905-906-5604 on or before May 19. Mary will facilitate your parking needs.
McMaster Note Cards
Retirees in the News
By Marcia MacAulay
Choosing to Support Future Students
Evan Simpson, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Philosophy, and former Dean of the Faculty of Humanities has chosen to support students through a gift in his will. Recognizing the impact education has for many students, and knowing first-hand the importance community support can play in shaping university activities, Evan is leaving a gift in his will to support the Faculty of Humanities, with hope it may inspire others to do the same.
Read Evan’s story How a past dean is choosing to support future students through a gift in his will.
To learn more about how you can make a difference through a gift in your will to McMaster, please contact Eli Clarke, Manager, Estate Giving & Legacy Planning at email@example.com or 905-525-9140, Extension 21533.
Remembering a Former McMaster Chancellor
John Panabaker, McMaster’s Chancellor from 1986 to 1992, also served on the Board of Governors for 12 years including two years as Chair. McMaster recognized his contributions with an honorary Doctor of Law degree in 1981, an induction into the McMaster Alumni Gallery in 1982, the 1997 McMaster Students Union Alumni Association Lifetime Leadership Award, and the McMaster Alumni Associations Distinguished Service Award in 2011. He was also awarded honorary degrees from the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, received the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation Medal, and became a member of the Order of Canada. A dedicated McMaster philanthropist, Dr. Panabaker made significant contributions to many projects over decades including the creation of the John H. Panabaker Trust Fund and the Panabaker Digitization Trust. His generosity enabled the McMaster Museum of Art to digitize their entire permanent collection.
See the Daily News article Remembering McMaster Chancellor Emeritus John Panabaker.
MURA Graduate Scholarship Fund
– It’s fully funded!
First Recipient to be named in December
Thank you to the many retirees and friends of MURA who have contributed generously to the MURA Graduate Scholarship endowment fund. The funding goal has been surpassed, so the first annual $1,000 scholarship will be awarded in December. This award supports graduate students who are focusing their research and education on technological advances related to seniors.
Please continue to direct your McMaster donations to this fund to make it grow. For example, with an additional $5,000, the scholarship could be increased to $1,250.
Donate online at MURAscholarship.ca, or by phone at 905-525-9150, ext. 24224. Every gift will help support McMaster graduate students. Donations are tax-deductible.
MURA members have been generously supporting academic awards since 1992. A separate, fully-funded endowment continues to provide an annual $2,500 in-course scholarship and a $750 graduand prize to undergraduate students studying society’s aging population.
Compiled by Kathy Overholt
Eleanor Boyle, Financial Services, April 27, 2023
*William Coleman – View the Faculty of Social Sciences tribute Celebrating the life and achievements of William D. Coleman.
(College and University Retiree Associations of Canada)
The 2023 CURAC/ARUCC Annual Conference, its first face-to-face conference post COVID-19, is being held in Saskatoon from May 31 to June 1, hosted by the University of Saskatchewan Retirees Association. Post-secondary retiree association members from across the country will gather to share ideas and information, and to participate in educational sessions themed “The New World”. McMaster retirees are welcome to attend. Details can be found on the CURAC website.
What's Happening at Mac
By Marcia MacAulay
McMaster University’s Health Leadership Academy (HLA)
McMaster University’s Health Leadership Academy is on a mission to transform Canadian health care. The HLA is realizing its mission through innovative new programs through a partnership between McMaster’s Faculty of Health Sciences and the DeGroote School of Business.
One HLA initiative is a collaborative National Health Fellows Program focused on helping senior leaders implement improvements and learn from health-care innovators and disruptors across the country and internationally. This program will culminate in a health forum this September in Hamilton.
The HLA is also offering a Collaborative Health Governance program which launched last year and addresses challenges facing both health and social sectors boards. In addition, a health improvement and faculty innovation program will launch later this year.
Art Meets (Health) Sciences in New Collaborative Anatomy Class
Art students at McMaster have long followed in the footsteps of the legendary artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Mansur ibn Ilyas, drawing preserved specimens of bones, organs, and structures, as well as bodies that have been donated for the purpose of education and research.
Now, a more formal arrangement has students from the School of Arts learning their craft alongside Faculty of Health Sciences students in the interprofessional education (IPE) dissection course. This collaboration between art and science has students from both faculties not only learning from the specimen in front of them, but also from each other.
See the Daily News article: Art meets (health) science in new collaborative anatomy class.
Latest News in Research at McMaster
By Dawnelle Hawes
Health & Medicine; Infectious Disease
McMaster scientist wins prestigious award for superbug research.
Dr. Lori Burrows, professor in Biochemistry & Biomedical Sciences at McMaster has been making news with her research into the types of infections that continually morph to become drug resistant. The global impact of these infections has been a health crisis that kills more than one million people annually.1
Dr. Burrows has been honoured by the Canadian Association for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (CACMID) with the 2023 John G. FitzGerald award for her lab’s research into “an ubiquitous drug-resistant pathogen that causes pneumonia and other hospital-acquired infections”. Dr. Burrows says that antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest challenges in clinical microbiology. Her lab’s focus is on global solutions that encompass both new antibiotics and a “thinking-outside-the-box” application for current antibiotics.
In 2020, Dr. Burrows was also awarded the prestigious Canadian Society of Microbiologists’ Murray Award for Career Achievement. She puts the funds that she received into an award called the Burrows Award for Womxn2 in Microbiology. Her intent is to acknowledge womxn graduate students in microbiology for “both scientific excellence and commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.” She believes in paying it forward to her trainee collaborators (past and present) who are an integral part of any recognition she receives.
Visit the Brighter World article McMaster scientist wins prestigious award for superbug research for more details.
1Canada. Public Health Agency of Canada. Canadian Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System Report (Online). [Ottawa], 2021. [Apr. 13, 2023].
Health & Medicine; Medical Discovery
Shooting for the stars: How a team of researchers and students built and launched McMaster’s first space mission. A giant leap for students and researchers.
A team of students and researchers at McMaster has built a satellite that’s capable of measuring radiation levels in space. More than 150 students and researchers have worked on the creation of a satellite since January 2015. Their first hurdle was to build the satellite; getting it into space was a whole different challenge.
CSA (the Canadian Space Agency) received the satellite in November 2022 and at 8:30 pm EDT on March 14, 2023, more than 20 members of the team watched their satellite launch from Kennedy Space Centre. It was secured aboard a Falcon 9 rocket which was headed for the International Space Station (ISS). This was an incredible high point to eight years of hard work and late nights.
After one to two months aboard the ISS, the astronauts will send NEUDOSE into low Earth orbit. The satellite will continue to send back data to McMaster ground station for analysis and distribution world-wide.
Dr. Andrei Hanu, adjunct assistant professor of Physics & Astronomy and NEUDOSE co-principal investigator reflected, “We want our instrument to become the default Canadian radiation instrument for future missions to the Moon and eventually deep space….Right now, this is a technology demonstration mission, but eventually NEUDOSE will be a standard radiation instrument.”
See the Brighter World articles How does the NEUDOSE satellite work? and Meet the team that built McMaster’s first satellite.
Health & Medicine; Infectious Disease
McMaster researchers crafting post-COVID condition guidelines.
Dr. Holger Schünemann, McMaster professor in the departments of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact and of Medicine, in conjunction with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is developing official guidelines to address post-COVID-19 condition (PCC), more commonly called “long COVID.” These guidelines, to be published early in 2024, aim to cover identification, prevention, assessment, management, follow-up and monitoring of people with PCC. Dr. Schünemann’s project will focus on PCC’s impact in Canada. The federal government has invested $9 million in this project.
Researchers intend to “create easy-to-use tools to bring evidence into clinical practice and the community, paying particular attention to equity-deserving populations.” As well, “Another component of this project will evaluate the uptake of the tools and recommendations to understand what was successful and what needs to be improved for the longer term.”
According to Health Canada, physical or psychological symptoms lasting for more than 12 weeks after contracting COVID-19 are classified as PCC. Quite different from the initial COVID infection, adult symptoms can most commonly include fatigue, sleeping issues, shortness of breath, cognitive problems (e.g., memory loss, difficulty thinking or concentrating) or mental health symptoms (i.e., anxiety or depression, among others). Severity of symptoms can vary and sometimes may disappear and reappear for no apparent reason.
People who may be at greater risk of PCC include female gender, people who had more severe cases of COVID-19 (e.g., hospitalization, time in intensive care), and people with underlying chronic conditions.
Preliminary evidence still suggests that having two or more doses of a vaccine before contracting COVID-19 may help to reduce the risk of developing PCC.
See Brighter World’s McMaster researchers crafting post-COVID condition guidelines and, from the Public
Study Looking for Volunteers to Participate in Mobility Programs
Are you experiencing recent changes in the way you walk two kilometres? Researchers at the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University are looking for adults (age 55-75) with early changes in their mobility to take part in a study. You will be asked to participate in a 12-week mobility program, either virtually or by telephone, and undergo four virtual assessments with a physiotherapist over 36 weeks. To be eligible, you must have a tablet or laptop computer with internet service at home. More information about this mobility study can be found here. If you are interested in participating, please contact Susanne Sinclair at firstname.lastname@example.org.
McMaster Convocation Assistants
The Office of the Registrar welcomes retirees to become involved in the most exciting days of McMaster students’ academic lives — convocations.
Volunteers are needed to assist at convocations, where your role would be to meet, greet and direct students and guests, check tickets and/or distribute hoods and diplomas to students. You will work alongside a full-time employee who can offer assistance and training.
If you are interested in signing up for any of the days listed below (full or half day options), please complete the online Volunteer sign-up form by May 5th for May ceremonies or May 26th for June ceremonies.
More details on convocation can be found on the Office of the Registrar's Upcoming graduation events web page, or by contacting Rachel Huang in the Office of the Registrar at email@example.com.
An Invitation to Become a Volunteer Workshop Facilitator
The Hamilton Council on Aging (HCoA) has developed a series of virtual and in-person workshops created to encourage, educate and empower older adults to age positively and safely get around in their communities, and to inspire older adults to keep moving!
If this sounds like you, please send an email expressing your interest to the HCoA at firstname.lastname@example.org. You will then be sent an application form. Once you submit the completed application form, you will be contacted and provided with information about time commitment, upcoming training opportunities and volunteer facilitator responsibilities.
Your Money/Your Health
Diet and Healthy Aging
By John Horsman
A well balanced, nutritious diet is a must for keeping our bodies healthy, especially as we age. Research has shown that a healthy diet helps with weight control, improved mood and mental well-being, managing blood pressure, diabetes, heart health and much more. There is so much information, both in print and online, that it can be difficult to keep abreast of the latest and greatest relevant information. Here’s a look at some of the ways diet can affect our health.
Certain diets can benefit heart health, including the flow of blood through our veins and arteries. Here’s an interesting fact: An adult human has approximately 60,000 miles – nearly 100,000 kilometers – of blood vessels in their body. That is roughly two times the circumference of the earth. That network of veins and arteries keeps blood flowing, supplying tissues and organs with oxygen and other nutrients for a healthy body. Most often, diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels are the result of plaque deposits causing narrowing or even blockages. This is most often caused by high cholesterol. Lifestyle choices like diet modifications are a good way to reduce the risk of and combat heart disease. For example, the National Cholesterol Education Program Step II Diet, the Portfolio diet, can reduce cholesterol and other fats in the blood as well as reduce inflammation, blood pressure and coronary heart disease. [Also see Nora Gaskin’s article on ‘Managing Cholesterol with Diet and Lifestyle Changes’ below.]
Adopting a healthy diet not only has beneficial effects on physical health – weight control, reducing risk of chronic disease – but also on improved mental well-being and mood.
The McMaster Optimal Aging Portal has featured resources including videos and blogs where you can learn more about diets and how they impact your health. Some examples: a video post and blog on vegetarian diets and weight loss; blog posts on mental well-being and diet; a blog post on the Portfolio Diet and your heart health, and a blog post on increasing fruit and vegetable consumption to get your blood pressure down.
Food prices are rising faster than our pensions, so it makes sense to get the best information available and make intelligent choices about what to eat for the good of our pocketbooks and bodies.
Managing Cholesterol with Diet and Lifestyle Changes
By Nora Gaskin
According to the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal, “High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. A healthy diet and active lifestyle can reduce your cholesterol levels and improve your well-being.”
There are two main types of cholesterol:
Cholesterol levels can be altered with diet and lifestyle changes and/or medication. If your cholesterol is considered mildly or moderately high, you may be able to lower your LDL and increase your HDL without medication.
Moderate physical activity can help raise HDL and lower LDL. If you don’t currently exercise much, start slowly, and consult your doctor before starting an exercise or fitness program.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults should:
Walking, jogging, cycling, and swimming are examples of aerobic exercise. Any aerobic physical activity that lasts at least ten minutes is beneficial. It doesn't matter if you exercise for 30 minutes in one go or incorporate three ten-minute activities into your day.
2. If you smoke, quit
Quitting smoking can help raise HDL, lower LDL, and improve the health of blood vessels. According to the Mayo Clinic, the benefits occur quickly:
For quitting strategies, one good online resource is Patient education: Quitting smoking (Beyond the Basics).
3. If you need to, lose weight
Carrying even a few extra pounds contributes to high cholesterol. Healthy, moderate eating and increased activity can help.
4. Drink alcohol only in moderation
Too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure and strokes.
A Reminder for Your End-of-Life Planning
You might be amazed to learn how often Human Resources does not find out about a retiree’s death until months – or even years – after it occurs.
Make things easier for the executor of your will and your family by putting a note with your will and other important papers, instructing that Human Resources should be informed of your death as soon as possible. The Human Resources Services Centre can be contacted by phone at 905-525-9140, ext. 22247, or by email at email@example.com.
Without timely notification, your estate will be required to pay back any pension payments received after your death.
Thinking About Enrolling in Courses at Mac?
By Denise Anderson
Now that many activities have opened up again, perhaps you’re thinking you want to do something that will challenge your mind. Well, how about registering for a course or two at McMaster over the coming months? There are a number of learning opportunities open to McMaster retirees, along with some financial assistance.
As you go through each step of the process (application to McMaster, admission to a program, selection of courses, financial assistance/payment of courses, and enrolment in courses), you will be provided with instructions to guide you, along with technical and academic support.
The information in this article is based on part-time studies (one or two courses per term).
Undergraduate Programs and Courses
Up-to-date information can be found in the current Undergraduate Calendar or on the McMaster Future Students website.
Second Bachelor’s Degree (note that not all programs can be done as a second degree)
Financing Your Courses (Undergraduate)
Some undergraduate courses may be offered online but, in general, McMaster is not able to offer an entire undergraduate degree fully online.
Once admitted to your program of studies, your Academic Advisor in the Office of the Associate Dean of your Faculty can help with any questions. However, assistance is also available for basic inquiries through the chatbot on the Office of the Registrar website (look for the “Chat with us now” box). The chatbot can also connect you with a Service Representative from the appropriate department.
Graduate Programs and Courses
Masters or PhD Degree – If you already have an undergraduate degree, you can apply for a graduate degree through McMaster’s School of Graduate Studies application portal. Follow the instructions on the “How to Apply” section of their website. Note that not all graduate degrees are available on a part-time basis.
Continuing Student – Not all programs permit students to take individual courses without being registered to complete the full degree. It is best to contact the Graduate Administrator in the department that offers the course directly for assistance.
Financing Your Courses (Graduate)
Once admitted to your program of studies, your Graduate Administrator in the departmental office can help with any questions. Assistance is also available for basic inquiries through the chat function on the Graduate Studies website (look for the “Chat with us” bubble).
McMaster Continuing Education Programs and Courses
Most McMaster Continuing Education programs are open enrolment, which means there is no formal application or admission procedure. To enrol in a course, simply register online. Continuing education courses can be taken as part of a program or individually. Many of the programs can be completed entirely online.
Continuing Education also offers a program for older learners called the Learning Continuum and 55+. While there is no tuition assistance available for these short courses, they are offered at a very low price.
Finally, a variety of lifelong learning opportunities are outlined on the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging (MIRA) website.
* NOTE: The McMaster Retiree Tuition Assistance Program does not cover supplemental fees such as student fees and administrative charges, books, instructional material and supplies, late registration fees, or other incidental expenses, and covers courses offered by McMaster University only. You should also note that tuition assistance is a taxable benefit that will be reported on your T4A.
** NOTE: The Tuition Waiver for learners 65 years of age or over applies only to undergraduate courses.
Office of the Registrar
As of January 1, 2023, Ontarians are able to stop in at pharmacies across the province to receive prescriptions for thirteen common ailments, including rashes, pink eye, insect bites and urinary tract infections with just their health card. This service makes it more convenient to access care by removing a doctor’s office visit and will come at no extra cost to Ontarians.
Pharmacists will be able to offer prescriptions for:
Allowing pharmacists to prescribe for these common ailments will make it more convenient for Ontarians to receive the care they need, while offering patients more convenient choices for how they access and receive health care.
In addition to providing more convenience, pharmacy prescribing will also help free-up doctors’ bandwidth to provide care for more complex needs, helping to reduce wait times for these services.
Drugs prescribed by a pharmacist will be adjudicated and reimbursed by your McMaster Retiree benefit plan the same way as if they had been prescribed by a doctor.
You May Need to Pay for Tests by Optometrists and Ophthalmologists
By Mary Johnston
Regular visits to an optometrist are advised as we age. The optometrist will check your vision, assess general eye health and screen for eye disease. OHIP covers the basic cost of these visits for most retirees. The exception is for people under age 65 who do not have any known medical condition affecting their eyes. If you fall into this category, you will be charged a fee for the eye exam by the optometrist. The optometrist determines patient fees, which are not regulated by the Ministry of Health. Some McMaster retirees under age 65 are covered for eye examinations under their post-retirement benefits plan and can recoup this cost through Sun Life. Go to the OHIP web site to find out about the specifics of current funding for optometrist visits and to the Government of Ontario website to see changes due to take effect on September 1st of this year.
Flourishing – What is it and How Do We Achieve it?
By Ellen Ryan
In November, I attended the Global Scientific Conference on Human Flourishing online along with 3,000 others from most nations in the world. The Conference was sponsored by the Templeton Foundation and the Harvard Human Flourishing Program. I was inspired by the international, interdisciplinary panels on the science and philosophy underlying the notion of ”flourishing”, which can be defined as “a state of being in which all aspects of a person’s life are good.”
Global Flourishing Study
The Templeton Foundation is collaborating with lead scientists from Harvard and Baylor Universities on an ambitious, longitudinal study. The study addresses two questions:
Researchers will track self-reports of 240,000 adults and teens in 22 countries. Social scientists can mine the data banks to investigate how love, generosity, forgiveness, religion, spirituality, and well-being change and interact over time across a broad array of human cultures and demographics.
Strategies to Promote Flourishing in Later Life
Other evidence-based activities to promote individual and societal flourishing are: volunteering, caring for others, creativity, mindfulness practice, breathing exercises, forest bathing, and humour.
Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science: Measuring Flourishing
Waldinger, R. W. (2016) Ted Talk: What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study of Happiness.
Parking on Campus
Permit Expiry Renewal Reminder
Note that central-campus parking (with a transponder) is available to McMaster retirees as follows:
A note to retirees without parking transponders
Free on campus parking is available to all retirees. To take advantage of this perk, and to view retiree parking access, go to the McMaster Parking Services web page. The Parking Office is accepting permit applications by email only. For further information, please contact Parking Services.
Time on My Hands
by Tim Nolan, Student Accessibility Services
Is it true that people are busier in retirement? For me that can be said, only now I do not get paid for my time! When I retired, COVID was just emerging so there was not much opportunity to find a new source of busy. For those who know me, I spent virtually my entire working career at McMaster dealing with disability and accessibility for students, faculty, staff and the university alike. In retirement, I have done the same though I have turned my sights to the City of Hamilton by spending more time on city committee work. Though the effort kept me occupied, I still had time to catch reruns of old shows on CHCH TV like Danny Thomas and Andy Griffith.
by Elaine McKinnon Riehm, Eighteenth-Century Fiction
Insomnia is a family affliction passed down from my mother to me and, I am sorry to say, from me to one of our sons. May it end there. It is not a question of lying in bed, and trying determinedly to sleep, moving from back to side, then side to back, crossing arms, recrossing them, fluffing pillows, smoothing sheets, or getting up to warm a glass of milk. What occurs is a home invasion of the mind.
Old friends appear without first knocking at mind’s door or telephoning to say they are on their way. Unexpectedly, they simply walk in. Three grade 11 classmates appear and re-enact an incident from French class, bellowing “aux armes, citoyens” during La Marseillaise, which Miss South required us to sing daily. Before their song is complete, however, other people arrive, also unheralded. When they emerge from the shadows, I can see that Prince Andréy from War and Peace is among them. He bows to the company, observing Tolstoy’s dictum that it is always better to bow too low than not low enough. Prince Andréy, however, is obviously not aware that bowing and curtseying are entirely out of place in a modern sleepless mind. And he is wearing too much lace in his cuffs for current fashions. Nevertheless, as always, he is charming.
I should like to have heard his opinion about the battlefield tactics of the invader, French Emperor Napoleon I, as opposed to those of the Russian Field Marshal, Mikhail Kutúzov. But Prince Andréy is drowned out by the noisy entrance of a University of Toronto friend who begins to tell a long story in his ringing voice. As casual today as when he was a student, Ron is wearing a shapeless T-shirt with a quotation on it from Erasmus. When he starts on a story, he often wanders into embellishments and details that are irrelevant to everyone but him, even into the occasional blind alley. But tonight, just in time, he returns to his amusing main theme.
And who is this young girl with large twinkling brown eyes? Why, it is my childhood friend, Betsy! She is on the arm of the serious man from Switzerland whom she married. She has very likely never giggled since they met, although she was an unparalleled giggler when she lived down the street.
Speaking of merry brown eyes, here comes Elizabeth Bennett, followed by Mr. Darcy. As he has not yet acknowledged that “it is many months since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance,” he is looking at her with the contrary emotions of interest and disdain.
It is getting crowded in here. People move around at random; there is no sense of order or chronology, of beginning or end. If I were in control, I would summon my paternal grandmother, who was good at making introductions, giving the cold shoulder to louche behaviour, and shepherding people into agreeable groups for pleasant conversation. Apparently, however, she is not available this evening.
And thus, the night moves slowly on. Stars swing past; planets and the last quarter of the moon make their rounds. Everything out there is as it should be. But who can sleep during a gathering of such dear friends?
And thus, the night moves slowly on. Stars swing past; planets and the last quarter of the moon make their rounds. Everything out there is as it should be. But who can sleep during a gathering of such dear friends?
courtesy of Rose Anne Prevec
Nostalgia and the Writing of Books
by Alan McComas, Medicine
We saw the Promised Land and watched it slowly disappear...
The Gift of Up - Ascending into Grace Space
by Steve Staniek, Health Physics
A couple of months before Christmas our daughter-in-law Ally asked if I could make a learning tower for Gracie, our 14 month-old granddaughter, in time for Christmas. I immediately felt both honoured by her request as a teacher, and somewhat foolish for not knowing what it was. Seeing my puzzled face, Ally went on to describe it as a child’s step stool, and how it allows a toddler to climb up to counter height, to spend time safely with adults as they prepare meals or snacks, and climb back down independently.
We had used traditional highchairs at tables and counters for many generations, and they always required parental assistance, both up and down. But this device brought a radical change in child learning, by providing the child with independent access on demand, to a higher world. The simple device empowered a curious child to reach and explore the adult world, where magical things were happening, and return to the comfort of the floor world when she’d had enough.
A bit of online research found that this new learning tech was being manufactured by many child furniture companies, in a range of prices depending on quality, accessories, and reputation or brand. Fortuitously, I had just the right maple plywood for the side panels, leftover from another project, and some sturdy pine boards for the step and platform. As I brought construction materials together into a loose puzzle, I felt the warm rush of excitement that accompanies creating something from the heart.
While sketching tower ideas on paper, several important unknowns came up – like how high can a toddler step, and how strong is a toddler? How high can they pull themselves? How about getting down? Where should the handholds go? Should I buy one and reverse engineer it, the way I tried with mom’s clocks when I was a boy? That never went well, hmm…
The simple step stool was becoming more complicated quickly, so our son’s retired Teddy Bear Bubba was recruited, because he was just about the right size. Bubba was a willing model, but he lacked the animation that would allow me to judge human factors like pulling ability, and the convenience of handhold locations.
After studying the construction of many designs, I chose industry standards instead of Teddy Bear standards for heights and handholds. I trusted furniture manufacturers who had studied the more practical aspects of what a child actually needs to climb up and remain safe, while doing it.
As work progressed on the tower it became a metaphor for freedom to learn. I fell in love with the understanding that it would liberate a child from the floor, quickly and easily. During our last visit with Gracie she was learning and using the key word “up” frequently. This would be the gift of “UP”.
Spoken alone, “up” could be the most powerful word in the human language. As a direction it can simply refer to higher levels, or higher branches, and it often includes our feelings or moods, positions, interests, or enthusiasm for life. The opposite direction is “down” into life’s darker roots. Being able to control our ups and downs in different ways is a vital life lesson best learned early.
We had noticed during visits that Gracie was climbing up and onto things, especially the hallway console table. Ally had provided an assortment of climbing things in their home which Gracie played on, as a way to encourage the development of Gracie’s proprioception, or developing a sense of where your hands and feet are without actually seeing them.
When the tower design was transferred onto actual material, Grandma’s eye caught something she didn’t like. She pointed to the simple rectangular handholds, smiled, and suggested large heart-shaped handholds instead. Hearts they became! A wooden name plate would give it a proprietary touch, and could be removed when the tower was passed on. I offered Granddad’s Lifetime Warranty and unlimited maintenance, so long as it remained within our extended family.
Since the tower would eventually be passed on, I decided to make it into a kit that could be disassembled and reassembled easily with wing nuts. After assembly, I discovered how hazardous those wing nuts are when you brush up against them, so I replaced all of them with some double-ended, smooth topped, “Chicago Bolts”, originally designed for hockey helmets.
A once-in-a-hundred year snow and windstorm shut down the County for three days just before Christmas, so our visit was deferred until New Year’s Eve. When we finally arrived at our son’s home, we parked the learning tower in the kitchen and told Gracie that it was for her. We stepped back quietly, and let nature take its course. Gracie walked up to it and looked at it for a brief minute before resting a foot on the step. We held our breaths as her hands came up slowly and found the handholds, and she proceeded to pull herself up and under the safety bar, and onto the platform.
courtesy of Meanwhile in Canada
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