MURAnews Summer 2017

President's Report

Attending the recent meeting of the College and University Retiree Associations of Canada (CURAC) brought into fresh perspective the areas in which MURA is very fortunate, and for which it can be proud. (See Nora Gaskin’s conference report on page 7.)

MURA is the largest CURAC member association due to our model of including all employee groups. This model is envied, and just recently has been emulated by the McGill University retirees.

MURA is also well placed amongst our fellow associations in that we have the financial support of our active employee groups and the University, so Mac retirees do not pay dues for MURA communications and activities. If you have the opportunity, please ensure your respective employee groups know that you appreciate their support.

MURA’s best resource is our members. As you know, retirees have lots of ways to spend their time, so having a Council and committee members who dedicate some of that precious resource, as well as their wealth of knowledge and expertise, for our collective benefit is worth a hearty thanks.

We encourage any of you who may be interested in exploring where you could contribute, or have ideas you think would be of value or interest, to contact any member of Council.

On behalf of MURA and especially the MURA Council, I would like to acknowledge Les King’s most capable leadership as President over the past two years. We also owe Mary Johnston a huge debt of thanks not only for her many years in various Council roles, most recently as Past President, but also as our CURAC liaison. Goodbye and well wishes as well to Dianne Bird who served on Council for 3 years. And a special note of appreciation to Sue Spence, who took on the role of Auditor on very short notice after the untimely death of Bob West.

Your 2017/18 MURA Council is listed below. Welcome to our new Councillors John Horsman and Shep Seigel. I look forward to working with the new and continuing members of Council in the year ahead.

Heather Grigg, MURA President

Retiree Benefits Reminder

The benefit year-end is June 30th. Be sure all benefit claims dated from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 are submitted to Sun Life no later than September 30, 2017. Late claim submissions will not be reimbursed.

Review all responses you receive from Sun Life and follow up with them at 1-800-361-6212 if there is any question regarding accuracy (e.g. denial of a claim due to excess of maximum limit).

If you still have questions regarding your benefits after contacting Sun Life, please contact the HR Service Centre at 905-525-9140, ext. 22247

To find out more details on your benefits or how to submit claims electronically, visit the McMaster Human Resources Retiree Information page.

2017 MURA Annual General Meeting

Nancy Bouchier, Professor of History and associate member of the Department of Kinesiology, gave a very interesting talk about the history and future prospects of the Hamilton Harbour. Nancy and Ken Cruikshank, Professor of History and Dean of Humanities, are co-authors of the book, The People and the Bay: A Social and Environmental History of Hamilton Harbour.

Nancy showed us a map of the bay and how it was reduced to 2/3 of its original size after being filled for industrial purposes, starting in the 1890s. Industry, commerce, the railroads, and the city‘s water system which used the harbour to “flush” waste water all lead to massive pollution of the water and surroundings. Meanwhile Hamilton residents, most notably those in the North End, continued to use the Bay extensively as their recreational area. Starting with local recognition of health issues and the need for a more balanced use of the harbour in the late 1950s, and continuing until this day with the Cootes to Escarpment Ecopark System initiative, restoration of the damaged harbour environment continues.

Following Dr. Bouchier’s presentation, MURA President Les King called the business meeting to order during which vacancies on the 2017/18 Executive and Council were filled.


President: Heather Grigg
Vice-President: Helen Barton
Past President: Les King
Treasurer: Beth Csordas
Secretary: Nora Gaskin


Serving until 2018: Gail Britton, Dianne Coventry, Nora Gaskin
Serving until 2019: Brian Beckberger, Carolyn Rosenthal
Serving until 2020: Phyllis DeRosa-Koetting, John Horsman, Shep Siegel, Peter Sutherland

New MURA Council Members

(in their own words)

John Horsman retired in 2007 after 27 years at McMaster. John was born and raised in Hamilton and completed his undergraduate degree at Mac in 1970. He returned to work at McMaster in 1981 after working at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters and Canada Post. He started his McMaster tenure in the Computation Services Unit, moved to the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics (CEB) as a research assistant with the Health Utilities Group (HUG), and then spent time in the Department of Medicine and the Geriatric Research Unit before returning to CEB and HUG as a senior research coordinator. John continued to work part-time until 2015 as the world-wide client liaison for Health Utilities Inc. (HUInc), a commercial offshoot of HUG research. He continues his association with McMaster in numerous research studies, most recently in the Department of Kinesiology where he is a test subject in studies of the role of protein in retaining viable muscle fibre in older populations.

John is married to long-time McMaster employee Morag Horsman. They have two children and two grandchildren. John’s post-retirement activities include their garden, photography, travel, reading, staying active with a regular workout routine , and spending time with the grandchildren.

Shepard Siegel received his PhD in Psychology from Yale University, joined the McMaster faculty in 1968, and retired in 2005 as Distinguished University Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour. He has served as President of the McMaster Faculty Association (MUFA), and several terms as a member of the University Senate. Three years after retirement he became a McMaster alumnus when he received an Honorary D.Sc. Degree from McMaster. His research has been concerned with the general area of Pavlovian conditioning, particularly the contribution of such conditioning to physiological and behavioural regulation.

Parking Update

McMaster Parking Services introduced new transponders in summer 2016. The current and only valid transponder that will grant you access to gated parking lots is a Nedap Transponder, shown below.


12 Month Parking Permit Expiry/Renewal

As of 2016, all retiree parking permits are set to expire annually (i.e. every 12 months) unless renewed. Retirees must contact the parking office every year to have their permits renewed. You will not receive a reminder prior to your permit expiring, so you will need to note your renewal date this year, and renew next year prior to that date.

Retirees cannot enter or exit parking lots with expired Nedap transponders, or with older style transponders. Until August 25, 2017 parking attendants will allow manual entry and exit for retirees whose parking permits may have already expired, to provide time for retirees to request renewals and have them set up. After that date, retirees who come to campus with an expired permit will have to pay to park until they renew their permits.

If you received a Nedap transponder during or after the transponder exchange in summer 2016, your permit to park will expire 12 months from date of receipt. Retirees can renew* their parking permits by email or by postal mail.

Security & Parking Services
McMaster University
1280 Main Street West
T32, Room 106
Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1

Email renewal can take 2-3 business days to process; you will be notified via email once it has been processed. Please ensure that you renew on a timely basis to avoid service disruption.

Charge for New Transponders as of September 1, 2017

The deadline to exchange an old transponder for a new Nedap transponder free of charge is August 31, 2017. As of September 1st, all retirees will be asked to pay the full price of $40.00 for a new Nedap transponder whether or not they have previously held a transponder.

Retiree Access to Parking Lots

Retirees with valid parking permits have universal access to all lots except:

  • Metered Lots (Q, J and F)
  • Lot A (Divinity College)
  • Lot G
  • L.R. Wilson Building
  • David Braley Health Sciences Centre (DBHSC) Surface & Underground - Downtown
  • Ron Joyce Centre (RJC) - Burlington

If you have any questions or are unsure if your transponder is valid please contact McMaster Parking Services at (905) 525-9140 ext. 24232 or by email at

* Information required for permit renewal:

  • First and last name
  • Contact phone number
  • Email address
  • Mailing address
  • Vehicle info (make,model,year,color,license plate no)
  • Employee number

Don't believe the hype:

6 tips to identify trustworthy health information

(courtesy of the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal)

It seems like almost every day we hear about the “latest, greatest” new study, publicizing the benefits of a new cure, treatment or anti-aging solution. However, very few of these studies are as impressive as they sound.

It is a good idea to be cautious about trending health topics in the news. If you unknowingly base a health decision on a recommendation that has no scientific research to back it up, is based on very poorly conducted studies, or — even worse — disregards good quality studies suggesting their claims are wrong, you are unlikely to find that recommendation lives up to its hype. Unfounded health recommendations might even be harmful to your health.

Learning to recognize credible advice supported by the best available research will help you make informed choices that are most likely to benefit you.

Tread with caution: “A new study shows…”

Ask these six questions to critique the latest “miracle solution” you read about in the headlines.

  1. What’s the source? Checking the trustworthiness of news sources and references behind the claims is a first step. Does the source have standards for measuring the credibility of the information or advice they share? Or are they more likely to report sensational headlines to boost their click or viewer numbers?Look for proof that any claims or recommendations are supported by study findings published in a credible academic journal. Always question celebrity claims, overly dramatic findings or miracle cures.
  2. What’s in it for them? Do the researchers, their funders or the groups sharing the information stand to benefit from the results? You may be aware that celebrities and media programs often have sponsorships or behind-the-scenes partnerships that could bias their claims... well, this also applies to research. It is wise to be skeptical of studies supported or promoted by for-profit businesses that are trying to sell you something.
  3. How many people were involved in the study? The more people involved in a study, the more power researchers have to make conclusions and generalize the results to a larger group. A study that shows Tai Chi improves balance in 7 out of 10 people sounds great, but with such a small group, it is hard to know whether these results are just a coincidence, or related to specific characteristics of the people involved. If 700 out of 1000 people show these same benefits, you can have more confidence that Tai Chi can help boost your balance.
  4. Was there a control group? The highest quality studies randomly select participants to try the activity or treatment, and compare results to a group that do not participate. This way, they can tease out the benefits of the activity, controlling for other influences. For example, did a walking group program actually encourage participants to walk more, or did a seasonal change from winter to spring during the study period encourage more people to be active outdoors?
  5. How long did the study last? Short-term measurements of treatment benefits are useful. However, studies that use accurate and reliable ways to measure effects more than once and over a longer period (say, 6 months or a year later) provide more information about long-term benefits as well as any potential long-term side effects or harms.
  6. Will it work for me? Consider your own personal needs, preferences and circumstances when making health decisions. For example, research shows compression bandages applied by a home health care provider are the most effective treatment for foot ulcers. However, many people do not like wearing these bandages and so do not use them as prescribed. In some cases, it may be best to choose a less effective treatment option, but one that you will actually put into practice.

If in doubt... check with the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal

Blog posts and evidence summaries on the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal are based on high quality systematic reviews. These are the most trustworthy research findings that compare the results of many studies exploring a common research question. The authors look for similarities between the single studies and make conclusions based on all the findings combined. The best reviews include all available studies on a topic, and give more weight to the highest quality studies.

Web Resource Ratings on the Portal’s web site also do the homework for you. They assess the quality of online healthy aging resources based on a 5-star rating scale, to help you identity good quality information and make informed health decisions.

The McMaster Optimal Aging Portal is your source for information that you can trust. Visit the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal to find out more.

Order of Canada Appointments

Two McMaster retirees have been recognized by the Governor General of Canada as new recipients of the Order of Canada in 2017, the 50th anniversary of the Order. One of our country’s highest civilian honours, the Order of Canada recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.

John Bandler, professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering, was appointed an Officer of the Order for his scientific contributions that have helped to position Canada at the forefront of microwave engineering.

Peter Dent, professor emeritus of pediatrics, was appointed a Member of the Order for his contributions to improving the health of children through his roles in medical education, hospital administration and community service.

For more information, see:

Hamilton Spectator: John Bandler Named to Order of Canada

McMaster Daily News: Peter Dent Named Member of Order of Canada

Last Call for MURA Day Trip: The Madness of George III at the Shaw Festival

There are still seats available for the MURA day trip to the Shaw Festival on Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017 to see The Madness of George III. For full details see this article in the Spring issue of MURAnews, or our event description.

Total cost, including theatre ticket, all taxes and tip for the driver, is $100 per person (lunch not included).

To register or for more information, please contact Mary Johnston at or 905-627-1409.

Registration for this trip closes on August 11th, 2017. Friends are welcome.

Update: The trip has been cancelled for lack of enrollment. We apologise to the people who did sign up. Please contact Mary Johnston if you have concerns.

Doing It Yourself: Self-Publishing

- by Marianne Van der Wel

The 21st century is giving us many previously unavailable options for “doing it yourself”. Self-publishing is one of these. It is still relatively new, but growing fast. You can put your family history, personal stories, favourite recipes or vacation photos in printed book form under the Christmas tree for your grandkids. You can become an author for personal development, for fun or as a career without having a conventional publisher. Your self-published book can appear in electronic form for e-readers, in printed book form, or both.

I have looked at three books, available at the Hamilton Public Library, that explain the self-publishing process:

  • Publishing E-books for Dummies by Ali Luke explains the step-by-step process of producing an electronic book using Microsoft Word.
  • The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing by Marilyn Ross & Sue Collier approaches the subject from a marketing view.
  • Self-publishing for Beginners by Toronto publisher Productive Publicationshas the sub title “How to Prepare, Edit, Publish and Market your Own Print Books and eBooks”.

As for seminars and webinars, I have found quite a few online. There are also meet-up groups. Hamilton's own Mohawk College offers courses such as “Writing for Publication – 123” as part of a certificate program.

Whether writing for personal reasons or a career move, there are many companies available to help you develop your book from the original idea to a finished product. One example is, a company started by Hamiltonian Bob Young. Please do your own research to find a legitimate company that is the right fit for you. Another route would be to produce your own PDF (Portable Document Format) file and take it to your local printer.

To market a printed book locally, your best bet may be to check out independent small retail booksellers. The ones I have talked to take a 20% fee from your selling price, will stock only a few copies for a limited time, and require you to sign a contract. To cast a wider net, including the e-reader community, you will likely need to go to online chain bookstores.

I am experimenting with self-publishing my autobiography on what it is to have a serious illness and my trial-and-error journey in med-free Healthy Aging. Stay tuned.

Note to MURA members from the MURAnews team: Have you self-published a book since retiring? We welcome comments on your experience.

MURA Members Recruiting for Musical Groups

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ― Plato

Helen Ramsdale, retiree from the Department of Medicine, plays recorder and viola da gamba (gamba) with the Rosewood Consort.

Helen Barton, who worked in the Office of the Registrar, sings alto with the Kaleidoscope Singers.

They’re hoping fellow retirees will join their musical groups.

The Rosewood Consort started in the 1980s at Mohawk College as a recorder group. It is an early chamber music ensemble of amateur musicians playing all voices of recorders from sopranino to contrabass, gamba and harpsichord. They play medieval, renaissance and baroque music, performing in concerts, libraries, schools and historical sites such as Ruthven and Westfield Village.

This group of a dozen or more amateur musicians get together to play early music on recorders and other early instruments for the enjoyment of both the members and the public. The group is looking for recorder players (or other early music instrument players) with some experience and the ability to read music to join them. Weekly rehearsals are held on Mondays at 2:00 pm at Grace Lutheran Church in West Hamilton. Expenses are offset by members paying a small annual fee.

Contact or call Nan or Bob at 905-648-5607. Want to hear The Rosewood Consort perform? You’re welcome to attend their Christmas concert on Sunday, December 10, 2017 at 3:00 pm at Grace Lutheran Church, 1107 Main St. W., Hamilton. There is no admission charge, but a free-will offering will be appreciated.

Additional information and performance dates are available at the Rosewood Consort web site.

The Kaleidoscope Singers started in 1967 as the Hamilton public school board’s female teachers choir. It has since expanded into a community mixed adult choir that sings seasonal and popular music, theme and show music, old favourites and the works of famous composers. This choir of about 35 members, mostly retirees, performs for community groups, retirement homes and church groups.

The choir is looking for new voices for all parts — soprano, alto, tenor and bass. Experience with reading music is an asset. Please feel free to sit in and see if the choir is a fit for you.

Weekly rehearsals are held on Mondays at 1:30 pm at St. Andrew’s United Church, 479 Upper Paradise Rd., from September to June. Choir expenses are offset by members paying a small annual fee.

For further information please contact or call Helen Barton at 905-518-5339.

The Kaleidoscope Singers sing for the love of music and seek to share that love with their audiences.

MURA Christmas Lunch

Mark Tuesday, December 5, 2017, on your calendar for MURA’s annual Christmas Lunch. The lunch will be held in the CIBC Banquet Hall on the 3rd floor of the Student Centre on the McMaster campus.

Look for more details and a reservation form in the Fall issue of MURAnews.

News from the McMaster Alumni Association

The McMaster Alumni Association is excited to announce the launch of their online McMaster Reads book club! They’ve created a community on that you can join here.

Each time they add a book to their bookshelf they will also include a podcast interview with the author. After you have read the book you will have the opportunity to ask your questions of the author through the online discussion board.

The inaugural read is a Globe and Mail bestseller, The House of Wives, by Mac alumnus Simon Choa-Johnston '72 and member of McMaster's Alumni Gallery. You may read this notice too late to participate for this book as the question period ends the last week of July. As other books are added to the bookshelf, read them, listen to the podcast and then post your questions to the author. The next book will be The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall.

Please note, this is strictly an ON-LINE activity.

Interested in Experiencing the World?

Check out the 2018 McMaster Alumni and Friends Travel Program

Working with reputable travel partners, the McMaster Alumni and Friends Travel Program offers a variety of trips, enhanced by knowledgeable lecturers and experienced travel directors.

For a complete list of the many trips planned for Fall 2017 through late 2018 , visit:

To request a 2018 travel brochure, additional information or to be added to the mailing list, contact the Travel Alumni Officer at 905-525-9140 ext. 24882 or The brochure is available for download.

Report from the 2017 CURAC Conference

Heather Grigg and I attended the 15th annual College and University Retiree Associations of Canada (CURAC) conference in Ottawa from May 24-26. Held on the campus of Carleton University, the conference was co-hosted by the Carleton University Retirees Association, who were also celebrating Carleton’s 75th anniversary. It was well run, enjoyable and informative, with 71 delegates from college and university retiree associations all over Canada.

Connecting with representatives from other retiree associations gave us some good ideas about programs and initiatives that MURA could undertake in the future, and also brought home to us how fortunate we are to have in MURA such a long-standing, well-funded, and inclusive retiree association.

Some of the speakers were outstanding enough to merit their own MURAnews articles, but for now, here’s a sample of the best presentations:

  • Dr. Jeff Turnbull, Chief of Staff, Ottawa Hospital, received the conference’s only standing ovation with his presentation “Health and Health Equity: Our Collective Responsibility”, outlining efforts he has spearheaded to bring life-saving health programs to the addicted and homeless of the streets of Ottawa, while saving the health system millions in ineffective ambulance trips and emergency room visits for this population.
  • Dr. William B. Dalziel, Professor, Division of Geriatric Medicine, U. of Ottawa, impressed us with his no-nonsense presentation “Successful Aging: a Shared Responsibility” which addressed what aging individuals can do to maximize their health and vitality. His bottom line — exercise is the fountain of youth.
  • Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, MD, CCFP, Family Medicine, University of Ottawa, spoke on “How to Stop Worrying and Love Healthy Living”, and assured us that if for the rest of our lives we ignore every headline linking a single food to a health outcome, we will be just fine!
Presentation descriptions and slides are available online.

Nora Gaskin, MURA Secretary

Remembering Peter George

(1941 - 2017)

— by Roger Trull

In 1995, after thirty years as a faculty member, Peter George accepted the appointment of President of McMaster University with unprecedented enthusiasm. It was the job he always wanted. A dream come true.

I really wanted to impress the new boss on his first day so I decided to go to work earlier than normal. It would be great if Peter could see my car in the lot when he arrived. I pulled in at 6:30 am and Peter's car was already there! I tried the same thing the next day. Same result. For the next fifteen years, the times I beat him in to work were few and far between. His tireless work ethic inspired everyone around him to make McMaster the very best it could be.

Shortly after taking office, Peter was faced with an unexpected challenge. Premier Harris's Common Sense Revolution meant a 10% operating budget cut overnight for McMaster. Peter understood that we were going to need private financial support if the University was to move ahead in the way he envisioned. At a time when the rest of the University was experiencing significant cuts, Peter insisted on a budget increase for Advancement activities. He believed that we could continue to be a really good Canadian university with government funding alone, but with private support we could become a world leader. That is what he wanted and that is exactly what happened.

During his first two years as President, Peter travelled tirelessly with the Advancement team, telling the McMaster story of a "Student Centred Research University" to philanthropists, corporate leaders, Premiers, Prime Ministers and McMaster Alumni.

The results of Peter's leadership are visible in the Student Centre, the Stadium, the Athletics complex, the new academic buildings and the David Braley Health Sciences Centre, a cornerstone for Hamilton downtown redevelopment. Peter believed that a strong McMaster would lead to a stronger Hamilton. However, his vision for private support went well beyond new buildings.

The endowment fund that Peter championed allowed students to received scholarships and bursaries and is now approaching 700 million dollars. It started at 90 million dollars in his first year. These funds also allowed for the creation of more than 70 Endowed Professorial Chairs. Having the funds to attract and keep the best and brightest faculty to teach in the best possible facilities, while preserving a caring student environment -- that was Peter's vision.

Peter took a genuine interest in students, and was especially fond of McMaster athletics. He was in the same seat at every football game and you could spot him in the bleachers at most basketball games. He could also be seen standing in the rain watching soccer or lacrosse. He loved it all.

Peter's legacy was recognized in May when the McMaster Advancement team, under the leadership of Mary Williams, arranged a special convocation. He received his Honorary Degree, and was recognized with a building to be named in his honour. The Peter George Living and Learning Centre, he told those in attendance, is like a tree that he has planted, but will never sit under. It is for future generations.

Thank you Peter. We will not forget you.

Let Us Know If We Can Stop Mailing MURAnews to YOU

Please help MURA’s budget by opting out of the postal mailing of MURAnews. Email Helen Barton at or call her at 905-518-5339.

You can print your own MURAnews from the PDF copy we send by email, or just click the link in the email and read online.

Contacting MURA

Mail Gilmour Hall B108, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON L8S 4L8

Phone 905-525-9140, extension 23171 (voicemail is checked once a week)


Web Site

Volunteer Opportunities

Don’t want to volunteer alone? Sign up with a friend.

Memory Visiting Volunteers — Volunteer Halton. One visit a week can bring a lonely senior a huge sense of worth and happiness. A little social contact can help isolated seniors with their recall of daily details. Contact Joanne Berrigan, Memory Visiting Program Coordinator, Acclaim Health: 905-827-8800, ext. 2317 or

Friendly Visiting — Dundas Community Services. Providing companionship and support to help seniors and persons with disabilities retain their independence, this program helps individuals maintain social interaction with the community and lessen isolation. Visits take place at the senior’s home. Seniors and volunteers can enjoy their friendly visits by reading, playing games, arranging a day trip and more. To volunteer or for more information, please call 905-627-5461.

New Seniors/Grad Student Co-Housing Pilot Program

McMaster Symbiosis

McMaster Symbiosis is a co-housing program that matches McMaster graduate students in need of low cost housing with local seniors who can offer a clean, furnished bedroom in their home or apartment in return for a bit of extra support and company. Personalized matches offer students a low cost room or a free room in exchange for helping the senior with some basic tasks such as groceries, yard work, etc.

The goal is to match 5-10 student/senior pairs for the pilot phase (September 2017 to May 2018).

If you are interested in learning more, please contact Soumeya or visit the McMaster School of Graduate Studies web page Symbiosis: Grad Students and Seniors Co-Housing Program.

Phone: 647-648-4421


Recent Passings

Catherine Bentzen-Bilkvist, Faculty of Business, June 18/17

Peter George, President Emeritus, Economics, April 27/17

William Hawkes, Planning & Physical Plant, April 13/17

Karl Kinanen, School of Social Work, May 19/17

Arthur Lesser, Psychiatry, June 27/17

Bette Read, Central Animal Facility, April 10/17

William (Bill) Wallace, School of the Arts, May 6/17


Department of Health, Aging & Society: In Memoriam Karl Kinanen (1927-2017)

Jackson Hole News & Guide: [Bill] Wallace, 83, composed music, loved to climb

Welcome New Members

Lynda J. Chrysler, Medicine

Jonathan S. Davine, Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences

Denys Decatanzaro, Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour

Douglas Dick, Facility Services

James Gladstone, School of Social Work

Mark Heal, University Library

Jeanne Hopkins, Faculty of Engineering

Mahendra Joshi, Health Physics

Thelma Leech, Biology

Eden McLean, University Library

Edward Sernie, University Library

Julia Shelley, Student Accessibility Services

Byron Spencer, Economics*

Lynn Stewart, Outreach, Faculty of Engineering

Karen Szala-Meneok, Research Ethics

Stephen Westerholm, Religious Studies

Barbara Zingel, University Library

and belated welcome to

Tina Furlanetto, School of the Arts

Dympna McCully, Faculty of Health Sciences




— by Kathy Overholt

Twiddlemuffs are a therapeutic tool used with Alzheimer and dementia patients. These muffs are made with scrap yarn and feature various attached objects which provide stimulation and yet have a quieting effect on restless minds and fingers. I was introduced to this concept at a Family Council meeting at my mother’s long term care facility. The Recreation Director for the home had this to say about them:

As a long term care home, we recently adapted a new technique to enhance our Multi-Sensory Stimulation Programming through the use of twiddlemuffs. The concept of twiddlemuffs is to have a safe, washable, multi texture item that residents can sit with to hopefully bring peace and distraction from other stimulants. Our Family Council presented this new concept to our home last fall. Our residents have responded very positively. Some of the behaviours that we have targeted with the goal to diminish are: repetitive verbal calling out, standing up out of wheelchairs, fidgeting, picking at items or skin, etc. In particular, our Home has introduced this new concept to our residents with dementia as well as those that fidget and need a calming way for distraction. Twiddlemuffs have brought a new direction for our sensory stimulation programs and help minimize responsive, distracting behaviours in our residents.

I passed the above pictured twiddlemuff on to the Behavioural Supports Ontario organization and they have added several variations to use with their own patient encounters.

Those of you who knit may wish to try creating one or many. The Hamilton Alzheimer’s Society would welcome them to pass on to their clients.

Twiddlemuff Knitting Instructions

  • Wool/Yarn. This muff pattern is perfect for using up left over and odd balls of yarn. A variety of textures works really well.
  • Beads, zips, ribbons. Anything that can be twiddled with but will not break.
  • 8mm circular or 6.5 mm straight needles


  • Cuff: Cast on 45 stitches using 2 strands of double knitting wool or 1 strand of chunky wool. One plain colour works best. Work in stocking stitch - knit a row, purl a row - for 11 inches (28 cm).
  • Body: Continue with stocking stitch using up oddments of various textures of yarn such as mohair, chunky, ribbon etc. until work measures 23 inches (58 cm). Two strands of double knit for two rows each gives a lovely assortment of colour. Cast off.


  • If working with straight needles, lightly iron the long strip then neatly join the sides together using edge to edge stitch, with the knit side facing out
  • Turn inside out and push the one-colour cuff up inside the muff body
  • Sew the two ends together, again using a neat edge to edge stitch

Now decorate the muff, inside and out, with ribbons, beads, flowers, zips, loops, pompoms, buttons etc. Knit a separate pocket for a favourite photo or hanky. Be creative, but make sure each items is securely attached.

MURAnews is produced by MURA members Helen Barton (News Editor for this issue), Phyllis DeRosa-Koetting (Production Editor), Mary Johnston, Kathy Overholt and Marianne Van der Wel. We welcome submissions from MURA members.

If you do not have access to a computer and would like a copy of any of the items for which we have provided computer links, please leave a message on the MURA phone (905-525-9140, extension 23171) and we will print a copy and mail it to you.

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