MURANews Summer 2020 issue in PDF format
In this issue:
The COVID pandemic continues to affect us all, with some restrictions lifted but no real end in sight. My wish is that this issue of MURAnews finds you all well in body and spirit, and that you are finding satisfying activities and fulfilling companionship to sustain you.You’ll see how this is affecting the university in Mary Johnston’s ‘What’s Happening at Mac’ report. Imagine the campus this fall when classes for the entire term will be online and students, with very few exceptions, will not need to be on campus to take their courses.
Changes to your McMaster Email Service
McMaster is making changes to its email system. Faculty, staff, medical learners, and retirees are being moved to the university’s Microsoft 365 email and calendaring platform. Retirees who have a McMaster email account, including professors emeritus, are being migrated to the new system during July and August and should have already received an email notification and instructions from UTS.
Some members of your MURA Council have been meeting on Zoom with University Technology Services and working with the UTS team on communications and testing to try to make this transition as smooth as possible for retirees. Thanks are due to Brian Beckberger and Nora Gaskin for their extensive contributions, and to Debbie Weisensee and Heather Grigg who also helped with the testing.
MURA Member Survey
Hank Jacek, a member of MURA Council, has compiled an interim report on the MURA member survey conducted earlier this year. It is featured in this issue of MURAnews.
Many thanks to Hank for his excellent summary of members’ post-retirement activities. He lays out a series of thoughtful ideas on how the university can enhance retiree volunteer participation at the university. This would help retirees who wish to do so stay more closely connected to Mac after retirement and also help the university attain its goals. A “win-win”, as they say.
Thanks also to Nora Gaskin for her keen editing skills, and to Heather Grigg and John Horsman as well as Hank and Nora for their work on the survey design, implementation and analysis.
We will share a full, final report with you as soon as it’s ready.
The MURAnews team has once again put together an issue that is being published only electronically due to the continuing COVID-19 difficulties of printing and mailing a printed version safely. Thank you to the team and to Kathy Overholt for their work on this issue, which includes activities that you can explore from home while waiting out the pandemic. Mary Law and Brian Beckberger, co-chairs of MURA’s pensions & benefits committee, also contributed a very useful summary on funding for hearing aids, and you’ll even find a recipe for quick and easy homemade ice cream to satisfy your mid-summer cravings.
Almost 600 retirees who usually are sent their MURAnews by postal mail won’t be receiving this issue. If you know a fellow retiree who doesn’t have email access, please consider printing the PDF version of the newsletter and delivering it to them. For inquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that due to privacy regulations MURA can only confirm postal addresses; we cannot provide addresses.
Please keep in mind that MURA’s website https://mcmaster-retirees.ca is an excellent source of online information for retirees and spousal survivors.
My best wishes to you all.
courtesy of Humour is Contagious
What’s happening at Mac
by Mary JohnstonTwo major problems dominating world news are having an impact on life at McMaster.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep most of the university community away from campus, the work of the academy goes on in new and creative ways. Classes are taking place online, services and support for students are also being delivered via the internet, and most employees continue to work from home.
Some research, however, cannot be conducted without access to infrastructure located on McMaster campuses. For this reason, the university, informed by advice issued by public health officials at local, provincial and federal levels, has planned for a gradual, phased increase of on-campus research. Phase I was implemented on May 30th for those who had received written approval from their Chairs or Associate Deans Research.
McMaster continues to be at the forefront of research related to the pandemic, such as the work of the newly opened Centre of Excellence in Protective Equipment and Materials. For the latest information on this research and life at Mac during the pandemic visit https://covid19.mcmaster.ca/. At the bottom of that web page you will find links to several videos featuring experts from McMaster, including one on Mask tips for warmer weather.
Like much of society, McMaster is examining its commitment to addressing persistent systemic institutional racism. This includes taking a close look at barriers to equity and inclusion in the university community. Go to the McMaster Daily News web site to read President David Farrar’s letter on Our commitment to targeted hiring and antiracism and to find out about a study aimed at understanding and enhancing the McMaster experience for racialized and marginalized students.
Why a survey?
MURA Council decided to conduct a survey of our members for a number of reasons. Initially Council wished to collect information to improve MURA‘s programs and services, to ensure that MURA is as helpful, meaningful and relevant to McMaster retirees as possible. While individual Council members occasionally receive comments from members, we didn’t really know how the bulk of MURA members felt about the organization and its activities. We needed to know what members expected of us since we, as a volunteer organization with no paid staff, have limited time and energy to respond to members’ needs and desires.
Additionally, as we planned the survey, we wondered if members would find our organization more meaningful if they could stay more closely connected to McMaster’s services and activities. We also wondered if the university, in turn, might find retirees could play a larger role as assets in fulfilling Mac’s mission. Our longer and healthier lifespans mean that retirees can contribute to helping the university attain its goals. This part of the survey was designed to show how retirees now contribute to the university and perhaps to uncover even more ways this vital former workforce can help. We believed the information collected would show that retirees are a very beneficial part of the McMaster community.
The survey was sent to approximately 2000 members of MURA, including spousal survivors, in February 2020. All were asked to report on their activities since January 2017 and, for recent retirees, only since their retirement from McMaster. There were 584 total responses, a very respectable response rate of 28 per cent. Spousal survivors totalled six per cent of the responses.
The spousal survivors were asked to give information on their spouse concerning year of retirement, years of McMaster employment, age at retirement and demographic information such as McMaster employment group and geographical location of work site. For most other questions, spousal survivors answered on their own behalf.
In addition, respondents offered many useful comments and suggestions. Many were satisfied with MURA activities and services and made positive remarks about MURAnews, our quarterly newsletter.
Service to the community
McMaster retirees are engaged in many different kinds of activities. Most frequent are community/civic service organizations (27 per cent) followed by religious service (22 per cent). Ten per cent are involved in food banks and food drives, and in service to museums, performing arts centres and cultural organizations. One interesting example was a retiree who serves on two Ontario governing boards, the Ontario Underwater Council and the Save Ontario Shipwrecks Association.
Six per cent serve on medical, hospice and elder care facilities and political organizations active at the local, provincial, or federal levels. Nearly as many (five per cent) are involved in volunteer teaching, making community presentations or helping out in adult education programs. As well, six per cent serve on government committees, councils and advisory boards. Five per cent serve as mentors or tutors in organized programs.
Finally, two per cent are involved in libraries, language skills and literacy programs, while three per cent are involved in youth programs and organizations, with one per cent in media relations and commentary.
Volunteer service activities at McMaster
Fifteen per cent of retirees continue their research work and activities related to research after retirement.
Seven per cent help with student advising, and another seven per cent are mentors or provide tutoring services for students.
Six per cent participate in three different types of volunteer service: committee and task force membership, providing services to MURA, and mentoring faculty and staff. Finally, one per cent helps in putting on university events or reaching out to alumni.
Thirteen per cent reported service on a board of directors and 12 per cent as consultants. Ten per cent reported making a presentation at a professional conference. Others were planning to make public presentations. One retiree is preparing a presentation on greenhouse gases and is especially interested in sharing his professional expertise with McMaster audiences. Finally, eight per cent serve on professional and technical committees. We were not surprised to see that of the faculty/librarian subset of respondents, 63 per cent continue to provide professional services.
Employment at McMaster
Employment Outside of McMaster
Awards and Recognition
McMaster retirees make extraordinary contributions in service to others, and many have received recognition for their work. Nine per cent of our respondents reported such accolades. The greatest number came from community-based groups (four per cent), followed by McMaster University or McMaster affiliated organizations (three per cent). Government awards and recognition accounted for two per cent of our survey respondents.
Life Beyond Service
When asked the number of hours per week devoted to care in each category, the greatest number of hours was for a spouse or partner (51 hours on average). Fourteen hours was the norm for a parent, and 13 for a child or grandchild. Hours of care for another family member or a friend was 9 -10. It was noted that caregiving time may fluctuate over time, and from week to week.
McMaster Retirees: A More Robust Contribution? 10 Ways to Enhance Retiree Volunteer Participation at the University
The survey shows that McMaster retirees have many diverse skills that they use to benefit society at large and have a desire to use these skills to serve the public. MURA members are very active, especially as volunteers. Given the skills, energy and interests of retirees, however, there is only a partial tapping of this valuable resource by the university. McMaster retirees are already important ambassadors, advocates and assets for McMaster, but it is possible they could do more.
This report pointed out earlier that while 60 per cent of McMaster retirees are community volunteers, only half that number volunteer for McMaster. The disparate rates suggest that the university could do more to capitalize on the service capacity of McMaster retirees. A large majority of retirees live within 25 kilometers of the university, and not all volunteer activities take place on campus, so there appears to be no reason why McMaster volunteer activity cannot be substantially increased.
The opportunity for the university is to solicit and welcome retirees who want to help the university, utilizing retiree interest, skills and energy to mitigate the ever-increasing workload on the current full-time staff and faculty. Perhaps it is time to take advantage of this opportunity.
1. Communicating Opportunities
Some retirees mentioned they didn’t know what opportunities were available. One said, “References [to volunteer opportunities] in [the] MURA newsletter are helpful.” Others mentioned MURAnews as the best and perhaps only link to information and “options to become involved in something”. university officers could do more to notify MURA about volunteer activities at McMaster.
2. Departmental Contacts
It would be useful for departments to designate a retiree contact. In this way a retiree who would like to be available for volunteer work could contact the department and let the designated person know about their availability. Periodically MURA could publish department contacts in our newsletter.
3. Regional Activities
A number of retirees mentioned that they find it difficult to join activities because they live some distance from the university. Two key areas seem to be the Toronto and Niagara regions. From time to time there are outreach programs that occur in these areas. Local retirees could help out.
4. Recruiting Students
For many years McMaster individuals were invited to high school classes to talk about opportunities at McMaster and special features such as the nuclear reactor and the McMaster forest, but given increased demand on university faculty and staff, carrying out such activities has become more difficult for McMaster personnel. Retirees could be recruited to provide information about McMaster to senior high school students.
5. Access to Campus
Some retirees mention the difficulty of getting to the university. One mentioned that they “were very disappointed with parking problems for retirees…who volunteer…costs are prohibitive”. McMaster could provide free parking for volunteers and/or passes to the HSR for local retirees, and to Go Transit for those out of town.
6. Campus Tour Guides
Many potential students and their parents want to visit campus each year. Retirees could share their experiential knowledge and institutional memory with these visitors. These retirees could complement student guides, with the expectation that parent visitors in particular would appreciate the knowledge of experienced retirees.
7. Mentoring Services
Retirees would make good mentors for new McMaster employees and first-generation students. New faculty and staff employees have a great deal to learn about their new positions and the university. They could get up to speed much faster under the guidance of a mature, experienced retiree. One faculty respondent was keen “to share their expertise” in some way. Also, McMaster has many new first-generation students. These students do not have a family member to answer questions about university or give them helpful tips. Retiree mentors would likely find this type of mentoring very satisfying.
8. Event Help
Some retirees would enjoy helping out at graduation ceremonies, educational events, and open houses. Also useful would be guides for invited visitors to campus. They could be available to greet them when they arrive, take them to their required locations and see them off after their visit. As well retirees can assist at performances and athletic competitions.
9. Helping out with Alumni Activities
Retirees, whether they are McMaster alumni or not, could help out with alumni programs and events. They might find themselves reconnecting with former students. One alum-retiree noted that they enjoyed their years of employment at McMaster University, including receiving their BA and a few academic and special achievement awards, as well as volunteering on various educational and social committees and activities. Alumni retirees like this one would make outstanding university volunteers in their retirement.
10. Financial Contributions and Fundraising
McMaster retirees are strong financial supporters of the university. Twenty-eight per cent of respondents have contributed financially to McMaster in the last three years with donations for scholarships, bursaries, research projects and Faculty and departmental programs. Some have already included a gift to McMaster in their wills. Retirees can play an important role in the work of fundraising for the university and should be encouraged by the university to participate in this way.
In conclusion, the survey data show that MURA members in general tend to be very involved leaders. They remain excellent human assets of both the community and the university, and many seem more than willing to help McMaster to excel in its fundamental missions of teaching, research and public service. We believe that MURA and the university need to work more closely together to harness even more this important part of the McMaster community.
The Ontario government's Assistive Devices (ADP) Program provides funding for hearing aids for all adults (except veterans who receive this benefit from the federal government). To qualify, you must have a hearing loss requiring an aid for more than 6 months and have a valid Ontario health card. Coverage is 75% up to $500 per ear. For more information see the Ontario Assistive Devices Program web pages.
You may have additional coverage for hearing aids through Sun Life depending on what benefit plan you belong to. Note that the university retiree benefit plans vary greatly with regard to reimbursement for hearing aids. The plans for more recent salaried retirees provide reimbursement up to a maximum amount every 3 benefit years, while older salaried plans and most hourly plans restrict coverage to hearing aids required as a result of accidents. You must use the ADP coverage first.
Those in salaried plans 4, 5, 6, 7 (Faculty, Librarians, TMG and Unifor) have hearing aid coverage of 75% of the costs of hearing aids prescribed by an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist, up to a maximum of $500 per person per ear over a period of 3 benefit years. Plans 8 and 9 (Faculty, Librarians) cover 80% of the costs of hearing aids prescribed by an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist, up to a maximum of $1,000 per person per ear over a period of 3 benefit years. Under all plans above, repairs are included. Under all these plans, coverage of 100% of the costs of the initial purchase is covered if the aid is required as a result of an accident. The hearing aid coverage every 3 benefit years includes new purchases and replacement aids.Clinical faculty in Plans 4 and 5 have hearing aid coverage of 75% of the costs of hearing aids prescribed by an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist, up to a maximum of $500 per person per ear over a period of 3 benefit years.
People in plans 1, 2, 3 and hourly plan 4 only have additional coverage beyond ADP reimbursement when hearing aids are required as a result of accidents.
When claiming reimbursement from Sun Life for hearing aids, retirees should be aware that reimbursement for those with hearing aid coverage is not limited to only one hearing aid. If hearing aids are prescribed for each ear, Sun Life should reimburse you for both aids, according to the terms of most retiree benefit plans.It is wise to check your benefits plan booklet or to contact Human Resources Services to determine your Sun Life coverage. Phone: 905-525-9140. Ext. 222-HR, email email@example.com or check the Human Resources Retiree Benefits page.
Passing on your Passwords
By Helen Ayre
You have taken great care to ensure that your affairs are in order. You have a will, any necessary trusts, powers of attorney for property and for personal care, and you are appropriately insured. Everything is good, right?
Have you thought about your digital estate? What financial or personal business do you conduct online? Do you have social media accounts, cloud photo storage, a music streaming account, email accounts, a LinkedIn account, investment and/or bank accounts that you administer through an online account?
If you have any of the above, have you considered how and by whom these accounts will be accessed in the event that you become incapacitated (or worse)? In the days of paper documentation, information about accounts etc. would usually be collected in a folder or binder in a person's office, safe, or desk drawer where the family would be able to easily find them. Any items that weren't included would come to light via paper statements that arrived in the mail: bank statements, bills, and account updates, for example. We are now encouraged to deal with all of these items, as well as utility and other bills via online accounts and email, making the existence of paper files, bills and statements less likely.
There are a number of ways that you can ensure your loved ones and/or your Executor have access to these accounts. Google has introduced the Inactive Account Manager whereby you can authorize Google to notify a specific individual if your accounts have been inactive for a specified period of time. Google can then provide access to that individual if needed. This might be useful for someone who lives alone, but it may smack a little of Big Brother for some of us, and it only addresses the issue of Google accounts.
A low-tech method of sharing the information is to write down the relevant passwords, place the list in a sealed envelope addressed to your Executor and give it to your lawyer to be kept with your will. You could also give the envelope directly to the Executor or to a trusted family member or friend so that access could be provided on a timelier basis. The list could also be recorded on a USB drive (encrypted) and either given to a trusted source or left in an agreed-upon place in your home. One of the downsides of this method is that you will need to keep the list up-to-date and change it when you change one of the passwords.
A more convenient method might be to use a password manager. A password manager is not just designed for emergency access, but can be a useful day-to-day way of managing the myriad passwords we all seem to have accumulated.
A password manager is essentially an encrypted digital vault that stores the login information you use to access password-protected accounts and services. Besides keeping your identity, credentials and sensitive data safe, the best password managers can generate strong, unique passwords for you to use. Your passwords can be longer and more complex because, with a manager, you don't have to remember the various pieces of login information, such as credit-card information or shipping addresses. With just one master password, you can autofill a form or password field. Some also feature online storage and an encrypted vault for storing documents. With the password manager method, you only need to provide your Executor or family member with the master password, using one of the methods outlined earlier. It won’t matter if you have changed any of the passwords you use on a day-to-day basis, as long as the master password remains the same.
There are a number of password managers available, some free and some with enhanced features for an annual fee. Often, the password manager can be used across devices so that it will work with your phone, tablet and/or desktop computer. There is a great deal of information available on the various products, and on the issue of dealing with your digital assets as part of your estate planning. You might want to consider specifying what you want your Executor or family members to do with the content of those online accounts – should your photo storage content be passed on to a specific individual, or deleted? Similar questions would apply to your email accounts, social media accounts etc., but that’s a topic for another day …
courtesy of Humour is Contagious
How to Entertain Yourself in Phase 2 of the COVID-19 Lockdown
By Helen Ayre
By now, you may have tried out and exhausted all of the at-home activities that were suggested in our spring newsletter. Fear not! We have more …
Online events: technology workshops, fitness & wellness classes can be found on their website.
Also US-based is Healthline, which is not designed exclusively for seniors but does have a great deal of relevant information. Anyone interested can sign up for a number of newsletters on different topics, or simply follow their Seniors Fitness Plan.
GoodLife Fitness is making it easier to stay in shape whilst physically distancing, as per their announcement:
The Stratford Festival is doing its best to keep us entertained through its Stratfest@Home program. A number of films are available for streaming, as well as on-demand productions, behind-the-scenes offerings and information about the history of the festival.
Similarly, the Burlington Performing Arts Centre has introduced BPAC-at-Home with musicals, documentaries, poetry, plays, kids’ story times, and much more to keep us busy.
The Art Gallery of Hamilton is offering AGH at Home, which is designed to deliver engaging exhibition and collection content for visitors to enjoy from the comfort of their own homes! Regularly updated with at-home activities, AGH Magazine articles, and behind-the-scenes videos, this platform brings the art gallery experience straight to your fingertips.
"The concert halls may be empty, but the music plays on! Every Wednesday at 8pm we will send you an email with an audio recording of a gorgeous concert from the NAC Orchestra archives.” Or just go to the web site and hear them all.Stateside, National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Concert series offers an immense variety of musical entertainment – check it out at Tiny Desk Home Concerts.
And, finally, some things are starting to open up.
The Art Gallery of Hamilton has announced its re-opening and is including a treat for the month of July:
We are excited to announce that the Art Gallery of Hamilton will reopen to the public on Thursday, July 16 featuring our extended exhibitions Early Snow: Michael Snow 1947 – 1962 and Artist’s Dream: Works of French Symbolism! The Gallery will be free admission throughout the month of July as a thank you to our returning visitors.
The Royal Ontario Museum is also preparing to welcome back visitors, as noted in this announcement:
Even though it may feel like the last time you visited the ROM dinosaurs actually roamed the Earth, the time has finally come to open our doors once again and welcome you back to the Museum.
Information on opening protocols, tickets, exhibits etc., can be found on the ROM website.
Looking for something fun to do with the grandkids? Or, maybe you’d just like to beat the heat yourself with a quick treat! Try this easy recipe from Food.com.
Homemade Ice Cream...in a Bag!
Jackie Defreitas, University Technology Services, June 1/20
Victor Candelori, Maintenance Services
courtesy of Humour is Contagious
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