60 plus and going strong

       On June 8, I'll be speaking in Ottawa at 60 plus and going strong: Wellness 101, an event organized by Bayshore Home Health in honour of the graduates of their health promotion program. Jennifer May, Bayshore's Community Relations Manager, estimates there may be 150 people in attendance. The event runs from 9 am - 1 pm and the speakers include Kevin Willis of the Canadian Stroke Network.

      The average age of the Wellness 101 participants is 75 and mainly female, but they have had people as young as 58 and as senior as 92. Jennifer explains the program's objectives. "Our participants are still reasonably healthy and they have a lot of potential to positively impact their aging experience. Most are converted intellectually and know that wellness is important and we try to offer them practical ways to achieve it. Our goal is to empower them to take control of their own health on a daily basis. We say, 'Here are the three, four or five things you can do today to promote your own wellness.' But our aim is not to overhaul people or their routine. We're looking for sustainable activities with long term results - and to get there it often takes just little steps.

        "The event on June 8 is one of our methods to bring our graduates back for another dose of health promotion. Let's refresh, refocus and stay committed to this. They regenerate the flame, see their peers, and take inspiration from others with a similar objective." Bayshore Home Health is a Canadian-owned company providing health care services to about 70,000 clients a year, primarily in their homes, from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland.


A Dialogue of Dedicated Parents

Left to right: Hilarie Klapman, Maria Russell, Lyndsay Green, Joy BrickellIf we can measure successful parenting by the amount of thought put into raising teens, then the young people of Central Technical School are in good hands. A few weeks ago, two dozen parents joined me, the Principal and the TDSB Superintendent of Schools to bat around ideas raised by Teens Gone Wired. Here are a few comments pulled from several hours of animated discussion that will give you a flavour of the depth and range of the dialogue.

  • What I like about the book is that I can see I’m not on my own – other people have these same issues.
  • I found the whole approach of the book very calming with its emphasis on issues and values.
  • My house rule is that everyone must turn off their cell phone and put it on the counter if they are sitting down at the table. This goes for my teenage son and his friends, as well as my husband and any other guests.
  • By texting my son, I was able to reconnect with the child I remembered. He was so impressed that “this cavewoman” could text, that he opened up to me again.
  • When I ask my kids to tutor me on the computer, I request that I get on the keyboard rather than just watching them do it. That way I make sure I really understand.
  • I played the game of Halo with my son because I wanted to see what it was all about.
  • Your kids need to know that one-way texting is not a conversation. Things are not confirmed unless I text back.
  • I like the focus on strategies in the book because the specific technologies and their uses are changing every 6 months.
  • What the book is doing in our family is helping open the conversation.Karen Falconer

The Discussion Guide for Parents is now posted here. Thank you to the School Council (PTA) of Central Technical School for their collaboration, with special thanks to the two dozen Book Club participants and the CTS School Council Executive: Hilarie Klapman - Chair, Maria Russell - Secretary, Joy Brickell - CTS School Council Past-Chair and organizer of the book talk, Fatima Ferreira -Treasurer, as well as Sheryl Freeman - CTS Principal and Karen Falconer - TDSB Superintendent of Schools.


Parents and Teachers Working Together for Teens

          I’m having the pleasure of working with the School Council (PTA) of Central Technical School to develop a “Discussion Guide for Parents” for Teens Gone Wired: Are You Ready?  Joy Brickell, a Central Tech Parent and past chair of the School Council, is coordinating this project with me. Joy explains that they introduced book talks to their meetings last year. “We decided that the books should be current, ideally Canadian, deal with helping our children through their high school education, and/or raising our children through their teen years. We have done fiction (Life on the Refrigerator Door), biography (The Film Club), and a few how-to books (How to Talk so Teens will Listen How to Listen so Teens will Talk and Yes, Your Teen is Crazy).” I’m delighted that Teens Gone Wired  is in such good company. Last week, the School Council organized an exam prep night where the school admin team and department reps offered ideas/tips on how parents and students could work together to prepare for the upcoming exams. It’s impressive to see teachers and parents collaborating like this to support our children. Expect our "Discussion Guide for Parents" shortly!



Art Matters

           Teens Gone Wired and You Could Live a Long Time both emphasize the power of art and creativity. In his book Five Minds for the Future, developmental psychologist Howard Gardner identified the creating mind as one of the cognitive abilities
that will be critical for success. “Because almost anything that can be formulated as rules will be done well by computers,” he says, “rewards will go to creators – those who have constructed a box but can think outside it.” Teens benefit in a myriad of ways from creative pursuits. They can expand their networks, make new friends and practice offline social skills. Artistic activities require discipline and focus which calm multi-tasking minds over-stimulated by incessant digital demands. The arts can open young minds to the realities of others and help develop the ethical mind and the respectful mind - two other capacities highlighted by Gardner.

            In later years, creative arts offer similar potential for growth and fun. The photo above shows Art Fidler with the cast of Original Kids Theatre Company on the opening night of their production of Les Miserables. Art was my high school English teacher. About 15 years ago he retired from a lifetime of inspiring students to embark on a second career as Artistic Director and then Director of Marketing for OKTC. Located in London, Ontario, OKTC has an ensemble of over 300 young people between the ages of 8 and 18. They produce up to 22 productions a year and run summer theatre camps. Volunteers are the lifeblood of OKTC and they do everything from making costumes and props to helping with stage management and box office.

Here’s how Art describes the OKTC experience:

“I'm lucky in not only having all these great kids around, but also all these great adults as volunteers too. One of the healthy things about an organization like ours is the building of friendship through interacting in person with all ages and working together to create something as beautiful as you possibly can, and then giving it away with love to others. A real living social network!”

Here’s the pleasure Joanne King “OKTC Grandma” derives from volunteering.

 “I can't tell you how much I love being part of Original Kids. What it has done for my grandson and so many other kids is just amazing. Working backstage is great. I love the energy and the excitement that fills the green room on all the shows.”


Intergenerational Joy

There are some thought-provoking points of intersection between You Could Live a Long Time and Teens Gone WiredGenerativity is one overlap that I’ve been pondering. The psychologist Erik Erikson coined the term and, at age 87, had this to say.

"The only thing that can save us as a species is seeing how 
we're not thinking about future generations in the way we live.  
What's lacking is generativity, a generativity that will promote 
positive values in the lives of the next generation.  Unfortunately, 
we set the example of greed, wanting a bigger and better everything, 
with no thought of what will make it a better world for our great-grandchildren."  

Teens Gone Wired talks about the importance to our young people of having loving, meaningful relationships with adults other than their parents. For some teens, grandparents and great-grandparents provide that positive force in their lives. For the author Mary Piper, it was the time she spent with her grandmothers that saved her when she was going through periods of hating her body, her town and her school. On the flip side, You Could Live a Long Time recommends hanging out with young people. Ninety-year-old role model, Betty, is passionate about spending time with people much younger – especially her grandchildren and their friends. “I get a lot of inner happiness when I see young people and I’m always learning something current.”

But you don’t have to be related to get the benefits of generativity. The New Horizons for Seniors Program has funded a number of projects across the country that connect seniors and young people. One of my favourites is “A Walk on the Wild Side” where the seniors in the Sherbrooke Community Centre in Saskatoon have created eco-trails and insect/butterfly gardens in collaboration with grade five and six students. According to the master gardener, “The seniors have taught the kids to slow down, listen, reflect and appreciate the natural environment.”

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