Healthy Living in the North

Plug into Prince George: tapping into trail and friendship networks

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Many trails around Prince George are accessible-including the Ancient Forest.

Running, walking, hiking, and biking have always been part of my life. When I moved to Prince George in the winter of 2005, I knew I needed to make friends with similar interests, so that spring, I took a “learn to trail run” class. Twelve years later, I’m still enjoying outdoor adventures with people I met in the class!

Over the years, our group has found many excellent trails in and around the city of Prince George to enjoy fresh air and exercise all year round. Often, our dogs accompany us so we make a rather large pack! We feel fortunate to live in a place with such accessible natural beauty.

For those who enjoy a nice stroll, brisk walk, or leisurely bike ride, you can find a list of accessible trails on the Prince George Tourism website. Many are fully accessible and suitable for those using wheelchairs or scooters, or for parents with children in strollers. Feeling ambitious? Complete the entire 11 km heritage river trail circuit for a trip through the city’s history. Ferguson Lake also has trails and docks so you can walk or canoe on site – it’s only 5 km from highway 97 & Chief Lake Road!

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Getting outside is a great way to unplug and recharge.

For more adventurous souls, there is the Cranbrook Hill Greenway and its connecting trails, Forest for the World, Otway Ski Centre, and Pidherny Trails. The trails are suitable for hiking, walking, running, or mountain biking – and they have great names like “Kitchen Sink” and “Espresso”. We have seen moose, bears, foxes, and an incredible variety of birds. Oh, yes, and wild blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries – hey, sometimes you need a snack when you’re out on the trail! Just be sure of what berry you are picking – if you don’t know, don’t eat it!

Feel like getting out of the city? How about a bike ride down Willow Cale Road to Buckhorn Lake for a picnic? It’s easy riding with minimal traffic. Want to venture a bit further? Check out the trails maintained by the Tabor Mountain Recreation Society – Dougherty Creek Mobility Trail is fully accessible!

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Posing with Treebeard, the oldest tree in the ancient rain forest!

Want to make a day of it? Try a hike up Teapot Mountain or take a picnic down the highway to the Ancient Forest with its accessible boardwalk. I love taking my camera and photographing the interesting lichens, and mushrooms – and of course the obligatory shot of the kids standing by the oldest tree in the forest, Treebeard!

And just because the snow is long gone, don’t think these trails are only for summer use! Both Otway and Tabor Mountain have groomed cross-country ski trails in winter. Or break out the snowshoes on some of the connecting trails around the Greenway and Forest for the World. The area is just as beautiful in winter – and no bugs to bother you!

Where do you go to unplug and get active in your community? Do you have a favourite local trail? If you’re in Prince George, I hope to see you out this summer!


Last fall we asked our readers to share how they plug into their communities through the Great Northern Scavenger Hunt!  We received some amazing entries and information about how to get active and plug into communities all over northern BC. Check back for “Plug Into” posts featuring tips and suggestions from those submissions!

Heather Ouellette

About Heather Ouellette

Heather is a Registered Nurse currently working in Population Health as the Regional Nursing Lead, Healthy Schools. Past work experiences include Public Health and teaching nursing at UNBC and in a previous life in Edmonton, home care and acute care nursing. When not outside adventuring with her friends and dogs, she likes to play in her garden during summer and sew quilts and garments in winter.

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So Long Summer (But it’s not all that bad!)

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The view along Kleanza Creek hiking trail near Terrace, B.C.

I have to admit. I’m a fall kind of guy. Sure, the dog days of summer are good, but growing up in Revelstoke, BC, I always looked forward to the mountains getting a fresh dusting of snow and the Kokanee spawning in the local creeks. Some of my fondest memories are hiking through the woods on a crisp fall morning with a couple friends.

I’m sure that many people living in northern British Columbia share a similar memory.

Now, I know this can be a busy time of year, school has started and there’s still a few projects around the house to finish up before winter gets here. However, why not spare some time to explore your local waking and hiking trails. The days are cooler and hints of color are starting to show in the trees. Salmon are spawning and there’s still abundant wildlife to be seen. Northern British Columbia has a lot of diversity and the outdoors can be spectacular this time of year.

Hiking may be a popular summertime activity, but there’s no reason why it can’t be enjoyed through the fall and into the early winter. Eventually hiking can become snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, but that’s another blog post.

However, there are some things to consider before heading out on your favorite trail.

  • Always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
  • Northern BC is bear country. Be bear aware, especially if you’re in an area where salmon are spawning.
  • Remember that the days are getting shorter this time of year. Make sure you take that into account when planning your hikes so you can be off the trail before it gets dark
  • Be prepared. While the days might still be warm and pleasant, nights are getting cooler. Pack some warm clothing, an emergency blanket, flashlight, signalling device and fire starter with you.
  • Hunting season is underway, be aware that hunters may be sharing the outdoors with you.
  • Take your camera or smartphone; this time of year can be great for photos.

One of my fondest memories from growing up in Revelstoke was watching the snowline on the mountains get lower and lower as fall waned and winter approached. When it was about halfway half way down the mountains, a few friends and I would go hiking and meet the snow. It became a fall ritual.

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This is an old picture from waaay back on one of those trips to reach the snow!!! Taken at Mt. Revelstoke National Park.

To be honest I still watch the snow creeping down the mountains here in Terrace. I still laugh at an old memory of a snowball fight that pitted my friends Richard and Ken against me and another friend on one of those hikes. What sticks out most from that day was Richard nailing Ken at point blank range with a snowball that was actually meant for Jim or I. But I guess you had to be there!

Go ahead, get out there and embrace fall in northern British Columbia. You just might create some wonderful new memories with your friends and family.

Northern Health is sponsoring a great way to get to know (or share!) your community’s healthy features – The Great Northern Scavenger Hunt! Answering clues gets you out in your community and a chance to win great prizes.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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The Great Northern Scavenger Hunt – Off to a strong start!

The entries have been pouring in to the Great Northern Scavenger Hunt, and we already have a winner!

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Vince points out a great view in Prince Rupert

Congratulations are in order – the “1st across the line” winner with the first entry in the Great Scavenger Hunt contest is Vince from Prince Rupert! Vince shared some great info about his community in response to our Scavenger Hunt clues, including the fact that a great place to borrow a book in Prince Rupert is the Friendship House youth hub. Vince also sent in a great shot of what he considers to be the best view in his area – the view from Mount Blainey.

A lot of Prince Rupert entries (and Scavenger Hunters have been very busy in Prince Rupert and across the northwest!) mention Oliver Lake for fun on the ice and the Skeena River as a great place to fish – it sounds like Prince Rupert has much to offer in terms of healthy options!

At the time of this writing, we have received 40 entries from communities across northern BC. The clue answers reveal a huge level of participation in community life! It looks like everyone who has a branch enjoys getting their books from their local Public Library. Folks in Prince George really enjoy playing at Duchess Park, and many in the northeast buy their locally grown or produced food at the Hudson’s Hope Farmers Market. In fact, across the north, Farmers Markets are coming out strong as the most commonly suggested place for local foods.

In answering clue #5, “Where do you go for the best view in your area?” Moe from Mackenzie really highlighted how tough that decision in that area, “Drive up Morfee Mountain…hike around. There are beautiful vistas along ALL the trails in town….whether they are simply logging trails or a lookout over Morfee Lake”.

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Hudson’s Hope bike crew

We’ve also been getting some really terrific photos of riders with their helmets on. It’s great to see riders starting young and the entries are also revealing that cycling and mountain biking are very popular across the north. Extra mentions of mountain bike trails were included in entries from Burns Lake, Mackenzie, Kitimat, Chetwynd and Prince George.

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Taking it seriously, big wheel style, in Quesnel

Keep those entries coming in – we’ll have our first three weekly winners announced next week and everyone who submits a minimum of 20 answers is in the draw for a $150 grand prize!

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Wish you were here… in Kitimat

Finally, gorgeous shots are coming in of ‘best views’ from all regions, but today I’ll leave you with this striking and moody shot – it’s the view from the gazebo near MK Bay Marina in Kitimat. Thank you to Sandra for sending that in!

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

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Get Your Game On!

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In the jersey is my youngest son, who loves soccer

You know what; I’m pretty excited for the last two weeks of September.  Not only is Northern Health’s Great Northern Scavenger Hunt taking place, but the world cup of hockey  is taking place.  While I won’t be watching every game, I’m looking forward to cheering on team Canada.  If team Canada is knocked out, then I’ll cheer for team Finland, as I have family over there.

Now, you might be wondering why I brought up watching the world cup of hockey when Northern Health is encouraging people to step away from the screen.  To be honest it’s about limiting screen time, not eliminating it all together.

Organized sports like hockey, soccer, baseball, volleyball and basketball not only promote physical activity, but also sportsmanship, teamwork and often community involvement.   The Great Northern Scavenger Hunt is about plugging into your community and I’d like to point out that team sports are a great way to plug into your community.   Take some time to find out what leagues and clubs are in your community.

However, competitive or organized team sports may not be for everyone.  Team sports can be expensive, although there is help available for families.  The commitment in terms of time can be high and sometimes travel is required.  Not everyone enjoys the competition of team sports, and some may feel that their skill level isn’t good enough to join.

Organized competitive team sports just aren’t what some people want to do.  However, there are other ways to get involved in sports and “plug in.”

  • If team sports aren’t your thing, then what about sports that are individual in nature. Sports such as martial arts, speed or figure skating, tennis, badminton, cycling or skiing can provide challenge without being part of a team.
  • If the competitive nature of some sports leagues doesn’t appeal to you, consider joining a recreational league. Check out your community leisure services schedule and see what’s there.  You never know what might peak your interest.  Or get a bunch of friends together and have an informal game; chances are you’ll have fun and a few laughs at the end of it.
  • If you want to take part in a sport, but aren’t confident in your skill level, then look for a beginner league. I didn’t start playing ice hockey until later in life and I started out in an adult beginner’s league. It turned out to be one of the best experiences I ever had.  Never think you’re too old to start playing a sport either.  However, if you haven’t been active for a while, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor first and remember to start out slowly.
  • If your kids are involved in sports, remember that it should be about having fun, making friends and learning about teamwork. While skill development is important, placing too much pressure on kids can result in the game becoming less enjoyable or even requests to quit the team.
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In the Gi is my oldest son, who takes part in jujitsu

The great thing about sports is that everyone can take part in some way or another.  It doesn’t matter what age or gender you are, or what your skill level is, you can find a way to participate.   Getting children involved in sport is a great way to build healthy lifestyles.

Now let’s cheer on team Canada.  Better yet, let’s put on our team Canada jerseys and play some road hockey.  Just remember to get off the road when someone yells “CAR!!”

Consider answering some of the sports-related questions (along with many others!) in the Great Northern Scavenger Hunt! This contest gets you out and thinking about your community’s healthy activities and options – and there are great prizes to be won. Contest Closes October 02.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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Get to know your community… Go for a Run!

20160920-holly-christian-runningMoving across the country can be a scary proposition, especially when all you know about your destination is what you’ve seen on TV. So when we found out we’d be moving to northern BC seven years ago, the first thing I did was go buy a map. Two moves and a lot of long road trips later, I’m happy to report that although it’s nothing like Vancouver, each dot on the map of our vast northern landscape has its own sense of community, unique personality, and way of life. One of the best ways I’ve found to plug into my surroundings has been to lace up and explore the trails, sign up for local races and events, and get outside!

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“Nature’s Staircase” – AKA Chetwynd Community Trail

Running (or walking) your local trails and roads gives you a great opportunity to meet people, see the town up close, and get to know the terrain. Whether it’s running up a mountain face, rock hopping across a river, or tackling nature’s stairs through the forest (see photo), literally every type of landscape can be found somewhere in northern BC.

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Holly and her friends after her first triathlon in Mackenzie

No matter how small the community, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that across the north there are groups and clubs for those interested being more active. Whether it’s running, triathlon, cycling, skiing, all are welcoming to the newbies and happy to offer tips to the inexperienced. I tried my first triathlon in Mackenzie, teamed up with friends and coworkers for the chilly Iceman in Prince George, ran my first half marathon up a mountain in Tumbler Ridge, and trained for my first marathon on the trails and country roads of the North Peace. Along the way I’ve made new friends, supported other reluctant runners to give it a shot, and continue to challenge myself to try new routes.

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Holly Christian and Melissa Aalhus tackle the Earth Hour 5K in Fort St. John

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Beatton Park snowshoe trails – Fort St. John

One thing to remember about exploring northern BC, is that you need to be prepared for anything. Weather can make or break a run, but if you prep in advance and wear the right gear, rain and snow can create an entirely new (dare I say pleasant) experience. After my phone battery froze on one cold winter (-25 degree) run, I entertained myself by listening to the crunching snow instead of music. Wildlife will also keep you on your toes. I have come face to face with a couple bears on my excursions around Mackenzie’s trails, and met a bull moose, fox and a couple of deer on some recent runs in Fort St. John. And nothing makes you run faster than finding a pile of fresh cougar scat on a trail, that’s for sure!

Whether running is your thing, or you’re just trying to get to know your community a bit better, I highly recommend checking out the local events in your area. If you aren’t feeling particularly athletic, there are also great opportunities to volunteer at events and races – and they’re always grateful for an extra set of hands!

I look forward to making many more runs across the north and exploring the northwest! My next adventure will be in the wilds of Hudson’s Hope for That Dam Run in September.

How can you plug into your community today? get inspired and maybe win a prize when you complete the Great Northern Scavenger Hunt!

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is a Regional Lead for Population Health. She has a passion for healthy living and health promotion and is a foodie at heart. Originally from Ontario, she has fully embraced northern living, but enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She swims, bikes and runs, and just completed her first marathon.

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Planting seeds, fighting stigma, and growing community: Healthy Minds Community Garden

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to a variety of groups with projects that make northern communities healthier. Our hope is that these innovative projects inspire healthy community actions where you live! Check out the story below and read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.


Fox in a community garden

How can a community garden reduce stigma around mental health concerns? The Healthy Minds Community Garden in Fort St. James accomplished just that – promoting social connections and healthy lifestyles along the way!

The Healthy Minds Peer Support group in Fort St. James offers a safe and confidential venue for those impacted by mental and emotional health issues. The group aims to break isolation, promote healthy lifestyles, support integration into the community, and reduce stigma around mental health concerns. Healthy Minds Peer Support also organizes public awareness campaigns with speakers from the RCMP and local mental health practitioners. They meet every Monday at 7:00 p.m. at the Stuart Lake Hospital and welcome everyone to join them.

At first glance, one might ask how a community garden fits into this vision. For facilitators and Mental Health & Addictions Advisory Committee members Greg Kovacs and Sandi Taylor, there are so many worthwhile connections between a community garden and mental wellness. They highlighted these when they first proposed this project to the IMAGINE Community Grant program:

A healthy diet of fruits and vegetables and physical activity can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and mental health problems. We also know working with the soil, planting, and harvesting is therapeutic and conducive to those on their road to recovery and healthy living principles. Community gardens have proven successful in numerous communities worldwide in providing valuable educational tools and skills acquisition for those most in need.

For Kovacs and Taylor, there was a crucial social piece to this project, too:

Isolated mental health clients gain socialization skills, confidence, and practical life-affirming experience. [The garden] is a great way to keep fit, socialize, and an excellent form of therapeutic exercise for participants.

After a successful IMAGINE Community Grant application in 2015, Kovacs, Taylor, and the rest of the Healthy Minds Peer Support group got to work.

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A look at the garden space before the Healthy Minds Community Garden took shape. Construction involved over 50 volunteers and over 1,500 volunteer hours.

How did the project go? Kovacs and Taylor provided an inspiring update:

This project exceeded expectations on many levels. The construction of the garden space involved over 50 volunteers, from children to seniors across all socioeconomic and racial divides. Together, we logged over 1,500 volunteer hours. This garden has provided socialization opportunities [and] improved the mental and physical health of many community members. Through these interactions, awareness of mental health, physical health, and environmental health has been raised.

Two classes from David Hoy Elementary School helped in the construction and planting of garden beds. The grade 9 woodworking class from the high school built two flower garden beds for us. We also had involvement from adult mental health service users. Friendships were made, and a sense of community bonding was achieved. We were able to produce many pounds of fresh, organic vegetables – from lettuce to corn and peppers. Also, with seven local newspaper articles on the garden project, mental health and community gardening has been highlighted, and these topics have become common conversations around all community events. Raising awareness of mental health is the first step in reducing, and eventually eliminating stigma around it.

Community garden

A look at the completed garden space reveals the transformation that took place. For the project coordinators, a similar transformation occurred in the lives of those involved in the garden as the “unifying space” helped them to develop social connections.

One of the most important goals of sharing projects supported by IMAGINE Community Grants is the opportunity to share the lessons learned from different projects. Everyone who has been involved in a big project – whether it’s a personal home renovation, organizing a local sporting event, or getting a project off of the ground in a community – knows that it’s not always rainbows and sunshine! With the benefit of hindsight, Kovacs and Taylor shared what they learned:

All in all, it has been a very positive experience. There were, however, some challenges. It was difficult to get people involved in the actual construction. A lot of skilled labour was required, and in short supply … Being the project lead, it was difficult at times to gauge the skill level of volunteers … Volunteers often require close supervision. It is important to allow people some freedom, while discerning what projects they can succeed at. We could have used some more help with the administrative duties … If we undertook this type of project in the future, we would not make funding applications, or commitments, until we had people committed to certain duties.

The takeaway for Kovacs and Taylor, though?

The successes greatly exceeded the challenges. We have been approached by many strangers complimenting the work our group is doing. The word is out, and most of our beds are already reserved for the 2016 planting season. This garden is poised to become a new standard in community gardening. With a focus on aesthetics, as opposed to just food production, our garden has become a popular lunch, and socialization place for local workers and all community members. There is a lot of pride in this community garden. It is known as a very tranquil and serene sanctuary, overlooking the beautiful Stuart Lake. Seeing the faces of people who see the garden for the first time—priceless! … Be prepared to get projects off the ground with a few dedicated and imaginative people, and once things begin to take shape, others will join.

Two people paint a sign.

Volunteers put the finishing touches on the sign welcoming gardeners, guests, and visitors to the Healthy Minds Community Garden in Fort St. James.

The impact of the Healthy Minds Community Garden and the Healthy Minds Peer Support group really comes to light when you ask Kovacs and Taylor for one thing that they want to share about the project:

It is extremely difficult to list only one, as there are so many! … The greatest benefit, among many, is that of community bonding, or socialization. People that would not normally mix are working, laughing, and talking with each other. With so many phenomena dividing people in society today, the garden is a unifying space. One participant in particular, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been suffering from a life-threatening illness and has been isolating for over a year. We managed to get her out to the garden one day, and that resulted in her riding a bicycle to the garden every weekend to help and mostly just to socialize. She has reserved a garden bed for 2016. Largely as a result of stigma, many people experiencing mental health issues suffer in silence. Our objective is to reach as many of these people as possible, and the Healthy Minds Community Garden is accomplishing this. We also have to mention that the health benefits of growing and eating whole foods has not been lost on those participating in the garden.

Clearly unable to contain their excitement, pride, and desire to share more about the community garden, Kovacs and Taylor’s “one thing” continues to a list of community partners:

The involvement of the school kids, and the excitement in their eyes when they see what they have grown, is priceless. We believe that many of those kids will continue to garden and eat healthy throughout their lives. We also have to mention that the school this year is going to plant three beds as a result of the success of the program.

We have also reserved a bed for the Key Resource Centre in Fort St. James, and two beds are reserved for a local women’s wellness group. So far, we have two beds reserved for seniors as well. We have built two extra height beds for people with mobility issues. The entire garden is wheelchair accessible. We strongly believe that this garden will continue to grow and be of great benefit to all in this small community.

This project is, beyond any reasonable doubt, a resounding success.

Garden bed

Growing so much more than just healthy, local food, the community garden has become first and foremost a health-promoting gathering space where people can connect.

Do you have ideas to promote social connections, reduce stigma, boost healthy eating, and make your community healthier? Start gathering your team and brainstorming your project – the next round of IMAGINE Community Grants will start September 19, 2016.


IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. The next call out for IMAGINE Community Grants will be September 19, 2016.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Fatherhood, community, and culture: Reflections on parenting in Prince Rupert with Duane Jackson

Duane Jackson and daughter

Between his professional and personal life, Duane Jackson has had the opportunity to glean a great deal of wisdom with a child-centred focus.

Duane Jackson has worn many hats in his years serving children and families on the Northwest Coast. His many positions held include former Aboriginal Coordinator for Success by Six and Regional Coordinator for Children First. He now works with the Hecate Strait Employment Development Society as a Trainer/Facilitator and Employment Counsellor. Jackson is also co-chair on the Aboriginal Steering Committee with the Human Early Learning Partnership.

Most importantly, Jackson is a family man – he and his wife are the proud parents of three children. Between his professional and personal life, Duane Jackson has had the opportunity to glean a great deal of wisdom with a child-centred focus.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I grew up on the Northwest Coast, but I’m Gitanmaax from Old Hazelton. I actually lived at one of the fishing canneries, North Pacific Cannery on Inverness Passage, when it was an operating cannery – now it’s a museum! I’ve been in Prince Rupert the majority of my life, grade 3 on, and went to high school here.

When I was 26, I met my wife, Christine, and we’ve been together for 23 years now. We have three children, a 17-year-old, a 14-year-old and an 8-year-old.

As a father of three, what have you found most unexpected in fatherhood?

I didn’t expect it to be the humbling experience that it was. I realized right from the birth of my first child that the importance of this job was so completely over and above anything that I understood in my life at that point. This small individual was going to encompass me so completely. With my first boy, with Caleb – I actually never put him down once! I carried him everywhere. I never put him in a buggy or a stroller; I carried him. He was in my arms all the time.

The biggest thing was the level of humility that was required, and the beauty of that was how much growth was involved in that process because of the fact that if you don’t embrace that humility, it will totally uproot you.

You graduated from college at age 40 and immediately began your work in serving children and families. How do your life experiences and education combine in your approach to your life and work?

Throughout my Early Childhood Education learning, the one thing that really got me was advocacy. But then of course, according to my culture, as a Gitanmaax person, I must advocate for children. Every child within my society is my responsibility. Not every Gitanmaax child, every child. My culture speaks to it, and as an Early Childhood Educator, my code of conduct speaks to it as well, that every child is my responsibility.

Prince Rupert harbour front

For Duane, Prince Rupert’s many activities and diverse population make it a healthy community for kids. Access to activities, however, can be a challenge.

What makes Prince Rupert a healthy community for children?

We have many activities for children, from minor league soccer and basketball, to the recreation centre for more activities. But we must remember that Prince Rupert is leading the province in unemployment. There is a huge societal barrier to accessing some of these activities. It’s not just Indigenous people who believe these programs just aren’t for them. It’s societal. In Canada we have the lowest percentage, globally, of children and families who access community programming.

We see a lot of families out at some great community events here: the Halloween Fest, the Winter Fest, the Children’s Festival … you see all generations of families out together, from the elders down to the smallest children.

One of the things I am always excited to see is children from diverse backgrounds who speak their language. Not just Indigenous languages, but all cultural groups. When they speak the language of their parents, I think that’s really exciting. You see that a lot here in Prince Rupert because there are many ethnicities represented here.

In your opinion, what small things do you do, that others can do, that may have big impacts in supporting healthy childhoods?

I think it’s in doing things together – doing activities together – and getting kids off of the computer. Getting kids off of screens! We’re steadily raising a generation of young people that will not have the ability to communicate effectively and positively. There’s just no amount of emoticons that you are going to attach to a text message that are actually going to tell me how you feel. This is starting younger and younger. You can go to a restaurant and see a family of four where all four people are on screens, no one is having a conversation. At our table here at home, where we have dinner together every night, there are no phones. My phone goes away. I have that deal with my family – and we talk. At the table – no one is watching TV!

These are the pieces – do things together, be involved, be supportive. And not just going out and watching your children do their activities. One of the most exciting things for me this year was having my daughter come and watch me coach basketball. She would come and watch my team play, and watch me coach. Bring your children with you into a social setting so that they can see how you are in that setting. All of us are different in our own homes than in a social setting. I think the secret is to get your children out with you in social events.

Knowing what you know now – if you were to go back to those early years with your children – what would you try to do more of with them?

Play, play, play. Hold onto them as much as possible, which is what I do now – even with the older boy and my 14-year-old. Squash ’em, squash ’em, squash ’em as much as I can! And never show them anger. I can show them disappointment, I tell my children I can be disappointed with your decisions, but at no time, ever, are you a disappointment.

If I were to go back, punishment would go out the door. I would go with restorative justice. I would walk, and talk, and teach and do nothing else but that.

If I was to talk to a parent, or talk to myself when I was a new parent, I’d tell them just to love and give and respect your children unconditionally. To give them these three things throughout our lives together and expect nothing in return. That’s what I would do … and advise.


This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story and lots of other information about child health in the Summer 2016 issue:

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

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Another 11 ways northern B.C. residents invest in their health!

The “Invest in Healthy Aging” contest is now in its final week and the stories of healthy living in northern B.C. just keep rolling in! Thank you for sharing your inspiring ideas!

I’m so excited to be able to share yet another set of stories from every corner of northern B.C.! If you want even more ideas for healthy aging, don’t miss the Week 1 and Week 2 summaries!

Remember that you can enter the contest once a week so keep the ideas coming! How do you invest in your body, mind, and relationships?

Father and daughter running

Clay invested in his health by running a half marathon on his birthday! “My daughter was so proud of me and wants to become a runner. About 200 metres before the finish line she jumped out and finished the race with me. The six weeks of training was worth it.”

In Chetwynd, Clay’s commitment to healthy living is inspiring his daughter – a new aspiring runner!

I’ve been into running half marathons lately. I was going to be in Vancouver the first week in February and saw that there was the Hypothermic Half on February 6, which was my birthday. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my birthday! My daughter was so proud of me and wants to become a runner. About 200 metres before the finish line, she jumped out and finished the race with me. The six weeks of training was worth it. I beat my target time by 4 minutes. Looking forward to the next one in May!

Tammy in Quesnel has found ways to stay active around her kids’ busy sport schedules!

Being a mom of 2 teenagers, it is very hard to have a schedule of my own, between working and driving the kids to their sporting events. Like any mom with active kids, I feel like a taxi driver going to soccer, volleyball, softball, hockey practices or games. In order to keep up with the kids and get in some exercise time of my own, I will go for a short walk at the beginning of their practices or games. That way, I can still watch them (because they always look to make sure Mom is watching!)!

Remember all of the pets that promoted healthy aging in week one? Ginger is a high-energy dog who has helped Emily in Quesnel invest in her health!

My husband and I adopted our high energy dog Ginger in 2012. Ginger requires a lot of exercise and mental stimulation on a daily basis. She gets excited to go for walks, hikes and snowshoeing and to just be included with the family. When Ginger is happy, we are happy. It is amazing what fresh air and a healthy dose of exercise can do for your mind and relationship!

Group photo at a circuit class

Helena takes part in a regular circuit class with friends! How do you stay active?

A circuit class in Smithers has paid dividends for Helena’s health!

Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, we go to Aileen’s Circuit Class at Lake Kathlyn School! It’s great to work out with an awesome bunch women. I was first invited to attend in November and loved it! We have a group that attends and it’s fun to work out together!

Gretchen in Quesnel has seen a local running group benefit her mind, body, and relationships!

Two years ago, I signed up for a walk/run group at a local running store (Reason2Run). I am now running 25 km trail races. Although it is not a team sport, I have met a great group of people of all ages that create the team spirit with every run. Some of the side effects of this adventure have been a healthy heart, happy spirit, fresh air to cleanse my mind […] At 53 years old, I feel better than I ever have.

For Chris in Fort St. John, healthy aging boils down to three components of walking outside!

Getting vitamin D, holding hands and experiencing the everyday.

Deanne in Quesnel is testing the waters with a few different activities! What would you suggest she try next?

I am working on trying to eat healthier by having the fridge stocked with healthy snacks and veggies and eating out less often. I struggle with getting out for exercise but am making a concerted effort to get out and experience as many different activities as I can in the hopes that something will become a passion. I have recently tried cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, which were a lot of fun.

Also in Quesnel, Beverly has come up with amazingly creative ways to stay active without much impact!

I am not a candidate for extreme anything! I have an artificial knee, complex scoliosis, and arthritis, so mild to moderate activity with no impact is more my bag. This morning for instance, I did 5 modified push-ups on the edge of my tub before I showered; jumped onto my little stepper that I have on my sundeck for 5 minutes while my puppy went to do his business in the yard; and then while I was pumping gas, I did as many step-ups onto the fuel pump island as I could while my tank filled!

Three friends with mountain in background

In her 60s, Carol and a friend discovered geocaching – a fun and healthy adventure! What new activities can you try to invest in your health?

In Atlin, a new hobby has taken Carol off of the couch and around the world!

In 2012, a friend and I were in our early 60s and decided to stop being bookworm couch potatoes. My friend discovered geocaching and we took to it immediately. Getting lost in the bush was almost as much fun as succeeding at finding geocaches! We found ourselves walking, hiking, scrambling up cliffs and under bridges, and learned to use a GPS. We just had to spread this fun to others and gave introductory workshops to participants from 11 to 81 years of age. It’s taken us to 5 countries so far!

In Prince George, life is a slice for Hilda!

I go by the saying “life is a slice.” I have a slice of everything I enjoy every day. I keep an open agenda and have a bit of several enjoyable activities each day. Beginning with morning tea/coffee and catching up on Facebook with friends, a walk, a book, time with grandchildren, healthy cooking. Every day is a pie divided into appropriate slices and savoured all day long. At the end of the day, I enjoy a good night’s sleep and then it starts all over again :)

A move from Prince George to Haida Gwaii has resulted in new opportunities for investment for Ann!

I have recently made a huge investment in my body, mind and relationships. I have retired and moved from Prince George to Haida Gwaii. Here, I am learning to listen to myself and becoming calmer. I am recharging myself by doing things I love: being outside, creating with my hands, and best of all enjoying a huge eclectic community of caring, thoughtful and compassionate people.

I want to keep sharing stories but there’s just not enough room! Thank you everyone for sharing your healthy living ideas so far! Your investments in healthy aging are creative, inspiring, and powerful! The contest runs until the end of February so enter today! You can still win one more weekly prize or the grand prize of a $150 gift certificate to the local sporting good store of your choice!

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Invest in your relationships

This month, we want to know how you are preparing for the future by investing in your health! Tell us (or show us) what you do to invest in your body, your mind, and your relationships for your chance to win great weekly prizes and a $150 grand prize! To inspire you, we’ll be featuring regular healthy aging content on the Northern Health Matters blog all month long!


Group selfie on a showshoe trip.

The time to embrace and invest in your relationships is now! Taylar, along with some friends, coworkers, and family, enjoys a chocolate treat during a snowshoeing outing together! How are you investing in your relationships?

Looking back at my life, I can’t help but think of all the relationships I have had. Whether formed in school, early jobs, or in my career, these have impacted me and helped me grow in all areas of my life; in fact, I still recall some of my childhood friendships.

We start our lives with many friendships formed in school – from elementary through high school and maybe college or university. Friendships may continue to form in our early jobs and we often grow into new ones from careers, connections through our children, and sports and hobbies. Some of those relationships become lifelong while others peter off. Then, many of us settle into life, careers, maybe kids and the “busy-ness” of general life. As this happens, even more of those friendships may slip away as we feel that there is just no time for them.

But what happens when “life” calms down, our kids become their own independent adults, and the “busy-ness” of life starts to slow? Or maybe you’ve come to a big change in your life where you need more support? When we have the time to look around us, we may feel like there is no one there anymore.

The time to embrace your relationships is now!

Staying connected with friends, family, co-workers and your community can help reduce the risk of isolation, depression, and emptiness. According to Northern Health’s 2013 report on Healthy Aging and Seniors’ Wellness,

Having a strong social network that includes friends and family members brings health, happiness and contentment.

Here are some ways that I have been able to stay connected with many relationships I have encountered throughout my life. Give them a try!

  • Connect online: The internet makes connecting with people easy and can be done in the comfort of your home. It is a quick and easy way to communicate, stay involved and catch up with friends and family. Whether it be e-mail, Facebook, FaceTime, Skype, etc. – it keeps you in contact and in most cases you can talk for as long as you want without that dreaded long distance bill! Not too sure how to use these tools? Talk to a tech-savvy friend, a person of a younger generation, or visit your local library! If you do not have the internet, you can always visit a local coffee shop as most have free wireless internet connection.
  • Build new friendships: This sounds scary, and you will probably ask yourself: “how?” Start by connecting with people you may already know like a co-worker who you’ve always just worked with, or a friend of a friend. If you’re invited to something new, try just going, even if it isn’t for you! You can even just stay for a bit and say “Hi.” Try inviting someone new for coffee or a dinner party, a walk, or to a community event.
  • Rebuild existing friendships: We are all guilty of bumping into an old friend and saying “let’s get together and catch up” but then never following through. Why don’t we follow through? Too busy? Not interested? The excuses can go on and on. Like Nike says, “Just do it!” What do you have to lose? Get your old friend’s contact info right away and send them a quick text or choose a date and meeting place at that initial encounter. Maybe they need someone like you back in their life, too.
  • Volunteer: Volunteering keeps you connected with your community. It is a great way to get out and meet new people. The Government of B.C.’s Seniors’ portal reminds us that “volunteering offers numerous opportunities to expand and grow, to learn, to meet new people, to be creative, to feel valued, to make a difference and to help shape the community you live in.” People who volunteer have better self-esteem, satisfaction, and have overall better physical and emotional health.

Make time for yourself and start investing in the relationships around you. You might even surprise yourself with how many people want the same as you do, and with how many people do care and support you. Build a strong support network for your future. Starting now will guide your upcoming years to what you always pictured them to be.

How do you invest in your relationships? Tell us for your chance to win!

More information

 

Taylar Endean

About Taylar Endean

Taylar is a Registered Nurse working in Preventive Public Health. Taylar was born and raised in Prince George and studied at UNBC to earn her degree in Nursing in 2011. She's still living in the North where she tries to embrace everything it has to offer. In her spare time, Taylar loves being outdoors, spending countless weekends at Ness Lake, walking, snowshoeing and skiing. Taylar also enjoys spending time with family and friends, coaching skating, volunteering at community events and just started to learn to crochet. The north is her home, though she does like to take those sunny vacations!

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6 ways northern B.C. residents invest in health!

Woman walking dog

We asked you how you invest in healthy aging and, boy, did you tell us! From walking to swimming and meditation apps to time with friends, your ideas and stories were inspiring!

We are now one week into our “Invest in Healthy Aging” contest and the response has been nothing short of inspiring! We asked you how you invest in your health and, boy, did you tell us!

Here are just a few of the stories we’ve received so far! I’ll be sure to share even more of your stories, tips, and inspiring ideas next week! Remember that you can enter the contest once a week so keep the ideas coming! How do you invest in your body, mind, and relationships?

For Vince in Prince Rupert, challenging others is part of the fun!

We go out and walk 5 km with our dogs whenever the weather permits. We try to walk as long as we can and always take pictures to share and inspire others to get out and walk. I use Fitbit to track our steps and use it to challenge our friends.

Velvet in Dawson Creek is having a fun retirement filled with healthy living activities!

This is my year! Swimming, walking, joined a gym. Had some dental work done, had physio for my neck, getting spa treatments. Got my eyes checked and had an appointment with the doctor for a physical. I’m also involved with the Palliative Society as a volunteer. I’m eating better and trying to teach my husband about meals and activities … next is ice skating. Also involved with the Legion, art gallery, and Better at Home Program. I am having a fun retirement!!

For Anita in Prince George, family and physical activity come together for a great healthy living investment!

How I invested this week in my body & mind was by attending three intense strength building classes after work that included kettlebells, sandbags, and core training. I also invested in my relationships by working out at these classes alongside my sister & daughter. They both bring encouragement & strength to commit to this time on a weekly basis.

Diane in Chetwynd wishes she had started the investment earlier, but is enjoying her activity now!

I have been going to the gym for a month now and enjoying it! Should of done this 30 years ago.

Dogs made a couple of appearances in your healthy aging investment portfolios! For Pat in Hixon, her German shepherd makes for a healthy living companion!

My husband Larry and I are making an effort to walk to the Hixon post office to get our mail at least 3 times a week. We take our German shepherd dog, Tikka, who loves the walk. We are concerned about keeping her healthy, also!

Marlee in Terrace shared some important reminders about focusing and investing in relationships!

I find that being surrounded by family, friends, and physically exercising not only your mind in speech and conversation, but freeing your body in physical exercise with those important to you can help to decrease stress and keep your body and mind healthy. Whether it’s a coffee date or a walk downtown, disassociating yourself from work and allowing yourself to focus on individual relationships important to you will keep you healthy and happy!

Thank you to everyone who shared their healthy living ideas so far! The contest runs until the end of February so enter today! You could win great weekly prizes or the grand prize of a $150 gift certificate to the local sporting good store of your choice!

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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