Healthy Living in the North

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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Stay connected and get involved to conquer winter!

Editor’s note: This article was co-written by Andrew Burton, Holly Christian, Danielle Munnion and Lana Vanderwijk. It was originally published in the November 2015 issue of Healthier You magazine.


 

Northern living presents a whole host of challenges that can lead to social isolation. The long, cold and dark winters can make it difficult to get out. Many people leave for work before the sun rises and don’t get home until after it has set. This can put a real damper on your mood, energy level and motivation.

But there are lots of things that you can do to prevent this! The key to conquering winter is staying involved and connected! Research suggests that having an active social life and staying engaged in the community leads to better mental, physical and emotional health. So let’s conquer winter together this year and come out even healthier on the other side! Here are a few ways that you can get involved and stay connected in your community.

Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to be involved in the community, and there’s no easier time to start since the holiday season typically offers many opportunities for volunteering! There are so many different organizations in need of help that you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something that piques your interest! Volunteering gets you up and out of the house, is a great way to meet new people, and is associated with better mental and emotional health. It’s also linked to greater resiliency – that is, the ability to bounce back and cope with unexpected change.

Hello, neighbour!

Volunteering doesn’t strictly mean giving your time to an organization, though. The word “volunteer” simply means to do something and expect no financial gain. There are other ways to benefit from volunteering that don’t require an organization for you to get involved. For instance, you could help a neighbour shovel their driveway, offer to walk their dog, grab their mail while you grab yours, or help them to put up their Christmas lights. There are many things you can do that would surely be appreciated and are great ways to get to know your neighbours or kindle new friendships. And it’s these types of social connections that promote healthy aging and lead to better health for both you and your neighbours!

Try something new!

Three adults carpet bowling

Whether you’re trying something new like carpet bowling at a community centre or sharing a hobby with a neighbour, staying connected this winter will help you to come out even healthier in the spring!

Another great way to meet new people is to try something new! Take up a new activity: try yoga, join a local curling team, or check out the local pool. Many pools offer activities like Aquafit – and what better way to meet someone new than to chat for a bit while soaking sore muscles in a hot tub after a good workout in the pool! Sports, especially team sports, and other organized physical activities are good for your health in more ways than one. They help you stay active and physically fit and during exercise, your body releases endorphins – chemicals produced by the body that can relieve pain and induce a state of euphoria – which make you feel good.

Share your hobbies

In addition to more organized activities like sports, hobbies such as a knitting group, an art or photography class, or a choir also keep you socially engaged. Informal clubs like these provide a great reason to get out of the house on a regular basis during those cold, dark winters. They also provide a place to meet new people with similar interests and make new friends. Many activities offered in our communities are free or have a low cost associated with them, making them easy to attend. The social interaction associated with attending these activities has huge benefits for your health, too, especially in terms of increasing your resiliency, giving you a sense of purpose, improving brain function and memory, and boosting your mood because you’re doing something you enjoy with people you enjoy!

Why connect?

Winter, and the holiday season in particular, is a time of giving – but why do we do it? Because it makes us feel good! We get to spend time with our friends and family and enjoy the satisfaction of making others feel good, too. We enjoy knowing that we’ve made a difference in someone’s life because we’re social creatures. Humans weren’t meant to spend all of their time in solitude. We need those personal, social and spiritual connections and we need to be involved in order to be as happy and healthy as possible.

Start now for stress-free and golden years!

Engaging in activities prior to retirement makes us more likely to continue them after we retire (which is handy because that’s when we have more time to enjoy them, too!). Having activities and social connections in place is key to ensuring that you are happy, healthy and engaged once you no longer have co-workers by your side day-in, day-out to chat with. This fall and winter, make it your goal to try something new: volunteer, try a new activity or join a club! There are so many ways you can benefit from putting yourself out there and we want those “golden years” to be truly that: stress-free and golden!

Andrew Burton

About Andrew Burton

Andrew is a Community Integration Systems Navigator for Northern Health’s HIV and Hepatitis C Care team and works to support healthy living practices in communities across northern B.C. Andrew is developing positive activity and diet practices for two reasons: to deal with his own health concerns, and to “walk the talk” of promoting healthy living. Building on his training and experience in creative arts therapy, Andrew founded and runs the Street Spirits Theatre program promoting social responsibility among young people. This work has been recognized nationally and internationally as a leading method of social change.

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Foodie Friday: Eating well for healthy aging

As a dietitian, many Elders have talked to me about food’s role in honouring our bodies and connecting us to others and to our traditions. Considering these aspects of eating can make a big difference to the health and well-being of seniors!

Wondering what you can do to eat better as you age? Or maybe you’re looking to support healthy eating for older adults in your family and community? Here are a few suggestions:

Get back to the Canada’s Food Guide basics

Look to Canada’s Food Guide when making food choices. Include a variety of foods from the four food groups: fruit and vegetables, grains, milk & alternatives, and meat & alternatives. As you age, your body needs more of certain nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. Foods that are good sources of calcium are milk (canned, powdered or fresh), fortified soy beverage, yogurt, cheese, seaweed and fish with bones. If you are over the age of 50, take a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU.

Consider joining a local food program

Programs that may be available in your community include:

  • Elders or seniors luncheons to share a healthy meal with others
  • Cooking groups to develop food skills like Food Skills for Families
  • Meals on Wheels for hot lunch deliveries
  • Good Food Box for a monthly offering of fresh, local produce

Eat together

Eating together is fun and enjoyable! Also, did you know that people who eat together, eat better? How does sharing dinner with a friend, joining an Elders luncheon group or teaching your grandkids a traditional family recipe sound?

Cook for yourself – you are worth the effort

Healthy meals are important for families of all sizes. A simple meal can be a healthy meal – aim to include at least three out of the four food groups. For example, yogurt with granola and berries or toast topped with baked beans and a glass of milk. Freeze leftovers for a quick meal later or reinvent them into a completely new meal.

Frittata

One of Emilia’s tips for healthy eating as you age – cook for yourself because you are worth the effort! Together with some toast and a glass of milk, this “leftover” frittata is an easy and delicious way to enjoy a balanced meal.

Need some quick and easy inspiration? Here’s a tasty recipe I call “Leftover” Frittata. You can use any vegetables, meat, or fish that you want!

“Leftover” Frittata

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 cup vegetables of your choice, diced
  • ½ cup cooked meat or fish of your choice, diced
  • 1 tsp dried herbs of your choice
  • 6 eggs
  • ½ cup cheese, shredded (optional)
  • ⅓ cup milk

Instructions

  1. In an ovenproof skillet, cook vegetables with oil over medium heat until soft. Any vegetables like onion, broccoli, potato, spinach, carrot or red pepper work well. Add herbs and chopped meat or fish.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and cheese. Pour into skillet and stir to combine with veggies and meat. Let cook until edge is starting to set.
  3. Place skillet under broiler for about 3 minutes or until top is set and light golden.

To make a balanced meal, enjoy with toast, potatoes or rice and a glass of milk!

For personalized nutrition counselling, ask to be referred to a registered dietitian in your community or call HealthLink 8-1-1 to speak to a registered dietitian over the phone.


This article was originally published in the November 2015 issue of Healthier You magazine.

 

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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Halloween: Candy, costumes and quality time

This is the third in a series of posts about social connections and healthy aging. Over the next two weeks, we want to see how you, your family, and your community stay connected. Enter our photo contest for your chance at great weekly prizes and a grand prize valued at $250!

Collage including a carved pumpkin, inflatable pumpkin decoration, and people watching fireworks.

In Vanderhoof, the annual Pumpkin Walk brings out people of all ages for a walk through thousands of carved pumpkins followed by a fireworks display. What are your friends’, family’s or community’s Halloween traditions? How do they connect people across generations?

October is one of my favourite months because of my favourite holiday, Halloween! I’m especially fond of it, but not just because of the candy (although the occasional candy treat never hurts!). Growing up, Halloween was a big thing in my family. To this day, I still love dressing up and jump at every opportunity to do so. I think that it’s because of the skills that my mother and my grandmother, Nanny, passed down to me.

My sister and I never had store-bought costumes; my mother always made our costumes — the same way Nanny did for my mother and her sister. She and Nanny would take us to the fabric store and together we would flip through the pattern books until we found the costumes we wanted. Then, we would select our fabrics (and then reselect our fabrics, because we had Vogue taste but definitely not a Vogue budget!) and prepare for numerous fittings, alterations and what seemed like hours of standing still — and being stabbed by pins because we weren’t very good at standing still! But it was always worth it because our costumes were always one-of-a-kind and looked phenomenal, which set the standard pretty high each year!

Now, as an adult — and for every Halloween since my adolescence — I sew and create my own Halloween costumes (and often those of my friends and pets), because I feel like it would dishonour my mother and Nanny’s legacy if I were to wear a store-bought costume. All through adolescence, I honed my sewing skills under the tutelage of Nanny and my mother. Those skills will remain with me for life. The time spent fostering the relationships with Nanny and my mother also benefited them as they were positive experiences where they were able to share their craft and provided us with a common hobby to talk about.

Each Halloween since adolescence, Nanny has called me to ask, “What are you going to be this year, Danielle? What masterpiece will you create?” It has become a part of our Halloween ritual: Nanny asking what I’m going to be and make, and me asking her and my mother for advice on how I can modify the costume to make it even more elaborate and unique. I truly value the time I spend chatting with my mother and Nanny about my costumes and, often, it leads to us chatting about other things and just socializing and enjoying our time together.

These relationships and rituals are a part of what keep us happy and healthy. Humans are social creatures, and staying socially connected is an important part of staying healthy. It is important to remember to stay connected with friends and family from multiple generations, too, not just your own. This helps to keep you engaged, balanced and well-rounded as an individual, at any age.

As Halloween once again draws near, I want to ask: what traditions do you and your friends and family have? Send us your photos that show your friends’ and family’s traditions that span the generations! We want to see how you spend time passing down your Halloween legacy to future generations to promote active and healthy living! Send us your photos as a part of our contest that supports healthy aging and you will be entered into a weekly draw to win a great prize and also have the chance to win the grand prize!

Photo Contest

From Oct. 12 – Nov. 8, send in a photo showing how you stay connected and healthy for your chance to win great prizes (including a $250 grand prize) and help your community!

The challenge for Week 3 is: “Show us how you spend quality time across the generations!” Maybe you’ll want to share your Halloween traditions? Submit your photo at http://blog.northernhealth.ca/connect.

Danielle Munnion

About Danielle Munnion

Danielle is a Public Health Nurse who works out of Fort St. John, where she enjoys working with families and children, helping them to make decisions that lead to a healthy lifestyle. When not at work, Danielle enjoys spending time outdoors exploring the north and taking full advantage of what the Peace Region has to offer. When not outdoors, Danielle can often be found either doing some form of arts and crafts or playing games with friends -both tabletop and video. (Danielle no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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Removing barriers to social isolation

This is the second in a series of posts that we’ll be sharing about social connections and healthy aging. Over the next three weeks, we want to see how you, your family, and your community stay connected. Enter our photo contest for your chance at great weekly prizes and a grand prize valued at $250!

Woman pushing man in wheelchair from bus to seniors centre.

How can you ensure that your community is inclusive and that people of all ages are able to connect?

I’ve heard the term “social isolation” being used a lot lately, but what does it mean? And how does it affect my health and well-being and the health and well-being of my family and community?

According to the Federal / Provincial / Territorial Ministers Responsible for Seniors, social isolation happens when a person experiences less social contact than they would like, which may lead to negative impacts like poor health, loneliness or other emotional distress. I’m sure everyone has experienced feeling social isolated; I know I certainly have when I’ve moved away from family and friends to new communities. But did you know that seniors are more at risk of social isolation and the negative health impacts that come with it?

As part of the normal aging process, seniors experience changes that shrink social contacts and limit activities, such as physical changes (like illness or disability), changes to personal lives (like losing a partner and social connections), social changes (like poverty) and changes in the environment (like accessibility barriers in the environment). All of these changes increase seniors’ vulnerability to social isolation and the consequences – such as loneliness, depression, poor physical and mental health, and reduced quality of life – are significant.

I know the impacts of social isolation sound scary, but the good news is that we are social by nature and we can prevent social isolation through creating environments that support social inclusion. We all have a role to play!

Crowd of people at Prince George Terry Fox Run.

How can you take down barriers to social connections in your community? The next time that you head to a community event – like the Terry Fox Run in Prince George – ask a senior if they need a ride or invite a neighbour to come along!

Here are just a few suggestions that I can think of that promote social inclusion and support us all to stay connected to our families, friends and communities as we age:

  • Are you a member of a community group, sports team, or social group? Host an open house, invite a friend or co-worker to join, and create a welcoming environment for new members!
  • Heading to a community event like a concert, craft fair, or farmers market? Ask around to see if anyone needs a ride to or from the event. Invite a neighbour to go to the event with you.
  • Invite a colleague, senior, neighbour or family member to have coffee, lunch or dinner! Eating together is a social activity and an opportunity to catch up and share stories.
  • Volunteer in your community. You can support a cause you believe in, meet like-minded people, and connect with vulnerable community members!
  • Connect with your local government about how we can plan for an age-friendly community that prevents social isolation.

What do you think? Do you have any examples on how to create inclusive environments for seniors in northern B.C., reducing the harms associated with social isolation? If so, show us as part of our photo contest for your chance to share your community’s story and win!

Photo Contest

From Oct. 12 – Nov. 8, send in a photo showing how you stay connected and healthy for your chance to win great prizes (including a $250 grand prize) and help your community!

The challenge for Week 2 is: “Show us how your community is inclusive!” Submit your photo at http://blog.northernhealth.ca/connect.

Sabrina Dosanjh-Gantner

About Sabrina Dosanjh-Gantner

Sabrina is the lead for healthy community development with local governments with Northern Health’s population health team. Sabrina was born and raised in Terrace and loves calling northern BC home. She has been with Northern Health since 2007 and is passionate about empowering, supporting and partnering with northern communities as we collaboratively work towards building healthier communities. In her spare time, Sabrina enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, playing and (sometimes obsessively) watching sports, hiking, camping, traveling and exploring the amazing north.

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Show us how you stay connected and win!

This fall, we’re running a contest (launching next week – stay tuned!) to share your stories of connecting and community! We want your photos and we’re giving you the chance to win $250 just for showing us how you stay connected!

Photo on top of a blanket.

A photo of Holly and her grandma on top of a blanket that her grandma made. How do you engage in deeper, richer connections in your community, and how can we ensure that others who are vulnerable, such as seniors, are valued and supported to connect, too?

I always looked forward to visiting my grandmother when I was young. She taught me to knit scarves for my Barbie dolls, we went on outings to the mall and the bakery, and she let me help make her famous cherry cheesecake tarts – which we then delivered as gifts to local shopkeepers.

As an adult, I also came to recognize that my Gram was extremely involved in her community. She would chat regularly with all the ladies in the wool department at Sears, she volunteered with the Canadian Cancer Society selling daffodils every April, she belonged to and regularly attended “the club” (the local seniors centre), and she was skilled in the crafts of sewing and knitting, often working on special projects for others.

I now realize how lucky I was to have the time with her that I did, as well as how fortunate she was to be healthy enough to drive, to have access to opportunities, and to have family close by. Too often, we hear of people getting older, losing their independence and their social networks, and lacking the support to keep contributing to, and stay involved in, the communities they love. Without a doubt, this has a negative effect on their health.

Here in northern B.C., our population is aging at a much faster rate than the rest of the province. Combine that with the fact that our region is spread over an area the size of France, many of our communities are rural and remote, and most of us have seven cold and snowy winter months and what do you get? A population of aging adults who have a lot of hurdles to jump just to get out the front door!

It’s time to change this story! I want all people – young, old, and everywhere in between – from all communities to benefit from staying engaged the way that my Gram benefited and the way that connecting with her benefited me!

This fall, we’re running a contest (launching next week – stay tuned!) to share your stories of connecting and community! We want your photos and we’re giving you the chance to win $250 just for showing us how you stay connected!

We want to draw attention to the importance of fostering welcoming and inclusive communities and the idea of social connectedness. How can we engage in deeper, richer connections in our own communities, and how can we ensure that others who are vulnerable, such as seniors, are valued and supported to connect, too?

The Ask:

Each week, we will post a theme related to social connectedness and ask that you submit an original photo related to that theme. Starting October 12, the contest page will be updated with a new photo category. And keep your eyes on the Northern Health Matters blog for great content to inspire you on the health benefits of social inclusion, how to support aging with dignity, and more!

The Prizes:

Each week, we will draw for a prize from all of the submissions for that week. At the end of the contest, a grand prize will be awarded to the photo from the entire contest period that best showcases the meaning of social connectedness – and that inspiring photographer will win $250 to put towards a healthy living facility or activity in their community.

So get your cameras and smart phones ready – the contest will be starting soon and I can’t wait to see how you, your family, friends, and community support social connectedness!

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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