Healthy Living in the North

It’s always a good choice to stop smoking, no matter how old you are

Are you a senior who smokes? Do you know or love a senior who smokes?

grandfather walking with grandchild

Quitting helps reduce your family’s exposure to second hand smoke

Smoking is hard to give up at any age, but it can seem even more challenging for those who have smoked for decades. Seniors may think that there is no point in quitting since they have smoked for so long that it won’t make any difference. They may also believe that if they haven’t had any negative health effects yet, they never will. Many seniors grew up in an era when there was no research to support the ill effects of smoking. That has changed!

The fact is smoking is directly responsible for the majority of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease cases. Smoking also plays a huge role in lung cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke and lower respiratory tract infections.

There are additional health and financial issues for seniors who smoke:

  • Bone fractures occur in more seniors who smoke than those who do not.
  • Women who smoke may have an overall reduced bone density after menopause. This can lead to developing osteoporosis or l bone breaks and fractures.
  • Smoking in old age has been linked to macular degeneration, diabetes, colorectal cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and many other health disorders.
  • Quitting smoking will save money. Seniors will also save on home and life insurance, as well as health plans.

There is help available and the benefits of quitting smoking are dramatic and immediate for seniors, too!
Contact your pharmacist for 12 weeks of free smoking cessation products. You can obtain patches, gum, lozenges and inhalers.

For more information visit


Foodie Friday: Seniors’ Week edition

Senior gardening with kids

Don’t miss out on essential nutrients as you age!

As we age, our appetites decrease and we often pay less attention to nutrition. Many seniors live alone and have difficulty finding motivation to cook proper meals and therefore may miss out on many essential nutrients. With Seniors’ Week in B.C. upon us, it’s a great time to look at one of these essential nutrients: calcium!

Are you getting enough calcium?

Health Canada recommends women over the age of 51 and men over the age of 70 get 1200 mg of calcium each day. Men under 70 require only 1000 mg. It’s recommended that we reach this goal through a combination of nutrient-rich foods, using supplements only when necessary. Always talk to your doctor or registered dietitian before taking a calcium supplement.

So what does 1200 mg look like? A good rule of thumb is that a serving of dairy contains approximately 300 mg of calcium. One serving might look like a 50 g serving of cheese (the size of your thumb), 1 cup of milk, or ¾ cup yogurt. If you typically drink a milk alternative such as rice or almond milk, check the label to make sure it’s fortified with calcium. One cup should provide you with about 30% of your daily value.

Although dairy products are the most popular calcium source, many non-dairy foods are great sources of calcium as well. My current favourite is chia seeds. Due to their increase in popularity, they are now easy to find in most stores and are versatile when it comes to how you can use them. Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain about half the calcium of a cup of milk! Want to add some calcium to your diet? Try this chia seed jam as an alternative to the store-bought varieties! Have an older friend, family member, or neighbour? Why not make them a jar or two and stop by for a visit!

Magical Blueberry Vanilla Chia Seed Jam

From Oh She Glows (one of my go-to blogs!)

Yields about 1 cup


  • 3 cups fresh blueberries
  • 3-4 tbsp pure maple syrup, to taste (or other liquid sweetener)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. In a non-stick pot, bring blueberries and maple syrup to a low boil. Stir frequently and reduce heat to simmer for about 5 minutes. Lightly mash with a potato masher or fork, leaving some blueberries for texture.
  2. Stir in the chia seeds until thoroughly combined and cook the mixture down until it thickens to your desired consistency (about 15 minutes). Stir frequently so it doesn’t stick to the pot.
  3. Once the jam is thick, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Add more maple syrup to taste if desired. Share a jar with an older neighbour or friend or enjoy on toast, baked goods, and more. The jam should keep for at least a week in an air-tight container in the fridge.
Sarah Anstey

About Sarah Anstey

Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sarah moved to Prince George in 2013 to pursue her career as a Registered Dietitian. Since then, she has enjoyed developing her skills as a Clinical Dietitian with Northern Health, doing her part to help the people of northern B.C. live healthy and happy lives. Sarah looks at her move to Prince George as an opportunity to travel and explore a part of Canada that is new to her, taking in all that B.C. has to offer.


Staying active, eating well, and connecting with family and community: Healthy aging resources

Magazine cover with two seniors dancing

The new issue of Healthier You magazine is out now and it’s all about healthy aging!

Have you thought about your winter reading list yet? Make sure that the newest issue of Healthier You magazine is on it!

The new issue is all about healthy aging. It’s got lots of tips for seniors but what I found especially cool is how the magazine reminded me that we all have a role to play in healthy aging! Sharing stories across generations benefits everyone, young and old! Older adults can make a couple small changes to their physical activity routines to make their golden years safe and healthy. Seniors can draw on community centres and educators for resources on everything from sexual health to social dances. What can you do to support healthy aging?

For me, a few highlights in this issue are:

  • Healthy Aging with Dzi’is: As I read this story of how Jessie’s grandma embodied healthy aging, I immediately thought of some of the seniors in my life and how inspiring their community engagement, physical activity, stories, and traditions can be!
  • Brain Dance for Seniors: I love hearing about the great programs that are offered across northern B.C. The experiences of the “Brain Dance” participants made me want to connect with my local rec program to see what types of neat activities are on offer!
  • From Little Acorns…To me, the idea of seniors helping seniors in Fort St. James is such a cool model for healthy aging! I loved Theresa and Emily’s description of seniors in Fort St. James as “community assets” who play a key role in building strong relationships and enhancing the community’s health and well-being.

What was your favourite article? Check out the full magazine on ISSUU and remember that all past issues are also available online!

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.)


Aging with dignity, respect and purpose

This is the last in a series of posts about social connections and healthy aging. You’ve got one week left to show us 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!

Three people posing for photo following a running race.

Supported by family in more ways than one, Holly’s recent marathon finish provided her with a chance to reflect on our aging journeys and the importance of supporting everyone to age with dignity, respect and purpose.

On a recent vacation back home, I was reminded of the impacts of aging in my own family.

I got to spend some time with my two remaining grandparents. They are now in their nineties (92 and 95, to be exact) and both of them continue to live in their own homes. Due to recent health issues, they have had to become more reliant on family and neighbours to help with tasks like putting out the garbage, gardening and rides to and from their many health care appointments. Both are strong women who have raised large families, and neither likes that they have to ask others for help. Seeing them, I was reminded of why social connections like the ones we’ve been talking about for the last month on this blog are so important to helping seniors age in place.

In a different generation, my father, a lifelong runner, just celebrated his 65th birthday and had planned on commemorating the event by running another marathon with myself and my siblings. However, after suffering a knee injury, he was told that running was no longer an option for him and he was not able to take part. Although my brother and I ran in his honour, I know that my dad was sad that he couldn’t run right along with us and participate in an activity which has been a part of his identity.

For me, the common threads that weave these experiences together are dignity, respect and purpose.

We leave school and charge into our early twenties looking for purpose. Seeking respect in our jobs, life, and from our family and friends. From that – and especially through our independence – we develop a sense of dignity or satisfaction that we have worth and value in the world.

However, as we age, those skills and abilities that we have worked so hard to grow start to slowly chip away. Our mobility may decrease. Our memories are no longer as sharp. Our roles and responsibilities as employees or parents may decrease. We spend our leisure time differently. In the later stages of aging, many of the tasks that many of us take for granted (driving, bathing, cooking our own meals, etc.) are often reassigned as well. We may start to question our purpose and our worth, our sense of self.

But just because someone has a wrinkle or two doesn’t mean that they don’t have worth, purpose, or dignity. And this very thought can have serious health impacts. The idea that older adults can’t or shouldn’t be given the same opportunities as others is referred to as ageism – “the most tolerated social prejudice in Canada.” Countering ageism – supporting everyone to age with dignity, respect and purpose – is key to keeping our communities and loved ones healthy.

We can do more to support people to age with dignity, respect and purpose. In health care, we’ve already made great advances in how we support seniors to live more independently, but what about in our own lives? Do you recognize the contributions of seniors in your community? Do you recruit and engage adults of all ages in planning and projects? Do you reach out to older adults who may be shy with a phone call or a visit?

Our previous healthy aging blog posts have talked about the significance of removing barriers to inclusion as people age. They’ve also highlighted the importance of bringing the generations together, whether within a family or a community to support the sharing of stories, skills and information. Volunteering our time and staying connected with social groups also give us meaningful work to do. Being included and having a role to play is a great way to show someone that they’re needed and valued – at any age.

“Being accorded dignity and respect as elders in the community contributes to preserving a sense of well-being, including the ability to share knowledge, having a purpose and feeling as though one is making a difference.” Let’s Talk about Healthy Aging and Seniors’ Wellness, Northern Health, 2013

So, as we all continue on our own aging journeys, let us be mindful of the ways in which we show value to those who have gone on ahead of us and gratefulness to those younger than us who have our backs. Sharing running stories and training advice with my dad was so valuable to me, and his purpose as a “runner” was served in a different way. However, sharing the experience with my brother (he is 16 years my junior) gave me new-found respect for the abilities of my aging body.

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 4 is: “Show us how older adults volunteer in your community!” Submit your photo at

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.


An old guy thinks out loud

This is the first in a series of posts that we’ll be sharing about social connections and healthy aging. Over the next four 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!

Man and woman talking

For Andrew, healthy aging is not just about moving away from illness and infirmity. Instead, it’s about moving toward a positive – and social connections are a key part of this!

How did I know I was old? Was it when the waitress asked me if I wanted the seniors menu? Was it when my granddaughter asked: “Was it really like that in the olden days, Papa?” Was it when I met my new doctor and thought (but didn’t say) “I have kids older than you …”? Hard to say, but likely I became aware of my aging status because of all three and others I don’t recall.

There’s a lot to gripe about as you get older. Things don’t work as well as they used to and a lot of conversations seem to turn to health concerns and to drugs … discussions about blood pressure and cholesterol lowering combinations, etc.

But there are so many wonderful things about aging, especially when you’re able to age healthily. You have more free time. You can speak your mind and share your stories (people will either respect what you say or cut you some slack because you’re old). You get seniors’ discounts. There’s more, but I’ll get to the point.

There are things we all need to do to age well. Chances are you’ve heard advice about diet and exercise, avoiding isolation, steering clear of tobacco and practicing moderation with alcohol. These are important, but let’s look at things differently. A lot of this advice is presented as ways to avoid getting sick, to avoid physical and mental deterioration. While true, there is a deeper perspective and a lot of it has to do with the benefits of social connectedness:

  • You can approach diet with an eye to nutrition, vitamins, calories and so forth. Add to that the social and emotional experience of preparation and sharing meals. Make mealtimes an opportunity for connection to others and for social interaction.
  • Exercise is a great way to regulate blood pressure and blood sugar but it also feels good. Finding exercise opportunities you enjoy is rewarding in itself. (For me, it’s riding a bike and swimming.) Right now is a good time to walk through the park and enjoy the fall colours. Walking with others is a chance to enjoy connections to others.
  • Having a drink in social situations is a part of life for a lot of us. Consider what makes socializing enjoyable and what is safe for you. Moderation increases the enjoyment of social events.

Sharing stories, playing games and finding opportunities to connect with others in social settings can be fun as well as keeping us mentally and emotionally sharp. Volunteer opportunities can be a way to meet a range of people, to stimulate your mind and to help others in their life journey.

Honoring ourselves by caring for our good health can be thought of as moving away from illness and infirmity or it can be a way to find more and deeper satisfaction in life. I find moving toward a positive more appealing than moving away from a negative.

How do you move towards the positive when it comes to health? How does your community support active, healthy, social living? 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 1 is: “Show us how you are active in your community!” Submit your photo at

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.


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.


The fountain of youth

Man in boat on lake.

Reg plans on spending his senior years on the lake and is making choices now to help make that happen. What will you choose?

Have you ever heard about the fabled fountain of youth? In the 1400s, the indigenous peoples of Puerto Rico and Cuba told early Spanish explorers about a fountain with miraculous powers that would restore the youth of whoever drank from it. Many explorers searched for the fountain of youth including Juan Ponce de Leon, who accompanied Christopher Columbus.

But enough about the fountain of youth for now and onto something more local!

It’s Seniors’ Week in B.C., which is a good time to remember that eventually, we all become seniors. I’m sure that most of us picture our senior years as a time to enjoy ourselves. I plan to spend lots of time fishing, cycling and reminding my children that I don’t have to get up and go to work every day!

All I need now is a fountain of youth from which to make my morning coffee. That would make my days on the lake and my epic bike rides much easier, wouldn’t it?

But the fountain of youth is a legend, isn’t it?

If you think about seniors, what comes to mind? For instance, you may be picturing a senior sitting in a rowboat on the lake, smiling as he fishes and enjoys the day. Alternatively, you may be picturing that same senior sitting in a wheelchair staring out the window at a lake. Why is there a difference?

Did one senior take a trip to Florida and meet a Spaniard named Juan Ponce de Leon? Or is it just the luck of the draw? I’d bet the senior in the rowboat realized that the real fountain of youth can be found in the choices we make and actions we take that affect our lives.

You might be thinking that we have no control over the future and that sometimes things happen despite our best efforts to lead healthy lives. You’re right, they do. However, there’s also truth in the idea that our choices and actions have a huge impact on the quality of our lives.

Why not choose to believe that we can create our own fountain of youth and act in ways that support our health?

  • Staying physically active can reduce the risk of chronic disease such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. It helps keep you independent and taking part in things you like to do. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 150 minutes of activity per week for adults.
  • Eating well supports your physical health, provides energy and keeps your immune system strong.
  • Staying connected to friends and family plays a huge role in supporting your mental health and happiness.
  • Challenging yourself intellectually keeps your mind sharp (perhaps sharp enough to outsmart the fish!).

The choices we make and actions we take today will affect how we get to live our tomorrow.

Personally, I’m looking forward to spending lots of time on the lake. What will you choose?

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.


Community Health Stars: Peter Nielsen

One of the neatest things about the Community Health Stars program has been the range of amazing activities that residents of northern B.C. take on to make their communities healthier places to live, work, and play. From promoting healthy eating in Terrace schools to walking around the world in Valemount, Community Health Stars represent a wide range of passions, communities, and activities.

As a resident of Quesnel deeply committed to helping seniors, Northern Health’s Community Health Star for the month of March adds to this outstanding variety! In addition, the issues that this month’s Community Health Star works on have a lot in common with the key findings of Northern Health’s 2013 community consultation, Let’s talk about Healthy Aging and Seniors’ Wellness. Northern Health is pleased to name Peter Nielsen as this month’s Community Health Star!

Peter is a retiree who has always had a passion for helping seniors. He has created and supported several groups to address a wide range of issues impacting seniors and I had the pleasure of chatting with Peter during a rare break in between his many community engagements!

Could you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Group of five individuals stand in front of a sign announcing the future location of the Quesnel Seniors Housing Project.

Northern Health’s Community Health Star for the month of March is Peter Nielsen. Peter is active in seniors issues in Quesnel and has played a key role in work on a local seniors housing project.

After working in home care on Vancouver Island for several years, I returned to Quesnel (where I first moved in 1971) to be with family nearly 10 years ago.

My passion for helping seniors started at a young age. When I was 13, my family took in an older friend who needed ongoing care and I took on a lot of those caregiving tasks. I related well to this individual and have found that I relate well to all seniors. I especially enjoy hearing their amazing stories!

To pursue this passion, since moving back to Quesnel, I’ve gotten involved with the Lions Club, the Lions Housing Society, and the Fraser Village Home Society. I also started the Voice for North Cariboo Seniors.

What does a healthy community look like to you?

For me, a healthy community meets the needs of everyone. For seniors in particular, meeting their needs includes a few different considerations, and I have tried to be involved in all of these issues in Quesnel:

  • Affordable housing for seniors
  • Food security
  • The ability to make ends meet
  • Affordable medical supplies and pharmaceuticals
  • Accessible spaces
  • Social support

I think that housing and the safety and security that brings is so important for seniors’ well-being. To support that goal, I became president of the Lions Housing Society, a group working to build an independent living housing complex in Quesnel. We just purchased the land for the project and I’m excited to see construction starting soon! I also sit on the board of the Fraser Village Home Society.

Through the Lions Club, we also build ramps for seniors and others in wheelchairs. We buy the material and then have a work bee to build, paint, and secure the ramps.

Social support for seniors is crucial, too! Through a group that we formed a few years ago, we visit a residential care facility in Quesnel during the holidays to give gifts, decorate, and spend time with the residents – I was even Santa one year!

Looking ahead, I’d like to look at ways to support widowers who are struggling with loneliness and isolation. I think that a gathering place would go a long way towards making them healthier and more connected.

When it comes to seniors’ ability to meet their needs, one thing that a lot of people don’t know is that not all seniors collect a full Old Age Security pension or draw from the Canada Pension Plan. Many farmers and ranchers grew up pinching pennies and would have been living day-to-day so often didn’t contribute to government programs during their working years. Now, these individuals are struggling to make ends meet. Seniors are very proud people, too, so even in situations like this, they hesitate to ask for help. The onus is on us all to step up, check in with our older neighbours, and make sure that they are OK.

Although seniors issues take up most of my time and a special place in my heart, through the Lions, I am also able to support the Two Rivers Boxing Club in Quesnel. This local boxing club provides young people with a place to gather, be active, and develop their self-esteem. The local coach pays for a lot of expenses out-of-pocket so the Lions and I do what we can to offset the costs of tournaments, travel, and other club activities.

How did you get involved in seniors issues?

Man lifting a grocery bag out of a truck.

Peter’s message for others in northern B.C. is simple: “check on your neighbours. If you know a senior, keep an eye on them.” After checking on some of his neighbours, Peter identified food security as an important issue facing seniors and began to make regular deliveries of healthy food to seniors in need.

It’s been a soft spot in my life, all my life! I enjoy talking to seniors; I always have. I find them very interesting and appreciate their stories. They can often be a forgotten group but I love them and I gravitate towards them.

When we moved back to Quesnel – having worked with seniors for some time – I noticed a few things in our community that were missing for seniors. My wife became my sounding board and eventually she got tired and just said “do something about it!” And I did! I created Voice for North Cariboo Seniors three years ago. This group holds monthly meetings where seniors can come together to learn about different issues. We had someone talk about taxes last month, we share information from the RCMP about scams targeting seniors, and we’ve brought in Northern Health to discuss health issues. We’ve got 150 seniors on our call list to invite to each meeting!

I’m also involved in delivering food to seniors in need. As a group, we drop off healthy food options to 50-60 seniors every month. The Lions Club and other community members support us with food donations. The focus on food started with a visit to a senior’s home where I saw only cat food in the fridge but no cat. This was so sad to witness and sparked a passion for me to look at food issues that seniors face.

One of the reasons that I got involved and have stayed involved is that seniors don’t like people knowing their plight. I have found seniors to be very proud – they’re scared of being recognized in a donation line – and often they go without instead of asking for help.

What does “healthy aging” mean to you?

For me, healthy aging means respect for seniors in all aspects. It means seniors being able to live in safe, low-cost, and healthy places. It means being aware of seniors issues since they are so often a blind spot for so many of us.

What would you like to say to other residents of northern B.C.?

It’s simple: check on your neighbours. If you know a senior, keep an eye on them. Drop off some baking and say hello! Winter can be especially difficult for seniors because of slips and falls.

And remember that often, seniors won’t come to you for help. So look out for them, keep your eyes open.

It only takes a couple of people to get something amazing started!

The Northern Health Community Health Stars program shines a light on community members across northern B.C. who, like Peter, are doing exceptional work, on their own time, to promote health and wellness in their community. To nominate a Community Health Star in your community, visit the Northern Health website.

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.)


Healthy Community Development

Houston, Healthy Communities

The Houston ACT Committee kick off WinterFest in February 2014. The group is supported by Northern Health’s Partnering for Healthier Communities Committee. (Photo credit: Houston Today)

Northern Health partners with local governments to support communities to “come together” and take the lead on initiatives that support healthy community development. As a result, powerful and effective projects are currently underway across northern B.C.

One of the greatest assets Northern Health can call on in its mission to support healthy individuals in the north is the ingenuity and passion of the residents. The available pool of talent and experience is a rich asset. Building on the partnerships and the rich assets, Northern Health has supported 20 northern B.C. communities to bring together the movers and shakers to develop healthier communities.

For example, in Houston, B.C., community members developed an “ACT Committee” (ACT stands for Action Changes Things). The community teamed together to focus on what could have been termed “hidden assets.” In identifying and promoting the world class leisure recreation their community has to offer, to both residents and potential visitors, their initiative has social, health and economic benefits.

Another example is Seniart in Quesnel, B.C. This is a program for seniors who might not normally participate in community programs. It will run from September 2014 to January 2015. To spread the word about this program, seniors are encouraged to “be part of the art!” In this example, Northern Health is supporting the local leadership and direction of the Quesnel Healthier Communities Committee.

Research regularly shows that solutions and options developed with the input and direction of those most intimately associated with the issue have the greatest chance of success. The feedback and evaluations of our work suggests that the same is true in northern B.C. Central to this success is Northern Health’s organizational support for northerners to live healthfully in their communities; this is a shared goal, as northerners want to live in healthy communities, also. We know that communities and their champions are the very best resource we have in our progress towards that shared goal.

For more information on Northern Health’s Partnering for Healthier Communities Committees, please visit:

What do you do to make your community a healthier place?

Theresa Healy

About Theresa Healy

Theresa is the regional manager for healthy community development with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about the capacity of individuals, families and communities across northern B.C. to be partners in health and wellness. As part of her own health and wellness plan, she has taken up running and, more recently, weight lifting. She is also a “new-bee” bee-keeper and a devoted new grandmother. Theresa is an avid historian, writer and researcher who also holds an adjunct appointment at UNBC that allows her to pursue her other passionate love - teaching.


Securing safe care

senior care, safe housing, older adults

Ensuring safe care for loved ones is very important.

When faced with the difficult situation of looking for care for a loved one – be it a child or an elderly loved one – there are a variety of issues to consider: what will the food be like? Will they be comfortable? How often will we be able to visit or see them? One question that most people don’t think to ask is “is this facility licensed?”

Did you know? June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

With a specific focus on elderly loved ones, finding safe care is important because, as people age, there are a number of risk factors that put older adults at risk for abuse, including:

  • Challenges with memory associated with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.
  • Challenged communication skills as mental or physical status changes.
  • Declining physical condition and having to rely more on others for care, including activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing and using the washroom.
  • Relying on others can also reduce the amount of personal choice.
  • Feeling socially isolated from friends and family, especially if living away.
  • A person with limited financial resources may have fewer choices. He or she may be unable to move elsewhere if the care and assistance being provided is not adequate.

Legislated by the Government of British Columbia and enforced by the regional health authority, licensing works to improve the quality of care and to protect those who are in care. Licensing also offers education to the public about quality services. In northern B.C., Northern Health works with other agencies to monitor and regulate these facilities.

Did you know that there are approximately 1,050 licensed residential care facilities in British Columbia?

What if I have concerns about a licensed care facility?

  • Community care licensing programs are mandated to protect vulnerable individuals and provide public assurance that the established minimum standards for health, safety and well-being are maintained. Under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act, either a Medical Health Officer or a Licensing Officer must investigate every complaint related to non-compliance with the Act or regulations in a licensed community care facility.
  •  There are a number of ways to make a complaint regarding the health, safety or well-being of a person in care at a licensed community care facility. You can call Enquiry B.C. toll-free at 1-800-663-7867 and ask to be connected to your local Community Care Licensing Office, or you can mail, email, fax or visit the office.

For more information about Northern Health’s community care licensing, please visit Northern Health’s community care licensing web page.

Kelli Sumner

About Kelli Sumner

Kelli has been with Northern Health for 22 years in various capacities. In her current role as a residential licensing officer in the Prince George office, she ensures the health and safety of vulnerable adults in care across the region. Kelli received her Bachelor of Nursing at UNBC and is currently completing a Masters in Leadership through SFU. Kelli is kept busy with six children and her hobby farm, pursuing her passion of raising goats and chickens. She also works to provide hospice care and is a strong advocate for palliative care. To stay active, she enjoys family activities such as skiing, skidooing, horseback riding, swimming, and ATVing.