Healthy Living in the North

PETRONAS Canada donations give Peace Villa residents mobility and connectivity

Four women stand in front of the new PETRONAS Canada shuttle bus for Peace Villa.

Pictured left to right: Kelly White (Peace Villa program coordinator), Connie Rempel (Peace Villa resident), Julie Bourdon (Sr. Stakeholder Advisor PETRONAS Canada), and Betty Willson (Peace Villa resident).

Transportation in the North is tricky. We have big winters, great distances between communities, and ever-changing routes and conditions. Because of these factors, in many ways, mobility is a challenge for the average person. It’s even more challenging for many of our older population – especially those who can’t drive, have physical limitations, or have other health issues related to aging.

With this being a reality of life in the North, we’re ever grateful for organizations and companies that help alleviate the stressors of transport for our aging populations.

One such company is PETRONAS Canada, in Fort St. John.

In May 2012, PETRONAS Canada (formally Progress Energy) purchased a Ford shuttle bus and donated it to Peace Villa Residential Care. The idea was to help the residents of Peace Villa get out to events, attend recreational trips, and go for community/rural drives.

Along with a recently updated decal wrap that has riders travelling in style, PETRONAS has set aside $2,000 as a donation that can be used directly by Peace Villa. This donation helps individuals who can’t normally attend events due to financial restrictions pay for things like admission tickets.

Helping people out with a ride is one thing, but making sure everyone gets to take part is pretty special. These outings allow residents to try something new, participate in events that they enjoyed before moving to Peace Villa, and help them stay connected to the community.

The bus, which runs three to five times a week, carries up to 14 residents and two staff at a time, and can even accommodate people who need the use of a wheelchair.

Mobility is such a huge part of everyone’s life, and it’s great to see a service that helps people continue living life to its fullest! Getting older doesn’t mean you should be less mobile. Everyone deserves to get out, do the fun things they want to do, and enjoy life!

Thank you, PETRONAS Canada, for your continued support and making this idea a reality for the residents of Peace Villa and the community of Fort St. John!

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InterAGE – A unique project brings students and seniors together at Gateway Lodge Assisted Living

Zach, a young man, plays cards with five seniors.

Zach, a UNBC student, lived in Gateway Lodge as part of the InterAGE Project.

University students are calling a seniors’ care facility “home” as part of an ongoing, experiential project that has set fertile ground for blossoming friendships, teachings, learnings, and research results.

The Intergenerational Activities for Growth and Engagement (InterAGE) Project was born when researchers at the University of Northern BC (UNBC) partnered with Northern Health, and a pilot project began in September 2018 with two UNBC students spending their Fall semester (four months) living in Gateway Lodge long-term care and assisted living facility in Prince George. As part of their full course load of university credits, the students enrolled in the experiential learning course, during which they were required to spend a minimum of 10 hours a week engaging in activities with the senior residents. The pilot project was a terrific success and has led to the continuation of the InterAGE Project.

“The students bring such a new and interesting perspective to our programming,” says Therapeutic Recreational Therapist Lynn Aucoin, describing the short- and long-term benefits of the project. “They’ve made great suggestions to augment what we offer, including adding more evening and weekend programming. I think the initiative is phenomenal!”

One of the first projects of its kind in Canada, InterAGE is compiling evidence-based results on intergenerational living. The research/experiential learning project is led by UNBC’s Dr. Shannon Freeman, Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing, and Prof. Dawn Hemingway, Associate Professor in the School of Social Work.

“The neat thing for me has been to observe the sharing between the students and the residents,” says Dawn. “The sharing of lifelong learning, with an open dialogue, in a class environment in a residential home. It’s been remarkable to see the exchange of ideas and experiences between the students and residents.”

Hemingway is referring to the weekly open class that is held in a bright and airy room at Gateway Lodge. Seated at tables in comfy chairs – sometimes with the fireplace on during Prince George’s chillier months – InterAGE students, any Gateway residents interested in participating, and guest speakers (including academics, professionals, and community members) gather to learn and discuss a wide variety of topics, such as:

  • Autonomy and risk.
  • Digital media and technology use to support well-being in later life.
  • Myths and stereotypes of aging.
  • Cognitive health in later life.
  • Grief, loss, and transitions.

The classes are held in a seminar style, supporting a safe environment for individual sharing and discourse.

“Going to the classes became one of the highlights of my week,” says Agnes, a Gateway resident who regularly attends the classes. “I’ve also had an opportunity to meet more of the other residents and also hang out with young people – it’s been great!”

Another Gateway resident, John, credits morning chats over coffee, and activities and games with helping him socialize more.

“[The lectures are] a really great learning experience. I learned that socializing and doing activities gets me out of my chair – it’s a really good thing.”

This project requires the trust and support of facility staff and leadership to succeed, and their impressions after the completion of an academic year are very positive.

Sandra Barnes, Manager of Residential Programs, oversees seniors’ programs and services in Prince George as a whole, including at Gateway Lodge. She sees the impact InterAGE is having at the service and individual levels as well. For Sandra, the students’ and seniors’ interactions are profound; as are the connections with the researchers and guest lecturers.

“We have new programs, new expertise informing our services – these relationships are so valuable,” says Sandra. “[This program] provides something unique. It’s different and innovative. We’re seeing new relationships develop among our residents as people from different aspects of care [and areas of the facility] gather to participate.”

Zachary Fleck recently took part in the Winter semester portion of InterAGE. Zachary is a third-year International Studies student who applied to participate in the program for the unique academic perspective. While he moved in anticipating the experiential learning, some of what he learned went well beyond scholarly pursuits.

“I’ve developed really meaningful relationships while I’ve been here,” says Zachary. “I’ve been able to create brand-new perspectives.”

The positive practical results of InterAGE’s pilot year may impact future planning for Prince George’s aging population as the program continues into the 2019-2020 academic year. Additionally, the project’s research outcomes will be shared among leaders in the long-term care field.

“When we started the project, it was the great unknown… would it work? Could it work?” muses Dr. Freeman. “With collaborative relationships, we’re able, as educators, to offer real experiential learning in this environment, and I value that so much. This is just the beginning. We’re continuing to learn and grow and recruit more students for the next semester!”

The success of the project, which brought young strangers into a seniors’ home, with all the potential worries and unknowns, can be summed up by one of the facility’s vibrant elders, ninety-two-year-old Rose.

“I noticed that Zach talked to everyone. And I’m thrilled to have lived this long, to see something so wonderful come to be. I said to Zach,” Rose says as she opens her hands in a welcoming gesture, “‘Come in, come in… you’re part of our family now.’”

UNBC students interested in participating in InterAGE or learning more about the project can contact either:

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is the Communications Lead for Capital Projects at Northern Health. She’s happy in all four seasons in Northern BC and loves getting out into the wild with her family. Andrea is a Southern transplant who came to the North “for just one year” to attend UNBC… more than twenty years ago. Suffice it to say the academic and professional opportunities, wild spaces, and open-hearted people are what make the North home for Andrea. Sunny winter skies and fresh powder for days don’t hurt either.

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Making a difference in the lives of older adults: a UNBC researcher’s passion

Shannon Freeman is pictured.

Shannon Freeman’s grandparents played a large role in her upbringing. Their impact influences her research today.

I’ve always been curious about researchers at post-secondary institutions. What made them want to get into research, and what continues to drive them? Through my role at Northern Health, I’ve been fortunate to meet multiple researchers at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC).

To finally appease my curiosity, I approached Shannon Freeman, Associate Professor in the School of Nursing and avid researcher at UNBC, to learn about her path to becoming a researcher and her current projects.

“My upbringing wasn’t traditional,” says Shannon, who grew up in a small town of less than 1,000 people in Southern Ontario. “I was partially raised by my grandmother, and my grandparents were very influential in my life. We developed a strong bond, which drew me towards a career where I could make a difference in the lives of older adults.”

Shannon considered some professions that help older adults, but they weren’t the right fit. She discovered her love of research while finishing her degree across the Pacific Ocean.

“I went to Japan to complete my master’s education. My research project focused on centenarians [people who have lived to or beyond 100 years of age] and longevity. They have a high number of centenarians, and I was interested in learning what they do differently to live so long. It motivated me to get involved with research as my career.”

Shannon’s current research projects focus on improving the quality of life for older adults through meaningful engagement.

Five residents of Gateway Lodge play cards with a university student.

Residents at Gateway Lodge enjoy a game of cards led by a UNBC student as part of the interAGE project.

“Two projects that I’m currently working on at Gateway Lodge in Prince George are the interAGE intergenerational cohousing project and Grow Your Own horticulture project,” says Shannon. “Everything I do connects with older adults.”

Both of these projects focus on reducing social isolation in the long-term care setting.

The interAGE project involves two UNBC students living in Gateway Lodge’s assisted-living wing for a semester. The students are responsible for developing and delivering activities that are in addition to residents’ regularly scheduled activities.

“The residents really enjoy living and interacting with the students. Activities are well attended and it’s been a positive experience for everyone involved.”

Succulents and other plants grow in a pots in an indoor garden.

The indoor flower garden at Gateway Lodge is a welcoming place for residents and their families to enjoy all year.

The Grow Your Own project focuses on gardening.

“Residents identified gardening as something they wanted to do. Last year was our first year with the project. This year, we’ve added outdoor raised beds that are designed for standing people and those in wheelchairs. A core group of residents lead the project, and plan what to plant. It’s an activity they find meaningful, and are committed to.”

For Shannon, there is no greater success than hearing that you changed someone’s perspective on aging.

“I love what I do, and the older adults and partners that I work with on these research projects continue to inspire me every day. I’m excited to start new projects that build on this work. Research allows me to give back to my community and make a difference in people’s lives.”

True to her word, she is already planning her next project: indoor hydroponic gardening at Gateway Lodge.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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A picture-perfect partnership: Prince George photographer donates photographs to reconnect long-term care residents with their community

Two female Gateway Lodge residents in motorized wheelchairs are in a hallway. They are admiring a picture hanging on the wall. The picture has a rusted bridge in the foreground and a river, trees, and sky in the background.

Gateway Lodge residents Ilse and Diana can admire photographs of places they know thanks to a partnership with local photographer Anna Michele McCue. Photo courtesy of Anna Michele McCue.

They say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Lynn AuCoin hopes the pictures hanging in Gateway Lodge bring more than words – even a thousand of them. She hopes each image helps residents reconnect with their community.

“We’ve been trying to make our facilities more home-like,” says Lynn, the Recreation Therapist Supervisor for Gateway Lodge’s complex care and Rainbow Lodge in Prince George. “Our residents enter a new stage in their lives. Suddenly, they’re getting regular care and help in a new place. We want to see our hallways filled with things that residents can relate to and talk about. Whether that’s milking the cow, riding the tractor, or enjoying the sunset or local places.”

In a beige hallway, a picture of a long haired, black and brown dachshund in a wagon hangs above a chair.

This image of a dog in a wagon is a favourite among Gateway Lodge residents. Photo courtesy of Anna Michele McCue.

Lynn is a member of a Prince George Facebook group that shares good news and local photography. In February 2019, she was scrolling through it and several stunning photos caught her eye. Lynn noticed they were all by a photographer named Anna Michele McCue, who goes by Michele. Lynn reached out to Michele right away.

“We didn’t have a big budget for this, so I was hoping we could work something out,” says Lynn. “Michele got back to me right away. She loved the idea of connecting residents with their communities. She offered her pictures at no cost!”

Thanks to Michele’s generosity, nine pictures are now hanging throughout Gateway Lodge.

A picture of a Prince George street in the fall hangs on a wall. The street is centred and continues for several blocks. It is covered in yellow leaves. On either side of the street there are tall trees with yellow leaves that have yet to fall, and houses.

Another example of a picture by Anna Michele McCue that is hanging in Gateway Lodge. Photo courtesy of Anna Michele McCue.

“I’m so pleased that my photography is bringing joy to people,” says Michele. “Seniors, who have contributed so much, are an important part of our community. It means the world to help remind them of how they lived, what they accomplished, and what they enjoyed.”

Michele isn’t the only one who’s pleased. These trips down memory lane are getting rave reviews from Gateway residents as well.

“They add beauty and colour to our empty walls,” says Margaret, a resident of Gateway Lodge. “We all enjoy finding out the location of where a photo was taken.”

Lynn notes that other Northern Health long-term care facilities may see local photography on their walls in the future.

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.

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Staff food hamper helping feed seniors in Quesnel

Elizabeth standing next to a box of non-perishable food.

Elizabeth Onciul, NH Care Aide, with one of the food hampers at Dunrovin Lodge in Quesnel.

Staff at Dunrovin Lodge have recognized co-worker Elizabeth Onciul for her dedication to seniors in Quesnel.

For over three months, Elizabeth, a care aide at Dunrovin Lodge, has set up food hampers at work to collect donations for seniors.

“You know the saying, these are our ‘golden years?’ Well that’s not always true,” says Elizabeth. “Our seniors have worked hard and shouldn’t have to worry if they will have enough for tomorrow’s meals.”

The collected food is then donated to a small community group in Quesnel. The anonymous group distributes the food to seniors in low income housing and to over 50 seniors in the community. Staff donate, on average, two large boxes and they’ve started to add bags of fruit on donation pickup days.

“Our staff has been very generous in their donations as we only ask for one non-perishable item per month,” Elizabeth explains.

Elizabeth first got the idea when speaking with her sister-in-law, whose workplace had a similar program set up to help seniors pay for food and medications. Elizabeth got the number of the community group and set up a pickup time.

Great work, Elizabeth, for seeing a need and making a positive impact on the senior community in Quesnel! Also, a big thank you to the rest of the staff in Quesnel for donating food and helping Elizabeth with this awesome initiative!

Brandan Spyker

About Brandan Spyker

Brandan works in digital communications at NH. He helps manage our staff Intranet but also creates graphics, monitors social media and shoots video for NH. Born and raised in Prince George, Brandan started out in TV broadcasting as a technical director before making the jump into healthcare. Outside of work he enjoys spending quality time and travelling with his wife, daughter and son. He’s a techie/nerd. He likes learning about all the new tech and he's a big Star Wars fan. He also enjoys watching and playing sports.

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Connecting a community one meal at a time

Two program volunteers at the Terrace health unit.
From left to right: Kristen Gogag and Linda Preston are Primary Care Assistants at the Terrace Health Unit and both help run the Terrace Meals on Wheels program.

Sometimes the smallest act can have the biggest impact. For Meals on Wheels volunteers in Terrace, that small act is delivering meals to seniors in the community. However, the benefits of the program go far beyond just filling someone’s belly.

The Terrace Meals on Wheels program

Meals on Wheels is a program that delivers hot and cold or frozen meals on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings each week (except stat holidays).

Linda Preston, a Northern Health Primary Care Assistant at the Terrace health unit, helps coordinate the program’s meal deliveries.

“It’s a program to deliver meals to people who are elderly, shut in, recovering from surgery, or have mobility or other issues. They can’t always get out and they feel safe in their home,” says Linda, who’s been part of the program since June 2018. “Having someone come to their home with a meal helps them.”

Kristen Gogag, also a Primary Care Assistant at the health unit, handles the administrative side of things. “I’ve helped out with the program for the last two and a half years. I help with questions as needed when people come into the health unit. Linda is more on the run,” says Kristen.

“Kristen is great to have at the health unit,” says Linda. “She can provide information to people and can give them the form to fill out or brochures.”

25 years of meals and smiles

According to the pair, their involvement is relatively brief compared to some program volunteers.

“The program has been running in Terrace for the last 25 years. We have some volunteers who have been a part of it since it started,” shares Kristen. “One of our volunteers, Arlene, has been doing it for 24 years. Another one of our volunteers, James, has been with us for 15-20 years.”

The program was started to help people stay at home rather than at the hospital, as well as help with nutrition and mental wellness – especially social connectedness. These have positive health impacts for both the client and program volunteers.

Who benefits from Meals on Wheels?

When posed this question, Linda was resolute: “Everyone benefits. The person getting the meal gets some contact and interactions. The family of the person receiving the meal benefits as they know their family member is getting a meal and having someone check in. This person can stay in their home rather than going into a facility.”

Some might wonder what the boundaries are for this service: “There are no boundaries,” laughs Kristen. “If we have volunteers, we deliver. If there’s not as many volunteers, it just might take a bit longer,” she adds. “We’re actually looking for more volunteers right now.”

Meals on Wheels graphic

It’s more than just a meal

For Linda, the most rewarding thing about being part of the program is the connection with those receiving the meals.

“I have a little conversation [with the meal recipient]. They get some contact and an interaction,” says Linda. “Sometimes they need me to read something for them like a calendar because they can’t see. They know we’re coming and it brightens up their day. The meal helps them too. The interaction for me, is the most rewarding.”

For Kristen, it’s getting to know the clients: “You see the same people and you get to know them. They like to show off their family and stuff. I’ve had a couple of clients pass away since I started and that’s hard but that’s life. I miss it now that I’m in more of an administrative role. Delivering, you get to be out in the community and visit. Now I do more of the paperwork side of it. Linda and I sit beside each other at the health unit so it’s nice to get updates from her on clients and know how a particular person is doing.”

Delivery volunteers needed!

Right now Meals on Wheels is looking for anyone who can help with meal delivery. Kristen advises that volunteers should have the following to qualify:

  • Personal vehicle
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Clean criminal record check
  • Clean driver’s abstract
  • Available at least one day per week

Linda stresses the importance of the program: “It isn’t just delivering meals – it’s touching the community.”

Pride tinges Kristen’s voice when she talks about it: “It’s a really good program. It gets people more involved in the community. Delivery volunteers might be lonely too. It helps them get out and help. They could be a widow – it gives them someone to visit. Or they could be retired and need something to do. Or they could be new to the community and want to get connected. We had two ladies recently who were new to Terrace – they just wanted to do something.”

The program doesn’t deliver on statuary holidays but Kristen emphasizes, “We never leave our clients hanging. We offer our clients the option of having extra meals delivered the day prior to the holiday.”

For more information or to volunteer

Please call Linda at the Terrace Health Unit at 250 631-4260.

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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“DementiAbility” approach helps make Terraceview Lodge feel like home

Activity bins for people with dementia at the Terraceview Lodge in Terrace.

Some activities for people with dementia at the Terraceview Lodge in Terrace. As a part of the DementiAbility initiative, these activities are designed to focus on maximizing abilities, instead of focusing on disabilities.

How do you define “home”? One definition was suggested by Northern Health Occupational Therapist Cheryl Block: “It’s the place where you make a genuine contribution, where you’re a part of what’s going on. That’s what feels like home.”

Cheryl, who works in Terraceview Lodge, is helping implement the DementiAbility initiative, which she says has been positively received by residents and their families.

DementiAbility, which is based on the Montessori educational philosophy, is an approach to caring for people with dementia that focuses on maximizing abilities instead of focusing on disabilities.

“We really work to prepare the environment so people can be successful,” says Cheryl. An example is using signage on walls to tell residents how to find the dining room or the activity room. “This can really decrease anxiety and help people feel, ‘Hey, I can be independent, I know where I’m going’,” says Cheryl.

A senior sorting silverware at Terraceview Lodge.

Sorting silverware is an example of an activity available at Terraceview Lodge that gives residents the chance to carry out day-to-day activities to help care for their home. Other examples include arranging flowers, folding socks, reading books, and trying on jewelry.

Another aspect of the DementiAbility approach is giving residents the chance to carry out day-to-day activities to help care for their home, Terraceview Lodge.

“We already have some residents who love to fold the aprons we use at mealtimes, and others who tend our plants,” says Cheryl.  “You can ask them, ‘I have this load of laundry that needs folding, would you be willing to help me?’ – and someone who isn’t interested in a more formal workout can still get some of the same range of motion and strength benefits — and also with a sense of purpose.”

Cheryl has challenged other departments at Terraceview to come up with activities they could involve residents in on a regular basis. “It’s been really neat, the response we’ve got from the residents — the smiles that we get — it’s that sense of purpose and that sense of belonging,” she says.

Another type of activity that has been a success at Terraceview Lodge is reading groups, where residents take turns reading a large-print book aimed at their age group page by page.

“I have to say, this is something that gives me goosebumps,” says Cheryl. “We’ve seen residents who are generally nonverbal and don’t interact with others come to these reading groups, read everything clearly and concisely and then participate in discussion group. It’s really neat to see how allowing residents to use the abilities that they have, can brighten their day and the day of anyone who interacts with them.”

Cheryl notes that it’s been a team effort to make DementiAbility a success at Terraceview Lodge. “The team has come together to make this a success,” she says, “all the way from Quality Improvement at the regional level supporting us; Brad, the manager here, has been extremely supportive and enthusiastic; and all the departments, from Maintenance to Dietary, Housekeeping, and Nursing. Everyone is really wanting to be part of something that’s good for the residents — it’s ultimately all about the residents and what’s best for them.”

With the help of Northern Health’s Quality Improvement department, Block is working on spreading the DementiAbility approach throughout Terraceview Lodge. “It’s exciting to see where this will go,” she says.

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Therapeutic Recreation: a holistic approach to health

February is Therapeutic Recreation month, and although I don’t currently work in the field, I am very proud to have focused my education and first part of my career on this helping profession. Not many people are familiar with Therapeutic Recreation, also known as Recreation Therapy; it has been confused with such things as sports medicine and physiotherapy, but also has been shrugged off as simply any activity to combat boredom. Let me set the record straight on that, because Recreation Therapists are working non-stop to provide programs that are purposeful and goal-oriented down to an individual level.

Therapeutic Recreation is defined as “a health care profession that utilizes a therapeutic process, involving leisure, recreation and play as a primary tool for each individual to achieve their highest level of independence and quality of life” (CTRA, 2017).

seniors playing floor curling.

Being physically active in a group setting and cheering others on helps form social connections and bolster self-esteem.

Recreation Therapists can be found in a variety of settings, including:

  • Assisted living/seniors’ housing
  • Long term care
  • Children’s hospitals
  • Mental health services
  • Rehabilitation centres
  • Day centres
  • Private practice
  • …and many more.

One of the things that (in my mind) makes therapeutic recreation a unique and special field is its truly holistic approach to health. While many health care professions tend to be very targeted to one aspect of a patient’s health, recreation therapy works to improve the health of the person as a whole; they may focus on physical needs, but they may pay just as much attention to the emotional, cognitive, social, and/or spiritual needs that make up a person’s overall quality of life.

There are many benefits related to taking part in physical programming. Many chronic disease symptoms can be avoided, delayed, or better managed through physical activity. Working on maintaining or improving core strength and balance can help reduce the risk of falls. It’s also important to note that the benefits of participating in a physical program extend beyond the obvious goal of maintaining or increasing physical function. Participants may realize they’re gaining social connections as a result of taking part in physical programming as part of a group; they will likely experience a mood boost following participation; realizing they are capable of more than they were previously (or had expected to be) can also do much to bolster confidence and self-esteem.

I was able to catch up with a local Recreation Therapist, Jaymee Webster, to get her perspective on the benefits of therapeutic recreation programming in her work settings of inpatient rehabilitation unit and outpatient geriatric rehabilitation day program.

“Often when individuals are engaged in all aspects of the rehabilitation process they have better outcomes. Through recreation and physical activity our patients have the opportunity to see their progress from other therapies translate to meaningful engagement. For example, an individual working on regaining strength in the upper extremities feels a sense of accomplishment when they are able to score points in a game of floor curling.”

If you know or work with a Recreation Therapist or team providing therapeutic recreation programs, take a moment this month to watch them at work. Their creativity and passion for working to improve the lives of others at an individual level are truly inspiring.

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.

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Preventing falls: Seniors’ Fall Prevention Awareness Week

City street in the winter

With winter slipperiness comes an increased risk of falling. Take steps to prevent falls this winter!

It’s that time of year again! Winter is creeping its way around the corner. As I walked outside this morning, I could see my breath in the cool, crisp air as I exhaled. The grass was covered in sparkly frost that crinkled and crunched as I did my morning chores. I love the fresh fall and winter mornings when there is no wind and everything is glistening. It is really quite pretty – almost surreal.

Winter is my favorite time of year, so the first few cool fall mornings always make the butterflies come alive in my stomach as I anticipate the fluffy white stuff! As I walk about carefully scraping my truck windows, buckling up, and driving to work, however, I am quickly reminded that with all the beauty in this winter wonderland, things become very slippery! Roads, walkways, stairs, and other surfaces become a little slicker and we have to be just a little more careful.

With winter slipperiness comes an increased risk of falling. On a few occasions, I’ve definitely found myself on the ground, looking up at the clouds before I even had a chance to catch myself! Does anyone else find it challenging to stay safely on your feet?

This task becomes even harder as we age. One in three people aged 65 years and older fall every year, which can lead to an older adult getting hurt so badly that they lose their ability to live independently. So, in the spirit of Seniors’ Fall Prevention Awareness Week (November 3-9, 2014), take the time to think about how you can prevent falls for yourself and those you love with these tips:

  • Be physically active in order to strengthen muscles. Healthy Families BC has some great examples of how to stay active as you age.
  • Get your eyes checked to detect vision problems.
  • Make a list of all of your medications and supplements and ask your pharmacist to review them, looking for combinations that cause dizziness or impaired judgement.
  • Don’t wear loose-fitting slippers or shoes with worn-out tread since bad footwear can lead to slips, trips, and falls.
  • Don’t let the fear of falling stop you from being active. If you’ve fallen before, you may be afraid of falling again. But physical activity helps keep you strong, which can prevent future falls and fractures.
  • Drink enough water. Dehydration puts you at higher risk for falling.
  • Remove the clutter. Things on the floor can cause you to trip or stumble.
  • Install grab bars in your bathroom to help with getting in and out of the tub. Grab bars can look stylish, too – get some in white or chrome.
  • Get some new lighting. Dark corners can limit visibility and lead to a fall. As a bonus, most new lighting fixtures use very little electricity.
  • Learn more about fall-proofing your home from HealthLinkBC.

Finally, if you are an older adult or have an aging loved one, check out the following resources from SeniorsBC:

Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie grew up in rural Newfoundland and moved to B.C. in 2003. After graduating from the nursing program at Thompson Rivers University in 2007 she moved to Prince George to start her career. She has a passion for population and public health and is the Regional Lead for Sexual and Reproductive Health. After falling in love with the north she purchased a rural property and began to build her hobby farm and family. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found happily doing something outside on her farm with her family.

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Investing in a healthy future

Christine walks dog.

After knee surgery, Christine enjoys walking her dog with her grandchildren.

I’ve written before about the struggles of giving up running and then walking due to developing a knee issue, which progressed enough while I waited for surgery that I lost more and more mobility. As this happened, and I had to fight harder to stay fit, I began to feel like I was losing my independence.

My knee issue was the result of an old running injury, where I had torn my cartilage without realizing it. I came from a ‘stiff upper lip’ kind of family, and unfortunately, I didn’t pay enough attention to act preventively when the injury happened. Because I did not address the torn cartilage before it deteriorated beyond repair, I had to stop running. The knee would never be strong enough to continue running without further damage. Then, a few years later, I lost my next favourite form of exercise: walking. Shortly after that, I lost biking. I turned to exercise in deep water, which helped me manage the increasing pain, but moving continued to become more of a challenge. Family, friends and colleagues tried to bolster my spirits, but all I could do was watch everyone as they easily moved through their days, while I waited.

Depression often accompanies deteriorating health conditions, becoming a significant barrier to staying active, fit and healthy. It often felt like I was losing more than I was gaining but I did try to focus on staying as active as I could. In my head, I knew how important exercise and movement was, not only to physical health, but to mental health and well-being as well.

 This summer I was finally called for surgery. I set two goals:

  1. To walk my dog again.
  2. To walk to the park with my grandchildren.

In the end, the surgery was well worth the wait. I surprised everyone around me, especially myself, when I accomplished both goals within two months of the surgery. I felt like I had my life back!

I still have recovery ahead of me, but it’s important to me to focus on the investment in future health and well-being, as well as to be a role model to those I care about. I have set a new goal for myself: right now, my knee doesn’t bend enough to ride properly and safely, but with practice, perseverance and persistent exercise, I believe I will ride my bike again and I am aiming for Bike to Work Week at the end of May 2014. The surgeon thinks it’s a great idea and gave me suggestions for how to get there. I am engaged and invested in my future, health and well-being.

But the best reward of all is being able to walk to the park and back with both my dog and my grandkids. Spending time with them by ensuring they have time to build their bodies through walking and play means we are also investing in their future, together.

Whether you’re one or one-hundred, invest in your future by physically moving throughout your day to build your own health, wellness and strength. Every move counts and it is never too late to be more active.

For information on health at and all ages, as well as seniors’ falls prevention, please visit Healthy Families BC. There, you’ll find ideas for how to build your health and wellness, invest in the future of health where you live, work, learn and play.

Christine Glennie-Visser

About Christine Glennie-Visser

Christine is the regional coordinator for the HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) Network in northern B.C. Christine loves to share good healthy local food with family, friends and co-workers and is passionate about making the healthy choice the easier choice for everyone. Although she is currently limited in her physical activity choices for medical reasons, she has become creative at fitting in activity and spends many happy hours deep water running and using gentle resistance training and stretching to maintain muscle strength. Christine can often be found in her kitchen, developing or testing recipes, and conspiring with her six grandchildren to encourage their parents to eat more fruits and vegetables!
(Christine no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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