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summer 2019

Let’s talk sunscreen page 8

Prosthetic ears a life changer  at Li wants to use his life experience to help youth Y who are deaf or hard of hearing

Healthy summer recipes page 14

also available online at vancourier.com

photo: dan toulgoet

page 6


RETIREMENT. LIVING!

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Independent Living and Care Centre 604.514.1210

Come Dance with Us! Is there a key to health and happiness as we age? Doctors recommend diet, exercise, sleep, and an active social life. What about dance? Is it possible that movement and music can positively affect our bodies and minds and improve our lives? PHYSICAL FITNESS Even a slow dance to gentle music can strengthen and improve balance and flexibility. A faster beat makes your heart pump and blood flow—a great workout. BRAIN HEALTH According to a 21year study led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, seniors who dance regularly have a 76% reduced risk for developing dementia.

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Music and dance are part of life in BRIA COMMUNITIES. There are plenty of opportunities to swing and sway to live entertainment at our weekly social hours. And our BriaFit classes often include a few dance steps as well! Book a tour today and join the dance.

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contents on the cover

Yat Li wants to help youth who are deaf or hard of hearing. Photo: DAN TOULGOET

www.glaciermedia.ca

Publisher

summer 2019

6 8 10 12

Michelle Bhatti editor

Sandra Thomas sthomas@vancourier.com contributing writers

Chris Campbell Jessica Kerr Grant Lawrence creative director

Marina Rockey

For advertising inquiries, contact Michelle Bhatti at mbhatti@vancourier.com

On a mission Yat Li wants kids to know it's OK to be themselves sandra thomas

sunscreen's effects on body and the environment Pick proper sunscreen that protects your skin and doesn’t pollute the water grant lawrence

earthwise's garden buddies keep seniors gardening senior-friendly fitness area opens in vancouver Memorial South Park home to new accessible exercise equipment jessica kerr

14 15 16

caesar salad goes light Cut calories, not flavour with this version of a summer barbecue favourite sandra thomas

mexican street corn A light take on decadent Mexican street corn sandra thomas

Keeping seniors with their canine companions ElderDog Canada is a non-profit organization that works to keep seniors and their dogs together for as long as possible sandra thomas

volume 5, number 3, summer 2019 Published by glacier media. Copyright Š2019. All rights reserved. Reproduction of articles permitted with credit. Advertisements in this magazine are coordinated by Glacier Media. Glacier Media does not endorse products or services. Any errors, omissions or opinions found in this magazine should not be attributed to the publisher. The authors, the publisher and the collaborating organizations will not assume any responsibility for commercial loss due to business decisions made based on the information contained in this magazine. Speak with your doctor before acting on any health information contained in this magazine. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted without crediting Glacier Media. Printed in Canada. Please recycle.

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art project roadshow Tom Su plays violin at Burnaby Hospital to ease the suffering chris campbell

summer 2019

3


SANDRA THOMAS Editor, Healthier You photo: Chung Chow

where can you find healthier you? It's in doctors' offices, walk-in clinics, pharmacies and other community settings — keeping you company by offering stories and insights into health-related issues that matter.

From recipes to sunscreen to inspiring conversations, we offer it all in the pages of Healthier You One of the things I like best about being editor of Healthier You is the inspiring people I have the privilege to meet with each edition. Those were my thoughts as I interviewed Yat Li for the cover story of our summer edition. Imagine moving to Canada at age five and speaking no English. On top of that, imagine having an invisible disability (hard of hearing) and a visible disability (underdeveloped ears). To say that Li’s childhood was rough is an understatement, but he managed to not only survive, but thrive, which is something I spoke to him about. As well, have you been following the controversy surrounding sunscreen and the absolutely devastating effect it’s having on the environment? As it turns out, there are options available that provide proper coverage for you, the kids and whoever else needs a slathering, which also doesn’t kill coral or fish. In this issue of Healthier You, Vancouver Courier columnist and CBC storyteller Grant Lawrence delves into the sticky issue of sunscreen — the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s summer, finally, so of course I had to add a couple of my favourite barbecue recipes, but with some tweaks to make them lighter than the original versions. I promise, there’s no compromise when it comes to taste.

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Gardening is a good summer pastime, but for seniors it can sometimes be tough to keep up with everything growing fruits and vegetables entails. But now there’s help, thanks to an initiative launched by the United Way of the Lower Mainland. Garden Buddies pairs seniors who want to continue gardening with volunteers from the Earthwise Society. Gardening is great exercise, and home grown veggies are super healthy, so long as you lay off the chemicals. Gardening is also easy on the budget, so to be able to continue growing food as long as possible only makes sense. As always, I’ve tried to include stories in Healthier You, which people sitting in doctors’ offices (that’s you) will actually read. I know it’s been fun putting it together. I hope your summer is a healthy and enjoyable one, no matter how you spend it. Sandra Thomas editor, healthier you


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feature Li wants youth who are deaf or hard of hearing to get the help they need Sandra Thomas | editor

“Mr. Potato Head.” That’s just one of the upsetting monikers Yat Li was called by bullies while growing up with microtia, a birth defect that caused his ear lobes and middle ear to not fully develop. “My parents didn’t want to talk about it and treated me normally,” says Li. “Had I known what was wrong I could have learned to cope with it, but I never learned to cope or ask for help in school. I never learned how to tell those other kids, ‘That’s hurtful.’”

On a mission

But today, Li is light years away from that self-conscious child who emigrated from Hong Kong to Coquitlam with his family at the age of five. Li describes school in Canada as very difficult because initially he spoke no English, and was living with an invisible and visible disability. These days Li is communications and marketing manager for the Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, but isn't satisfied with writing

Yat Li wants kids to know it's OK to be themselves

Yat Li had to wait until he stopped growing to receive his prosthetic ears.

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summer 2019

Photo: DAN TOULGOET


press releases and internal memos. Instead, Li wants to use his position to help youth growing up with the same issues he faced.

Yat Li’s prosthetic ears were carefully matched to his skin colour. Photo: DAN TOULGOET

“I was my own worst enemy, but I eventually learned how to become Yat and I realized, Yat has a lot to offer,” says Li, smiling.

Li’s first hearing aid as a child was a very visible contraption, which included a pouch strapped to his chest with wires leading up to a headband. When Li was 12, he had a specialized hearing aid surgically implanted, which allowed sound to transfer sound via bone directly to his cochlear. When Li was 13 and entering high school, it was decided something had to be done about his physical appearance so he wouldn’t suffer even worse bullying. Li was still growing, so more permanent options weren’t considered. But an anaplastologist was able to create Li a pair of ears, which had to be glued on.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you and always be the best you possible.” yat li

“They were quite large and I had to put three coats of glue on them and wait until each coat dried before I could put them on. That took about 45 minutes and that was a lot of responsibility as a child,” says Li. “I couldn’t take them off until they fell off. That also meant I could never try my

hardest at sports or I’d sweat and they’d fall off. That left me always feeling tied down.” Li says between the ages of 13 to 20 he refused to open himself up to anyone for fear of being rejected or bullied. Li eventually tried the class clown routine as a way to laugh at himself before anyone else could, but inside his confidence and self-esteem continued to dissolve. Finally when Li turned 21, he was fitted with proper prosthetic ears by Vancouver doctor Jack Zolty from the Realistic Prosthetic Studio. The ears look incredibly lifelike and during the interview with the Courier, he removed one and held it against his hand to demonstrate their precise colouring. Li’s prosthetic ears are held in place by magnetic posts inserted into his skull. On his right ear, Li wears a discrete black hearing aid. Li describes the procedure, which took place almost 10 years ago, as life changing.

One of the most important things Li has to offer are his efforts in raising awareness about the fact being deaf or hard of hearing is an invisible disability. To that end he’s launched a clothing line called Acoustic Wear, which includes T-shirts with positive messages emblazoned across them with slogans including, “Hear I stand,” “Let’s get loud” and “Pardon me?” Li hopes the fun shirts will appeal to youth who are also deaf or hard of hearing. Li wants youth to know it’s OK to be themselves and would like to see a project launched similar to Bell’s successful Let’s Talk, a multi-year initiative designed to break the silence around mental illness. Li notes hearing loss can also lead to mental health issues if it’s not dealt with. And, after surviving his childhood and teenage years under such adverse circumstances, Li has a message for kids of all ages who are deaf or hard of hearing. “It’s easy to give up and I understand, but you have to keep trying,” says Li. “Don’t let anyone look down on you and always be the best you possible.” summer 2019

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body environment Sunscreen's effects on

and the

Pick proper sunscreen that protects your skin and doesn’t pollute the water Grant Lawrence | CONTRIBUTING WRITER

You may remember the viral commencement speech from the 1990s that started with two simple words of advice for graduates: “Wear sunscreen.”

So lather up, but with what?

photo: ISTOCK

Recently, we’ve been hearing more and more about both the unintended environmental and human health impacts of certain widely available sunscreens. When a friend saw me lathering up my kids in SPF 60 before going to the park in the middle of the summer, he chastised me. “Why would you smother your children’s skin in dangerous chemicals?” he questioned. “The rays of the sun are perfectly natural and a valuable source of vitamin D.”

Twenty years later, sunscreen has become ubiquitous in our warming, hot, sunny summers, even here on the supposedly soggy West Coast. The sun’s rays are harmful, we are told over and over again, and we need to protect ourselves. The proof is in the death: almost everyone knows someone who has died from melanoma cancer (most cases are from sun exposure or the equivalent, while some cases occur from other means). As of last year, the U.S. Cancer Institute reported that melanoma cases have tripled since 1970. The most at-risk are white men.

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He pushed his point by saying, “In the heat of the day, cover up the kids with some comfortable, appropriate clothing. It’s much better for their health.” I’ll clarify that this friend was extremely tanned, spends his winters in Mexico, and is not a doctor. But his words had an impact on me. What is worse, covering yourself and your kids in a chemical sunscreen every day from mid-May to mid-September or none at all and risk dangerous solar radiation?

Is there a healthy alternative? I recently asked what other parents’ sunscreen practices are on social media and was blasted back with the power of a thousand suns, many parents jumping to conclusions, assuming I was not properly looking after my children — one going so far as to compare those that are anti-sunscreen to anti-vaxxers,


and thought I was crowd sourcing opinions on my kids’ health. Other parents’ responses ranged from “no sunscreen, ever” to “SPF 70 every day” to “UVprotected sun hats and clothing sold at MEC.” One mother told me she makes her own sunscreen, based on a recipe that includes zinc oxide powder, coconut oil and other natural ingredients. (For the record, the Canadian Dermatology Association does not recommend making your own sunscreen.) Last summer, Hawaii became the first U.S. state to ban sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, both of which have been proven to be extremely harmful and deadly to coral reefs. Key West has followed Hawaii’s lead, and it looks like Miami Beach is following (bathing) suit. If you care, and you wear sunscreen, that’s a lot to consider for both your body, your kids and the environment.

The widely available Goddess Garden also lists their sunscreen as “reef safe and biodegradable.” And mineral lotions are better than spray bottles. So this summer, when you slop on the sunscreen at the beach, the waterpark or the river, please take a few moments to make sure your sunscreen is safe for you, your kids and our natural world. What is your choice?

your hearing is our only priority The Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Hearing Clinic goes beyond just selling hearing aids. We have been trusted with the hearing of British Columbians for over 63 years. Make your appointment with us today.

Offices in Vancouver (Kitsilano and Willow) and Tri-Cities tel: 604-736-7391 | ttY: 604-736-2527 | email: info@widhh.com | website: www.widhh.com Charitable registration number: 108200098rr0001


Do you know a senior who wants to keep gardening? Garden Buddies can help. Photo: iStock

Earthwise’s Garden Buddies

keep seniors

gardening

Glacier Media | staff writer

It’s no secret that gardening can be therapeutic. There’s something about the feeling of being outside and getting our hands into the soil that stimulates the senses and helps us get in touch with nature. At the same time, many of us have fond memories of time spent around gardens as a child, gardening alongside a parent or grandparent. Gardening is good for the soul, and gardening with a friend or family member is an ideal way to relax, ward off feelings of loneliness and connect with the outdoors. 10

summer 2019

If you have a passion for gardening that you’d like to share with somebody, the Earthwise Garden Buddies program may be just what you’re looking for. Garden Buddies is a gardening together program that reaches out to seniors who live at home and would like to continue gardening for health and enjoyment. Volunteers are paired up with seniors, and together they will work on new or existing gardening projects at the senior’s home, bond over a common interest and enjoy each other’s company.


Garden Buddies is not a garden service provided by Earthwise; rather the program aims to establish a relationship of trust, knowledge sharing and support as the volunteer and senior collaborate their skills. Gardening is one of the best activities seniors can do outdoors to revitalize the senses and brighten the mood. It’s an excellent stress reliever and has the added benefit of providing low-impact aerobic exercise, helping seniors to stay flexible.

GOLD 2011-2018

In return, volunteers gain the opportunity to share knowledge and learn from another generation of gardeners, while helping their buddies stay socially connected and improving their well-being. “Through this program, volunteers can contribute to their communities by helping seniors continue to live at home and stay independent,” says Patricia Fleming, Earthwise Society’s executive director. “For the seniors, it is a great opportunity to meet new people in their neighbourhood, to stay active and to continue to enjoy gardening.”

Come see what makes us different

(604) 597-9333 Ext 126

Sandra.Prance@homecareliving.ca

Earthwise will train volunteers through several free workshops and gardening sessions at the Earthwise Garden. If you or someone you know wants to get involved, contact Earthwise at info@earthwisesociety. bc.ca or at 604-946-9828.

13855 68th Avenue, Surrey | homecareliving.ca

The Garden Buddies program is funded by the United Way of the Lower Mainland.

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Senior-friendly

fitness area opens in Vancouver Memorial South Park home to new accessible exercise equipment Jessica Kerr | contributing writer

It’s been more than two years in the making, but on May 1, Vancouver Park Board officially opened the city’s first accessible, age-friendly outdoor fitness facility at Memorial South Park. “We are all getting older and we can stay fit the entire time,” park board commissioner Tricia Barker told the crowd eagerly waiting to try it out.

Back in October 2016, park board commissioners passed a motion directing staff to look into potential locations to install senior-friendly exercise equipment in local parks. Former commissioner, and current city councillor, Sarah Kirby-Yung brought forward the motion after she was approached with the idea by a group of active seniors who regularly meet at the park. 12

summer 2019

After consulting with the public, a year later park board staff came back with a report recommending the board approve establishing the outdoor fitness facility at Memorial South Park. Surveys distributed during public consultation showed 97 per cent of respondents supported the idea of a new fitness area at the park. And a large crowd of seniors were at the park May 1 to try out the equipment.

and what it can do to really help our aging population,” she said of the addition to Memorial South Park.

“This is good for everybody,” said John Bal, a member of the tai chi group that meets daily in the park who first approached Kirby-Yung about the idea.

“A muscle cell doesn’t know how old it is, so that means an 80-year-old Photos: Jessica Kerr muscle cell can still get strong.”

The new area at Memorial South has a number of pieces of fitness equipment that seniors, or people of any age, can use regardless of any physical limitations. It includes: assisted row/push up bars, cardio stepper, two tai chi wheels, two hand cyclers and a sensory walking path with handrails.

Nine other parks in Vancouver have some form of outdoor exercise equipment — China Creek, Douglas, Fraserview, Kitsilano, Memorial South Prince Edward, Second Beach at Stanley Park, Slidey Slides and Tisdall. Tisdall, however, is the only one that features equipment that is considered “age friendly.”

Barker, who also works as a personal trainer for seniors and people with terminal illnesses, stressed the importance of staying active as you age.

The seniors’ population in Vancouver continues to grow. By 2041 the number of residents aged 65 to 74 is expected to increase by 79 per cent, and the population of people over the age of 75 is forecasted to go up by 105 per cent.

“I can understand the benefits of this type of work for seniors

Vancouver Park Board fitness programmer Casey Lefler helps a resident try out the elliptical machine in the new outdoor fitness area at Memorial South Park.


Mulberry PARC

Home in the heart of Central Burnaby Amidst the shops, restaurants and amenities of the Highgate area in Burnaby, Mulberry PARC offers proximity to all the services you need, with the bonus of a fireside lounge where you can relax with a novel, enjoy a conversation with friends or engage in a lively game of bridge. With features like our shuttle service, chef-prepared meals, leisure programs, yoga, and fitness classes, retirement living has never been so attractive. With suites starting at $2,760 it’s within reach.

Join us for a complimentary lunch and tour by calling 604.526.2248.

7230 Acorn Avenue, Burnaby

parcliving.ca/mulberry


Caesar salad goes light Cut calories, not flavour with this version of a summer barbecue favourite Sandra Thomas | editor

This recipe is a healthy version I’ve tweaked over the years. I’m a big fan of using Greek yogurt to replace sour cream or mayonnaise in almost any recipe, and by using the low fat version for this salad, you save calories without losing any flavour.

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Grilled Caesar salad with lemon dressing Ingredients

Method

¼ cup low fat Greek yogurt ¼ cup reduced calorie mayonnaise 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice 1 tbsp vinegar 1 tsp minced garlic ½ tsp Dijon mustard 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce 1 tsp anchovy paste Capers ½ cup shredded or flaked Parmesan cheese Pinch of sea or kosher salt Cracked black pepper to taste (I like a lot) Four Romaine lettuce hearts Cooking spray

Whisk together yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, vinegar, garlic, anchovy paste and set aside. Before starting your barbecue, coat the grill with cooking spray and then preheat to medium high, about 400F. Remove any damaged leaves on the Romaine hearts and cut in half and coat with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper. Cook until leaves slightly char. Place one half of a Romaine heart on a plate and drizzle with 1 tbsp. dressing, 1 tbsp. Parmesan and 1 tbsp. capers.

photo: istock

I love Caesar salad, but I enjoy it even more when the lettuce has been grilled on the barbecue before adding the fixings.


photo: istock

Mexican street corn A light take on decadent Mexican street corn Sandra Thomas | editor

Corn on the cob is one of my favourite foods in the world, and when Chilliwack corn starts showing up at kiosks across Vancouver, you can bet I shout that news out on social media. Some years ago, I started experimenting with Mexican street corn recipes just to take it up a notch. Of all my favourites, this recipe is the lightest. And if you haven’t tried it yet, once you’ve had your first bite, you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life.

Mexican street corn Ingredients

Method

Four cobs of corn, shucked 1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt 1 fresh lime, cut into quarters 1½ tbsp. sea or kosher salt Black pepper to taste Chili powder 3 tbsp. finely chopped cilantro (I am not a fan of cilantro, but tiny bits in this recipe work)

Preheat grill to about 400F. Whisk together yogurt and lime juice and season with salt and pepper. Turning occasionally, grill corn until it’s tender and lightly charred in spots — about 10 minutes. Remove corn from grill and brush yogurt mixture liberally over corn. Season with chili powder and sea salt to taste and garnish with cilantro. Serve warm. summer 2019

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PHOTO: istock

Keeping seniors with their

canine companions

ElderDog Canada is a non-profit organization that works to keep seniors and their dogs together for as long as possible Sandra Thomas | editor

Keeping seniors and their canine companions together for a long as possible is the mandate of a non-profit group looking for volunteers across Metro Vancouver. Dr. Ardra Cole, founder and chair of ElderDog Canada, says the extra assistance provided by volunteers allows seniors to keep their dogs at home for as long as possible. To that end, volunteers can help seniors with walks, picking up dog food or transporting their pet to the vet or groomer. Dr. Ardra Cole works to keep seniors and their senior dogs together. PHOTO: SANDRA THOMAS

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“We help seniors keep their dogs at home, but it’s labour intensive and we need help,” says Cole. “ElderDog is 100 per cent volunteer driven and there are no fees.” summer 2019

Volunteer groups are divided by location and are referred to as “pawds.” Other services provided by ElderDog include temporary foster care — should a senior end up in the hospital — adoption of older dogs if their owner moves to a care home or passes away, and bereavement support. Cole notes the bereavement support is informal and supplied by volunteers who work in counselling, but she hopes ElderDog will eventually offer more formal services. “There’s lots of grief and loss when a senior loses a dog,” says Cole, who notes since last August she knows of 40 older dogs that have died. “But ElderDog offers a community of support.” The inspiration for ElderDog Canada came as the result of the extensive work Cole and her research partner, Dr. Maura McIntyre, completed as they travelled across Canada talking to family members caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. Their findings showed the significant role the family dog and other pets play in the caregiving experience.


Another pivotal event that contributed to the creation of ElderDog was the sudden death of Cole’s older brother, after which she adopted his dog, Mister Brown, an aging chocolate Labrador retriever. Her brother’s constant companion, ElderDog volunteer Mister Brown, traumatized by his Jacqueline Henley with her dog Kenzie. owner’s death, was also living with an Photo submitted inoperable, crippling, cancerous growth on one of his legs and eventually died of the disease, but not before enjoying his new life in the country. Cole notes other older dogs are typically not as lucky and are often abandoned. Considered unadoptable, ill and aging animals often have uncertain futures. Cole says her family’s care of Mister Brown was as rewarding for them as it was enlivening for the tired old dog. Today Mister Brown is the poster boy for the organization. Jacqueline Henley is one of the few volunteers ElderDog has in Metro Vancouver. Henley says as soon as she heard about the program, she signed up and hopes others will, too.

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“How could you not?” says Henley, who owns a smooth coat collie named Kenzie. “I know how much joy dogs bring to my life.” Due to living with a disability, Henley is home during the day and she also has a supportive partner who helps out with walking canine companions, so volunteering was a natural choice. Pairing elder dogs with seniors is also part of her volunteer duties with ElderDog. “You get to know the seniors and you get to know their dogs,” says Henley. “Seniors — and senior dogs — can be set in their ways so I need to know they’re a good fit.”

Health is where we live, learn, work and play.

So far, Henley has helped re-home a 12-year-old cocker spaniel after the owner moved out of the country and the dog was deemed too old to travel. That dog was placed with another senior. Cole notes that’s exactly why she launched ElderDog Canada in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, in 2012. “Sometimes the relationship between a senior and their dog is the only relationship they have,” says Cole. “And we want to help make that last as long as possible.”

to be part of our next edition, please contact anthony Pan at 604-562-3354 or apan@glaciermedia.ca extending your reach with


Art project

roadshow Travelling art show aims to raise awareness around mental illness Glacier Media | staff WRITER

A non-profit organization that supports people with mental health challenges has launched its first Art Project Roadshow, which will travel across Metro Vancouver now through October.

In total, 16 member artists from Vancouver-based Coast Mental Health are exhibiting 40 paintings at 12 Photo submitted community spaces. The artists will attempt to reduce the stigma of mental illness through their paintings, which will be on display at the Carnegie Branch of the Vancouver Public Library, the Vancouver City Hall Library, City of Langley and West Vancouver Memorial Library throughout July before moving onto Maple Ridge in August.

A travelling art roadshow will be on display at various locations across Greater Vancouver now through October.

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The roadshow highlights the talents of the organization’s members, but also shines a light on the need for community-run programming that supports people with diverse needs. “We designed the Art Project Roadshow to bring attention to the barriers that prevent many of our members from participating in community-run initiatives, such as a local art exhibition,” said Tracy Schonfeld, director of community services at Coast Mental Health. “Building healthy and inclusive communities means developing programs that accommodate a diverse group of people to ensure no one is left behind.” Art has been long known for its therapeutic benefits and is a powerful tool for self-discovery and healing.

“The... roadshow gives some visibility and exposure, which I might not have had otherwise." Sandra Yuen MacKay Sandra Yuen MacKay, one of the artists involved in the roadshow, struggled with her mental health since diagnosed as a teenager with schizophrenia. She uses art to give her focus, purpose and identity.

Sandra Yuen MacKay

“Art has been my uses her art to salvation,” said raise awareness MacKay. “I’ve painted of mental illness. Photo Submitted abstract works and urban scenes about alienation, angst, social inclusion and isolation, but my florals are full of joy, hope and beauty.” As an artist with mental illness, MacKay works extra hard to overcome the stigma and isolation of mental illness that impedes her from connecting with an audience outside of the mental health community. “The... roadshow gives some visibility and exposure, which I might not have had otherwise,” added MacKay. A full schedule of the travelling art roadshow is available at CoastMentalHealth.com/artprojectroadshow.


Givingback Tom Su plays violin at Burnaby Hospital to ease the suffering Chris Campbell | CONTRIBUTING WRITER

After Tom Su watched his father die in the palliative care unit at Burnaby Hospital, it would have been easy for him to just walk away from the facility and vow never to come back.

“One patient started humming the melody,” Su said about that flash of recognition. “A family member was really surprised because that hadn’t happened before. “

But he didn’t.

Playing the violin has brought a lot of joy to Su’s life, but visiting Burnaby Hospital is not easy. For one thing, Su also plays in that same unit his father spent his last days in.

Su had spent day after soul-crushing day in the unit caring for his father, who was dying of lung cancer. Tom Su plays violin every Tuesday night at Burnaby Hospital. Photo submitted

During that time, he noticed some of the other patients didn’t have anyone outside of the hospital staff to care for them — or even pay them a visit. Su also saw families suffering, with few if any moments to escape their overwhelming anxiety.

So he decided to do something about it. He picked up his violin — an instrument he had been playing since the age of four — and made arrangements with Burnaby Hospital to come and play for patients and their families.

“[Playing there] is actually quite emotional,” Su said. “The smell, the scenery, it gets to me. It is very difficult for me.” And yet, he still goes because he sees the difference it can make in a patient’s day. Su even gives up part of his Christmas Day to play for patients. Su, who is 49 and works for Telus, said the visits combine the three main sections of his life, including his music degree, his many years spent in the hospitality industry, as well as his current job. Su doesn’t just play music, he chats with at least 10 to 15 patients and family members during his visits. Sometimes, people just need someone to listen to them during such a stressful time.

That one visit has turned into hundreds as Su drops in every Tuesday night. The classically trained violinist plays everything from the classics to pop songs to movie themes. He even takes requests.

Some weeks, Su is able to go for additional visits thanks for the support of his employer, Telus, which says its employees have contributed more than one million volunteer hours in the past year.

Su does whatever it takes to ease the suffering. He plays for patients with cancer and people living in longterm care. Su also plays for people with dementia and he recalls the impact his music has had.

“Telus has a culture that encourages staff to give back,” Su said. “Telus has been very flexible for me.” summer 2019

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My wake-up call: When I had no energy for the activities I love.

If you snore and find yourself excessively sleepy, you might have Sleep Apnea and you’re two times more likely to have a vehicle or workplace accident. Source: SleepFoundation.org

Call 1.844.SLEEP40. Have a FREE Sleep Consultation, no referral required. Drop by any Lower Mainland CanSleep location. Visit CanSleep.ca to find a location or to take a quick online evaluation.

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Healthier You Summer 2019  

Healthier You Summer 2019  

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