Compliments of
John Verster
Changing Places Vancouver
Volume 11 Edition 5
To Mentor or Meander?

The Concise Oxford English dictionary defines a mentor as “an experienced person in an organization or institution who trains and advises new employees or students”. (Mentor was the advisor to Telemachus in Homer’s Odyssey.)

To most of us, who have been mentors or have been mentored, this is a rather sterile description of a complex role and process. We tend to see the mentoring process, in modern life, as a much more expansive phenomenon. It seems to encompass the life-span from childhood to retirement. For example, we are mentored by our uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents in the family setting. When we go to school, the process is continued by teachers, coaches, counsellors and older students. In the workplace, we are guided by supervisors, master craftsmen and fellow-workers.

We call it apprenticeship. Professionals, whether they are aware of it or not, are particularly dependent upon, and susceptible to mentoring. (Not too long ago, for instance, medical training consisted of the student following the doctor around, observing, asking questions and receiving instructions.) These elements of mentoring are going on in our daily lives month-by-month, year-by-year.

And, most of us, when the question is put, can remember at least one mentor who “made a REAL difference” in our lives - - - someone who was able to put us on the right track career-wise with a helping hand or was able to give us a different perspective on life. Frequently, the mentor is not aware of having been that difference-maker. But, the mentoree, to coin a word, NEVER forgets that mentor. This is worth remembering when we sometimes become impatient with those we are mentoring.
If we accept, then, the premise that mentoring is important and useful, it might also be worth considering the broader ‘social value’ of this sometimes indecipherable mix of training, coaching, advising, guiding, apprenticeship, fostering, empowering, encouraging and befriending. This is where we see the essence of mentoring far beyond the limited, dictionary version. Social psychologists would call it “socialization” - - the complex process of human interactions that help us to understand “what it means to be” (e.g. What it MEANS to be a Notary - - a doctor - - a lawyer - - a plumber - - a waiter, or whatever.) And so, mentoring becomes part of the process which helps us learn WHO we are in the scheme of things, HOW to behave and WHAT is expected of us; that is to say, it helps us identify our ROLE. Increasingly, this role identification has become important in society. It is central in everything from family dynamics to corporate culture. It is significant that mentoring also helps to transmit the mission, values and ethics of an organization to new members of the group.
Sociologists argue that good ‘socialization’ processes, such as mentoring, help to produce a more harmonious, balanced society through “the diffusion of knowledge”. 

Some ‘futurologists’ in the field caution us that education, for example, could become an insular and isolating process, if it becomes pervasively dependent on technology. They warn that the seductive abilities of the internet to provide immediate, unlimited information on everything should not deflect us from the pursuit of two of the most essential ‘ingredients’ necessary for our progress and development as human beings. These are EXPERIENCE and WISDOM - - qualities to be found largely in the human interactions discussed in this article under the umbrella of mentoring.
As the “Age Wave” of retiring ‘Boomers’ impacts all aspects of Canadian society, businesses are preparing to replace key personnel. (With 1,000 Canadians reaching 60 every day, time is short.) Companies are introducing strategies to ease this transition by encouraging retirement-age workers to stay on the job longer, Flex-hours, job-sharing and consulting positions are important elements of such corporate plans. But, the most important role for the newly-retired or soon-to-be-retired professional may well be that of MENTORING. The transfer of experience and wisdom to younger, replacement workers can be accomplished in this way.
What if these potential mentors we are talking about decline to take on the task? (After all, they may just shrug and meander off into ‘the sunset of retirement’.) And some will. But, given the choice, “to MENTOR or MEANDER”, many will MENTOR.
This article was originally published in April 2011 in The Scrivener, the quarterly magazine of The Society of Notaries Public of BC,
Article by, Dr. John Crawford, VP of Education for Age-Friendly Business,

How Can I Help my Parents With the Prospect of Downsizing?

Q.  Our parents have decided to move from our family home of 43 years to a 2-bedroom apartment in a retirement community. The prospect of downsizing can be overwhelming. How can we help them move forward through this emotional time? 

1. Get your parents involved in the move decisions as much as possible. Their involvement will affect how well they adjust to the move.

2. Break the tasks of downsizing or “right sizing” into small segments, which may begin with 15 minute sessions a couple of times throughout  each day. The key is to take small steps to help them deal with the idea of clearing out their home.

3. Begin with rooms that have fewer emotional attachments such as an attic or basement.

4. Get a floor plan from the new home and decide which furnishings and accessories will fit into the new space. Select items that hold the most memories such as photographs and favourite treasures.

5. Encourage your parents to take time to say goodbye to the possessions they can’t bring with them. Share and reminisce the memories with them. They may only need to read their old letters one more time before throwing them out.

6. Encourage them to give cherished items and heirlooms to family and friends. Your parents will be comforted in knowing their possessions are going to familiar hands and will be appreciated.

7. Create a memory book of items that are no longer needed or won’t fit into the new home. This may include family photos, furnishings, china or perhaps a treasured trophy.

8. Record LP albums to an updated listening format if your parents can’t bear to part with their favourite music collection.

9. Remind your parents that less is more and if they haven’t worn that jacket or dress in a number of years, it’s probably a good time to pass it on.

10. Donate household items to charities or perhaps their place of worship. Hold a content sale. Valuable items can be sold for profit through auction, consignment and retail stores that sell used goods.

These suggestions can help reduce your parent’s anxiety levels and make the transition to their new home much easier.

You can turn what appeared to be an insurmountable challenge into a manageable process and reduce the stress and worry of beginning this new, exciting phase of their lives. They will be so grateful for your understanding and loving support.

This information was provided by Karen Pivnick, CPCA, Topcat Relocation & Transition Solutions,  

Strawberry Compote with Dumplings

Warm strawberry aroma will fill the kitchen while you’re cooking this dish on the stove. An easy way to use some of the frozen local berries from the summer or a quick last minute dessert with a pantry staple of frozen fruit in the freezer. The balsamic vinegar adds a nice balance of sweetness and tang to this comfort dish. Makes 6 servings, Preparation Time: 20 minutes, Cook Time: 20 minutes.

Ingredients - 1 bag (600 g) frozen, sliced strawberries, (about 1 L/4 cups), 25 mL (2 tbsp) granulated sugar, 25 mL (2 tbsp) aged, balsamic vinegar, Whole-wheat dumplings - 175 mL (3/4 cup) whole-wheat flour, 125 mL (1/2 cup) natural wheat bran, 15 mL (1 tbsp) granulated sugar, 5 mL (1 tsp) baking powder, 1 egg, 125 mL (1/2 cup) low-fat milk, 15 mL (1 tbsp) soft, non-hydrogenated margarine, melted.

Directions - In saucepan cover and heat strawberries over medium heat until softened. Add sugar and vinegar and bring to a boil.  Whole-wheat dumplings: Meanwhile, in bowl whisk together flour, bran, sugar and baking powder. In another small bowl, whisk together egg, milk and margarine. Pour over flour mixture and stir until moistened.

Add dumplings to boiling strawberry mixture by spoonfuls to make 8 to 10 dumplings. Reduce heat and boil gently for about 10 minutes or until dumplings are puffed. Cover and cook for 2 minutes or until dumplings are set on top. Remove from heat to serve.

Tip: You can serve a dollop of low fat vanilla yogurt on top of each serving if desired or garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Nutrition Information Per Serving (125 mL/1/2 cup) - Calories: 161,Protein: 5 g,Total fat: 4 g,Saturated fat: 1 g,Cholesterol: 32 mg,Carbohydrate: 31 g,Fibre: 5 g,Sugar : 14 g,Sodium: 92 mg, Potassium: 318 mg

Recipe developed by Emily Richards, PH Ec. ©The Heart and Stroke Foundation 2011


"Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon them and to let them know that you trust them."  Booker T. Washington

Economic Burden of Dementia

Right now, dementia costs Canadians $15 billion a year, a figure expected to grow ten times to $153 billion by 2038.
Economic Burden of Dementia (in future dollars)
 a. 2008 - $15 billion
 b. 2018 - $37 billion
 c. 2028 - $75 billion
 d. 2038 - $153 billion
Cumulative Consequences of Dementia over a 30-year period
Cumulative data represents the combined total of either the economic costs of dementia per year, or the number of people developing dementia per year, each year between 2008 and 2038. By 2038, the cumulative incidence of dementia will be more than 5.5 million people, with a cumulative economic cost of $872 billion (2008 dollars).
Source: Alzheimer Society, Rising Tide: The Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society conducted by RiskAnalytica.

Gardening Tips for Seniors

1. Warm up by doing a few stretches before starting any gardening activities and working with your garden tools. Doing this will help reduce any muscle soreness you may experience later on.

2. Drink plenty of liquids (avoiding alcohol), to keep your body well hydrated.

3. Be sure to take care of cuts, bruises, scrapes and insect bites right away to help avoid infection. 

4. Try and work in the garden early in the morning or late in the day to avoid blazing midday sun and heat which can make even the healthiest senior ill or weary.

5. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, and add a hat and gloves to cover exposed skin. Use sunscreen to protect against sunburn and sun damage.

6. In addition, it is also important to know your limitations. When you start to feel fatigued, take a break for a few moments.

Source: Living Assistance Services, 

To Mentor or Meander?
How Can I Help my Parents With the Prospect of Downsizing?
Strawberry Compote with Dumplings
Economic Burden of Dementia
Gardening Tips for Seniors