Aging in a Foreign Land

There are two population trends that are changing the social landscape of Canada and are going to have an impact on how programs and services are delivered.

As in other parts of the world, the Canadian population is aging – with the number of Canadians age 65+ expected to double to 10.4 million by 2036. In addition, Canada’s population is also becoming increasingly diverse, with many older adults also being immigrants. On the 2006 census, while 20% of the overall population was immigrants, the corresponding figure among older adults was 30%.

A working paper from Ontario-based network CERIS (Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement) sought to explore the aging experiences of older immigrants in Canada. The key findings from this study include:

  • Older immigrants, especially those who have recently arrived, are more likely to live in the top 3 Canadian CMAs (Census Metropolitan Areas) – Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver
  • Home countries of older immigrants have changed in the past 30 years, with almost half of older immigrants now arriving from South Asia and East Asia rather than Western Europe
  • Slightly more than half of the older adults who arrived recently did not have knowledge of the official languages of Canada, however they were more likely to have post-secondary education than their Canadian-born counterparts
  • Recent older immigrants were more prone to ill health in the long-run because of limited social networks, inadequate knowledge of the official languages and relatively low income

The Centre for Elder Research has recently completed a project looking at the health and social service use and needs of older South Asian immigrants in the regions of Peel and Halton. With support from local ethno-specific community organizations, over 300 older South Asian immigrants participated in the project and shared their unique experiences of aging and accessing services in Canada.

Aging away from their country of origin and in many cases, away from extended social networks, can have physical, cognitive, social and emotional impacts on older immigrants. For this reason here is a need for continued research in this area, particularly research that can inform policymakers and community organizations on how to best meet the unique needs of older immigrants living in Canada.

Guest Blog: Personal Training Works at Any Age


By Erin Billowits

The traditional image of personal training is a buff twenty-something trainer asking clients to ‘drop down and give them 20 pushups’. The world of personal training has changed in the last ten years to a place with trainers specialized in pre and post natal care, weight loss and active aging to name a few. If you have a complicated health history, low motivation or haven’t exercised in years don’t be intimidated to work with a personal trainer.

A few questions to ask yourself before hiring a personal trainer:

  1. What do you want to get out of the sessions? What are your fitness goals? One of the benefits of working with a trainer is developing and tracking fitness goals. Pick a goal that will impact your life as opposed to focusing solely on the number on a scale. How about training for a trip that you are planning, reducing the pain in your knees so you can walk more or sleep better or trying a new sport or activity?
  2. What personality style do you find motivating? You will spend quite a bit of time with your personal trainer and it is important that you find them motivating and enjoyable to be with. Do you like people who motivate by example, a trainer whose positive energy gets you through the session or maybe a trainer that diligently tracks and reports your progress works best for you. Knowing what style you find most inspiring will set you up to stick with your exercise program.
  3. What is stopping you now? Without judging or blaming yourself spend some time thinking about what is stopping you from exercising now. Is it lack of motivation? Being unsure of which exercises to do? Pain? Your trainer choice may be different depending on your answer.
  4. What could interfere with success? Some days it will be harder to exercise than others but if you think through what could get in your way and plan around it you will break through your barriers to exercise. What happens if it is raining on the morning of a planned walk; your appointment went 30 minutes over or an old injury flares up? A good trainer should ask you what could interfere with your success and plan around it.
  5. What qualifications and references do they have? All personal trainers in Canada need to be certified. Ask to see their certifications and to call a past client for a reference. If you are an older adult make sure that they have specialized training and well as experience working with any health conditions or injuries that you have.

Erin Billowits is the owner of Vintage Fitness, an in home personal training company which are experts in 50+ fitness. For more information go to If you are interested in on-line personal training go to


Technology and Aging: Technology to Support Aging in Place

Aging in place has become a popular term to describe an older adult’s wish to age in his or her own home and neighbourhood. Numerous studies have shown that this option is preferred by a large majority of North Americans.

For those who plan to age in place, technology has the capacity to provide support for them and for their caregivers. For example, home monitoring devices allow an individual’s family/caregiver to keep track of their activities and well-being. Listed below is a small sampling of home monitoring devices and what they have to offer.


Evermind for family caregivers tracks an individual’s routine, such as brewing a morning cup of coffee, by detecting when electrical appliances are turned on and off. This system maintains an individual’s privacy by allowing caregivers to detect changes in activity that may be cause for concern without the use of invasive cameras.


BeClose uses sensors placed around the home to keep track of normal routines. When something is out of the ordinary a caregiver is notified by text, email or phone call.

LivelyLive!y uses sensors attached to movable objects around the home such as the refrigerator door and the front door to collect data on behavior patterns, detect abnormalities and alert caregivers.


CarePredict offers a wearable sensor called Tempo that tracks small changes in daily routines. Since the sensor is worn by the individual it has the ability to track the time spent doing certain activities such as laying down for an afternoon nap. If more time is spent doing this activity than normal it will alert a caregiver of a possible change in well-being.

Medical Alert Systems can also provide peace of mind but as with all purchases it is important to do your homework. An article in The Senior List entitled Medical Alert Systems: Everything You Need to Know offers some good advice.

Arts and Aging: 5 Unconventional Means of Artistic Expression

Studies suggest that active participation in the creative and performing arts impacts the quality of life of adults 65+ by providing social, physical and emotional benefits. Art provides opportunities for older adults to engage in creative activities with like-minded individuals of all ages. Sharing their artwork with others enables artists’ voices to be heard in a positive and meaningful way which may also help to dispel ageist beliefs.

The artists below are a great example of how creative expression continues to flourish in later years.

At 109 years old, Alfie Dale, is Australia’s oldest person. According to an article in Daily Mail Australia he first learned to knit in 1932. Recently he has been using his knitting skills to help save penguins on Phillip Island from the effects of an oil spill by knitting jumpers for them.

Phil_Evanoff_Dancing_Girl_1982Bill Evenhoff
As reported in the article Mosaic Collection Created Bit by Bit, 96-year-old retired chemist Bill Evenhoff has created over 600 mosaics. He recently exhibited a sampling of his collection at the Patricia Scott Art Gallery in Bennett Hall at Ohio University. According to a review in Mosaic Art Now Evenhoff “has made mosaics for over 50 years for the sheer joy of it. The result is fresh, appealing, and utterly charming mosaic art.”

before-horiuchi-retired-he-wanted-to-try-something-newTatsuo Horiuchi
Creating his artwork on Excel spreadsheets, 74-year-old Tatsuao Horiuchi has wowed audiences on the Internet for several years according to an article in the Business Insider. He won the 2006 Excel Autoshape Contest along with exhibiting his work in Japan’s Gunma Museum of Art.

Image ‘Looking Up’ by Hal Lasko

Image ‘Looking Up’ by Hal Lasko

Hal Lasko
Pixel by pixel, over the last 13 years, 98-year-old Hal Lasko created works of art on a computer using Microsoft Paint. An article in Wired asked Lasko if he thinks about his paintings a lot, laughing Hal replied “that’s all I do.” He says he has “enjoyed every minute” of his work. Check out this short documentary called The Pixel Painter that showcases his passion for art.

Rafael Marchante/Reuters/Corbis

Rafael Marchante/Reuters/Corbis

An article entitled Senior Graffiti Artists Shatter Every Aging Stereotype, One Street at a Time highlights the work of a Portuguese urban art workshop for older adults. According to the article “Lisbon has a major street art scene and the program was set up to help the seniors not only understand and embrace street art, but also to help shatter stereotypes of both young and old.”

The artists highlighted here are a small sample of older adults who prove that there is no age limit when it comes to creativity.