Michael Geller, left, and Dr. Eric Cadesky. (photo by Binny Goldman)
Every year, we look to the Jewish Seniors Alliance Spring Forum for inspiration and the 170 people gathered in the Wosk Auditorium at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver on April 26 found it.
Debbie Cossever, representing the Jewish Seniors Alliance, and Claire Weiss of the L’Chaim Adult Day Centre were co-chairs of the partnered event, entitled YOLO: You Only Live Once – How Full is Your Cup?
Marshall Berger opened the afternoon’s program with a humorous song to the tune of “Side by Side” about a newly married aged couple. Cossever welcomed the audience, described the aims of JSA and invited newcomers to join the organization. JSA has approximately 700 members, including 34 affiliates representing more than 5,000 seniors in the Greater Vancouver area.
Cossever introduced Weiss, who explained that the afternoon was also a celebration of L’Chaim’s 30th anniversary, the group having started in the Beth Israel Youth Lounge in 1985 and then moving to the J in 1988. Last year, their staff delivered 1,933 client hours. She reminded those present that they are always looking for more members to join their “family.” The candles on a huge chocolate cake celebrating the 30 years were lit and all sang “Happy Anniversary,” which ended with calls of mazel tov!
Moderator Gloria Levi, a social services consultant, was then introduced. Levi has a master’s degree in public policy and is the author of Dealing with Memory Changes As You Grow Older and a series of booklets, Challenges of Later Life.
She introduced Michael Geller, an architect, planner, real estate consultant and property developer, who serves on the adjunct faculty of Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Sustainable Community Development. The talk was conducted in an interview format.
Geller’s topic was Lessons My Father Taught Me. He acquainted listeners with the unique and collaborative relationship he shared with his father, Sam Geller, who was one of the first members of the Jewish Senior Advisory Council (the original name of the JSA). He passed away 11 years ago at the age of 92.
Sam Geller was born in England and was a soldier in the Second World War who had survived being a prisoner of war. That occurrence colored his life. The very fact that he had survived made him happy and grateful to be alive and he never sought material things for happiness, often saying that things could have been so much worse. He moved to Vancouver from Toronto and enjoyed life at Langara Gardens, his grandchildren visiting him, doing Sudoku, crosswords, swimming and exercising daily. Then, after an emergency life-saving surgery, Geller said his father attempted to live each day to the fullest, saying, after all, it could very be his last.
Geller said his dad was a stoic, truly enjoying what he had rather than accumulating more items just to impress others who he may not care about in the first place. The lesson he received from his father was “Do what you enjoy, what makes you happy and continue contributing to the happiness of others, as that increases one’s own inner joy.” Geller recommended the book The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine.
The love and respect that Geller said he felt for his father was reflected on his face throughout the talk. Thoughts of his father swimming are with him as he does his own laps in the pool.
Levi then introduced Dr. Eric Cadesky, a family physician, assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, medical coordinator at Louis Brier Home and Hospital and a board member of Doctors of British Columbia. His presentation was entitled Getting It Just Right: How to Maximize Your Quality of Senior Life.
Cadesky disclosed that his mother-in-law was amused when she learned of his topic and asked, “What do you know about aging?” He explained that all of us age, no matter our number of years, but it is how we do it that is really important.
Cadesky believes that some of the choices we make act to decrease our quality and length of life and suggested that people live by three guidelines: Do enough. Not too much. Start now.
Enough means to be active, to walk or swim, as movement will lessen and ease pain. Enough also means to eat fresh, colorful foods that don’t require a microwave or have an expiry date. Enough means to socialize, learn a new language, do puzzles, these activities help to keep dementia at bay. Enough also means to use patience to deal with people who give you advice and knowing what advice to toss aside.
Not too much reminds us that anything that sounds too good to be true usually is. Certain vitamins (except for Vitamin D and B12) can be unhealthy to take in pill form. For example, post-menopausal women should not be taking calcium, and A, C, E, copper, zinc and selenium should be acquired from fresh food only. It is very important to be honest with your doctor when seeking medical advice. Sometimes “de-prescribing” is necessary – and an assessment can be made on all of your medications.
Start now means that we should be discussing with our doctors challenges that may be stopping us from doing what we want to be doing. Also, we generally do more for others than we choose to do for ourselves and we should start thinking of ourselves.
Cadesky advised us to have a realistic approach to life and not to fall for advertisements, which may be totally misleading. Scrutinize, be critical and intelligent in your choices and have confidence in your doctors, he said. Remember, too, he said, making others happy enriches our own happiness.
Audience questions were many. How can we ease a senior’s loneliness? Get involved in activities, he said, perhaps at JSA or L’Chaim. What are the benefits of fish oil? There is benefit in eating fresh fish but not in taking fish oil in pill form, he answered. There was also a discussion around the value of probiotics and alternative medicine. Cadesky recommended directing individual questions to your physician and stressed how critical it is to be honest with your doctor. A question, which made everyone laugh, was “Are you taking any new patients?”
Marilyn Berger, JSA president, and Serge Haber, JSA president emeritus, thanked the many volunteers who made the event possible. Special thanks went to the co-chairs, table sponsors and staff, Annica Carlsson, Karon Shear, Rita Propp, and to Stan Shear for videotaping the session, which will be posted to the JSA website (jsalliance.org).
Door prizes were then handed out to the delight of the recipients. Over tea and coffee and chocolate cake, as well as fresh fruit and veggies by Susy Segal’s Nava Catering, helped by Bagel Club volunteers Ophira Schwartzfeld, Harriet Corda and David Benbaruj, attendees felt we had experienced an extraordinary afternoon and had adhered to the advice of our two speakers and that adage of Dr. Charles Glassman, “Live your everyday extraordinary!”
Binny Goldman is a member of the Jewish Seniors Alliance of Greater Vancouver board.