How to Redeem Winter

For those of us who are unable to get away for a break, the winter can seem unbearably long and confining. I have a dear older friend who is even afraid to take her car out to run necessary errands. She is the sole caregiver for her husband, who is wheelchair bound. If she slips on the ice, falls and injures herself, who will be there to care for and support him?

One thing that has brought some relief to her cocooned indoor life is the joy she has found in looking through old photo albums. In preparation for a personal memoir that is soon to be published, she is going through all her old photos to select those what will best represent various chapters in her long and fascinating life. It is a task that has helped her to remember long ago friends and places she lived or visited. For her, it has been great fun and brought back wonderful memories that she gets to re-live whenever she looks at the photographs.

Kelly Walker, who will be leading a workshop at Siloam United Church on April 6th, has some important things to say about winter:

“This season has a great deal to teach us about living and dying. We being to prepare for a slower time — a time when the weather takes us by the hand and leads us into the unknown. It is impossible for us to control the weather in the months ahead. Snow can keep us indoors for days on end. Ice can isolate us. Cold and wind can stall us in our tracks. We are not always in control.” (p. 177, Walker, Growing Somewhere)

Elsewhere Kelly writes that this is a good time for reflection, something we don’t often take the time to do when the weather is pleasant and our health is good. He talks about looking through old photo albums with his aunt and listening to her tell stories about the people in those albums, some of whom Kelly remembers fondly and others whom he only remembers vaguely from childhood and still others not at all.

Maybe like Kelly and my friend, it is time to get out the old photographs and and recall the precious memories embedded in them. If you have an older parent, or an aunt or uncle, who can tell you more about the stories behind those photos, take the time now to talk with them and write those stories down. And if you are now the elder, be sure and sit down with your child or grandchild, or your niece or nephew, and welcome them into the world that is their legacy. And if they cannot be with you in person, speak the stories into a tape recorder or commit them to print. You will be giving your loved ones a rich and valuable gift — the gift of memory. Moreover, you will be bringing some warmth and light into these cold winter days.




Let’s Talk!

This past Wednesday was Bell Let’s Talk Day, a day when millions of Canadians were encouraged to really open up and talk to each other about mental health.

Mental health affects everyone, including those of us who now find ourselves in the second half of life. According to a 2012 report of the Canadian Mental Health Association, those aged sixty-five and older have a higher suicide rate than other generations. Studies also show that the rate of depression in both men and women over the age of sixty-five is 25% of the total population, which is approximately 10% higher than the rate of depression in the population under sixty-five.

Paul Links, former Chief of Psychiatry at the Schulich School of Medicine at Western University, says that his own extensive research in the field also bears this out. He has seen the increase in depression among seniors firsthand in his practice. As he notes, men over sixty-five who have enjoyed highly successful careers are most susceptible to depression and suicide. Links points to the lack of “connectiveness” these men feel to others, their sense of isolation, and loneliness as chief causes of deteriorating mental health among older adults.

What can help to relieve the sense of loneliness that so many older Canadians experience? A clue may be found in the research of Harvard scholar George Vaillant.

In a book called Aging Well, Vaillant, wrote that six factors predicted healthy aging for a group of Harvard men who were part of a study that began when they were all young, back in 1938, and which has continued to the present day. One of these men was the late President John F. Kennedy. Today only 19 of the original members of the study group survive. The six factors that predicted healthy aging were: physical activity, absence of alcohol abuse and smoking, having mature mechanisms to cope with life’s ups and downs, and enjoying both a healthy weight and a stable marriage. No surprises there.

What did surprise the researchers was the role that community played in the men’s ability to age well. “When the study began, nobody cared about empathy or attachment,” said Vaillant. “But the key to healthy aging is relationships, relationships, relationships.”

In fact, the study showed that the role of genetics and long-lived ancestors proved less important to longevity than the level of satisfaction with relationships in midlife.

Canadian author and psychologist Susan Pinker agrees. She argues that social gatherings are critical to our health and well-being, especially as we age. Indeed, the lack of close personal friendships may shorten our lives faster than cigarettes, salt, sugar and animal fat.[1] Real time, face to face contact, can help us to live healthier and longer lives. Chatting with friends on the porch or over the back fence, playing cards once a week, meeting friends every Tuesday morning at the coffee shop, having friends over to dinner regularly, or going to choir practice every week, can actually lengthen your life and bring you more happiness. And get this, study after study shows that these kinds of activities will do far more to promote health and longevity than “slathering on the sunscreen, downing fistfuls of vitamins, practicing mindfulness meditation, or sweating it out at the gym or with hot yoga.”[2]

Again, the key to healthy aging is “relationships, relationships, relationships.” Moreover, “our choice of communities can actually be a matter of life and death.”

In other words, get talking!


[1] Susan Pinker, The Village Effect. How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us healthier and Happier. (Toronto, Vintage Canada, 2015.), p. 7.

[2] Ibid.


Meet “Kelly Walker”, Popular Speaker, Singer-Songwriter, who is Passionate about Life after fifty!Discover how you can be too on “Saturday, April 6th!”

It is now just over three months since we launched the inaugural Canadian Boomerfest! At that time many of you asked when we were going to host our next Boomerfest. While we have not put together another three-day conference like the one we all enjoyed last Fall, we have arranged for a special one-day event with renowned speaker, author, singer-songwriter and recording artist Kelly Walker, which we believe you will very much want to attend: Growing Somewhere: Living life from Mid-Life On, to be held from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 6th at Siloam United Church, 1240 Fanshawe Park Road East, London ON. 

It promises to be a great day filled with food, fun, fellowship, music and a powerful message to assist us in growing spiritually after age 50. Please see the  information and registration form below. You may also register online or phone 519-455-9201. 

As Kelly writes,

“We are the first generation to be quite sure we’ll have another third of life after 50. How do we plan to live it with deliberation and joy? This is a day to gain and share wisdom about this tremendous journey. A day to share about dreams, fears and challenges.  A day to meet other sojourners on the journey through this last gift of time. We will explore our dreams, our relationships as they grow or diminish, our health and its joys and challenges, death and dying and our relationship with the earth and the Creator. We will have music, food, fellowship and a great time together.”

We know it is going to be a fabulous day! Please join us for a swell and groovy time!

SATURDAY, APRIL 6TH — 9:30am – 4pm — Cost: $40 (after March 31st – $50) — Hot lunch and snacks included.


1240 Fanshawe Park Road East, London ON

To register, please contact: or 519 455 9201 or register online at

Or mail in the following form with your cheque for $40.00.

FIRST NAME: ____________________________


LAST NAME:   ____________________________






PHONE NUMBER:________________________


EMAIL ADDRESS:________________________


EMERGENCY CONTACT: (Name and Phone Number):____________________________________________________



Kelly Walker – Bio


Now and again you find a voice, a message and a man wrapped into one to bring songs to the heart of a people. Kelly Walker is it! The words, the music, the stories combine to create a most entertaining and inspiring Canadian performer.


The man. The music. The message. All this comes from a 20 year monastic experience with the Dominican Order where Kelly lived in Quebec, Ontario, the USA and Italy. After a severe burnout, Kelly left the monastery and began a career in music, which had always been the golden thread in his life. He toured with the Irish singer-harpist, Mary O’Hara and appeared on her TV series in the UK. His concert career has placed him on major stages in Canada and the US. He served as artistic director of HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, a benefit concert to support LOFT COMMUNITY SERVICES for 12 years.


In the past years he has worked with Paul Zaza, Dominic Morrissey, Bill King and Wayne Kelso in concert. He has done many concerts with the Canadian  tenor, Mark DuBois. His CD River Ash is a collection of 16 piano improvisations. His CD All My Life is a collection of his newest songs with full orchestration. Kelly has joined together with Sally Armour Wotton, actor, and Alexandra Caverley Lowery, dancer, to found a school for the performing arts called SACRED ACTS, which is Toronto based.


He is an author. His books Loss of Soul: Burnout and Dancing on the Ark: Facing Change in Uncertain Times (what every Noah ought to know) are in their second printing and his new book entitled Growing Somewhere: life after mid-life is a third Canadian best seller. He has addressed thousands of groups as a public speaker throughout the world.


He has been awarded the Pauline McGibbon Life Achievement in the Arts award.


He lives with his partner Ray Harsant in Stratford,Ontario.


Caregivers Need Our Support

Two couples I know, both of them Baby Boomers, are spending almost every day running back and forth between their home and the hospital or nursing home, trying to care for  very elderly parents. They are exhausted, physically and emotionally.

A friend of mine, herself a Baby Boomer,  is struggling in hospital. She is facing a serious but non-life threatening operation, but it may take several months before this can happen. In the meanwhile, she is terrified that the hospital is going to send her home where she lives alone and must contend with stairs and other hazards. Her daughter, who lives in another city and has three very young children and a demanding job, is trying to find options for her mother’s care. But it’s not easy to manage these arrangements from so far away.

More than ever now people of faith need to find ways to support caregivers and their loved ones. It is all very well for us to pray for them, but we must do more than pray. Those who are in need of care often require someone to be their advocate and, if there is no family close by, then they should be able to depend upon their brothers and sisters in the faith community to help them.

Those who are doing the care-giving often need even more support, although many find it hard to acknowledge this. That is why great sensitivity is required when reaching out to friends and colleagues who are facing compassion fatigue. How can you give a caregiver a break? Recently I came across a wonderful article by Debbie Swanson which addresses this very issue. Check it out in Next Avenue: What Can You Do to Ease a Caregiver’s Burden?


The Need for Solitude

Do you know about the Ontario Library Associations Evergreen List?  Each year the OLA nominates a number of books in Canadian fiction and non-fiction in an effort to encourage people to explore Canadian literature and discover a variety of talented Canadian authors.

One book from the 2018 list that I particularly enjoyed is Solitude. A Singular Life in a Crowded World by Michael Harris. I have always known that the secret to healthy aging is community, so was rather intrigued to discover this book on the importance of solitude. However, true solitude is not about being anti-social. According to Harris, we human beings need to have alone time in order to thrive. And if we can spend that time in nature, away from the hustle and bustle of every day urban life, so much the better! Solitude, he says, has many uses. Time alone can help us to birth new ideas and a deeper understanding of the self.

And get this! Solitude can lead to closeness with others. Harris refers to the work of Eric Klinenberg, Going Solo. Klinenberg asserts “that our ability to be happily alone is actually a sign of strong social ties, not a lack thereof. He notes, for example, that the countries with the highest rates of solo living — Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark — are all countries famed for their communal support.” (quoted in Harris, p. 39)

It would seem that we all need to find the balance between being with others and being alone in order to live a happy life. Finding that balance is another important key to healthy living and healthy aging. It is a worthy goal to which to aspire in this still very New Year.



Be Your Best in 2019!

Happy New Year! Here we are, only three days into 2019! How are you doing with those New Year’s resolutions? If you haven’t made any yet, there’s still time!

Here’s one that came to me from Next Avenue, a wonderful online newsletter you may wish to subscribe to this year. As a way of keeping our minds sharp — and having some fun along the way — why not try to learn to play a musical instrument or take an art class?  Engaging in the arts is one of the best ways to keep your mind agile and make new friends while cultivating your talents.

My personal choice is an art class. All my life I have loved to draw and paint, but I have never really had the time. This year I plan to make time for a 2 1/2-hour class at Art Adventures in London. It doesn’t matter that the rest of the group has far more talent than me. The instructor welcomes people of all abilities and provides all the materials. So I just need to show up! I call it my form of “meditation”. Once I get engrossed in my art work, I forget about all my worries and concerns. For me, it is a great way to explore my inner me and have some fun doing it.

Why not give it a try? Would love to hear how you plan to cultivate your creative spirit this year!

The Coming New Year Can Bring Freedom and Liberation if we let it!

It’s been a while since I posted anything, but I’m back! The weeks after Canadian Boomerfest found me busy catching up on visitation on the pastoral charge and getting ready for Advent and Christmas. Along the way there was some time for fun and a much needed break in late October, when Richard and I headed to Italy for ten days. There we enjoyed the historic sites of the eternal city of Rome, toured the ancient ruins of Pompeii, and visited lovely Ortona on the Adriatic, where my father fought in World War II. Rounding out our trip was a visit to beautiful Florence and the scenic hills of Tuscany.

One of our favourite places was the Academia Gallery in Florence, where Michelangelo’s famous statue of David is housed. On the way into that gallery, we were shown his “Four Slaves or Prisoners”. These are some of his unfinished works. When you look at them, they seem to be writhing and struggling to burst out of the stone. Michelangelo is famous for saying that he worked to liberate the forms imprisoned in the marble. He saw his job as simply removing what was extraneous.

I sometimes think that this is our task in the second half of life: to remove everything that is extraneous to our lives. For this reason, whenever I lead groups on second half of life spirituality, I often ask people to think about one thing that they would let go of in this period of life, and one thing that they would wish to keep. In Ephesians 2:10, the writer says, “You are God’s masterpiece.”

Well, Michelangelo laboured for days on end without sleep to free his sculptures from their stone prisons. And it’s going to take us some time to work with God at chiseling away those things that really hold us captive and prevent us from becoming the full human beings God calls us to be.  For a lot of us, and for much of our lives, we had to spend a lot of time building a home or a career, with endless meetings and activities, and now there comes the freedom to chip away the excess or all the stuff that weighs us down or gets in the way of our true calling.

As we approach the coming New Year, I invite you to think about those things you would like to let go of in the second half of your life, as well as those things you want to keep. I think you will find it a liberating exercise, one that frees you to become the person God calls you to be. May God bless you in the coming New Year and always!


One Week Later — Canadian Boomerfest 2018: We Rocked!

After months of planning and many discussions over numerous meetings, we did it! Thanks to the wonderful support of our sponsors, and the countless volunteer hours of so many people, as well as the many who came and joined in on the fun and learning, we are happy to report that Canadian Boomerfest was a huge success. Wonderfully inspiring presenters gave us multiple lenses into this rich but complex field of Boomers and Spirituality. The meals and snacks were fabulous, the exercise breaks and Boomer trivia quizzes were lots of fun, the book room introduced us to some fascinating new studies, and the workshops were engaging. We exercised our minds and our bodies, and still found time to enjoy a glass of wine and dance to the music of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s by Tom Cat Prowl.

A man who has organized numerous conferences and is a specialist in aging and spirituality was just one of among many who wrote to congratulate us on the event: “I want you to know that this was the single best conference I have experienced hosted at a church, from so many standpoints. You brought in some amazing speakers, it ran so efficiently, it was an incredible amount of fun, folks who did not already know each other got to make connections which will benefit them, and it changed a lot of people’s understanding of the potential for Boomer ministry, plus inspired and excited them.”

The biggest affirmation was from the many who came up to us at the end of the two-and-a-half-day conference and asked eagerly, “When are you doing it again?!”

Special thanks to everyone who made this such a meaningful and enjoyable event!

Sheila Macgregor, Convener                          Kerry Stover, Co-Convener


Kaye Appleby                                                  Catherine Glover

Mike Ashton                                                    David Knoppert

Linda Badke                                                     Diane Knoppert

Steven Britton                                                 Camillia LaRouche

Stu Cunningham                                             Richard Macgregor

David Dillon                                                     Lynn McClary

Mary Dillon                                                     Margaret Smith

Judi Emery                                                      Ric Graham

Heather Vosper




Only two more days until the start of Canadian Boomerfest!

We are getting so excited about the launch of Canadian Boomerfest, happening right here in London, Ontario, starting this coming Wednesday evening! We are now at full capacity, but hope that those of you who have not been able to make it can still follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

Will have more to share next week. For now, here are a few very short essays or commentaries on Boomers and Spirituality, as well as a list of books that will help you learn more on this important subject.