Welcome to issue two of the Academy Quarterly Review - fondly referred to as AQR!
Our website brings you Academy information and news on a regular basis. Information on Walks, Forums, Talks, Member Spotlights, accomplishments and opportunities can now be seen "as they happen," as it were.
But we know that you don't always have time to check the website, or may be travelling and away from your device when news is posted. To ensure that you don't miss a thing, we have produced the Academy Quarterly Review, which brings together in one handy tool all the items that have been posted in the previous three months.
See something in the AQR that you would like to print or save for later? If you open the links you will see - in the top right corner, the option to either PDF or print as you wish.
The Communications Committee hopes that you enjoy this issue of Academy Quarterly Review, and we look forward to bringing you new issues every quarter.
July 4 - Board meeting
September 11 - Fall Semester begins
September 12 - Board meeting
This spring, Academy members were treated to a fascinating slate of speakers on a range of timely and thought-provoking topics. Thanks and congratulations to the Talks Committee for all of their efforts to bring us such a series of interesting sessions.
Belly Laughs, Smiles and Chuckles at the First Spring Talk - Laughing is the Best Medicine - Ron James and the Academy Comedy Workshop
By Mary Doucette
The first of the 2018 Academy Spring Talks had a full-house as we explored the idea that “laughing is the best medicine”. The highlight of the morning was Michael Cole’s Stand-Up Comedy workshop members who presented their original jokes on the topic of aging. For Janet Broadley, Ian Darragh, Margrit Eichler, Ernie Fallen, Ellen Lewkowicz, Esme Mc Monagle, Don Nicol, Melanie Reeve, Matthew Segal, Priscilla Platt and Michael Cole, nothing was sacred. They joked about hearing loss, incontinence, loneliness, sex, death and cremation, memory loss, the challenges of technology, and much more. In a Q and A, the brave members of the group admitted that they had taken the workshop to stretch themselves, and though it wasn’t always easy, they were very glad they lived up to the challenge. Several people stated that learning stand-up has changed the way they look at the world.
The second half of our morning of laughter was provided by the well-known and very funny East Coast comedian, Ron James. He admitted he “plumbs the dark corners of life to find humour” and had us all laughing at stories of his own life and people he knows, especially those who are dealing with the challenges of aging.
Members of Michael Cole’s stand-up workshop are now going on the road and are available to provide a program of humour to community groups. For more information, contact Michael at email@example.com.
The Healthy Brain: How Diet and Supplements Can Help Optimize Brain Power at Any Age
By Liz Guccione
In an interesting, at times even surprising, talk on Wednesday morning, April 18, Dr. Burford-Mason spoke to a rivetted Academy audience about how important the right foods are to the brain, which uses nutrients at 10 times the rate of any other tissues in the body – and is the first organ to suffer if we are deprived of essential nutrients. As a cell biologist and orthomolecular nutritionist, Burford-Mason’s ideas are evidence-based. “We have learned more about the brain in the last 10 years,” she said, “than in all the years preceding.” Academy members learned about the connections between Alzheimers and diabetes, between phytochemicals – fruits and vegetables – and neurological regeneration, and between the right supplements and healthy aging. She also spoke of the dangers of eating highly processed, non-nourishing foods that are overloaded with calories with no nutrient value.
So what should we eat to keep our brains healthy – and even make them healthier than they are today? At least six to 10 servings of vegetables and fruits a day, Burford-Mason says, as well as “good fats.” And as older people, we need protein even more than when we were younger, to keep our muscles from beginning to break down. Consuming protein every day is essential, but not all at once – not all at dinner, for instance. Instead we should include protein for breakfast, lunch and dinner. An egg a day – making sure it includes the yolk – keeps the doctor away, was Dr. Burford-Mason’s final advice.
Being Bold and Pushing Boundaries: Thoughts on the Future of University Education
By Gillian Long
Dr. Michael Benarroch, Provost and Vice President, Academic at Ryerson University since July 2017, delivered the Third Spring Talk on Wednesday April 25th 2018. His topic was Being Bold and Pushing Boundaries: Thoughts on the Future of University Education. He is the bold child of immigrants from Tangiers (to chilly Winnipeg!) and was the first member of his family to push boundaries by graduating from university. A large, engaged audience listened closely to his thoughts on the future of university education and later asked many pertinent questions. We learned that universities are under enormous pressure from government, employers and students themselves to make changes in their educational model. It is very hard for universities to accept such loss of autonomy.
Although government funding is down, it is more and more contingent on performance metrics. Employers demand highly skilled employees who are also job ready. Faced with ever-rising tuition fees, students want value for money, to be trained for a job, even though that job may change every few years. Universities compete for philanthropic dollars – and donors make demands in return for their support.
The traditional university teaching model has to change, to include experiential learning (doing is more important than listening), co-op based skills training, flexible schedules and a willingness to embrace competency-based evaluation. Digital literacy must keep pace with rapid technological change. It is vitally important that aboriginal education improves and that traditional values are not lost. Universities must remain bastions of free speech, but the rules are changing and it is often difficult to maintain civil discourse.
The audience was obviously relieved to hear that Dr. Benarroch believes that there is still an important place for the Humanities in this brave new world of education. His advice to our grandchildren is to do something they are passionate about, even if there are bumps along the way. The path to real success is never linear.
The Surprising Effects of Music as Vibration
By Laura Hill
Dr Lee Bartel, PhD, Professor Emeritus and former Associate Dean of Research at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, addressed an attentive audience 0f Academy members and guests on Wednesday, bringing us up to speed with his work on Music and the Brain. Dr Bartel has become passionate about music neuroscience, specifically, music as medicine, discovering the surprising effects of sound vibration on brain activity.
Dr Bartel’s interest in research began in the 80s, and has led him to currently examine populations afflicted with pain, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s, and major depression. He discovered that rhythmic sensory stimulation, particularly at the 40Hz level, (equivalent to the musical note, low ‘E’), can strengthen failing brain circuits when administered for about a half hour twice weekly. This has dramatic impact for those with Alzheimer’s, for example. A flickering light at that speed has been found to improve cardiac functioning. Low frequency sound stimulation can improve cognition, and at the right level, it can induce sleep.
As an ounce of prevention, Dr Bartel makes use of his VTS-1000 Vibroacoustic Therapy System on a regular basis at his home. The device is currently marketed online, as well as a series of healing music discs called Music for Your Health (Solitudes label). For those who wish to learn more, Dr Bartel has some excellent lectures online (e.g. on TED Talks). We left feeling encouraged that a drug-free intervention for many familiar illnesses is being vigorously investigated.
Whodunits at Innis
By Wendy Warrillow
On Wednesday, May 9th, a gloriously sunny day, a large number of people were to be seen heading for Innis College, their goal being the fifth in the series of Academy Spring Talks.
The speaker Erin Pietrowski, is very well qualified to talk on the subject of the day, Murder They Wrote – The Origins of Detective Fiction, and has lectured, researched and written on Victorian literature and culture with a special interest in detective fiction.
After a thoughtful and erudite introduction by Thea Herman, Erin soon had the audience enthralled with her lively and humorous presentation. There were many keen detective fiction readers (and writers) in the audience and we were taken through the history of the genre.
From the formation of the London Metropolitan Police Force in 1829, and the first detectives in the force in 1842, through the great Reform Bills of 1832 and 1867, to innovations in printing, publishing and cheap paper making, plus mass literacy, came the mid-Victorian mass entertainment of the day, the Yellowbacks and Penny Dreadfuls. Sherlock Holmes started as a character in A Study in Scarlet in a “Shilling Shocker”.
From Inspector Bucket in Dickens’ Bleak House to Wilkie Collin’s The Moonstone of 1868 and through to the golden age of Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, to more modern times including the “Scandinavian noir” of today, Erin took her audience on a fascinating and thought-provoking ride.
Many interesting questions followed, and Erin was generous with her time in discussing the points raised. The popular theory, with which many agreed, is that we like detective fiction to make us feel that a chaotic world can become “ordered”!
The morning ended with a gracious “thank you” from Bob Accenelli.
Canada and Our Southern Neighbour: Could Trump Happen Here?
“What’s wrong with Canadian men that they don’t have guns to properly protect their families?”
This was just one of the thought provoking statements from this year’s final Spring Talk; statements that show how different we are – generally speaking – from our neighbours to the south.
Since that surprising night in November 2016 when Donald Trump became president, there has been much discussion, debate, and water cooler talk about a myriad of topics that elicit strong emotions and opinions. What made the address from Michael Adams particularly meaningful, however, was the fact that it was based on statistics rather than on opinion, and it allowed the audience to be somewhat comforted by the fact that there was some substance behind our adamant thinking that we were not exactly like our neighbours when it comes to opinions, attitudes and values – especially when it comes to xenophobia.
From programs that set us apart from other countries – like private sponsorship of refugees – to shared values, we can readily understand why a high percentage of immigrants identify with Canada more than their birth country, and why we have more of our immigrants become citizens than any other settlement country.
As Michael spoke about current thinking in the USA, it was hard not to feel slightly superior and righteous; confident in our tolerance and openness. But Michael’s finishing messages was an important one to note. The situation can certainly change – we must work to keep the status quo. We must always be aware and respectful, and must realize the importance of voting in order to keep things as we want them to be.
Do you have an idea for a topic or speaker for future forums/talks? Send them along to firstname.lastname@example.org
All of the Academy committees provide essential services and support to the members; the committee members - all volunteers - give hours of time and effort to make our programs a success. Over the next few AQR issues we will be focusing on the contributions of our committees to focus on their valuable contributions.
By the time that randomization takes place on May 1st, most of us have - after careful consideration and planning - picked the workshops that intrigue us, and will have registered and paid. While we can then relax and sit back to anticipate the start of term in September, we should also give a nod of appreciations to all of the Membership Committee members who work so hard behind the scenes to make sure that the many details are handled promptly and accurately. They ensure our fee payments have gone through without a glitch and that we are signed up for the workshops we select. They handle randomization to ensure spaces in popular workshops are assigned fairly, and register new members - making them feel welcome and confident with the approach. They troubleshoot. They even go on the road to Spring Talks to help with registration directly. In short, it is due to their hard work in a short period of time that everything goes so smoothly.
Many High Fives and kudos to the Membership Committee!.
BY GILLIAN LONG
Hart House was an agreeable venue on Tuesday April 17th for the Facilitators' Forum and Volunteer Lunch. Despite poor road conditions in the aftermath of the weekend ice storm, there was a large turnout for both events. Joan McCordic and her Curriculum Committee are to be congratulated on their expert planning and organization of the Forum during which experienced and rookie facilitators networked and discussed best practices for leading stimulating workshops – the raison d’être of our Academy.
The facilitators were later joined at a delicious buffet lunch by the many other invaluable volunteers who served on the Board and Committees or have helped in some other way. President Brian Gaston thanked everyone for their contribution to a successful Academy year. Ernie Fallen entertained the group after lunch with a brief stand-up schtick on aging, recorded to complete a promotional video being prepared by the Stand-up Comedy for Seniors group. Thanks are due to Mirren Hinchley and her Committee for another outstanding Special Event and to Sue Gaston and the Membership team for help with registration. A good time was had by all!
Next Academy year promises to be a fascinating one for our workshops. With topics ranging from architecture to surviving in the digital age, and discussion groups on things like the Economist and the New Yorker, there is something for every taste and interest. By now you will know which workshops you will be participating in, and may have already begun work researching your chosen topics. The Curriculum Committee is preparing some new documents to help facilitators, presenters, and participants. These will be posted on the website soon, and will be a great source of answers for any questions you may have. Remember, too, to check the website for any information that your Facilitator may have posted regarding your workshop(s).
Click here to view the Two-Weeks-At-A-Glance document - Two Weeks at a Glance June 2018
Our 2018-19 membership campaign has reached 402 active members, and we have registered 38 new members to date. Registration will continue throughout the summer to the end of September. The exciting depth and breadth of workshops for the upcoming Academy year is no doubt contributing to the record number of 356 continuing members.
At present, many of our forty workshops are full, and we are holding spaces for new members only in an additional six workshops. The hold on new member seats will be lifted in early July and wait-listed members for these workshops will be contacted to ascertain their interest by their wait list ranking.
If you have a question about registration please email the Membership Committee at email@example.com.
Click here to see the latest workshop availability information - Workshop Space Availability
Two of the Academy’s long-term volunteers were honoured at the AGM on June 5th.
Margaret Robertson and Josie Szczasiuk have joined the incomparable Jean Iverson in the élite roster of Life Members. Both Margaret and Josie have been actively involved in Academy life for more than twenty years – Margaret was president in 1998-9 and Josie in 2000-01, and they have both served tirelessly on numerous committees, notably Membership and Communications.
Margaret was instrumental in setting up and maintaining our first website, much of which has been preserved in archival form in the new version, and she has a well-deserved reputation as a reliable fount of knowledge of all things Academy. “Ask Margaret, she will know!”
Josie has been the long-time designer of newsletters and calendars, both print and on-line, editor and compiler of Academy history, Chair of our 25th Anniversary committee, and popular facilitator of many thought-provoking workshops.
Many congratulations to Margaret and Josie, and our heartfelt thanks for all they have done for our Academy. We look forward to enjoying their stimulating company for many more years.
Here is Margaret's note of thanks :
"I learned yesterday evening that I have been made a LIFE member of the Academy. Thank you and the Board for this incredible honour as well as for the well-designed framed certificate and the lovely flowers that are now enjoying the windowsill in my living room.
It is very generous of you all to do this for me, particularly since I have always felt that I get far more out of the Academy than I put into it. To be rewarded in addition to this is much more than I deserve. I shall enjoy basking in the glow of it all anyway but I know there are others more deserving than I am, whom I hope may be similarly honoured in future.
Some volunteers have played a continuing part for many years now, often including more than one role - whether it's facilitating, planning the Academy year, chairing or serving on the board or committees, creating or leading walks, communicating Academy news to members and others, offering technical support, recruiting new members, running social events, organizing talks and forums, managing records etc. etc. There is a lot of work involved but being a member of the Academy family can play a big part in a happy life as it does for me, and as I believe it does for you and others too.
Long may it continue.
Here are Josie's words of appreciation:
"Please accept my surprised and delighted thank you for the kind and generous award of the Academy for Lifelong Learning Lifetime Membership. I am humbled and honoured.
We all know that it takes many enthusiastic and unstinting volunteers to make and keep the Academy the success it is today. It is strong in its values of cooperation, collegiality and commitment to intellectual exploration and enjoyment because Academicians care and enthusiastically contribute their time and expertise.
It has been my privilege to be part this dynamic organization and I am deeply grateful for this important honour.
We have had our new website up and running for 6 months now, but work on it has not stopped. We want to ensure that we keep it current, relevant, and fit for purpose.
Are you a website user? Either regulary or periodically? Do you have feedback about things that work for you and / or things that don’t? Do you have a wishlist of things you would like to see?
Or do you rarely look at the site unless you need to do so to handle registration? Are there some aspects to the site that make it less appealing or difficult to use?
The Website team is keen to ensure that our site is one that we can be proud of. To do that, we need your help.
Please send any thoughts or questions you have to firstname.lastname@example.org at any time.
All feedback is not only welcomed, it is encouraged and valued. Without it we cannot know what needs to be addressed, discussed, or changed.
Thanks in advance!
Using the Website's Search Feature
Did you know that you can use the search feature on the website to quickly and easily find information? Here is how you do it:
Click the little magnifying glass at the top right of the landing page.
A text box will appear when you do so. Type your search term in the box and hit return to see your search results.
Note that, while effective, our search feature does not allow for complex searching or Boolean logic searches. It will simply look for the word that you have entered.
Rain or shine, from May to October, the Academy’s trusty band of walk leaders lead groups of members and guests as they venture forth to explore Toronto’s ravines, cemeteries, markets, urban art, historic buildings, and green spaces. Walk participants share what they know about the city’s neighbourhoods, learn from the walk leaders, and “debrief” over a well-earned lunch. Polish up your walking boots and limber up those legs for the Academy walks.
Check the web's News page to see reports on past walks.
Phyrne Parker Receives Prestigious Leadership Award From Toastmasters
Congratulations to fellow Academy member, Phyrne Parker, who was recently recognized by District 60 Toastmasters with the prestigious George Keenan leadership award. The award, presented at a special luncheon, recognized Phyrne's many years of leadership and mentoring to the Toastmaster organization.
A firm believer in the benefits of the organization, Phyrne immediately became involved when she joined in 2003, holding positions from Vice-President Education of Inspiring Voices to District Governor in 2011/2012. From 2013 to 2017 she was Pathways Chief Ambassador.
In addition to her leadership roles, Phyrne provided valuable mentorship to a number of Toastmaster clubs across the Region.
Our congratulations, Phyrne, on the receipt of this well-deserved recognition!
Laughter, The Secret To Dealing With The Challenges of Aging
by Ian Darragh
Is there anything more frightening than standing on a bare stage trying to make 200 people packed into an auditorium laugh?
This was the challenge taken up by me and nine fellow Academy members who enrolled in the first ever stand-up comedy workshop for seniors at the Academy for Lifelong Learning in September 2017.
At our first class, facilitator Michael Cole handed out a list of 60 topics related to aging, including: hearing and memory loss; fear of loneliness and dying; bladder leakage; loss of identity after retirement; sexual problems; technology and computer challenges; downsizing; money issues; and loss of a spouse or partner.
Our collective challenge was to take these scary (and depressing!) topics and turn them into funny one-liners.
“The worst thing about old age is you forget the names of your few remaining friends. The consolation is they can’t remember your name either.”
Cole, 75, informed the class that he is gradually losing his sight due to macular degeneration and is living with diabetes and prostate and thyroid cancer. But he hasn’t let these health challenges slow him down. He urged us to be brutally honest and mine our personal challenges for humour. Our goal was to write original jokes and perform them at a stand-up comedy show just eight months after the first class. No pressure! None of the students in the class had any prior experience with comedy writing. We were total newbies.
Michael Cole proved to be a hard-working teacher who inspired us to write five original jokes and perform them at every class. We were not allowed to copy jokes off the Internet, and all our jokes had to deal with the topic of aging. Cole expected excellence, and we students responded by working hard at every class to hone our comedy writing.
“My cousin is getting on in years, and the other day his wife called him to come upstairs so they could have sex. He said, sorry dear, I can’t do both.”
Cole brought a wealth of experience to the classroom at Knox College. For seven years, he led comedy workshops at the Mood Disorder Association of Ontario. Participants in the “Laughing Like Crazy” program found that writing jokes and performing in comedy shows helped them deal with the mental challenges they were facing. Being able to tell jokes about themselves helped them analyze their problems and participate in their own therapy. As well, there were social benefits to belonging to a small group – they made new friends, and strong bonds were forged in the struggle to write jokes and perform in public. Cole himself has long battled depression, and his honesty and empathy inspired his students. In 2012, Michael was the recipient of the Heart Inspiration Award in recognition of his pioneering work in launching the stand-up comedy program at the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario. Thirteen years later, the program is still going strong.
Back in the 1970s Cole was co-founder and for 14 years general manager of the Muskoka Festival Theatre Company. One of the most successful summer theatres in Ontario, the Festival had two main stage companies performing in Gravenhurst and Port Carling, and four touring companies performing at Muskoka resorts. Later in the 1990s, Cole wrote and produced the Muskoka Madness comedy revue, and recruited top comedians, including the late Dave Broadfoot of the Royal Canadian Air Farce and Ron James, a Nova Scotian who has gone on to host many CBC comedy specials. Cole has also co-written a successful play, Double Swap; authored a book of uniquely Canadian jokes, Beware the Fierce Beaver!; and contributed a humour column, “Cole’s Notes,” to the Orillia Packet and Times newspaper.
“My wife has become completely deaf. I never know whether she’s giving me ‘the silent treatment,’ or the batteries in her hearing aid just need to be replaced.”
Cole has blended all his writing and producing experience and developed into an inspiring teacher. After every class, he would edit our jokes, and send us suggestions via email on how we could tighten up our jokes to give them more impact --- and laughs. “Brevity is the soul of wit” became our class motto (with apologies to Mr. Shakespeare).
The seniors in our class ranged in age from 64 to 75 and came from a broad range of professional backgrounds: accountant, physician, lawyer, public servant, university professor and librarian. Our first performances were laughable – in a bad way.
“They say the key to a successful relationship in your senior years is to never go to bed angry. I haven’t been to bed in three years.”
As the day of our big comedy show approached on April 11 at Innis Town Hall Auditorium, Cole helped us select the best jokes we had written over the winter, and hone them into tight, five-minute performances. He organized two dress rehearsals (dresses optional!).
We filled all 200 seats in the auditorium, and extra chairs had to be set up for the overflow crowd. All ten comedy students gave polished performances of the jokes they had written and earned lots of laughter and applause. While the jokes were based on very personal experiences, they reflected the shared experience of the seniors in the audience. When comedian Ron James came on stage for the second part of the show, he complimented Cole’s class on their bravery for confronting head on the difficulties of aging. All authentic comedy has its roots in confronting real truths and holding up a mirror for the audience, he noted. James went on to give a polished stand-up performance with plenty of Canadian references to his childhood in Cape Breton and Halifax, Tim Hortons and hockey.
Michael Cole will be leading a second stand-up comedy workshop for seniors at the Academy starting in September 2018. His class is limited to 15 students, so if your dream is to be the next rising stand-up comedy star, it would be advisable to register soon via the Academy website.
Despite his health challenges, Cole isn’t letting any moss grow under his feet. He is taking graduates of his first Academy workshop on the road to give performances for seniors’ groups and charities under the banner of “Laughing is the Best Medicine,” an organization he founded.
And his next project in the works is to launch a pilot stand-up comedy program for prison inmates. He expects there will be some break-out performances.
As we move towards the 2018/19 Academy year, it is fitting that we should give a nod to the Academy year just finished. And what better way to do that than with a note from Past President Brian Gaston. We thank Brian for his leadership and guidance over the past year.
It’s hard to believe that Margrit Eichler approached me almost two and a half years ago to stand as the Vice President of the Academy for Lifelong Learning. I was surprised and humbled.
Many of the events that unfolded were as I expected. There were Board meetings to chair, business to conduct and other organizations with which to network. None of this was surprising and, with the assistance of an excellent Board, I think we navigated my year as President reasonably well. I learned from my predecessors, Brian O’Leary and Karen Melville, that if you let the Committee Chairs and Board Officers do their job, and stay out of their way, they will do an excellent job. And they did.
What did surprize me was the amount of change that would happen during my tenure.
At my very first meeting, the issue of the privacy of members became an emotional topic. Some Board members were very concerned about their personal privacy and identify theft while others felt strongly about sharing personal information. It took two years, but I think we now have a policy that works for both parties.
As an ex officio member of both the Membership and Communications committees, I heard from those running the website that it was time to change how the site was managed and bring in some new blood. After surveying the Board and meeting with a member stakeholder group, we decided to re-design our website to operate on a modern platform that would present the Academy in the best possible light and stand the test of time. I am proud of the new website that is now up and running.
We have also embarked on determining how to use technology to best support our mandate, and have struck a group called the Video Conferencing Work Group to help us with that.
One of the nice problems we have going forward is that we need to find a way to accommodate an ever-growing membership. We keep growing every year, and are now bursting at the seams.
I like to think that this year’s Board has left the Academy in great shape. However, we have left things for the new Board to tackle. I wish them the best of luck and I know you are in good hands.
Thanks to everyone that served on the Board this year and made this a personally rewarding experience.
With sadness, we bid farewell to some current and past members of the Academy:
Jean Long - Jean, with her husband, Stephen, was an active Academy member since 2002.
Margaret Quin - Margaret was an enthusiastic member of the New Yorker Readers workshop for many years.
Liz Feltes - A member since 2005, Liz contributed to the Academy as a Facilitator and Board member
In the September issue we will be welcoming members to the new Academy year with a note from our new President, an introduction to the new Board members and information on new guides prepared by the Curriculum Committee to help participants, presenters, and facilitators.
Enjoy your summer! Remember to check the website through July and August for news and Members' Corner items and events.
Write for us
Would you like to write an item for our Academy Quarterly Review? Or do you have an idea for something you’d like to have included? If so, just send an email to email@example.com. The AQR is the voice of our Academy, and your input is welcomed.
Academy Quarterly Review