Introducing the Fall 2020 (Q3) edition of the Academy Quarterly Review (AQR). With the AQR now decisively under new management, with a new Chair and Co-Chair of the Communications Committee, we thought we’d open with a “statement of purpose” that guides our development of each issue.
AQR Statement of Purpose
The Academy Quarterly Review (AQR) is produced four times a year, at the end of each calendar quarter, by the ALLTO Communications Committee. It is intended as a showcase of our members and their interests. Every issue will contain features written by Academy members about their concerns, diversions, projects, and thoughts on current events, among other topics. If you’re interested in contributing a piece to the AQR, please contact Sheila Neysmith, chair of the Communications Committee, at email@example.com.
The AQR is not primarily a vehicle for Academy news, although when there is some important Academy information to let you know about, it will appear under the banner “Around the Academy.” The website – allto.ca – is the go-to place for what is happening at the Academy. Emails are sent out on an as-needed basis only.
Sheila Neysmith and Terry Murray
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives. We’ve lost loved ones, businesses have closed and many people have lost their jobs.
Yet the pandemic has also brought out the best of Canadians. We’ve stepped up to help neighbours, volunteer in foodbanks and make masks. Essential workers in our hospitals, long-term care homes, public transit, grocery stores, transportation and construction services and many others have put their lives on the line.
Canadians have pulled together to flatten the curve – staying home, wearing masks and social distancing. All this collective effort has reduced the worst potential impact of the pandemic. It’s time to celebrate all this incredible collective effort.
Canada COVID Portrait is a national photography project documenting the pandemic and its effects on Canada. It was conceived by Dr. Sara Angel, executive director of the Art Canada Institute, and George Pimentel, a professional photographer based in Toronto. The project is currently exploring options for exhibits in various cities across Canada and publishing a book.
Canadians from coast to coast to coast are invited to contribute pictures showing how the pandemic has up-ended their lives. The organizers have amassed thousands of photos that portray Canada in all its diversity — this will be an unparalleled record of the pandemic for future generations.
You can contribute your COVID photos in two ways: e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can post them on Instagram with the hashtag #CanadaCOVIDPortrait.
For more details, see the project’s website: CanadaCovidPortrait.ca.
Text and photos by Ian Darragh
To protect her patients and herself, dentist Dr. Monika Kiepas wears an N-95 mask, face shield and gown which she changes for each new patient. To see fine details, she has magnification loupes on her glasses and an LED dental light.
Like his heroes Fred Varley and Tom Thomson, Byron Hodgins paints the beauty of the Canadian Shield first hand in nature. His "Wild Water" project captures the power of the Gull River in the Minden Whitewater Preserve in Haliburton County. Byron wears a mask because people often stop by to chat with him as he paints by the river.
Matwal is an international student, studying financial management in Toronto. As well as delivering pizza, he runs errands for the elderly and disabled who can't leave their homes. "I try to stay safe by wearing a mask and using plenty of hand sanitizer.”
When we think of emotional support, we think of loved ones. Generally, family comes immediately to mind. Besides our own instinctive assumptions, our service providers and institutions typically also assume that families – spouses, children, siblings – will step in if their older members need support. That is just the way it is in a society where an ethos of individualism and familism dominates. Friends come second – and a distant second at that.
Research shows, however, that friends are important, particularly for women as they age. Those in heterosexual marriages tend to outlive their husbands so cannot count on their support in their later years. Research suggests, too, that while children may be important, their support is not like that of peers and friends when it comes to enhancing feelings of well-being. Of course, these dynamics and patterns may change in the future as divorce, same sex relationships and life expectancy predictions modify family forms. For the moment, though, women over 60 cannot rely on family members being around in their later years.
Having taught courses about women and aging (gerontology if you like) for most of my career, I am very familiar with the research suggesting the unrecognized importance of friends as we age. Now, I find myself discovering it in my own experience. I have friends with whom I discuss the meaning of friendship and the changing pattern of my network of friends. One feature of that pattern is that it is shrinking. It started as I formally retired (many work colleagues were not really friends, even though I spent hours, indeed years interacting with many of them). My friendship network is being transformed as I participate in new groups and undertake volunteer work. Unfortunately, no matter how I look at it, the network is thinning – but that is tomorrow’s problem.
Today I want to focus on an experience I am having this summer that reinforces my commitment to maintaining a strong friendship network. It all started with one of life’s inevitable incidents as we age. A friend (M.), herself an Academy member, was diagnosed with a serious illness. She announced this to her rather large network of friends via an email laying out her treatment plan, the fact that her energy levels will be low, and that she did not want to spend the months ahead discussing her health with her friends. She would provide regular updates but social time was to be spent on other conversations.
Immediately there was a flurry of discussion, basically wondering what we could do that would be helpful but not intrusive. One woman brought up the idea of organizing a Meal Train (look up the app if you are interested). Several group members were familiar with this; I volunteered to explore it with M. After some thought, M. heartily endorsed the idea. In a nutshell, people volunteer to leave a prepared meal on a daily basis. There is lots of room for specifying M.’s likes and dislikes, time preferences etc. From our point of view, we were doing something that M. wanted and she was not left with the ‘call me if I can be of any help’ message – a classic non-helpful offer.
The experience: I sent out the invitation to 50+ people. Well, the responses came pouring in immediately! Some people lived out of town but wanted to be part of the communication circle; others were incapacitated themselves and could not physically prepare or deliver special dishes but wanted to assist in other ways; finally there were many who could participate and swiftly signed up to do so, choosing dates and specifying the meal.
What a delight! M. was touched by such a show of support. Also, she noted that although her appetite was minimal, her taste buds were functioning very well and the delicious tastes, smells and presentation had her eating to the max.
I manage the Train. This means I daily check the website to monitor the loadings (with COVID-19 what else has one got to do but live on the net!); I communicate with people about when M. will be in or out of town; I answer questions about using the app, etc. It is very little work. In return over the last two months I have enjoyed email relationships with a network of people, some of whom I casually knew earlier in my career; others are, or rather were, complete strangers.
The near invisibility of friendship in the literature that focuses on the quality of life of people as they age is a tragedy. The journals overflow with research on health services; policies specify their dimensions and millions of dollars are dedicated to their operations. We know little about the dimensions of friendship and how they affect our lives.
Most of you reading this essay are in my age cohort. We have been active in bringing about change in our earlier years. It looks like we will need to confront yet another stereotype: Our bodies may be less agile these days but friends need to be recognized as vital to our well-being. My summer experience reveals just how much we are missing. Making that visible will be a challenge – but if we don’t do it, then it won’t get done.
By Sheila Neysmith
The Academy’s first Fall Forum webinar was held on September 23. It was an annual favourite – Presenting Our Presenters, three outstanding presentations by Academy members from the previous year.
Patti Stoll interviewed herself and her fellow presenters about their background, interests, and any difficulties in preparing their talks. She asked them all the following questions:
- What is your professional background?
- Why did you select this particular topic?
- What were your challenges in researching the presentation?
Here are their answers:
Josie Szczasiuk - "Depiction of the Human Form before the Renaissance" (from the workshop Leo and Mike)
Background: A background in science and in education helped prepare me for a life in teaching and government.
Interest: Last year’s workshop, Leo and Mike, allowed me to combine my interests in art and history. For this Academy Forum, I have reworked just the introduction to the original presentation which explored how Leonardo and Michelangelo differed in their approaches to depicting the human body in their art.
Obstacles: Presentations always challenge me to attempt being ‘witty’, in that ‘Brevity is the soul of wit.’ In combining my interests in figurative art with history and science in an educational format, all topics I love to expound on, it was especially challenging for me to exercise what wit I could.
Enrique Biber – “Artificial Intelligence Could Have Damaging Effects on Our Mental Health” (from the workshop Opinions)
Background: I spent all my career working in the computer technology field. The first four years were in Lima, Peru, where I was born and raised, and moving to Canada in 1980. I had technical, sales and management roles throughout the 42 years.
Interest: I found the potential impact on workers’ mental health due to the implementation of Artificial Intelligence in the workplace an area to explore further to look beyond the hype created by the technology firms for marketing purposes.
Obstacles: There were no challenges in researching for my presentation. It referenced publicly
available reports and studies I was able to find on the internet, plus other articles on my own from magazines like the Economist.
Patti Stoll – “Smart Cities” (from the workshop Cities of the Future)
Background: My career started in consulting and I worked in Washington, D.C., and Ontario. For 20+ years I then worked at an Ontario college in academic leadership and teaching. In retirement, I’ve mentored young women from two Ontario universities and continue to operate a small business in adult training.
Interest: I like the idea that great cities are adaptive to their environments and I see ‘tech’ as a significant environmental influence. I was also interested in some Smart City applications that I’d experienced while travelling.
Obstacles: My subject matter challenge was trying to separate the Google/Alphabet Sidewalk Toronto debate from the smart city issues found in the business and academic research. My second challenge was personal: I fractured my patella about a month before the presentation date, so searched for and found some great Academy tech help that allowed me to present remotely. Oddly, that was a ‘sort of’ preview of Academy Fall 2020 workshops.
Nearly all of us carry an electronic device at all times that has more functions than a Swiss Army knife. It connects us to the internet; allows us to send and receive emails and text messages; has a calculator, flashlight and alarm clock; and is a camera, music player, and movie theatre.
Oh – and it’s also a telephone, although that may be the least used of all its functions.
That is, until the lockdown brought about by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since then, use of cellphones and landlines for voice calls has risen dramatically. The Globe and Mail reported in late April that the three major networks — Bell, Rogers and Telus — all said they saw increases in call traffic nationwide, by 200%, 40%, and 45%, respectively.
U.S. carriers have also noted increased – and longer – calls.
Phone conversations “occupy a sweet spot of intimacy and civility somewhere between real life and the internet,” according to writer Tim Kreider.
“Watch people talking on the phone – they gesture, pace, make faces, emote, act out anecdotes and jokes, like people pantomiming their actions in virtual reality,” he said in a recent New York Times column.
Zoom has become a popular replacement for meetings with multiple colleagues, but the phone seems better for one-on-one conversations especially since it doesn’t buffer and break down like video.
“Voice is the new killer app,” said Chris Sambar, AT&T’s executive vice-president of technology and operations.
Making an old-fashioned phone call also allows the spontaneity that COVID has taken from us.
I live alone and decided early on in lockdown to call at least one person a day, in an attempt to preserve my sanity. I have mostly resisted trying to reconnect with long-lost friends, and found the calls were welcomed by everyone, judging from the duration of our conversations. Of course, many, if not all of them, could decide whether to answer since most people have Caller ID.
And I’ve received calls from friends and acquaintances I normally connect with via email or on Facebook.
While the pandemic provides a new pretext around which to build a financial scam, I haven’t noted a marked rise in real or fake telemarketing calls. That said, I did have two calls from organizations that usually connect in person or by mail – the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Publishers Clearing House.
One day, I missed a call from a number I didn’t recognize. But the caller – Jim, from the B.C. interior – left a message, asking if I was the Terry Murray he used to know from Vancouver. I decided to call him back to tell him that he had the wrong person.
We talked for 20 minutes anyway.
By Terry Murray
Anyone who has organized a large, complex event or handled project management for a critical initiative knows that success is largely due to the unsung heroes who work with dedication behind the scenes – often putting in long hours and sacrificing time they might spend on other aspects of their busy lives. And doing this all within very tight timeframes.
As we have now achieved 'Zoom readiness' and have started our Academy year in a brand new format, it is time for us to recognise our unsung heroes who went to great lengths to ensure that we understood the drivers, were comfortable with the change, and were armed with the tools we needed to climb the learning curve and enter the new Academy year comfortable with the technology and open to the new experience.
Under the umbrella of the Our Academy 2021 Task Force, and with input and insight gathered from committees, members, and facilitators, the Tech Team proposed the best approaches, developed training materials such as videos, zoom training sessions, ‘tip’ sheets and FAQs and provided the capability for workshops to try things out in advance. And all of this while they remained flexible enough to be able to respond to the often-significant changes made to Zoom as it, too, adapted to the challenges of COVID-19. The Tech Team has also introduced a responsive support program with regular Tech Times and a one-stop help email address.
The Curriculum Committee provided valuable information to facilitators on how to best engage workshop members and give the best possible Zoom experience. They, too, will have a feedback / help mechanism in place once term begins.
And thank you to the Board for its funding and support throughout the process.
So, raise your glass, tip your hat, clap your hands, give a hearty cheer or otherwise give thanks to the hard-working, dedicated team who made the 2020 / 2021 Zoom Academy possible.
Well done to everyone involved. Let the fun begin!
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