Retirees' Association

Retirees Association of Queen's

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Some Past RAQ Activities: Monday Morning Forums

Jo-Anne Brady reports on a selection of this past winter’s Monday Morning Forum talks.  Jo-Anne has a committed interest in equitable access to healthcare in Ontario and in particular the social determinants influencing healthy populations, including education.  Jo-Anne has been an avid volunteer with KCHC Pathways to Education since its Kingston inception in 2010 and also volunteers with the Southern Frontenac Community Services Corporation.  Most recently, she has been appointed as a member of the South East Local Health Integration Network (SELHIN) Board of Directors.  Jo-Anne is keen to participate with RAQ whenever she can find the time, and has enthusiastically attended several speaking events sponsored for RAQ members.

Where and How We Age in Ontario in 2018

On an icy Monday February morning, a relatively small but hardy group of Queen’s Retirees gathered at the University Club to listen to a thought-provoking lecture by Dr. Mark H. Lachman.  Dr. Lachman, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geriatric Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and an Ontario Coroner, was returning to Queen’s to share his experience and expertise on aging and his observations on the challenges facing our rapidly growing “senior” population.  His presentation was followed by a lively question and answer session.  Dr. Lachman engaged the audience with a series of stories and anecdotes, accompanied by facts and statistics, to convey his messages about vulnerability. 

He talked about the danger of fraud faced by a significant segment of our population, quoting a Toronto detective describing the internet as “the portal to Hell for older people”.  He cautioned that elderly people, many unfamiliar with complex privacy settings, are targeted through personal profiles posted on various websites, such as Ancestry and Facebook –  retired university professors in particular being vulnerable to be contacted through their LinkedIn profiles – and persuaded with compelling, but fraudulent, stories that convince the listener to transfer funds to, for example, help a relative in trouble.

He spoke about protecting oneself from dementia through means that help promote good physical health as well, namely not smoking, eating and sleeping well, getting exercise and maintaining an active social life, adding good genes are very helpful (much of our future is a matter of chance).  Evidence shows that brain training exercises are not transferable to other aspects of life, one may become a Sudoku expert, but that will not protect cognitive functioning as our brains and bodies age.

Dr. Lachmann also expressed concern that there are few organized formal support networks and services in Ontario for the aged and an increasing number of people, commonly but not exclusively immigrant women, are living alone, in poverty, lacking adequate nourishment, isolated and terrified to go out.  Our health care “system” is not presenting a solution and community social service organizations are striving to pick up the slack.  He personally feels some optimism that the reorganization of health care in 2017 (Bill 41) may provide some solutions through providing a continuum of health and living support from acute hospital treatment to community and home care.  We can only hope that his optimism is well founded and Ontario will be able to effectively deliver seamless care in what is a staggeringly complex environment of multiple health-service providers and a vast array of “stakeholders” including patients of all ages. 

Dr. Lachmann pointed to a couple of examples of models that truly integrate care for the aging:

Ø  PACE – The Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, begun in San Francisco (http://pacepartners.net/what-is-pace/)

Ø  O’Connor House in Toronto (http://www.woodgreen.com/ServiceDetail.aspx?id=265)

Overall Dr. Lachmann concluded his lecture on an uplifting note by saying we are 15-20-30 years behind where we need to be to support aging, but “it’s certainly changing for the better”.   RAQ members interested in the topic of aging and dying well may also be interested in reading Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande (Doubleday Canada, 2014). 

 

Watch for announcements of the 2018-19 Monday Morning Forum this fall. 

 

The Crisis of Inequality

The 91st Monday Morning Forum in March hosted Dr. John R. Allen speaking gravely about The Crisis of Inequality from an economic perspective.  Dr. Allan is Vice-President Emeritus and Professor of Economics Emeritus of the University of Regina, and perhaps best known at Queen’s through his active involvement with the Queen’s Institute of Intergovernmental Affairs, serving as Associate Director and Interim Director. He was appointed a Fellow of the Institute in 2010.

Dr. Allen is convinced that a crisis in inequality exists and is not being well addressed.  Presenting evidence of increasing inequality in all of the World’s advanced economies, Dr. Allen cautioned that economic inequality is damaging to social cohesion and undermines democratic process.  Data cited from the United States in particular, demonstrates that over 80% of households have experienced flat or declining incomes from 2005 and the top 0.01% of earners double their income every 4.8 years … “the higher the rate of income you enjoy, the more rapidly your income outpaces the rest.” He referenced the observation of Louis Brandeis, associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939, that democracy is incompatible with great wealth concentrated among a few. 

Dr. Allen focused on three primary causes of inequality:  Technological Change, Globalization, and Institutional Changes – including what governments have and have not done.  The problems we face today stem back to decisions made, or not made, in previous decades, at least in part dating back to the Bretton Woods international monetary conference at the conclusion of World War II and the evolution of open markets and global trade in the years hence.  Allen argues that more has to be done to assist those who lose as a result of globalization and technological change, that we need more active government, and that the financial sector in particular has to be re-regulated.  The top one-percenters are identified as mostly male, well-educated and hard-working; Dr. Allen argues that they are the problem and must be part of the solution. 

In his closing comments, Dr. Allen cited a reference by Walter Scheidel, (The Europe Center, Stanford University) … “Inequality never dies peacefully” (https://medium.com/freeman-spogli-institute-for-international-studies/in...)

and wryly concluded with a chilling portent “where there is revolution, there is hope” … perhaps we can hope to look forward to a more peaceful solution?

Dr. Allen recommended several good reads on the subject of economic inequality:

Ø Joseph Stiglitz, chief economist Roosevelt Institute, Rewrite the Rules (http://rooseveltinstitute.org/rewrite-rules/) argues in part that the financial sector in the U.S. is under-regulated and subject to abuse and that the systematic undermining of trade unions has altered the balance of power from workers to management 

Ø Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, argues capitalism will always create inequality, (Harvard University Press 2014)

Ø Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, (Penguin Random House 2017)

 

Jo-Anne Brady, RAQ member

 

Are you a RAQ member with an interesting project?  Please tell us about it, so that we can consider sharing it with others in a future RAQnews publication.  Send an email to RAQ@queensu.ca.

We’d love to hear from you.