Jun 14, 2024

Seniors in Canada get many opportunities to learn new things.

Unlike many people I know, I retired without much thought about how I was going to survive.

Fortunately, Canada has old age pension and Canada Pension Plan that can be relied on.

To supplement income from these sources, there's the Registered Retirement Savings Plan. But one does not really need a lot of money to enjoy retirement.The government offers affordable ways and means for even those living below the poverty line.

In Winnipeg, as well as in many Canadian cities, any interested senior will not want for a variety of activities available to seniors, some free and others for a small fee. It is great to be able to attend classes of your own choosing, and I wasted no time in registering for classes offered by the city.

Cooking classes were my first choice. I learned about preparing various ethnic dishes by attending Greek, Italian, Japanese, Indian, French cooking classes. I learned how to bake the customary Christmas cookies, savoury and sweet strudel, different kinds of bread, and many others. While I did not become an expert, the mysteries about food ordered in restaurants are now de-mystified.

Since my husband's passing, I have had to deal with car and house repairs by myself. I considered it of utmost importance to be knowledgeable about these. The City of Winnipeg offers classes in these areas as well. Now I know what is involved in changing oil or tires, and weeping tiles are not what I imagined they were. Would you believe? At age 68, I took a class on using power machines, and learned how to sharpen knives.

Then there's this very domesticated avocation – sewing. I look with envy at some women who wear what they themselves sewed. But sewing definitely does not agree with me. After three sessions, I still have to finish one project. It seems that all I learned was to undo stitches. I'm not giving up yet, though.

All these classes took place in the evenings. So how do I fill my days? I tried doing volunteer work in various organizations. I delivered meals to the elderly and the sick through Meals on Wheels. I quit only after my osteoarthritis worsened, especially in winter. Age and opportunity offers the elderly the opportunity to learn or improve their command of the English language. It's a very short commitment of an hour and a half per week, and very gratifying.

For a few years now, I’ve been helping the Winnipeg Regional Health during the flu clinic, helping new immigrants fill out forms, or directing clients where to go; sometimes I sign up for other volunteer work when needed. Then there's International Hope. This is an organization that collects used hospital equipment and supplies and sends them to third world countries where they are badly needed. When I can, I put in about three hours a week to sort donations as they arrive. Because of this organization, I was able to send two 40-foot containers of used hospital beds and medical supplies to two hospitals in the Philippines. Indirectly, I helped get a third hospital in the Philippines with similar hospital supplies when one of my helpers arranged funding from his city's government officials.

There is so much emphasis on seniors doing more physical activities to improve wellbeing and there are a variety of activities available in Winnipeg. I have attended Tai Chi classes for several years, Aquacize three times a week at the University of Manitoba and the public pools, free yoga classes in Fort Garry which have helped improve my mobility, and have delayed knee replacement. In addition, I also attend free yoga at the Hindu Temple. My membership to the University of Manitoba Gym allows me to exercise on state of the art exercise machines, like the stationary bike; I walk on the tracks, or exercise in the pool as often as I choose to.

All these activities I have engaged in during retirement have definitely improved my health and my mental state. In addition to the benefits my body gets, I mingle and interact with likeminded women who, without question, improve my outlook on life and my state of well-being. I must say, what more can one want?

Cecilia Yuthasastrakosol came to Canada in 1969 with her three children to join her husband who was studying for his Ph.D. at the University of Manitoba.She has worked as an employment counsellor helping new immigrants find jobs, taught English in the evenings, and worked with youth at risk at the YMCA- YWCA for 12 years before retirement. Then from 1977 to 1994, she produced and hosted a TV talk show on public access TV.


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