It’s a Wonderful Life (not available in Canada or the U.S.)


Now that the holiday season is well upon us, let’s raise a toast to Denmark. Yes, Denmark, the little country that could… and does treat its elderly citizens with compassion, love and respect.

The Danes even passed a law giving every nursing home resident the right to fresh air – every day! Remarkable. Yes the right to fresh air is actually enshrined in law, unlike so many elder rights “wall posters” which aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, like British Columbia’s much ballyhooed but hollow Residents Bill of Rights… the one that does not even mention the fundamental right of a person to not consent to (forced) treatment.

And let’s raise a glass to the feisty elderly women of France who, outraged at the prospect of “life” in a seniors’ residence, became real estate developers and built retirement homes for themselves in a brand-spanking new 6-story Paris apartment building – which they also run and operate themselves. Three cheers for the women of Baba Yaga’s House.

These good works are models of courage, cooperation and simple decency that we in Canada and the United States should be using as a beacon to guide us to a future where our elderly citizens can live their lives free of fear, free of abuse by doctors, nurses and aides, and free to live life where and how they wish.

Two documentaries recently aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the fall of 2012, one about Denmark’s efforts and the other about the intrepid Parisian women. Kudos to the CBC for taking a leadership role in the Canadian media to portray possibilities beyond what our politicians seem to be able to envisage.

We wish each and every elderly citizen and their loved ones a very joyous holiday season, in whatever spirit you celebrate the coming light, whether it be pagan or Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Hindu. May you be nurtured by a profound reverence for life and nature.
The gift of love, of time spent together, of compassion, even of fresh air, these are some of the most precious gifts you can give an elderly person, especially one who is in a seniors’ residence. And, these pleasures are all free. Please give.
Now, a couple of gifts for you. Prepare to be inspired!


In Denmark, It’s their (wonderful) Life

November 14, 2012

CBC Sunday Edition Host Michael Enright’s introduction:  There’s a big old brick house on the west side of Copenhagen where 23 men and women live like a family. Seventy per cent of the family has dementia. They take Caribbean vacations together. The 98-year-old man on the second floor has fallen in love with a 101-year-old woman. The cat sits curled up next to the dining room table.

The house is called Lotte, and its first leader, Thyra Frank, has changed the way Denmark has looked after its old people. “When I first saw Lotte, 30 years ago, I saw an institution. I saw people in uniforms. There was no music, no happiness. They looked like each other – in hair, in dress, no personality. Their personality was taken from them.

So… make a home where you are, a place where they could have red wine instead of pills, give them a glass of Bailey’s and, you know, make them happy. Music, fall in love. Life will continue. You can do everything with people. We don’t want them to lay in the bed. Maybe the last 10 hours of their life. But let them live their life all their life. It’s their life.”

Thyra Frank became the rock star of elder care in Denmark. Over the years, Lotte, fostered and funded by the Danish government, became an international shrine for anyone seeking another way, a happier way to make a life for people with dementia.

Denmark, like every other country in Europe, is in an economic squeeze, but the underlying philosophy of elder care is well-rooted. Every man and every woman, no matter how old, has the right to choose how they want to live.

We all know the numbers. Dementia of some sort is catching up with more and more of us. It is a frightening prospect. No one wants to see Mom or Dad, or imagine themselves, strapped down to a bed in a locked dementia ward, chemically warehoused.

But, in North America, the choices are limited, which is why the world looks to Denmark where it is illegal to imprison people with dementia in locked wards, where nursing homes regularly take their people on holiday, and where people with dementia are asked what they want to do today. Michael Enright, Sunday Edition, CBC

Listen to Karin Wells’ documentary It’s their life.

In France, Baba Yaga’s House leads the way!

October 12, 2012

It’s a daring experiment in aging together. David Gutnick’s documentary, Baba Yaga’s House, tells the story of 85-year-old feminist Therese Clerc, the activist behind France’s first state-funded, self-administered, women-only residence.

CBC Sunday Edition Host Michael Enright’s introduction:  Therese Clerc has a moon face, bright eyes, and 14 grandchildren.  She makes a mean veal stew. And, at 85, she’s one of the most stubborn feminists in all of France. After spending decades fighting for the right to run her own life, she’s determined to hold on to it.

When Therese was in her mid-sixties, she started to think hard about getting old, about how and where she wanted to live, and with whom. She visited state-run seniors residences, poked around cafeterias, and chatted with women in their rooms. What she found enraged her. No one was going to tell her what to eat, and when to turn the television off.

Therese spoke to her friends. A tightly knit group of aging feminists had found a new cause. The women began lobbying French politicians to fund an experiment, a women’s-only seniors home that the women would run themselves.

Well, it took thirteen years but this week their dream will become a reality.

Nineteen women in their 60s, 70s and 80s are beginning to move into a newly constructed six-storey home in the Paris suburb of Montreuil.  Michael Enright, Sunday Edition, CBC

Sit back and listen to Baba Yaga’s House

Also read French feminists rethink “old-age” housing 

Knowledge. Compassion. Courage. Action.

Take a stand against institutional elder abuse.  

Write your elected representatives, voice your concerns online, let others know what’s happening, or… take whatever steps you think will help make a difference to protect seniors’ legal and human rights from abuse by Canadian health care institutions and public agencies.

The Coalition to Support SENIORS AT RISK


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  1. WONDERFUL LIFE… Thanks for this very special gift
    Warm wishes for health, freedom from elder abuse, and victories in the new year
    Don in Toronto

    Comment by Don — January 1, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

  2. WONDERFUL LIFE… This is a terrific post….You are doing SUCH a good job and perhaps, between us all, we can bring about change. All the best,

    Comment by Janet — January 2, 2013 @ 8:11 am

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