How to start — Karen G in Vancouver

Actually aging to live in a real world.

Karen G left this comment at

which I think is worth moving up for more attention. I had always considered Vancouver to be an ideal place in which to grow older because of the public transportation, the flowers, even climate, nice citizens, culturally diverse, good accessible healthcare, etc.

Her question is complex and most of the best advice will need to be suited to her and her aunt’s individual situation. But her question is relevant to all of us. Karen’s first step was so important, empathy or putting herself in her aunt’s place. Now I hope we can come up with other ideas.

I am looking after my aunt whom is coming up to 90 years old Christmas Day. I am hoping that someone out there has some ideas, she is a double amputee, failing eyesight and hearing, etc. I have purchased a wheelchair accessible van so I can at least get her out of the house for a few hours, but the van keeps breaking down. I don’t have alot of money, so I am trying to find things for her to do, so she isn’t sitting in her wheelchair all day and night. The story is a lot deeper problems though. I guess I am pleading for some ideas. If there is anyone out there that would like to talk to me more about this problem I would love to hear from you. You don’t realize how hard it is for the elderly when they have to rely on you even to take them to the bathroom, until you have to take care of them day and night. I really hope some responds to this. I live in Vancouver Canada. Thank you in advance.


  • Off the top of my head, because it is past my bedtime, consider contacting the university. There may be students (or even entire programs) who could try their ideas for improving transportation or modifying wheelchairs. Maybe they have a program similar to UMass-Amherst where they can match graduate students needing housing with people needing assistance. (I’m thinking you could use the assistance with house or vehicle modifications or even with outings. ) There may even be a wheelchair users group at the university or city.
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    2 Responses to “How to start — Karen G in Vancouver”

    1. 1 vuee 2006 September 23 at 12:10 pm

      Googling has not been the easiest for Vancouver relevant resources. But I did uncover several agencies that help organize activities, etc. at this volunteers needed website,
      They list what sounds like a really nifty group called CADIP – Canadian Alliance for Development Initiatives and Projects

      There is a center that sounds like it might be a good resource. “Aging in Place” seems to be a useful keyword. Don’t forget to check out Liz Taylor’s column in the Seattle Times (see sidebar at this blog).
      Mennonite Central Committee Supportive Care Services – Aging In Place
      660 51st Avenue East
      Vancouver, BC V5X 1C9, Canada
      (604) 321-0032

      A website with links to BC organizations,

      And here is someone at the university who has been working to modify homes and other built environments for elderly and disabled people. He or his staff may know of resources. I may contact him, too, to find out if his program also works to develop guidelines for “vernacular ergonomics” such as, how to build or select appropriate seating for older people in different cultures.

      A summary of his research is at this Finnish website.

      James Watzke, PhD
      Associate Director, Human Factors Health Technology Research Group Technology Centre, British Columbia Institute of Technology 7th Floor, Downtown Campus 555 Seymour Street Vancouver, British Columbia Canada V6B 3H6
      Tel: (604) 412-7718
      Fax: (604) 663-4874
      E-Mail: james_watzke AT bcit DOT ca

      James has been researching ways to make environments and products work better for seniors and persons with disabilities for over 20 years now.

      After completing his undergraduate work at U.C. Berkeley, he went on to complete a Ph.D. in “Environmental Psychology” from the University of Lund in Sweden. Dr. Watzke has conducted, presented, and published his work in Sweden, the U.S, and Canada. His special research interests include aging, disability, assistive technology; useability testing and product evaluation; and injury prevention to older adults and health care workers.

      Dr. Watzke joined the British Columbia Institute of Technology in the Fall of 1998 as Project Leader for the Dr. Tong Louie Living Laboratory – a unique full-scale simulation facility that conducts research and development activities on age and disability sensitive environments and products.

      James is a member of Canada Standards Association’s Strategic Steering Committee on Community Safety and Well Being, and is the current British Columbia-Yukon Regional President of the Association of Canadian Ergonomists. He is also the Chair of SOLUTIONS and PROTOgé, two innovative programs that help expose British Columbia’s post secondary students to the importance of assistive devices.

    2. 2 vuee 2006 September 23 at 12:25 pm

      It might also be useful for you and your aunt to sit down with a knowledgeable third person (even a paid eldercare consultant) just to identify what you and your aunt like to do together and what resources might be needed to do that. A third person can sometimes see the advantages, restrictions, and need for workarounds that the two directly involved can’t. I have no idea what local sources are available there. (again, you may want to read some of Liz Taylor’s columns for how to proceed. She is based in Seattle area so may know resources in Vancouver)

      [Your interest reminds me of the attitude of the mom and me journals where the daughter and the mother are together embarking on a new life adventure; not the attitude of one caring for another as a job.]

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