Think Local  

UBCO researchers seek to help older adults maintain healthy lives

Planning for fruitful aging

“Aging is not lost youth, but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” This quote, from American feminist Betty Freidan, summarizes the focus of researchers in UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Health and Social Development who have an unwavering goal to support successful aging.

“By 2036, it’s estimated that adults over the age of 65 will represent about 20 per cent of the population,” says Nelly Oelke, an associate professor at UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing. “We know that much of this growing demographic craves autonomy and a fulfilling quality of life enriched by community.”

But adapting to the unique pace of being an older adult isn’t easy.

“Significant life changes happen after the age of 50, and these can trigger mental health concerns,” says Oelke. She adds that addressing only cognitive changes in aging is an oversight and that mental health also needs to be considered. “Did you know that high rates of suicide are found in men between the ages of 45 and 65 and that the highest rate occurs in men over 85?” she asks.

Oelke and others from UBCO’s Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention (IHLCDP) research team are exploring how to reach these at-risk individuals, especially those who live in rural communities with limited social networks.

One of these initiatives involves partnering with the Okanagan Men’s Shed Association (OKMSA), a non- profit society with a mandate to engage men (and women) of all ages, foster social connections and increase their well-being and self-esteem through participation in community projects. Master of Social Work alumnus Ian Pryzdial witnessed the instrumental bonding that occurs amongst the sounds of hammers and drills.

“At the Shed, friendships have blossomed and a caring community has been built,” he says.

One participant agrees saying that since his wife passed away and his children have moved abroad, going to the Shed has become routine.

“I had nothing to do, and now I have purpose,” he says as he embraces this new opportunity.

Read the entire story here.

This article is written by or on behalf of the sponsoring client and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Willowstone champions the powerful potential in every child

Championing kids at school

Karine Veldhoen isn’t your typical school principal, but that’s not unexpected, because Willowstone Academy, the school she leads, isn’t your typical school. Most mornings you will find Mrs. V greeting students by name with a warm welcome at one of the school’s entrance doors as they arrive. As Willowstone’s chief learning officer, and a mom of three, she and her team of high-performance, multi-disciplinary educators champion the extraordinary potential that lives within every child.

She firmly believed a new educational model was needed—a community for being, becoming and believing. The Learn Forward philosophy was born, and Willowstone Academy is Learn Forward’s model school.

Learn Forward’s philosophy focuses on the five important journeys of a child: faith, worthiness, selfhood, belonging and change-making. “Because we hold those journeys as what matters most for children, it helps us educate the whole child," Veldhoen says. "We ensure not only their academic and cognitive needs are met, but also their social and emotional needs, so they feel safe and excited to be at school."

At Willowstone, parents, teachers and students are invited to the Table of Learning. The learning remains central, in the middle of the table. Every voice is welcome and on equal ground. A communal growth mindset represents progress and forward motion. The school’s high-performance, multi-disciplinary team encourages open-hearted collaboration, innovative pedagogy, sustainability and high hopes for every child.

Willowstone’s Manifesto defines its roots, offering keywords and memorable phrases that permeate the school. The manifesto is displayed in every classroom, with a six-foot version adorning the main school staircase. 

A private, faith-based school, Willowstone offers programs from kindergarten to Grade 9 as well as early childhood education, including infant/toddler programs, pre-school and pre-K classes. With a focus on personalized learning, students receive affordable, world-class education in a boutique-sized learning community. Every educator is ultimately championing the extraordinary potential that lives within every child.

The youngest learner’s little hands reach up to meet their teacher’s with curiosity and trust as they take their first steps on their learning journey.

Learning comes alive for Willowstone’s elementary grade students as they take ownership of their learning, develop confidence and find their unique voice in a safe and nurturing environment.

Willowstone’s middle years program is formative as students develop their individuality, community and global citizenship by nurturing their interests. Built on the three pillars of identity formation, powerful learning and authentic connections, the middle years program has its own building, Middle Years Lane, where powerful learning is fostered through academic rigour focused on the process of learning and personal accountability. 

“Those three pillars really define what’s happening developmentally for students in that middle years age and stage, which is very tender and somewhat tumultuous,” Veldhoen says. “We’re excited about how our project-based and personalized program prepares students to be all they’re meant to be, beginning in their graduation program (Grades 10-12) and ultimately in the 21st century work environment.”

The excellent teacher-to-student ratio allows for closer connections between educators and children, which is augmented through the school’s unique extra-curricular programs. Whether it is new athletic programming, First Lego League, a leadership development program or the school’s entrepreneurial marketplace, Willowstone students always have opportunities to Learn Forward and become change-makers. In fact, last year’s Lego League squad placed first provincially for its robotics presentation and quadrupled its score from the previous competition.

Public registration for the 2021-22 Willowstone Academy school year opens on Tuesday, Feb. 9. To book a tour, visit the school's admissions page.

This article is written by or on behalf of the sponsoring client and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet. 

UBC Okanagan soil scientists work on improving soil biodiversity

Fighting for a healthier earth

Soil is essential for life, playing a vital role in the Earth’s ecosystem.

Yet, today one-third of the Earth’s soils are degraded from agriculture, pollution and climate change.

“Our Earth is not a renewable resource,” says Miranda Hart, a professor in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science at UBC Okanagan, who studies microbes that co-exist with plants. Similar to human gut microbiome, plants have a root microbiome.

A researcher who aims to protect the integrity and health of the dirt beneath us, Hart recognizes that soil biodiversity is a critical indicator of soil health. “Functional ecosystems require biodiversity in our soil. If we reduce soil biodiversity, we can lose entire ecosystems,” she explains.

Hart can list many historical examples where crop failures have resulted from lack of proper soil maintenance. The deforestation and consequential soil erosion on Easter Island is but one. The famous statues of heads are actually full figures, buried by erosion when forests were lost.

Hart’s research team is working to better understand how to improve soil biodiversity in managed systems, either by manipulating plants or by adding microbial fertilizers.

Andrew Richards, a master’s student with Hart, is looking at the effects of incorporating other plants or cover crops, alongside grape vines to manage soil erosion, soil quality and disease progression.

“There’s been increasing public demand for sustainable wine production methods to fight fungal diseases that target grapevine roots,” Richards says. “With the ease of planting between vine rows and on footpaths, a cover crop could be the right solution.”

In his examination of the soil, Richards found it was richer in microbes when grapes were grown together with the diverse cover crops than without. More microbes in the soil means healthier plants.

Identifying the soil components required to sustain crops and forests has become a global priority. Soil scientists, such as Hart and her team, have rallied to generate and communicate soil knowledge, contributing to a United Nations report on the current status of biodiversity.

“The fight against climate change and biodiversity loss can seem overwhelming,” she says. “I believe we can do this one field at a time.”

Read the full story online at UBC Okanagan.

This article is written by or on behalf of the sponsoring client and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Leading Okanagan cleaning company will soon conduct training

KAP Cleaners offers secrets

Kerri Kedziora is the Okanagan’s Queen of Clean, and now she wants to share her expansive knowledge with others in the industry.

Kedziora owns and operates KAP Cleaners and Assistant Services, a successful and respected cleaning company that offers old-fashioned, deep-down, thorough cleaning of residences, businesses and vacation rental properties.

Unable to keep up with the high demand from property owners and managers alike, coupled with property managers’ inability to pay the fees Kedziora must charge to keep her well trained staff employed, she had to do some soul searching to find a way to help others reach their goals for five-star cleanliness scores. 

There are beautiful vacation properties in the Okanagan with less than perfect cleanliness, thereby impeding on their popularity and preventing repeat guests. Kedziora was shocked when she visited a high-end resort recently and the room wasn’t spotless. Realizing that no matter how expensive a place is there are still issues with improper processes and systems to ensure complete overall cleanliness, Kedziora was perplexed. If money couldn’t guarantee a spotlessly clean holiday experience, what would? That’s when she got the idea. It was in that moment that a new service was created—a training program for companies that clean smaller resorts, vacation rentals, hotels and motels.

“If I can train people’s top employees the systems and processes to keep their guest suites clean always, then they’ve got it made,” Kedziora says. “You can teach anybody to clean as long as they want to learn. Employee motivation is another area we can help with.”

Kedziora has been cleaning since she was five years old, when her father became the single family leader of four kids and she was required to keep the house clean. Her knowledge expanded significantly when she worked in her 20s for her husband's mom in the Lower Mainland.

“She knew what she was doing,” Kedziora says. “She’s amazing. Many of the procedures that I use in my business now, I learned from her. She was old fashioned and old school.”

During Kedziora’s 15 years working in health care—primarily caring for the elderly with dementia—she continued to clean in her spare time. Four years ago she embraced her undeniable skills as an entrepreneur and quit her health-care job to grow her cleaning business and employ others in her community.

KAP Cleaners will offer personal training that resorts, hotels, motels and vacation rentals simply cannot get today. There will be many options available to the managers and owners of vacation rental suites, such as an online training program that employees can access anytime and support systems through a Facebook group that all customers will have access to. Customers will not only be able to compare cleaning strategies but explore ideas for valued employee and guest attraction as well as troubleshoot ideas to provide the best guest satisfaction in all areas.

“You could even find out what others are using for bedding, tableware or lightbulbs,” Kedziora says.

Weekly live Q&A sessions with Kedziora herself will be included in a monthly membership option. Onsite consultations, evaluations of cleanliness and one-on-one training with team leads is another service that will be offered.

“We are working on programs that might suit every need for training as well as any budget,” she says.

Kedziora is even going to provide free information for employee motivation and retention. Rest assured Kedziora will help put together a cleaning plan that will ensure an unparalleled level of cleanliness.

“We'll put together a routine and a system for every single client so that their place is always spotless,” she says.

Understanding the industry as well as she does, Kedziora and KAP Cleaners can also help individuals and companies attract the right employees, the right guests and the very best ratings. While the program outline is in its final stages and finishing touches are still being implemented, KAP Cleaners is offering early-interest customers 30% off regular rates if they sign up for the program prior to the official launch date.

KAP Cleaners can be reached at (778) 808-5942.

This article is written by or on behalf of the sponsoring client and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More Think Local articles