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SENIORS TAKE UP GRAFFITI IN LISBON: It began when LATA 65 offered older adults in Lisbon, Portugal, a chance to become graffiti artists through a series of workshops.

They learned:

  • the history and theory of street art
  • how to create street art stencils, and
  • tips on tagging from well-known street artists.

Attendees ranged in age from 74 to 92.

The group provided spray cans, masks and gloves, and it helped to find free spots in the city to tag and paint. Soon, older artists were creating funky fresh murals and colourful designs in run-down parts of Lisbon.

We want to challenge stereotypes, LATA founder Lara Rodrigues, told Carol Off, host of CBC's As It Happens. "We really want to demonstrate that age is just a number; that artistic expression we usually associate with the young, [the elderly ] also want to try it."



CALGARY'S ELDER SERVICE CORPS BUILDS COMMUNITY: Retirees want to enjoy life, and they want to live with a sense of purpose and meaning. Capitalizing on this desire, Carya, formerly Calgary Family Services, created the Elder Service Corps to help older adults use their life experience and skills for social and community impact.

Older adults study themes of aging, social justice and community development for an eight-month period. In the practicum component of the program, Elder Service Corps members use their talent and training to develop and implement a community project with support from the Carya team.

Aziza Hakda, who arrived in Canada in 1971 as a refugee from Uganda, applauds the program. She told the Calgary Herald, "They are equipping us to become community developers. To me, that means going out and bringing the community together."

For her first project, Hakda worked with Youth Link Calgary to partner high school students and older adults to help them write their memoirs.

She didn't stop there. Hakda went on to convince a sports facility in her community to open its indoor soccer fields to older adults every weekday morning for a free walk. It attracts about 200 older people every day.

For retirees, the Elder Service Corps is a legacy opportunity. Similar programs have run successfully in United States since the mid-1990s when social entrepreneur Marc Freedman launched the Experience Corps program to mentor low-income children in elementary schools. Today, Freedman is CEO of The organization harnesses the passions and skills of older adults to benefit communities in the United States and beyond.



OLDER CHINESE STRUGGLE WITH EFFECTS OF ONE-CHILD POLICY: For the past 35 years, millions of Chinese families have been restricted in the number of children they can have by China's one-child policy. Parents in one-child families rank having one child as the most important aspect of their lives.

When a family's only adult child dies, however, the parents face social exclusion. Parents who have lost their only child are labeled shiduers, a social identity associated with shame and failure.

According to a recent study, shiduers find respite from discrimination by joining online communities such as Tong Ming Ren Shiduers. Individuals exchange information and provide emotional support to each other, using screen names, instead of their real names.

Parents attribute their problems to the one-child policy. As one man put it, "I was obedient to the Party's words and had only one child. But now, I feel I am a fool."

In June 2012, May 2013 and April 2014, shiduers from across China gathered in Beijing to demand the government offer support and provide them with care in their old age.

In late 2013, China relaxed its one-child policy to allow parents who come from one-child families to have more than one child. However, the one-child policy provides no legal recourse for those who have lost their only child.

Researchers say a comprehensive policy is needed to provide care to a rapidly aging population, while also meeting the needs of the shiduers.

Yongqiang Zheng and Thomas Lawson reported details of their study online in the International Journal of Social Welfare on Nov. 26, 2014.



book "A Migrant Heart" by Denis Sampson
AN IRISHMAN'S MIGRANT HEART: Denis Sampson left Ireland as a student, leaving behind the farming countryside of his native County Clare. He arrived in the cosmopolitan city of Montreal on Sept. 21, 1970.

Later, his Irish girlfriend joined him in Montreal. They married and raised a family. Over the next four decades, he taught literature at Vanier College and published several books, including a biography of Belfast-born Brian Moore and a critical study of Leitrim-born John McGahern.

His intellectual memoir, A Migrant Heart, is honest, tender and courageous. Sampson charts his struggle to come to terms with versions of his story that rumble around inside of him about the old world he left behind versus the new world where he landed.

A Migrant Heart is a book to savor for what it tells us about the human journey, the enabling power of literature and how the experience of exile changes us.