After doing a Social Services diploma at Seneca college I graduated in 1972.
At this time my mother opened a store called “Up The Wall” and I began to weave tapestries which I did over the course of twenty five years.
I returned to school at thirty to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree at York University graduating with a degree in Anthropology. Next I did a Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) at Yeshiva University in New York City in 1987 and am a Registered Social Worker (R.S.W.).
I have worked in numerous health care facilities- including York Community Services, the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, Providence Centre and St. Clair West Services for Seniors.
As a social worker having worked in both institutional settings and in community based agencies, I met hundreds of seniors and their families. Some of the seniors were depressed, leading painful existences, but others, dynamic, filled with vitality and truly revolutionary in their approach to life. In fact, many were reaching their full potential as human beings in their latter years and were more amazing now than when they were younger.
This thought lead to my writing my first book “Treasured Legacies- Older & Still Great” Second Story Press 2003. In the book there were 44 photos and texts about the people who I interviewed.
The people I interviewed had experienced both life’s joys and difficulties coming to know their central purpose or the essence of their being, and were following their true passions in life. I recalled conversations I had had with two women, ages 99 and 87, and realized that although their bodies looked every bit their chronological age, their spirits were like women in their thirties. They were aging from the inside out. The lines and gray hair had not changed their inner core. However, each person in this book is a hero – each story needs to be told and each image needs to be captured.
Everyone in “Treasured Legacies” was living in their own home except for Ann Seaton who was living at the Apotex Centre- Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. She said to me that “these was amongst some of the best years of her life”. I did not want to let her thoughts just disappear. For as a social worker and having worked in different levels of care I knew there was another side to the story.
I partnered with the Ontario Long Term Care Association (OLTCA) and my second book was entitled “Aging Is Living- Myth Breaking Stories From Long Term Care” Dundurn Press 2009. In the book there are 25 photos.
As a social worker I continue to do some speaking, lead groups and continue to research positive aging despite life’s numerous challenges. I will also be doing some presentations for nurses and personal support workers who are feeling burnt out after caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
I have taken courses with some renowned photographers such as Ed Kashi at the International Centre of Photography in New York City, Steve McCurry, Shelby Lee Adams, Robert Schechter, John Bingham, V. Tony Hauser, Michael O’Brien, Ann Alimi and Philip Sun in Toronto.
Siva Gnanaratnam is in “Treasured Legacies- Older & Still Great”, was diagnosed with colon cancer and has survived for 18 years. She is in the Cancer Connection exhibit and book produced by the photographers of “Photo Sensitive.”
I have been written up in numerous newspapers including the Toronto Star, The National Post and The Toronto Sun. I have appeared in a television program on Prime TV entitled “Age Quake: Living in The Aging Revolution.” I have been interviewed by Barbara Dickie and Bernadette Hardaker on the program “Fresh Air” on CBC 99.1. I have also appeared on Breakfast Television (City TV) and been interviewed by Jane Hawtin (CBC-Metro Morning.)
Most recently I was written up by Judy Steed. The article appeared in the Toronto Star, Saturday July the 18th, 2009 and was entitled “Putting to rest fear of “a home”.