Health and Wellness in the Glebe

Add some spring into your step with these useful articles on health and wellness.

Your ocular health linked to overall health
Bonnie Schroeder takes on aging in Ottawa
Painting new pathways to communication Art therapy at The Glebe Centre

Your ocular health linked to overall health

By Dr. Jay Mithani, Optometrist

Mithani, Jay diabeticretinopathy While your eyes may serve an important and distinct function, they are still intrinsically linked to and affected by the rest of your body. The axiom “healthy body, healthy mind” extends to “healthy body, healthy eyes.” Many patients are referred to me by their family physicians to ensure there is no ocular impact to a particular whole-body/systemic illness. Likewise, there is often an indication in the ocular health of a patient’s eyes that prompts me to refer them to their family physician or another specialist for further systemic evaluation. We are fortunate that the eyes are so intimately connected to the rest of our body; consequences of systemic diseases can sometimes be picked up from a comprehensive ocular health examination. That being said, periodic health examinations with your family physician are of utmost importance to your overall well-being and should never be substituted when detecting systemic diseases. As there are countless systemic diseases that can affect the eyes, this article will focus on three that frequently affect the general population: hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, and diabetes.


Hypercholesterolemia, or high cholesterol, a condition that a physician diagnoses, is excessively high cholesterol levels in the blood. Fat and lipids can naturally deposit within the cornea (the front clear surface of the eye). Over time this can manifest itself as a white arc on the outer edge of the cornea. This arcus senilis is common in the elderly and not cause for immediate concern, though when seen in younger individuals, sometimes even with the naked eye, it is worth further evaluation. These patients may be probed about their diets, their general well-being, and the extent of their daily physical activity. With extremely high levels of cholesterol, blood vessels in the retina (the light-sensitive inner tissue of the eye) can become blocked. These cholesterol blockages are termed Hollenhorst plaques and appear as white deposits in retinal veins, causing a backlog of blood flow and retinal bleeding. This can cause vision loss in the areas affected by the blockage and subsequent bleeding (Behrenbeck, 2014).


Hypertension (see article in the March issue of the Glebe Report ), a condition that a physician diagnoses, is chronically elevated blood pressure. As hypertension has a direct impact on blood vessels through which blood is pushed, small retinal vessels are easily affected. Arteries and (smaller) arterioles are vessels that carry blood from the heart to the body, while veins and (smaller) venules are vessels that carry blood back to the heart. In unmanaged hypertension, retinal arterioles initially start constricting and reflecting light differently. If the blood pressure continues unmanaged for a period of time, the retinal arterioles can compress or “nick” the retinal venules, sometimes causing retinal bleeding or “cotton wool spots” (areas of the retina deprived of oxygen). With extremely high blood pressure, the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, can become swollen – a true medical emergency (Gerstenblith & Rabinowitz, 2013).


Diabetes is a disease of elevated or uncontrolled blood-sugar levels that a physician diagnoses through a series of blood glucose tests. While uncontrolled diabetes can affect the eyes in a myriad of ways, it is important to realize that not all these signs are exclusive to diabetes. Unexplained large fluctuations in one’s eyeglass prescription within a short span, often in conjunction with the formation of early cataracts, can be one possible sign. Moving to the retina, early diabetic retinopathy takes the form of tiny balloon- like swellings of retinal vessels. Retinal bleeding can result, along with “cotton wool spots,” if blood-sugar levels remain uncontrolled – this can cause small areas of vision loss. The macula is responsible for fine central vision, and if fluid from fragile, leaky vessels empties into the macula, there will be significant blurring of vision. This condition is known as diabetic macular edema and is the most common cause of vision loss in patients with diabetic retinopathy. In more advanced cases of diabetic retinopathy, new blood vessels start to grow within the retina and even the iris, causing further bleeding and vision loss (National Institutes of Health, 2012). As this article illustrates, your eyes can be quite sensitive to internal influences. Comprehensive visits to your doctor of optometry go much further than providing you with a clear, comfortable vision solution. Regular eye examinations build a critical history of your ocular health and offer an opportunity to clue-in on more than just ocular diseases.

Dr. Jay Mithani is an independently practicing optometrist in the city of Ottawa, and current Glebe resident.

Bonnie Schroeder takes on aging in Ottawa

By JC Sulzenko

Bonnie Schroeder
Bonnie Schroeder
To borrow from William Shakespeare, who is Bonnie Schroeder and what is she? Social worker Bonnie Schroeder has a track record working with social service, community and health agencies at the national, regional and local levels, and with seniors, persons with disabilities and caregivers. She also teaches at the University of Ottawa and offers consultancy services in program research, development and evaluation, and in facilitation. To this mix, Bonnie now adds a new dimension as she puts aging in our community in the spotlight. “Two years ago, after I appeared on Aging in Peel , created by Ray Applebaum, CEO of Peel Senior Link, I thought: Why not give Ottawa audiences the benefit of this important focus?” Last fall, she imported the concept of a half-hour TV interview show that embraces aging in an upbeat way. Each episode of Aging in Ottawa airs four times a week on Rogers Cable TV (Ottawa Cable 22.) Ten volunteers, including Dagmar Horsman, co-producer, work with Schroeder and one staff member from Rogers Cable TV on the series.

“I come from a long line of serial caregivers and credit my mother as a role model for having a positive attitude toward the aged in our lives,” Schroeder explains. “We need to move beyond the image of the aged as always in need. So many seniors actively contribute to their communities,” she observes. The National Seniors Council reports that people over the age of 65 give on average more hours volunteering in the community than any other age cohort. “Seniors should be celebrated for what they do. Of course, the community should stand ready and respond when these seniors do need support.” Schroeder has just taped the 15th of 20 shows. In episode five, she interviewed Barbara Burns. “Barbara admitted that, when she turned 79, it hit her that she had crossed the line into ‘old age.’ But the interview showed how she was still ‘Energetic at 80,’ the title of the segment.” Ask Schroeder when “aging” begins and her answer surprises: “In reality, aging is lifelong! We live in an age defying society that finds it hard to embrace aging. In fact, middle-aged people usually suggest that ‘old age’ is 15 years out from whatever age they are!” she asserts.

Yadvir Jhaj, Seniors Project Coordinator with Jewish Family Services of Ottawa, and James Chen, a volunteer with the Ottawa Chinese Community Services Centre, in an episode of Aging in Ottawa that aired April 8, called“Seniors and Volunteering. Photo: Dagmar Horsman,
Yadvir Jhaj, Seniors Project Coordinator with Jewish Family Services of Ottawa, and James Chen, a volunteer with the Ottawa Chinese Community Services Centre, in an episode of Aging in Ottawa that aired April 8, called“Seniors and Volunteering. Photo: Dagmar Horsman.

What does it mean to age well? What information can seniors, their families and caregivers use? What agencies and programs can contribute to the well-being of this population that by 2021 will increase to 16 per cent of our area’s population? What gaps are there? What strategies, services and partnerships could and should be developed in building an age-friendly Ottawa? Aging in Ottawa examines relevant local policies, programs and issues, including challenges within a multicultural context. An advisory committee with representatives from such organizations as the Champlain Community Care Access Centre, the Council on Aging of Ottawa, the Ontario Association of Social Workers, Ottawa Community Support Coalition, Ottawa Public Health and the Regional Geriatric Program of Eastern Ontario provides input into priorities for the show. The first season’s episodes cover such topics as successful aging, the city’s Older Adult Plan, fall prevention, accessing information, legal and financial questions, and caring for caregivers. Upcoming programs will feature transportation; adult day program and volunteer community- based services; palliative care; and public health/business community co-operation in serving seniors, particularly isolated seniors and those at risk. Schroeder intends to upload all episodes onto her website.

Will Bonnie Schroeder return for a second season? “There’s easily enough material to plan five years out! If the show returns next year, I want to explore the crossroads between aging with a disability and aging into a disability, and what the implications of that distinction are. I also would delve deeper into how to make Ottawa ‘age-friendly’ in areas such as housing, transportation, nutrition and mental health.” She is obviously in her element. “Every time the opening montage for the show comes on, I smile! I treat each interview as a conversation in my living room with interesting people about important questions. I strive for that dialogue to be open, friendly, interactive and informative.” That is not all Schroeder has in her sights. Her goal: nothing less than a summit on aging in Ottawa, to take place in the next couple of years. She would like to bring in the Ottawa business community not only as service providers and vendors but also as partners in addressing the greater needs and interests of seniors in innovative ways.

“I’d like to see an emphasis on senior-friendly community spaces and on neighbours supporting neighbours, so that such a concept becomes rooted in our community’s culture.”

Aging in Ottawa airs on Rogers TV Cable 22, Tuesdays at 4:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Thursdays at 9 a.m. and Fridays at 4 p.m. Go to http://www. For information on Bonnie Schroeder:

Glebe resident JC Sulzenko is an author and poet who embraces artistic projects that benefit the community.

Painting new pathways to communication Art therapy at The Glebe Centre

by Ellen Schowalter

SchowalterIMG_3114 copyCognitive impairment, whether mild or severe, that produces difficulty in communicating, is one of the most distressing aspects of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. One often hears the frustration felt by family members and the affected person themselves. “Mom doesn’t understand a thing I say to her.” Or “Dad insists I am his brother Ted.”

The struggle to communicate and be understood results in tremendous anxiety for the individual as well as family and friends. Care staff with training and empathy can often circumvent this problem by asking simple questions requiring “yes” or “no” answers or by demonstrating the desired action. Staff and families must always keep in mind that two thirds of communication is non-verbal, shown through body language and facial expression. Art therapy can be successful in unlocking and facilitating communication when words go missing.

Memory loss and loss of ability to communicate verbally are very common impairments for those with dementia, and art therapy can reach areas of the brain that are not damaged by the illness. While unfortunately there is as yet no cure, art and music therapy are proven ways to reach the person who is “still there.”

SchowalterIMG_3137 copyThe art therapy program at The Glebe Centre was initiated in 2004 by Lorna Mangano, Director of Care at the time. Noted Ottawa artist Patricia Doyle was approached and asked to start an art program with the residents. The result has been exciting and encouraging for all who take part. People who have perhaps never painted before, or who may be locked in silence and frustration, unable to give voice to their still-living inner world, have a new channel of communication through the language of art.

The art groups offer a social context and a chance for accomplishment when many other abilities are lost. Recently, a man who had said, “I am not an artist,” went around the home proudly showing staff and other residents his latest painting. He made everyone smile with his enthusiasm and joy. Family and friends are frequently amazed at the wonderful work done by their loved one. Animals, the Group of Seven landscapes, still lifes and flowers are preferred subjects that residents relate to most enthusiastically. Interestingly, people respond best to an actual subject before them, rather than a reproduction or photo. Often they will depict all sides of the subject on the picture plane (pace Picasso). Painting is a place to be in the moment – to focus. There are no right or wrong choices and no expectations imposed – a blessed island in the confusing and often distressing world of dementia.

scholwalterMG_3145 copyThe program has grown over the past 10 years to include all interested residents of The Glebe Centre. A different artist is featured each month in the front lobby. Biographical information along with a selection of paintings is on view in the “Art by the Bistro” showcase. All the residents involved proudly display their works there. On Friday, April 25 and Saturday, April 26, you will have the opportunity to view and purchase artwork created by residents at the Annual Silent Auction and Exhibition in the Bistro (inside the main doors at 77 Monk Street) and on the second floor at the Gathering Place. Friday is the gala evening from 6 to 8 p.m., and features live music and refreshments. On this evening, attendees will be invited to bid on artwork in a silent auction format. There will be a suggested minimum bid, and at the end of the evening, each piece of artwork will go to the highest bidder.

The exhibit continues on Saturday, April 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., when visitors to the event can purchase artwork for a set price. All proceeds go to support the art program at The Glebe Centre, and donations, of course, are gratefully accepted. The Glebe Centre is located at 77 Monk Street, across from Lansdowne. Admission is free and everyone is cordially invited!

Glebe resident Ellen Schowalter is an artist who has volunteered in the art program at The Glebe Centre for many years.

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