HCoA Awarded Another Federal Grant to Build on the Successes of the 2020-2023 Empowering Dementia-Friendly Communities Project

The dementia-friendly communities participants standing together smiling

The 2020-2023 Empowering Dementia-Friendly Communities successfully consulted over 300 people affected by dementia during the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic. We co-created a local Faces of Dementia campaign that gained national and international interest. We also introduced the development of the first Engagement & Empowerment groups in Canada (localized groups composed of and led by people living with dementia).

Engagement & Empowerment Groups are inspired by existing dementia-friendly community development efforts in other parts of the world that centered persons living with dementia as a collective voice and as leaders of positive change. Inspired by successes, we supported the development of MICE Haldimand (Memory+ Inclusive Communities Everywhere) and Dementia Friends in Our Community Hamilton. The evaluation of the pilot and group member feedback suggests Engagement & Empowerment Groups are effective in both creating local awareness of dementia-inclusive communities and on improving health and wellbeing of group members.

The Public Health Agency of Canada selected only a few applications for 2023-2025 Dementia Community Investment grants to grow and scale their initiatives. The highly competitive process required applicants to have a high-quality evidence base indicating effectiveness; have demonstrated quality and diversity of partnerships; and have demonstrated the capacity to sustain the intervention beyond federal funding.

HCoA is encouraged by the decision to fund further exploration of Engagement & Empowerment Groups as a promising communities-based approach in Canada.  The new 2023-2025 Engagement & Empowerment Groups Project will build on established partnerships with organizations and communities of Six Nations of the Grand River, Halton, Hamilton, and Haldimand County to grow existing groups and pilot new groups in their respective communities.

Working together with persons living with dementia, Six Nations of the Grand River Health Services, the Alzheimer Society of Brant, Haldimand Norfolk, Hamilton Halton, McMaster University’s Gilbrea Centre for Studies on Aging, and GERAS Centre for Aging Research, we hope to learn more about the personal and community level impacts of Engagement & Empowerment Groups and share our learning of this promising approach to improving the lives of persons living with dementia, their care partners and creating dementia-inclusive communities.

To learn more, please contact Anita Gombos-Hill, Project Manager, Engagement & Empowerment Groups at 905-777-3837 ext. 12434 or [email protected]

Contact Anita to learn about joining an Engagement & Empowerment Group for people living with dementia in Hamilton & Haldimand: 905-777-3837 ext. 12434 or anita@hamiltoncoa.com

Mary Buzzell:
Leader, Mentor, Teacher, Advocate, Friend

Born June 14, 1933 in Montreal, Quebec | Died October 5, 2023 in Dundas, Ontario 

A portrait of Mary Buzzell, with curly grey hair, glasses, smiling at the camera

Mary was a founding board member of the Hamilton Council on Aging (HCoA). Working with a group of like-minded colleagues, she helped to develop the Council in 2005. She brought her experience and expertise in the fields of health care and aging to help the fledgling Board become the strong voice for older adults that it is today.  Margaret Denton, also a founding Board Member, reflects that Mary played the role of the “wise sage” at Board meetings, providing thoughtful advice.  Upon completion of her term as a Board Member, Mary continued to contribute to many HCoA committees including the Education and Advocacy Committee. Mary also played a mentorship role with staff. Shelagh Kiely, Projects Manager with HCoA, recalls “Mary’s constant encouragement, positivity and coaching”. 

Mary was a dear friend to many people and organizations across Hamilton. She was a leader, prolific writer, teacher, mentor, speaker and advocate. She participated in numerous organizations, as a nursing professional and/or as a volunteer. Mary Buzzell’s career represents a superb synthesis of education, scholarship, service and humanitarianism. During her life, Mary also received several awards for her extensive contributions. For example, In 2001, Mary was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws by McMaster University and in 2012, she was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal by the Canadian Association on Gerontology for her incredible contributions to the community and her work with VON (Victorian Order of Nurses). 

Mary was a leader in the field of nursing, gerontology, and adult education with a focus on ‘personhood, lifecare and community-based care’. She was a faculty member in the Department of Nursing at McMaster University. Under her leadership, the first Nurse Practitioner program in Ontario was initiated. She frequently facilitated workshops at McMaster for health and social service professionals as well as consulted and taught nationally and internationally.  Mary was proud of her international work as Nursing Consultant to The Aga Khan Health Services in Kenya, Pakistan and Uganda. She also worked and taught in Australia, Sweden and Thailand.  

Her focus on personhood — treating the whole person rather than just the symptoms of their illnesses – became her mantra. Janis North, VON colleague and friend, shared that “early in my career, I had the privilege to listen to Mary and her colleague Mary Gibbon lead several discussions on ethics. A key ‘takeaway’ was:  “We may think that we may know what is best for a person’s health, but we are arrogant if we assume that we know what is best for a person’s life”. Mary urged us to help people facing challenging health issues to find their voice so they could determine how to make choices in a way that respected their lives, and she showed us how to do it.   Many practitioners remember Mary telling them to be detectives and try to find out the reasons that underlie behaviours.  

Mary applied her educational expertise in the development of a variety of educational packages including both print and audiovisual resources. She is the central speaker in the teaching resource “Promoting the Concept of Personhood in Practice”, which was developed by Gilbrea Centre for Studies of Aging (formerly known as McMaster Centre for Gerontological Studies).  “In her continuing determination to get her message across about the importance of personhood, one year, Mary arrived at the Annual Summer Institute workshop with a cardboard tombstone and on it was printed, ‘Assessed to Death, Never known as a person’, recalled Anju Joshi, Mary’s colleague and friend. Mary was also a master storyteller. “I really began using stories to teach concepts because Mary taught me how to do that effectively”, reflected Anju.  

Mary taught many people how to advocate through education.  She would gather and encourage colleagues to meet with local and provincial government representatives to update them on issues facing vulnerable people in the community. She frequently wrote a regular column in local community newspapers informing older adults about current issues, especially related to home care.  She often felt that the health care system was ‘missing the boat’ by being problem-oriented in its focus without giving weight to people’s strengths. Mary was also known to befriend journalists and enlist their support to inform the public about key issues.  

While at McMaster, Mary held a joint appointment as Nursing Consultant with VON Hamilton, becoming their Director of Community Relations after she retired from McMaster.  Ellen Ryan, McMaster colleague and friend, said ,“I remember that the two Marys – Mary Gibbon and Mary B – toured Canada for VON in the early 80’s to spread the word that the aging boom was coming around the turn of the millennium and that Canada better prepare for this by creating the appropriate community, housing,  and health care supports.  They were early messengers, even predicting that we would someday see seniors among the homeless – as we do now”. 

Mary was instrumental in the development of VON`s Palliative Care Nursing Team and the Caregiver Education Program at VON. Mary coached staff in understanding the impact of suffering and powerlessness for people living with long-term or life-ending health challenges. Anne Vallentin, former nursing student, friend and colleague, noted that “the most important part of my career was learning what Mary Buzzell and Mary Gibbon had pioneered, as retired ‘renegade volunteers’, an educational series for family/informal caregivers. “The two Marys were aware of the body of knowledge about the serious health consequences faced by caregivers due to stress, isolation and exhaustion. Through Mary B’s adult education background and her lived experience of seven years of caring for her frail, elderly mother, and Mary G’s intrepid spirit, they teamed up to offer a four-week series “Survive and Thrive”. Caregivers don’t have a lot of time, so the information, that could be lifesaving, had to be distilled into pearls of wisdom, practicality and fun. With Mary’s help and coaching, Anne was later hired by VON to take this pioneering work and turn it into a format that could be replicated and receive ongoing funding.  The series, renamed “From Stress to Strength”, has been offered in the Hamilton community by VON since the early 2000’s. 

Mary was curious, fun loving, generous and she loved to travel. Many people were fortunate to hear about her adventures on all seven continents.  Others actually had the pleasure of accompanying her on many trips to far off places.  She often had lovely conversations with strangers in restaurants and trains. She made everyone feel special wherever she was.  

Mary was an ace at asking meaningful questions in large group settings or in conversation with one person. “What makes you feel the most like yourself” or “What gives you hope”? were questions she encouraged people to ask.  Janis North recalls, “Mary was a masterful teacher; she never used more words than necessary; she always could make the complex simple; she didn’t overwhelm and she always, always, always encouraged”.  Often, one of her insightful and wonderful questions would make people really think about their life and direction.  

She enjoyed having lunch, especially dessert, with her many friends.  Lunches were never about her, she cared deeply for her friends, always asking questions and showing concern about their daily lives and family.  Ellen Ryan remembers that “There was no free lunch with Mary.  She was famous for taking aging and health professionals to lunch periodically. I learned the hard way that she would ask questions about your goals at one lunch and then expect you to comment on your progress at the next.  At the second lunch, when I had forgotten what I’d said at my first lunch, Mary recited my goals back to me. I knew then to keep track of my conversations with her and to have a progress report ready.  And so I grew into my own aspirations”. 

Mary was the ultimate mentor. “I repeatedly reminded my student researchers to expect deep questions from her at our annual research group social. She would inevitably ‘corner’ students one by one and ask about their dreams or career goals. One PhD graduate was asked how she would celebrate over the summer before she became a busy professor.  She unexpectedly replied that she’d like to visit her birthplace in Sri Lanka with her family.  All five in her family made the trek that summer; just in time as her Dad died suddenly the following year”, shared Ellen Ryan. 

Mary was very open about the many health challenges she faced during her life. In particular, she experienced bouts of deep depression and had rheumatoid arthritis.  Her ‘Circle of Friends’ and family were there to surround her through her last few difficult years, connecting and/or visiting regularly. Even in her last stages of life, “Mary continued to teach by showing us the value of nurturing meaningful relationships, and the value of friendships”, says Anne Pizzacalla, her trusted friend and colleague who tirelessly advocated for Mary’s care.  Mary had contacts and friendships around the globe and was so good at connecting and inviting people into her expansive circle. Mary leaves a legacy as “Mary’s friends have been enriched by becoming friends with one another”, recognizes Anne Vallentin. 

Mary will be fondly remembered by her family whom she treasured. She was a special aunt to her two nieces, Lesley and Melanie and her husband Kevin, and a loving sister to Janet and her husband Dick.   Friends, colleagues and students will always remember her as a genuine and caring person who inspired them. We were blessed to have her in our lives and in our community. She has influenced so many people in a positive manner and she has certainly left this world a better place. We will forever hear the sound of “Buzzell here”, in our hearts.  What Mary Buzzell taught can be summed up in the HOPE acronym that she developed: Helping each Other ExPlore  Every possibility to move forward to achieve personal goals.  It is an honour for so many to be able to say, “My friend, Mary Buzzell”.

New Community Collaborative: Seniors at Risk in Hamilton (SARiH), a collaboration between Good Shepherd, the Alzheimer Society and St. Matthew’s House

local seniors spend time together and learn about community services at the Good Shepherd Seniors Wellness Program

Seniors at Risk in Hamilton (SaRiH), a collaboration between Good Shepherd’s Senior-At-Risk Program, Alzheimer Society and St. Matthew’s House, offers supports for seniors living in Hamilton who are impacted by issues such as: abuse, exploitation, dementia, mental and physical health challenges, housing and food insecurity and social isolation.

SaRiH services include:

  • Case coordination and intervention for vulnerable seniors 60 years or older
  • Support to persons living with dementia and their caregivers, so they can live safely in their community
  • Support in connecting and collaborating with community agencies to help the senior
  • Reducing social isolation – telephone support provided by trained peer volunteers
  • Advocacy, education & caregiver supports
  • Eviction prevention and supports                                                                 

Seniors Wellness Group

Location: 15 Ray St. — Good Shepherd Community Room
Date: Every 2nd & 4th Thursday of the month, 3:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.

The purpose of the group:

  • Encourage older adults to participate in community engagement and build social network
  • Connect older adults with resources and supports in the community.
  • Reduce social isolation
  • Promote healthy living
  • Provide educational workshops related to older adult safety, government benefits, healthy eating and information to help them make informed life decisions.

Contact SaRiH

Tel: 289-919-3450
Email: [email protected]
Fax:  289-271-6990

Referral form available at: https://goodshepherdcentres.ca/services/seniors-at-risk-in-hamilton

Starting in mid-December 2023, letters will be mailed to seniors aged 87 and above who may qualify for CDCP, followed by those aged 77 to 86 in January 2024, then those aged 72 to 76 in February 2024 and those aged 70 to 71 in March 2024. These letters will include a personalized application code and instructions on how to apply (including a phone number).

Qualified applicants may begin accessing dental services through the Plan as early as May 2024. Services included in CDCP include preventive services (scaling-cleaning, polishing, sealants, and fluoride), diagnostic services (examinations and x-rays), restorative services (fillings), endodontic services (root canal treatments) prosthodontic services (dentures), periodontal services (deep scaling), and oral surgery services (extractions).

For more information on the CDCP, eligibility, the phased application roll-out and examples of what will be covered, visit Canada.ca/dental or call 1-800-0-CANADA to speak with the Government of Canada.

Older Adults Need more Housing Options & Seniors are at Higher Risk for Frauds and Scams

These two articles recently appeared in the Hamilton Spectator and are posted on the HCoA website: www.coahamilton.ca/ in-the-news

Monthly editorials are just one of the roles of the Education & Advisory Committee. The Committee’s purpose is to identify timely issues of relevance to local older adults and tackle anti-ageism through local activities. In addition, it manages the HCoA workshops including Navigating the Healthcare System (a 3-week course), Positive Aging (a 6-week course) and the Let’s Get Moving Workshops including Let’s Take a Bus. Information about all the workshops and upcoming dates is posted at www.coahamilton.ca/events.

Contact Shelagh at [email protected] or 905-920-7721 to organize a free workshop for your group or if you would like to join our committee (you don’t need to be a Board member)!

Notices & Upcoming Events from HCoA & our Partners in Positive Aging

Watch for the annual Age-Friendly Hamilton Progress Survey – coming in January 2024!
McMaster University School of Rehabilitation Sciences is seeking participants for a virtual exercise program for individuals 60+ living with cancer. Contact partner4exercis@gmail.com or more information.
Join the YMCA at a Seniors Active Living Fair: Wednesday, January 10, 2024, 10am to 4pm at the Ls Charter family YWCA, 356 Rymal Road East. Call 905-667-1515 or more information. No registration required.

Canadians, ages 87+ can now apply for Canada’s new Dental Care Plan!

Older adults are the first group who can apply for Canada’s Dental Care Plan (CDCP), a new government plan to make essential dental care more accessible to Canadian residents with an annual adjusted family net income of less than $90,000 who do not have access to dental insurance.


Why support Hamilton Council on Aging? As the baby-boomers enter their golden years, communities need to adapt to ensure that seniors – the fastest growing age-group – are supported and protected. Statistics Canada estimates that the population of adults over age 85 could triple over the next 25 years, and it has already doubled since 2001. With many adults living longer, an increasing number of people from all backgrounds will suffer long-term health challenges which may leave them vulnerable and susceptible to harm, fraud, and abuse. At HCoA, we strive to give seniors in our community knowledge and access to services and support that will help them to maintain quality of living and/or get help when they need it.

At HCoA, we are constantly applying for grants to keep HCoA afloat. It takes a lot of work year after year. Regular support from grassroots donors (like you!) can do volumes to help supplement the funding obtainable from grants which helps us plan future programs for seniors.

Ways to Give

The Hamilton Council on Aging (HCoA) Sustainability Committee organized a 5K Walk for Health fundraiser which took place on Saturday, June 3, 2023 at T.B. McQuesten Community Park.

About 70 walkers participated and were welcomed warmly by Lori Letts, President of HCoA. HCoA’s fundraising event was very successful both financially and in the atmosphere of camaraderie that was evident before, during and after the walk as we shared refreshments and conversation.

Many thanks to the walkers and all who supported the 5K Walk. Your generous donations allowed us to reach our goal of $15,000!

The proceeds from this walk will support HCoA programs to promote positive aging and the United Way of Halton and Hamilton.

Donate to HCoA:

  • Donate online (Canada Helps): www.coahamilton.ca
    • Mail your donation to Hamilton Council on Aging, 88 Maplewood Avenue, Hamilton, ON L8M 1W9.

Become a Corporate Sponsor and benefit from access to the fastest growing age-group!

Gold Sponsor: $3,000.00

  • Table with logo display at 2024 Walk for Health fundraiser
  • ½ page ad in semi-annual newsletter
  • Profile on website for one year

Silver Sponsor: $2,000.00

  • Table with logo display at 2024 Walk for Health fundraiser
  • Profile on website for one year

Bronze Sponsor: $1,500

  • Logo on display at 2024 Walk for Health fundraiser
  • Mention on website for one year

Donate in-kind: We are often looking for donations of refreshments when hosting events, swag for participants, space for events, and more!

Did you know? You can donate to HCoA for free!