2017 “Throne Speech”

In Canada, our Throne Speech, which is delivered to the members of Parliament when a session opens, sketches out our government’s agenda for the immediate future. The Throne Speech is used to outline the legislative agenda, and the government’s priorities. With four years of work under our belts, we have come a long way, so this is a propitious time for our own BYP version of the “Throne Speech”.

In the spring of 2013, CBC Radio One aired a documentary about a group of French women who created La Maison des Babayagas in Paris. Many listeners were inspired by the French activists and several Toronto women, who were similarly stirred to action, found each other online. After some preliminary meetings to discuss our goals, the concept of Toronto Baba Yaga Place (BYP) was born. At a special Information Session held on November 5th, we celebrated a significant milestone for Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg, one of our founding members.

At a planning session held a few months ago, a core group of active members detailed a reckoning of our accomplishments since the pioneering group began this ambitious project:

  • Endorsement letters from 5 Toronto City Councillors
  • BYP Website and Twitter handle
  • Communications Strategy
  • Vision & Mission Statement
  • Contacts in Municipal Gov’t
  • Public awareness of BYP
  • Media coverage
  • Caring Support Group (pilot project)
  • Group of informal advisers
  • Analysis of BYP Principles
  • Operationalization of principles
  • Translation of La Maison des Babayagas materials
  • Ryerson Grad Student Feasibility Study
  • Publication of 2 newsletters
  • Growing Contact and Membership Lists
  • 4 Orientation Meetings
  • Membership Categories
  • Letters written to 110 MP’s

It took the French Babayagas thirteen years to create their community. We hope to reach the finish line in less time than that! With a Canadian government in place which, as per Budget 2017, proposes to “build an inclusive National Housing Strategy”, we plan to take advantage of the growing attention on housing, and continue to voice the need for viable options for seniors, especially senior women! Many of the activities we focused on in the first four years were values-based and procedural. While it was essential for ensuring that we have a strong foundation to build upon, over the next twelve months we will be working toward more concrete and measurable actions which include:

  • Incorporation
  • Completing activities required following incorporation such as creating by-laws, having our first AGM, etc.
  • Recruiting an Administrative Assistant for the Steering Committee
  • Welcoming new members and helping more members become actively involved
  • Identifying and recruiting a champion/patron and more Advisory Board members
  • Initiating and maintaining conversations with more developers
  • Defining clearly BYP ultimate model/structure (nuts and bolts)
  • Increasing our knowledge of financing/funding and securing same
  • Building relationships with Housing Co-ops and associations that share similar goals
  • Updating our website, with the help of skilled members

At the present time, we have over 200 individuals who have contacted us in one way or other over the past few years. There are a modest number of paid members and a small number of members actively working toward the BYP vision, putting in the countless hours required. With all there is to do, there is a lot on this small group’s plate. Some contacts tell us they will officially join as we get closer to the bricks and mortar reality. Others want to know what they will “get” for paying their $35 annual membership fee. Creating a new community requires an investment of time, money and energy. Incorporation, website hosting, and professional consultants, all come with costs. The core group has been carrying the ball financially, as well as giving our love, sweat, and tears. Clearly, we will get to the finish line faster with more paid and working members. Those who are waiting to become a part of the community when there is an actual location, need to step up to the plate now!

The $35 annual membership provides an opportunity to be a part of this exciting initiative and see the development of our concept unfold. While we would love to have units for all who wish to be a part of BYP, the reality is that we will be limited by how many spaces are made available to us. Priority will obviously and of necessity be given to those who have worked diligently over the years.

Keeping people in the loop, while desirable, is also time consuming. We are committed to dedicating our time and resources to the highest priority activities, those which will concretely move us closer to our goal. Over the next 12 months we plan to update our website to keep members better informed. If you wish to have access to the Members Only Area (currently under construction) and the information therein, please join us today!

Here’s to our vision!

Best wishes,

Beth Komito-Gottlieb
Steering Committee,
Baba Yaga Place

Because My Hair is White

Written by Harriet Bernstein

People think I don’t know how to drive, just because my hair is white. I happen to be a terrific driver. When I was young and beautiful, men actually applauded my parking; seriously, they’d watch me easily manoeuvre into a tight spot, and they’d applaud. I am the same driver now, the only thing that’s changed is my car is red instead of green, and my hair is white instead of auburn. It’s not nice to honk at me. My daughter is afraid that I’ll get in trouble one day for cussing out the rats that honk at me. Given all the road rage these days, her concern is a legitimate one.

I find it interesting, this ageism as it reflects in driving; or as it reflects in conversation, where people sometimes begin to speak slowly and loudly to me, as though the white of my hair causes hearing impairment. As it happens, I have vampire hearing. The birds wake me up pre-dawn. When my granddaughter has a sleepover at my place, her whimpering from a nightmare not only wakes me, it keeps me awake, although in truth I am so compelled by her beauty that I have a hard time falling back to sleep as much because I cannot stop looking at her, as because of her nightmare.

I am a beautiful old woman, and it is my joy of life that keeps me so, that and my endless curiosity. It is one of the best gifts to me, that I shall never know boredom, unlike many of my peers who seem not to know what to do with themselves. Because my hair is white means nothing in terms of my interest and joy in life, and it means nothing in terms of my ability to drive. I offer just one warning, and it is particularly directed to those young men who want to go too fast, and ride my ass: the closer you ride me, the slower I will go!

Feasibility Analysis from Ryerson University

Early in April, Baba Yaga Place (BYP) members, Ryerson students and invited guests gathered in a classroom at Ryerson University to hear a presentation from seven graduate students who are completing their Master’s Degree in Planning. The students had undertaken, as their term project, to provide a report on housing, with a focus on the BYP priorities. Beginning in January 2017 and over the course of the project, members of the BYP Housing Committee were involved in a series of meetings at Ryerson’s Urban and Regional Planning Faculty to provide input, and to ask questions of the students.

The presentation on April 4th marked the completion of the consultation project. The final report provided several important tools for making the BYP project a reality, including:

(a) A Site Selection Process: setting out criteria that BYP may use and identifying a scoring system for such issues as Amenities, Safety,
Environmental Responsibility, and others.

(b) Three scenarios from properties currently on the market:

◙ Move-in ready apt, however this section was assuming a purchase, which is not part of the core BYP vision
◙ Retrofit: repurpose an existing building
◙ New building

In each instance, a review of purchase vs rental option was outlined.

(c) Summary Analysis

It should be noted that the students’ focus on purchasing property, rather than renting, which is in fact one of the BYP core issues, makes that part of the report mostly academic. The report did provide rental option information however, and overall, is comprehensive and very detailed. The BYP Housing Committee is finding it useful in completing their mandate. The expectation is that other committees will, also.

As a gesture of thanks, the students were presented with a Certificate of Appreciation from BYP. Many thanks to members of our Steering Committee and Housing Committee for their preparations prior to the start of the project and their invaluable input along the way.

Note that the 100 page report is available in the Members’ section of the website.

Longer Lifespans for women make retirement planning all the more crucial


Among people aged 65, just over half are female. At 75 years of age, 57 per cent are female. At 85 years old, 68 per cent are women. These numbers were provided by Kristina Hidas of the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP), which has just completed some research showing one way in which the longer lifespans of women matter hugely in retirement planning.

It’s spending on health-related costs not covered by provincial health-care plans.

Because they live longer, women should expect to pay a lot more in their retirement years for long-term care, home care and other costs like dental care and drugs not covered by provincial programs. “Women are the most vulnerable group,” said Ms. Hidas, HOOPP’s senior manager of strategic research. “They live longer, and they mostly live by themselves.”

The study by HOOPP was commissioned to look into the effect that health-care costs have on retirement income. To summarize concisely, the impact is huge. People who start retirement in good shape financially might find themselves with insufficient income if they need long-term care later on.

Everyone should think more about paying for health care in retirement, but especially women. Whether married or single, they need to plan for the likelihood that they will spend more of their lives than men at a stage where out-of-pocket health-care expenses are a big issue.

HOOPP’s research team looked both at household spending patterns and at existing academic research on retirement security and health spending in Canada. One of the findings is that health-related spending as a percentage of income has been rising steadily since the late 1990s and, in the years after age 65, becomes a bigger expenditure on average than anything else. Health-care costs may be modest or even nothing at first, but they can gradually ramp higher through expenses like living in a long-term care home or receiving home care.

The HOOPP study takes these findings and applies them to the question of whether retirees will have enough income to cover their needs. One key trend noted in the study is that both men and women tend to be in good shape in early retirement. It’s in the 80 to 85 age range that financial stress starts to build, particularly for women. “Even at 75, health care isn’t a critical cost compared to 85,” Ms. Hidas said.

The cost of long-term care in particular tells the story. HOOPP’s research found that government-run nursing homes can cost $25,000 to $40,000 a year, while private assisted-living facilities might run $40,000 to $100,000 and home care plus related expenses like nursing could cost $35,000 annually.

At age 85, 26.5 per cent of the men who don’t require long-term care have incomes that HOOPP considered to be inadequate (less than 50 per cent of working-age salary). For those requiring long-term care, the portion of men with inadequate incomes rises to 34.7 per cent. One-quarter of women have inadequate incomes before long-term care, and 44 per cent are in that position after they incur this expense.

The study also found that women are much more likely to live in nursing homes and seniors’ residences than men. At 85 and older, 14.1 per cent of women and 8.6 per cent of men live in a nursing home, while 17.1 per cent of women and 9.8 per cent of men live in a seniors’ residence. HOOPP’s Ms. Hidas said older men have a better chance of receiving care from a spouse than older women and thus don’t need institutional care as much. Women in retirement, often living alone, have no such support.

HOOPP’s study refers to a 2016 Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association survey that indicates nearly 75 per cent of people have made no accounting for long-term care costs in their retirement planning. Governments need to worry about this because people strapped for money may neglect their medical needs and put a greater burden on the public health care system. Future retirees also need to consider how they’ll afford health care costs, notably women.

National Housing Day 2016

Hi Iris,

I just wanted to say thank you for endorsing and supporting the march!  Overall, it was a successful march with approximately 500 people on the streets calling for Canada’s upcoming national housing strategy to recognize housing as a human right.

We also got some media coverage, including through the Toronto Star and CityTV.  We have a lot of photos from that day, some of which have been posted here, along with a link to the Star article: https://righttohousing.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/961/


H. Luu

Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator

Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO)

Phone: 416.597.5855  x5243

Email: luuhe2@lao.on.ca

1500 – 55 University Avenue

Toronto  M5J 2H7

Older adults who volunteer are happier & healthier

Systematic review of 73 published studies yields promising evidence and a call for new research to investigate if volunteering does reduce dementia risk

Toronto, Canada – Older adults who stay active by volunteering are getting more out of it than just an altruistic feeling – they are receiving a health boost!

A new study, led by the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences and published online this week in Psychological Bulletin, is the first to take a broad-brush look at all the available peer-reviewed evidence regarding the psychosocial health benefits of formal volunteering for older adults.

Senior Couple Working As Part Of Volunteer Group Lead investigator Dr. Nicole Anderson, together with scientists from Canadian and American academic centres, examined 73 studies published over the last 45 years involving adults aged 50-plus who were in formal volunteering roles.

To be included in the review, studies had to measure psychosocial, physical and/or cognitive outcomes associated with formal volunteering – such as happiness, physical health, depression, cognitive functioning, feelings of social support and life satisfaction.

“Our goal was to obtain a more comprehensive view of the current state of knowledge on the benefits of volunteering among older adults,” said Dr. Anderson, a senior scientist with Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute and associate professor, University of Toronto. “We discovered a number of trends in the results that paint a compelling picture of volunteering as an important lifestyle component for maintaining health and well being in later years.”

Key findings:

* Volunteering is associated with reductions in symptoms of depression, better overall health, fewer functional limitations, and greater longevity.

* Health benefits may depend on a moderate level of volunteering. There appears to be a tipping point after which greater benefits no longer accrue. The “sweet spot” appears to be at about 100 annual hours, or 2-3 hours per week.

* More vulnerable seniors (i.e. those with chronic health conditions) may benefit the most from volunteering.

* Feeling appreciated or needed as a volunteer appears to amplify the relationship between volunteering and psychosocial wellbeing.

“Taken together, these results suggest that volunteering is associated with health improvements and increased physical activity – changes that one would expect to offer protection against a variety of health conditions,” said Dr. Anderson. Indeed, a moderate amount of volunteering has been shown to be related to less hypertension and fewer hip fractures among seniors who volunteer compared to their matched non-volunteering peers.

One troubling finding for the research team was that “very few studies” have examined the benefits of volunteering on cognitive functioning in older adults. The report noted that “not a single study” has examined the association between volunteering and risk of dementia, or the association between volunteering and a host of other health conditions that put seniors at higher risk for dementia, such as diabetes and stroke.

With dementia prevalence projected to double over 20 years, from over 30 million people worldwide today to more than 65 million people in 2030 (Alzheimer’s Disease International and World Health Organization, 2012), Dr. Anderson called it a “startling omission” that the field of neuroscience research has yet to investigate the capacity of volunteering to mitigate dementia risk or delay onset.

“We encourage investigators to include more objective measures of cognitive functioning in future studies. Particularly interesting would be the inclusion of a more comprehensive battery of neuropsychological tests, so that the association of volunteering with the risks of various forms of dementia and its precursor, mild cognitive impairment, could be ascertained,” the report concluded.

The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Dr. Anderson and her international research team, along with 33 older adult volunteers, comprise the “BRAVO” team (Baycrest Research About Volunteering in Older Adults). BRAVO has a second study in preparation for publication in the next few years that examines the psychosocial, physical and cognitive benefits associated with post-retirement volunteering. The team has been studying a group of adult volunteers, aged 50-plus, at Baycrest over the past five years.

Must love dogs (and cats)!

by Beth Komito-Gottlieb, Baba Yaga Place Interim Chair

At this time of year many of us take stock.  We may look back and reflect on our accomplishments and disappointments of the past year.  Some compose a newsletter, sharing with loved ones the highlights of the last twelve months. Since those who have been working toward the Baba Yaga Place (BYP) goal have become a family of sorts, it seems fitting that I send out a New Year missive to all of those in the Baba Yaga “family”!
Since our spring newsletter, the Steering Committee has continued to “talk-up” the Baba Yaga vision. The process has included conversations with various city councilors and the developers who have a proposal on the table for revisioning the corner of the city where Honest Ed’s now sits. It’s too soon to say whether or not the future home of Baba Yaga Place will ultimately be part of Mirvish Village, but we are certainly becoming known in the circles that matter, and our vision is picking up steam.  Sooner or later, BYP WILL become a reality.  We just don’t know yet precisely where it will be, or how long it will be, before we can pack our bags and move in!
The reality is that as we work toward this goal, time does not stand still and we ain’t getting any younger! There are things happening NOW in our lives, and for some, the issue of affordable housing is already a pressing issue.  I myself am about to sell my little townhouse and hope to find a rental with lower carrying costs.  I am quite certain that BYP will be a reality in the not-too distant future but I am committed to reducing my expenses in the interim. Recently I was expressing to another Steering Committee member my desire to share some kind of accommodation with others while our work toward the BYP goal continues. She pointed out that there are probably many others on our contact list with similar thoughts.  “That list is now over 150 people strong, so why not put it out there to everyone on the list,” she asked?  Well, “duh”!
That got me thinking. Why not host a kind of open house to share what our various housing needs might be in the next 3 months to 3 years?  Anyone wishing for an interim living situation while we continue to work toward the permanent home for Baba Yaga Place, could meet, explore, and brain storm with others who are thinking along similar lines.  Here’s how I think we might start the ball rolling. Before we work out the logistics of when and where, let’s determine how many of us would be interested in a get-together of this kind.  If you are interested in, sharing some sort of space, whether it be for financial or social reasons, use the “contact us” link on the website ( www.babayagaplace.ca) to send me your name and up-to-date contact info,  ( including phone number and email address).  I will get back to all who are in touch to figure out date and venue.
This does not change our ultimate goal for Baba Yaga Place, but since BYP is to be built upon principles of sustainability and a commitment to supporting each other as we age, there is no time like the present to start “walking the walk”! Perhaps this process will end up with a few mini Baba Yaga homes.  Who knows? It might be the precursor to establishing some larger bulk buying of household staples and sharing of other resources! While we believe that Baba Yaga Place will become a reality, we all know it will take some years until we walk through those doors, and in the here and now, many of us want to explore options that could — right now — reduce isolation, ease costs, etc.
The title of this piece, “Must Love Dogs (and Cats)” is my tongue-in-cheek take off on a film a few years back that poked a bit of fun at matchmaking on internet dating sites.  I myself have pets so I know that if I am to share space, any potential housemates for me would also need to love animals.  You may want to share space only with other “neat freaks” or people who want to live in a high rise building with an on-site gym.  Tell me a bit about what yourself and what you might be looking for in a home-sharing situation.  I’ll figure out a format for us to zoom in on others with similar needs, depending upon how many people respond.  Please contact me by January 30th and I will be in touch after that.

To all of my Baba Yaga friends, whether you are hoping to make a change soon, or will be sitting tight until Baba Yaga Place has a permanent home, I want to wish you a healthy and happy 2016!


Response from Borys Wrzesnewskyj, Liberal, Etobicoke


On behalf of the Borys Wrzesnewskyj campaign, thank you for your email and for writing to the campaign regarding affordable housing.

Liberals believe that every Canadian has the right to safe and affordable housing, of which Canada is facing a critical shortage, and we are committed to building an accessible and inclusive society for all Canadians.

Canadians with disabilities continue to face significantly higher rates of poverty and unemployment and unequal access to goods and services, including government services. We believe the federal government must work in concert with provinces and territories, as well as with Canadians with disabilities and their advocates, to build a truly equal society without barriers to participation.

The Liberal Party has a strong record of supporting Canadians with disabilities. It was a Liberal government that invested in employment and income supports for disabled Canadians, broadened eligibility for the Disability Tax Credit, and expanded the list of disability supports allowable under the Disability Supports Deduction. The Conservative government has paid lip service to the needs of Canadians with disabilities, claiming publicly to be acting yet failing to meet major pledges. Four years after ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Conservatives have yet to implement it.

The Liberal Party of Canada pledges to fully implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and take substantive action to address the barriers faced by Canadians with disabilities.

Far too many Canadians are being priced out of home ownership, placing pressure on already crowded rental markets and on crumbling affordable housing units. One in four Canadian households is paying more than they can afford for housing, and one in eight cannot find affordable housing that is safe, suitable, and well-maintained. Yet, Harper’s Conservatives have made the situation worse by failing to renew rent-geared income subsidies for co-operative housing and other social housing projects that make affordable housing more accessible.

Liberals have a better plan. We will make direct investments in affordable housing, put incentives in place to expand affordable rental housing, and increase flexibility for new home buyers. Our plan will make housing more affordable for those who need it most – seniors, persons with disabilities, lower-income families, and Canadians working hard to join the middle class.

A Liberal government will prioritize investment in affordable housing and seniors’ facilities as part of a historic ten-year investment of nearly $20 billion in social infrastructure. This will build new units, refurbish existing ones, renew co-operative agreements, and provide funding for municipalities.

We will provide $125 million per year in tax incentives to increase – and substantially renovate – the supply of rental housing across Canada, as well as finance the construction of new affordable rental housing for middle- and lower-income Canadians.

Finally, we will modernize the existing Home Buyers’ Plan so that it helps more Canadians finance the purchase of a home, and review the escalating home prices in high-priced markets – like Vancouver and Toronto – to keep home ownership within reach of Canadians living in these areas.

Safe, adequate, and affordable housing is essential to building strong families, strong communities, and a strong economy. Instead of ignoring these needs, Liberals will make it easier for Canadians to find an affordable place to call home. That’s real change.

Thank you again for contacting us.

Kind regards,
Eric Pegolo, Campaign Manager

Response from John McKay, Liberal, Scarborough

Thank you for your letter regarding the Liberal Party’s plan for seniors housing. Far too many seniors in Ontario and across the country are without safe, adequate and affordable housing. A federal Liberal government will work with the provinces and municipalities to address the issue of affordable housing for seniors.

The Liberal Party of Canada is committed to prioritizing affordable housing and seniors’ facilities as part of a 10-year, $20-billion investment in social infrastructure. I’ve included a backgrounder on our plan for your information, as well as a copy of the complete Liberal platform.

The Liberal Party will also work to provide Canadians with a more secure retirement. This includes lowering the age of eligibility for OAS and GIS to 65; increasing GIS for single, low income seniors by 10 percent; creating a Seniors Price Index to assess increases in the cost of living for seniors; and working with the provinces and territories to strengthen the Canada Pension Plan.

These measures will help improve the quality of life for seniors. When it comes specifically to seniors’ care, a Liberal government will reform the Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefit so that those caring for seriously ill family members can receive up to six months of benefits. We’re also committed to investing $3 billion over the next four years into improving homecare for those who need it.

Thank you for contacting me, and for your own work on seniors issues. I hope that I can count on your support on election day.


Inline images 3
John McKay
Liberal candidate for Scarborough-Guildwood

Twitter: @JohnMcKayLib
Facebook: honjohnmckaymp