Meeting the Challenges of These Times

Many things have changed over the past few months, but one thing that has not changed is our association’s commitment to serve the needs of retired educators. In this issue of Connections we see how BCRTA Committees, Board and staff are adapting to the circumstances to deliver value to members.


The BCRTA Annual AGM is being held online. We will use technology to hold a Conference Day on October 2nd and the AGM on October 3rd, 2020.

The decision was shaped by these circumstances:

  • Meetings of over 50 people are not allowed
  • It would be impossible to physically distance in our hotel (just imagine the elevator!)
  • There are fewer flights available
  • There is a significant possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall which is also flu season.
  • Our membership is the most vulnerable to major consequences if we are exposed to COVID-19

Organizing the event will be a very different experience but we will stay close to the conference and AGM format that we have done in the past.

Branch presidents have been sent information on the number of delegates they may elect or appoint to represent their branch.

Branches will still have the same number of delegates eligible to vote, and we will meet all our obligations for reporting and good governance. Preparations are underway to provide delegates with a quality connection to the proceedings, including the ability to conduct secure voting on motions and elections.

The conference day promises to be informative, with presentations by Seniors Advocate Isobel McKenzie who will address the needs of seniors in these times. Also lined up are two UBC professors and thought leaders: Dr. Steve Young, an expert in public health policy, who will address the prospect of universal Pharmacare and related issues; and Dr. Roger Wong, an internationally-recognized geriatrician who is familiar to BCRTA members for his regular column in PostScript magazine.

Other important elements of our usual conference and AGM will continue, including the Membership awards presented to branches, reports and updates from committees and staff, and the PostScript Excellence Awards, recognizing the achievement in print of BCRTA members who contribute to our quarterly magazine.

For a number of years BCRTA has worked closely with the Vancouver Airport Hilton in Richmond. When it became apparent that no meeting would be possible under the current guidelines, it was gratifying to see the hotel waive any cancellation fees, and when restrictions are lifted we expect to return to that location in years following.

Our greatest regret is that the online experience will not provide the usual social interactions we enjoy in meeting new and old friends.

Delegates will receive more information on the AGM in the coming months. Connections Newsletter will provide full reporting on the proceedings in the fall.

Finance Update June 2020

June 30th is the fiscal year end for the BCRTA. The Finance Committee presented a draft budget for recommendation to the AGM. The draft budget will be printed in the Summary of reports and mailed to all members in early September.

The Committee sent out a request for proposal for auditing firms to conduct the annual audit for a 3-year contract starting at fiscal year end 2021. Three Audit firms were selected to be interviewed and the recommended firm will be presented as a motion to the AGM.

Grace Wilson
1st VP and Treasurer

Golden Star Award 2020 Winners Announced

The Excellence in Public Education Committee is pleased to announce the recipients of this year’s Golden Star Awards. School closures mid–March affected the number of applications we received but quality made up for quantity.

Congratulations to Tilia Prior and Marion Collins, teachers at Tecumseh Elementary School in Vancouver and Genny Redman, teacher at Thetis Island Elementary School on Thetis Island.

These teachers led intergenerational programs that exemplify the rich interactions and outcomes that can occur when students and seniors interact. When circumstances permit, the Committee looks forward to presentation events at Tecumseh and Thetis Island. Kudos to all involved!

2020 marks the eleventh year of the Golden Star Awards. Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19 restrictions, BCRTA staff members Laurie, Kristi and Tim have provided the support the Committee needed to implement this year’s Golden Star Award program. Additionally, members can now access the Golden Star Award archive of past winners from 2010 to 2019.

Pre-retirement Workshops Online

The restrictions on travel and gathering has changed the way BCRTA is reaching out to educators thinking about retirement. For a number of years, the BCRTA Pensions and Benefits Committee has been providing pre-retirement workshops around the province. Last year, over 1,000 active teachers attended seminars led by a small group of experts. It was an outreach program that required a significant investment of time and resources.

With travel and meeting restrictions, BCRTA staff and the workshop team are now giving the presentation online. The new format debuted in May, with a pair of workshop Pro-D sessions held for Surrey Teachers. These two sessions reached nearly 300 people.

Two more sessions were held on June 4 and June 11. Over 200 teachers signed up for those sessions, using an online portal on the BCRTA Workshop website that allows active teachers to sign up for access to resources and news updates.

A number of active teachers who attended the session took the plunge to BCRTA membership immediately, giving them immediate access to Advantage Partner benefits.

A Suite of Resources

Stepping into retirement can feel like a step into the unknown. The Pre-Retirement Workshop helps educators contemplating retirement with an overview of the facts they need to confidently step into this new phase of life.

Registrants have access to:

  • BCRTA’s Retirement Guide
  • Income and Expense Worksheets
  • A Retirement Checklist
  • Latest Information on EHC rates
  • Comparisons of EHC plans
  • Information about BCRTA benefits

High Participant Satisfaction

Attendees have been overwhelmingly positive about the workshop. A whopping 95% would recommend the workshop to a friend.

Thinking of Retirement? Register Today

Future workshop dates are being developed. Educators can register for a future workshop at

Pensions and Benefits Committee

Recipe for Eye Health

Hypertension and Your Eyes

Hypertension is a medical condition where the blood pressure in the arteries is abnormally elevated. It can, if left untreated, become a major risk factor to your overall health. Hypertension can also affect your eyes and sight. High blood pressure, as it is often referred to, can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina, affecting the back of the eye where an image is focused. This disease is called hypertensive retinopathy.

Unfortunately, signs of hypertensive retinopathy only manifest themselves late in the disease. Some symptoms include double or cloudy vision, headaches and if very advanced, loss of vision. Did you know that your optometrist may be able to detect hypertension through an eye exam? If your eyes are showing early signs of the disease, your optometrist will be able to refer you to a health professional for diagnosis.

If you have recently been diagnosed with hypertension, it is crucial that you visit your optometrist and advise them of your condition. Your eye doctor will then be able to provide the best care for your eyes. It will also be important to visit your optometrist yearly in order to monitor any changes to your eyes.

Genetic factors do play a role in your risk for this disease and luckily there are medications available to stabilize your blood pressure, but there are also some lifestyle changes that you can follow in order to reduce these risks altogether. Here are a few tips:

1. Exercise regularly
2. Quit smoking
3. Limit your alcohol intake
4. Reduce your stress level
5. Eat a healthy diet.

To help you reduce your risks of hypertension, we recommend a diet filled with fruits and veggies as well as proteins such as salmon and chicken. It is important to significantly reduce the amount of salt and fat in your diet and to eliminate your intake of processed foods. Here are a few recipes that are not only delicious but healthy for your eyes and your overall health:

Lemony bean salad
Arugula salad with goat cheese and fresh berries
Raspberry salmon
Fresh spring rolls

BC Retired Teachers message of support for active teachers

Message of Support for Active Teachers During the Pandemic

A special message of support to active school staff from Gerry Tiede, President of the BC Retired Teacher’s Association:

Dear Teachers, Administrators and Support Staff across British Columbia,

On April 22, the Executive of the BC Retired Teachers’ Association took time to reflect on the unprecedented circumstances faced by our friends and active colleagues in the school system.

I am writing on behalf of our 17,000 members to express our concern for your well-being and to express our confidence in all of you. We know that however challenging it is to work with students in the new ways that the COVID-19 pandemic demands, that you bring the characteristics always shown by teachers, support staff and school and district administrators. When faced with challenges great or small, you have always stepped forward to meet the needs of students through creative problem-solving and good-will. Your students know it now more than ever, and so do we.

We are so very proud to be part of the same history and fraternity as you. Although we are required to be physically separated right now, we want you to know that we are cheering you on from the sidelines!

We wish you good health. Your work is appreciated by your retired colleagues.

Thank you and stay well,

Gerry Tiede
BC Retired Teachers’ Association

Dr. Roger Wong on Staying Safe for Retirees and Their Families

During the COVID-19 pandemic, media across North America have been turning to PostScript Magazine columnist Dr. Roger Wong for expert advice on how seniors can get through this health crisis. In addition to his recent editorial in The Globe and Mail, Dr. Wong has been interviewed by numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, Britain’s Daily Mail, National Post,  Global News, CTV News and CBC. This article is adapted from a conversation Dr. Wong had with CBC’s Mike Killeen. 

What special protection steps should we take for seniors?

First of all, we need to understand that seniors are more at risk and vulnerable for developing infections, including COVID-19. In part that’s because immune system function in seniors may not be working as well, and there are many seniors who live with long-standing health conditions.

Those with diabetes, heart disease and lung disease, for example, are predisposed to getting more infections including COVID-19. So it is important to remember what we can do to protect seniors.

Here are five tips on what we can do.

The first tip is to remember is good hygiene, washing your hands and keeping very good personal hygiene. That is true for everybody, particularly for seniors.

A second tip is for all of us who want to visit our seniors to do so virtually, rather than in person during the outbreak.

A third tip is to make sure seniors have adequate access to food and to medications.

The fourth tip is to make sure that physical distancing is practiced. For instance, buy groceries first thing in the morning rather than during a busy period. And when picking up medications, call in first or have someone pick them up. There are a good number of supermarkets and pharmacies with dedicated times for seniors, which is excellent.

The fifth tip is to remember that physical distancing does not mean social isolation, because we know that loneliness and social isolation can have negative impacts on seniors’ health. So while we are practicing physical distancing to protect seniors, we must also be regularly interacting with them, through computer technology, social media, or if they prefer, by telephone.

Many seniors use technology, but some don’t.

A simple phone call can be very helpful for seniors who do not have access to apps and devices. The pandemic situation right now is unprecedented. That simple outreach becomes especially important for seniors who live with dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, because they may not understand what is going on. For them, we have to keep our message very simple. We may need to repeat it by saying, “we love you very much, this is a very different time now, we are protecting you, you are in a safe place, and we will be talking over the telephone more often.”

For those on social media, it is a good time to electronically share photo albums, you can go over virtually the old photos together, which is good social engagement.

How about a short visit from the grandchildren, if we are all healthy? We really miss them.

That’s an excellent question. We need to remember that seniors can get COVID-19 through one of two ways.

The first way involve seniors who are mobile, they may get the infection when they are out in public places, such as on public transportation, and when they come into contact with the virus.

But the second way seniors can get infection is through other people transmitting the infection to them. And oftentimes, people who are spreading the virus may not have symptoms. Now that we have this extended time when children are out of school, many seniors, understandably, would like to contribute to the family by caring for the children. But I would advise against doing this unless the senior has already been a part of your household. I would advise to use technology to keep the generations connected. Have a Skype call from one household to another.

Here’s another question. I’m in my late 60s, should I avoid going out to the grocery store and the pharmacy?

Well these are basic needs. My advice to older adults is to try to go during off-peak hours, such as first thing in the morning, A number of pharmacies and supermarkets have dedicated their early morning operating hour for seniors and those who are vulnerable to developing the infection. I really think this should be applauded.

How can I care for a senior spouse with COVID-19 at home and at the same time protect myself?

This is a difficult situation and there are two aspects to this. First is the physical aspect of providing care and then secondly the psychological or mental health aspect.

Let me start with the challenges from the physical point of view. It is important to remember that for care providers to someone who has COVID-19, that they must first of all protect themselves, because otherwise, if they also fall sick, then the situation could get much worse. So that means wearing personal protective equipment, meticulous hand washing and personal hygiene, and also having some form of physical isolation even within the same household. For example, use a different room for the person that has COVID-19 and then the caregiving spouse stays in a different room.

During mealtimes, avoid eating at the same table. This is also difficult because mealtime is the time for socialization, but as I mentioned before, use technology or virtual means whenever possible.
There’s a lot of psychological stress going on right now—it’s a very difficult time but particularly when your spouse gets sick, you feel the double burden of providing care and concern about the outcome of their disease. You may even feel guilty and say to yourself, “why is it that I am feeling well and my spouse is not?”

This is a stressful situation and it is really important to talk to someone. Talk to your family, neighbours, or anyone who can offer emotional support and practical help.

In BC we also have the 211 telephone line which offers expanded support during COVID-19. This is a fantastic resource to provide connections to seniors who are in need of support during the outbreak. People on the 211 line can talk to your about both physical and mental health needs. As well, many of my medical students at UBC’s Faculty of Medicine are working on initiatives to support those seniors affected who may not have access to food or medication delivery.

What about seniors’ residences where up to 50 people are eating together, four to a table?

We need to remember that seniors who are residing in care homes or long-term care, are our most vulnerable to developing COVID-19. They may have difficulty walking, and some of them may live with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Knowing the level of care residents in care homes need is really important. Everyone who provides care to these residents must wear personal protective equipment and practice meticulous hand and personal hygiene. That includes protection of residents who are ill with COVID-19 so that there’s no cross infection. A lot of times we need to remember that keeping the physical distance within care homes may not be easy. It really depends on the physical layout of the homes.

We want to guard against social isolation as well. Remember physical distancing does not mean social isolation. We should use technology to virtually connect with seniors in care homes – this is the compassionate thing to do.

We are vulnerable and immune compromised. Sometimes we walk our dog. Is it safe to walk our dog?

First, I would say that physical distancing basically means maintaining a minimum distance of two metres or six feet between any two people, in order to protect ourselves from getting COVID-19.
This also means that we stay home as much as possible and try to minimize the amount of time we spend outside of home. It is fine for us to modify our exercise or walking routine with our pets while keeping the physical distance from others while outdoors. I would suggest going during off hours when there are not too many other walkers around. Go as one or two people at a time, always keeping that physical distance of two metres apart.

I have a loved one with a heart condition and diabetes, how long should I stay away from them during this time?

Seniors who are immunosuppressed, meaning their immune system not working as well, are more at risk for developing COVID-19. We therefore need to protect them for as long as COVID-19 is prevalent in the community. So I would recommend exercising caution and protection for some time to come.

Should senior caregivers and individuals be wearing protective gear?

In your own home, there is no reason to be wearing personal protective equipment, except when providing health care to someone with COVID-19. In British Columbia, all health care providers must wear personal protective equipment during all direct patient care encounters. This requirement also applies to workers in care homes.

Is it safe for seniors to order food from delivery services?

For many seniors, food delivery or grocery delivery or medication delivery is an important help during this time when people are trying to maintain a physical distance.
Delivery service is reasonably safe, especially when it is contactless (for example, leaving the product at the front door), and provided that the moment after you have taken in the product delivered, make sure to immediately wash your hands.

Dr. Roger Wong, thanks so much for your time this afternoon. We really appreciate it.

Thank you very much.


More links from Dr. Roger Wong on the COVID-19 crisis and seniors:

Dr. Roger Wong is Executive Associate Dean (Education) in the Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, a geriatrics specialist doctor, clinical professor of geriatric medicine, the 13th President of the Canadian Geriatrics Society, and a TEDx speaker. He tweets at @RogerWong10.

The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Quarantine Questions – an Update from BCRTA President Gerry Tiede

April 2020

COVID 19 has brought change to all our lives. As seniors, we are in the most vulnerable group and will need to avoid direct contact with other people for some time. I want you to know that BCRTA will continue to serve our members in the months ahead.

Here is some information for our members:

BCRTA Office

Our office continues to operate as usual with our BCRTA staff working remotely. Your phone calls are directed to our staff who are working their regular hours, have access to all our computer systems and are ready to help you. All BCRTA member services continue to be active, except of course we can’t accept visitors to our office.

BCRTA Meetings

All BCRTA meetings have been canceled or postponed indefinitely. That includes our Board meetings, committee meetings, zone meetings and pension education workshops. We have also encouraged our branches to cancel all their meetings.

Our Board and Branch Executives have responsibilities that are laid out in our Bylaws and policies. During this time we will focus on the most important ones and deal with them through email or on-line meetings. We accept that some decisions may be delayed as our leaders make choices that are in the best interest of our members.  For example, your branch may ordinarily hold an Annual General Meeting in May which will need to be rescheduled for some time in the fall. Your branch leaders will keep you posted on what they are doing.

When the ‘physical distancing’ orders are removed across BC we will all make decisions to get BCRTA business meetings back on schedule.

Teachers’ Pension Plan

With the hit to the economy of the world, the health of our pension plan is on our minds. Certainly there will be short-term losses in some of our investments, but we need to remember that our plan began this year in a surplus position with significant reserves. Our investments have benefited from 11 straight years of good returns and a downturn of some type was expected. The TPP’s investment managers were able to diversify to other types of investments to reduce the effect of losses in the stock markets.

Also, our pension is a defined benefit plan.  That means that our pension is not dependant on the day-to-day performance of the investment market.

Updated information is available at

One note about service levels at the TPP: Many of the Pension Corporation staff are currently working remotely. While everything is in place to handle any pension business or questions, you may experience some minor delays in getting a response.

Here is the most important thing: Our pension payments are secure and will continue to be deposited into our bank accounts right on time.

We are also fortunate to live in a stable and prosperous Canada, so our OAS and CPP payments are also secure.

Johnson Insurance

We have been in regular contact with our Johnson Insurance partners. They, too, have closed their office to visitors but continue to provide services.  Johnson has worked to help our traveling members return to Canada; their insurance coverage continues for those who have been unable to return to Canada.  Johnson has devoted their staff time to reimbursing our members for their trip interruption and trip cancellation claims. We expect that the cost of all these travel claims will likely dwarf the normal medical costs that they pay this year.

The events of these past weeks emphasize the value of our insurance plans to our members.  The reason we have travel insurance is not only for protection from the cost of individual accidents and sickness but also from the costs of disasters or pandemics like the one we are currently experiencing.

The traveling behavior of all Canadians has changed and that will likely continue for awhile. I would encourage you to take some time before making decisions about your own future travel and insurance needs. Our insurance policies with Johnson are all one-year contracts which end on September 30th each year.  BCRTA will continue to work with Johnson insurance to be sure our plans meet our members’ needs.

It is also important to remember that when Johnson advises us that certain travel costs will not be covered by insurance during this time it is not because they have changed their policies. What has happened is that world events have activated conditions in the insurance contracts, such as limits on coverage for travel to a location that is covered by a government of Canada advisory. What is unique about this situation is that it is not one or two locations that are the advisory “hotspots” but the entire world.

BCRTA will continue to work for the best interests of our members when it comes to securing both EHC and travel insurance coverage and understanding the coverage available.

For current updates from Johnson visit

COVID 19 Scams

The COVID 19 disaster has brought out the best is most people, but it has also brought out the worst in others. There are a lot of scams in play as those without a conscience try to take advantage of our curiosity and anxiety. Be sure you access reputable sources for information – BC Center for Disease Control or Canada Health Services

Do not open unsolicited emails about COVID 19 and above all, do not open attachments or links in those emails.  To do so invites another kind of virus into your computer which may steal your personal and credit card information.  See the Canadian Anti-fraud Center –

The Little Black Book of Scams provides general information about protecting yourself and is available from the Competition Bureau of Canada.$file/CB-lBBS2-EN.pdf

Physical Distancing – not Social Distancing!

Now is a good time for us all to pick up the phone or message a friend, neighbour or family member.  It’s a bit lonely for some of us to stay physically isolated for such a long time but we need to make that extra effort to keep up our social connections!

We Can All Do Something

We know from our recent survey that BCRTA members provide over $50 million worth of unpaid volunteer efforts to their communities each year. It is part of who we are. We want to help, to contribute, to work for a better world. Right now it may feel that all that goodwill is being bottled up at home. How frustrating!

But even if we can’t get out and about like we want to, there is one activity that is guaranteed to do good: Reach out! Pick up the phone and reach out to your isolated neighbours. Send a note by email to someone you know who is working hard at a medical facility or serving in a grocery store. Chat with the sibling that you meant to call but could never find the time. Play Scrabble online with your grandchildren.

If You Need Help

The Office of the Seniors’ Advocate has a phone line and a website to provide personal supports for seniors.  Call 211 or to access their services.

And Finally: Getting stir crazy?

Here is a list of things you can do:

·  Email and video calls to family and friends

·  Volunteering in the community – community kitchen; meals on wheels, etc.

·  Getting outside each day for a walk

·  Going through closets to put together give-away items

·  Reviewing photo albums, rearranging, re-organizing and reminding of better times

·  Puzzles, board games, crokinole,

·  Shredding documents that are no longer needed

·  Netflix, Crave, Apple TV – binge watching

·  Cooking – creating and trying new recipes

·  Home improvement projects

·  Reading

·  Eldercare

·  Spring Cleaning

·  Listening to music

·  Yoga

·  Dance – Line Dance, “Dancing as no one is watching” – because no one is!

·  U Tube videos

·  Write, draw, paint, photography

·  Play an instrument, sing, dance, act

·  Take a shower or a bath

·  Go for a drive

·  Watch cute kitten videos on YouTube

·  Play a game

·  Write a note to someone you care about

·  Care for or play with a pet

·  Make a list of inspirational quotes

·  Make a gratitude list

·  Write a list of goals

·  Take a class or webinar

·  Write a list of strengths

·  Exercise

·  Laugh at least once per day

·  Get enough sleep

·  Eat healthy foods

·  Create a good routine

·  Eat a little chocolate

·  Limit caffeine

·  Practice deep/slow breathing

·  Pray or meditate

·  Enjoy nature via video, movies or magazines

·  Prioritize important tasks


Intercom Security for Seniors

If you are living in an assisted living unit or an apartment – DO NOT open the main door to the building via intercom unless you recognize and know who you are letting in. If someone claims to have been locked out or they can’t raise the person they want; ask them to contact the building manager. Do not be fooled by a “sob-story” or “pretend emergency.”

Never tell anyone over the phone or who may knock at your door that you live alone.

Avoid using your first name in telephone directories or in lobbies. Just use your initial and last name.

Well-being Committee

Finance News Feb 2020

The Finance Committee has taken steps to ensure the security of the Association, our directors and members. We rounded out our general liability insurance by adding coverage for contents and crime. This insurance protects us against loss of office equipment and cash. Following the advice of two different insurance providers the BCRTA increased liability coverage for directors and officers from $2M to $3M. Additional information about this coverage will be provided to directors and branch executives.

The interest from two maturing GICs will be moved to the BCRTA operating fund and the principal amounts will be reinvested.

New computers and office software are in place and the transition to new financial systems is well underway. The completion of this upgrade will give us better tracking and reporting and aid the board of directors in long-range planning.

Our present auditors will have completed six years of service at the 2020 AGM and there are ongoing changes to our new financial systems taking place in this fiscal year. With the completion of the contract with our present audit firm, the Finance Committee has taken the opportunity to work with BCRTA staff to develop a formal request for proposal (RFP) for auditing services. This RFP has been circulated to a number of accounting firms who provide auditing services to non-profit organizations. The finance committee will review proposals and the recommendation of an auditor will be made at our October AGM.

Grace Wilson
1st VP and Treasurer