Reflections from an older resident.




Keep a childlike curiosity in search of life’s miraculous delight.



I celebrated my 85th birthday on December 28, 2022, with a sense of fulfillment and gratitude. What I can truly take pride in—and often receive compliments from others about—is graceful aging. Despite outward signs and symptoms of age, I feel I have not changed much since I was young. I’m still the same old me, a wild-eyed dreamer-idealist.

Anaïs Nin said: “Writers do not live one life, they live two. There is the living and then there is the writing. There is the second tasting, the delayed reaction.” With this in mind, after I retired at age 68 from working in cardiovascular research at the University of Alberta, I pursued my youthful dream of becoming a writer.

I studied acupuncture, philosophy, politics, gender studies, literature, and art history; and after a decade, I published my first book, Finding Meaning and Beauty in an Idiotic World, in 2019. Then I collaborated with my brother William to publish our dad’s biography, A Fantastic Life of Tung-Lan (Symonds) Chang, in 2021. Based on the “use it or lose it” theory, these mental gymnastics should help me stave off Alzheimer’s disease.

Physical activity is a big part of my life. As I resolved to stop driving after a car accident more than 10 years ago, I cycle a great deal. After I moved to Courtenay in 2020, my daughter got me an electric bike to make riding less strenuous and more enjoyable. I joined the Evergreen Cycling Club and toured around the Comox Valley, Hornby Island, Quadra Island, etc., to enjoy the beauty of our surrounding areas.

I play tennis and table tennis regularly. With tennis, I enjoy hitting the balls back and forth with my partners. With my table tennis group, however, I used to play games after a period of rallying the balls. While the group’s attitude is, “Keep the spirit of competition alive for those of us who desire such a thing,” I’m no longer interested in competition, and recently decided I will only play for fun.
Since I was fully vaccinated for COVID-19, I boldly took two trips with my friend Jenny last year. We toured Canada’s east coast in August, and in November we felt safe enough to travel to Taiwan after its mandatory hotel quarantine was lifted. I visited my high school, where my dad was a teacher, and donated his manuscripts and photos to the school for the celebration of its centennial.

One’s social health is paramount at any age. Retirement may inadvertently bring about social isolation in seniors as their social networks are altered, their friends and family move or pass away, and their mental and physical limitations increase. To expand my community connections, I’ve started volunteering at the Comox Valley Senior Support, where I provide emotional support with weekly home visits and offer help in writing autobiographies.

I’m also on the board Quality of Life and Ethics committees at Glacier View Lodge, a well-run long-term care institution. And I’ve joined a book club, a philosophy group, and a group that reads about and discusses various topics of interest.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about national and international issues, and how competition creates losers, who could lash out sooner or later. The brutal war in Ukraine, for instance, is a prime example of an avoidable war. Russia and the West could have agreed to resolve their geopolitical conflicts cooperatively and peacefully. With war, nobody wins and the whole world suffers.

This is why I advocate for a paradigm shift in everyday life—one that nurtures the spirit of cooperation, instead of competition, so everyone has the chance to achieve their dreams and age gracefully.

When memories exceed dreams, the end is near.
– Thomas Friedman