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V9N11 - Mar. 29 - Apr. 18, 2011:


Spotlight feature:
Owen Clark:
"Staying Tuned"
Winnipeg, Manitoba

By Christie Donaldson

Owen Clark - long-time jazz musician, composer/arranger, historian, author, radio announcer...

The year was 1956. The place was Tec Voc High School. This was when and where Owen Clark, now a highly accomplished Winnipeg musician, had his first taste of being on stage. It all happened “quite by accident” as Owen recalls, when the original drummer for the school’s production didn’t show up. “I was attending Tec Voc , and a couple of guys that I knew quite well were in Army Cadets and were both drummers... and they were supposed to play a bass drum/snare drum routine behind a baton twirler named Diane Biggar, and when the time came, the snare drummer didn’t show up! The bass drummer, who was also a snare drummer, jumped over on snare drum and said “Here! Play bass drum!” So I did, and we just did the act.”

And that initial gig left Owen saying to himself “Hmm, I need to do more of this!” And so he did.

About Owen

If the name Owen Clark is unfamiliar to you, here’s a little breakdown:

He’s a drummer, percussionist, vocalist, bass player, composer/arranger, historian, author, radio announcer and programmer. He’s earned a Bachelor of Music Education and a Licentiate Diploma in Performance (High Distinction in Percussion), as well as a Master’s of Science in Education (Major in Music). He currently performs with the Owen Clark Band, the Owen Clark Big Band, and the Owen Clark Jass Group, in addition to freelancing with numerous other bands, singers, and performing groups in the Winnipeg area. He was also the honoured recipient of Jazz Winnipeg’s 2009 Manitoba Jazz Musician of the Year Award.

Owen is also a husband and father of five.

The Early Years

Born in Winnipeg in 1938, Owen spent his first ten years in Saskatchewan before heading back to the River City, where just eight years later, he would begin his musical journey.

Besides his grandmother, who was a church organist, Owen was the first of his family to pop up into the music world.

The Bernie Shaw Trio at Chan’s Moon Room, 426 Main St., Winnipeg, 1960. L-R: Owen Clark, Bob “Moose” Jackson, and Bernie Shaw.

Orpheum Theater, 283 Fort St., Wpg., 1914.
Owen Clark Collection. Photo contributed by Sharon Scott, Photo ID: OC-SScott1. Photo courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Archives.

His parents encouraged him but were not musically inclined themselves. “Music was in the house, as it was when you were growing up in the 40’s and 50’s, because the radio was always on. And radio in the 40’s and 50’s was a little like CJNU.” (A station Owen is currently involved with as an announcer as well as head of the programming committee) “It was very eclectic. So you’d hear all kinds of stuff growing up! And it stays with you!”

And indeed it did.

Although his earliest musical memory was being part of a student choir and singing Christmas Carols, Owen’s actual decision to become a professional musician happened in the late 50’s when he was invited to join a country band. They were to head out on the road, so to take the gig, he’d have to quit his day job. Owen accepted the offer, and has been playing music ever since.

The Beat Goes On

When asked what his single biggest musical accomplishment has been, Owen had this to say:

CD recorded by The Owen Clark Jass Band. Call or email Owen if you’d like to purchase a copy. They are also available at McNally Robinson bookstores.
Owen Clark: Ph: 275-0894

“The fact that I’m 72 years old and I’m playing better than I ever was, I’m writing better than I ever was, so I guess for me, age has been a plus, and not a downside.”

And I’m sure friends and fans alike would agree that, like a bottle of fine wine, this multi-talented individual just keeps getting better with age!


Owen’s list of inspirations grew and changed over the years. Drummer Gene Krupa was his first and biggest influence. He later took lessons with a Winnipegger by the name of Eddie Sersen, who was the city’s Krupa according to Owen because “he kind of even looked a little bit like Gene, and certainly played like him, with the same kind of flash and excitement and speed!”

As Owen grew older, he became influenced by a different style of drummer- Jimmy Cobb with Miles Davis, Shelly Manne and his group, Louie Bellson, and Jo Jones with the Count Basie Big Band.

“That was probably it for influences early on, my influences changed a lot when I went to University because the University’s teaching was classical, not jazz, and I started to hear and understand a whole lot of music that I hadn’t spent much time with, which was classical and opera.”

Words of Wisdom

Aside from great influences and diverse musical exposure to aid in Owen’s success, when asked what his most valuable lesson learned was that would help him thrive in the music business, Owen replied “I guess it would be that musicians in general are hired to play music to please a client, and if you insist on playing music to please only yourself, you’re probably not going to work very much!”

Probably a good lesson in humility and keeping your feet on the ground, a charming quality to hold onto tightly amidst rising fame or notoriety.

Further to these wise words, I asked Owen what advice he would have for today’s aspiring musicians.

“That’s a very difficult one because the musical world that I grew up in no longer exists. We’re now in an age of electronic drums and computers and the way that music is sold and distributed now on the can put a piece of music up on You Tube and be around the world in 30 seconds or less! So I really can’t answer that; I can’t really give a young person now that kind of advice. They have to find their own way much the same as I did, I guess. And in some ways it’s easier because of the digital communication that we now have, and in some ways it’s harder because the competition is incredible; it’s world-wide competition now, not local like I grew up with.”

Current Projects

One of Owen’s latest projects was “Blues in Winnipeg Prior to 1960”- a presentation he recently did at Aqua Books, which took a look back at the history of Blues in Winnipeg before 1960. The project came about while Owen was creating shows for CJNU. While looking through the repertoire, he realized there was really no information about the Blues in Winnipeg until roughly the 60’s, and was curious as to what happened before that. So, he began compiling sample radio shows and thought “well, we’ve got all kinds of stuff here that includes Winnipeg musicians, so why not do a presentation on it and see how it flies! See how much interest there is!”

Discussing this project brought on some curiosity as to the details of Owen’s own role in the Winnipeg Blues scene. “I’ve played with Blues bands but I’ve never really focused on just playing Blues. However, if you play Jazz, which I’ve done all my life, then Blues is a big part of that.”

Owen’s newest and biggest project is “The Book of Vaudeville”- a movie being filmed by MTS Television Winnipeg on Demand and Far Point Films. Owen is Musical Director and his band will be featured in the film. In fact, the opening song of the film was written by Owen and titled, “Orpheum Cakewalk.” The initial conception of the movie came from a scrapbook which friend Gene Shelley had found and given to Owen, dating back to the 1920’s, all about the old Orpheum Theater in Winnipeg. This scrapbook also helped in his research for his book “Musical Ghosts”- a wonderful history of Manitoba’s Jazz and Dance Bands, published in 2008. Incidentally, the scrapbook is now at the City of Winnipeg Archives.

“The film company picked up on the scrapbook and decided that they could actually create a film out of it, and so at 7 pm on April 14th, we’re doing a free concert at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre. If anybody wants to attend they are quite welcome! We have 900 seats to fill and the only thing people have to realize is that we are shooting a movie, so you may get to see the same act or hear the same tune twice because we just decided to do a retake! But I do encourage everybody to come down!”

You can contact Owen for tickets by calling 275-0894, e-mailing him at, or find him on Facebook.

(Read more in the March 29 - April 18/2011 issue of Senior Scope)

Social Networking and Internet Safety:

While many Canadians enjoy the benefits of social networking, some are learning the pitfalls of failing to adequately protect their personal information. If you publish personal information online you’re potentially exposing yourself to a world wide audience and become vulnerable to Identity Theft. Complaints of social networking hacks and account takeovers are common but avoidable if you follow the security guidelines provided by your social network. Incorporating the following tips can ensure greater protection while on the Internet:

• Use strong passwords which are a minimum of 8 characters long and include capitals, numbers, and special characters. Avoid dictionary words, pet names, birthdays, phone numbers, maiden names, and addresses.

• Change your password every 2-3 months

• Adjust the privacy settings and restrict access on your social networking account

• Keep your operating system, web browser, and other software up to date to protect from identified vulnerabilities

• Use and maintain anti-virus software
• Limit the amount of personal information you post

By applying simple Internet security practices and managing your personal information wisely, cautiously, and with an awareness of the issue, you can prevent becoming a victim of Identity Theft.

Cst. Ben Doiron
Winnipeg RCMP
Commercial Crime Section

(Read more in the March 29 - April 18/2011 issue of Senior Scope)

Financial Planning:

It’s okay to“double-dip”

BRIAN G. KONRAD CFP, Financial Consultant

Help secure your family’s future

As a parent, you have to be a terrific juggler. You juggle time to complete all the tasks and chores that fill your day. You juggle responsibilities to ensure your children have the best possible childhood and prospects for their future. Yet the toughest juggling act of all is managing your finances while raising a family. It can be even more difficult to find the extra dollars needed to invest towards a comfortable financial future, including your retirement and the educational plans of your children.

If you’re a parent of young children, you are probably struggling with a tough decision: Is it better to first save for your retirement through Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), or to save for your children’s education through Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs)?

Fret no more because there is a way to do both: Make your RRSP
contribution before the deadline each year and use the resulting tax refund to make an RESP contribution. That’s the ultimate “double-dip” because your child’s RESP can also take advantage of “free” cash from the federal government in the form of a Canada Education Savings Grant (CES Grant).*

Here’s why the ultimate “double-dip” works so well:

• When you make your maximum allowable RRSP contribution you may enjoy tax-savings that can be applied towards establishing or adding to your children’s RESPs.

• The federal government’s CES Grant program provides a matching grant for each RESP contribution made for an eligible child. The Basic CES Grant is worth 20% on the first $2,500 of an annual RESP contribution or $500 per year. This eligibility accumulates and carries forward, so even if you were unable to make enough of an RESP contribution to access the full Basic CES Grant money in previous years, you can start to make up for it now and in future years and get the Basic CES Grant money your child would have received in those earlier years.

• Families with children born after December 31st, 2003 who also receive the National Child Benefit Supplement may also qualify for additional funds through the Canada Learning Bond.*

Start now

Finding the funds to make an annual RRSP contribution may seem difficult – especially, with all the daily juggling going on in your life. So why not start now? Talk to your Investors Group Consultant about setting up a Pre-Authorized Contribution (PAC) to make monthly RRSP contributions. Your RRSP will begin to compound on a tax-deferred basis for a potentially fast and stronger growth over the long term. You can even arrange for your employer to reduce withholding taxes at source based on your RRSP contribution schedule, so that you can fund monthly RESP contributions instead of waiting for your tax refund in the spring to make an annual RESP contribution. It’s a win-win situation that will allow you to also capitalize on the ultimate “double-dip”.

Let us help you feel more confident about your future – plus make sure you take full advantage of all the tax-saving and income-building opportunities that are available to you.

Financial Consultant
(204) 489-4640 ext. 246

Written and published by Investors Group as a general source of information only. It is not intended as a solicitation to buy or sell specific investments, nor is it intended to provide tax, legal or investment advice. Readers should seek advice on their specific circumstances from an Investors Group Consultant.

*The Canada Education Savings Grant and Canada Learning Bond (CLB) are provided by the Government of Canada. CLB eligibility depends on family income levels. Some provinces make education savings grants to their residents.

™Trademark owned by IGM Financial Inc. and licensed to its subsidiary corporations.

“It’s okay to “double-dip” © Investors Group Inc. 2010

(04/2010) MP1262

(Read more in the March 29 - April 18/2011 issue of Senior Scope)

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We All Deserve a Barrier-Free Manitoba. Accessibility Shouldn't be Optional.

- The Push for Provincial Legislation By Hilary Grammer

By Hilary Grammer

Accessibility is basic to the quality of life of all Manitobans. Seniors, unlike many Manitobans, cannot take accessibility for granted. The design and conditions of our streets and sidewalks, even our parking lots, make it hard for many seniors to get around their communities. Many of our buildings are hard for seniors to get in and out of. Likewise, basic services ranging from transportation to snow clearing and even information in print or on the web often seem designed to meet the needs of healthy 35 year olds with perfect hearing, sight and mobility.

As the bulge of baby boomers reach retirement age, accessibility is going to become an issue for more and more seniors. The numbers are undeniable. In 2006, an estimated 71,000 to 77,000 Manitoba seniors faced accessibility challenges due to a disability. By 2031, the number facing such challenges is expected to double to almost 150,000.

Our population is aging – and the incidence of various disabilities increase with age. Patrick Falconer, spokesperson for Barrier-Free Manitoba (more on that organization later), addressed what this means to us all, saying that, “every Manitoban now has a disability, knows someone with a disability or will acquire a disability in the coming years.”

Recent surveys completed by 1,100 persons concerned about seniors’ issues in 46 communities across Manitoba clearly identified accessibility issues related to

• Housing
• Transportation
• Public / commercial buildings (i.e. heavy manual doors, lack of elevator access, narrow hallways)
• Public washrooms
• Parks / walking trails (inadequate benches and rest stops)
• Public telephone services and written material not adapted to seniors’ needs.

It is easy to understand how these everyday features in our community can either lend themselves to easy, pleasurable participation in friendships, community events, shopping, appointments and entertainment – or, conversely, chip away at a senior's ability or desire to go where s/he wants or needs to go, to receive the information s/he wants or needs to receive, and – most importantly – to feel comfortable in his or her community.

There are two major efforts underway to address accessibility issues.

One of these is the Age-Friendly Manitoba Initiative (, led by the provincial government's Seniors and Healthy Aging Directorate in partnership with community groups. The Age-Friendly Manitoba Initiative supports seniors in leading active, socially engaged, independent lives that contribute to healthy aging.
A second effort, the drive for legislative reform, has been
spearheaded since 2008 by Barrier-Free Manitoba, a community-based, cross-abilities initiative. Based on its extensive research, Barrier-Free Manitoba has found that voluntary measures encouraging accessibility, while useful, are simply not adequate. They have found that accessibility legislation, like the laws now in place in Ontario, the United States and Australia – that actually requires accessibility measures be implemented – is the key mechanism needed to ensure timely change.

Help change legislation for a Barrier-Free Manitoba.

Click on image for larger form to print, fill out, sign, and mail.

Barrier-Free Manitoba`s web site ( provides more information on these findings.

While both these efforts are making progress, the work of Barrier-Free Manitoba has now reached a critical juncture.

Progress Toward Accessibility Legislation

Over the last 2 1/2 years, Barrier-Free Manitoba has not only raised awareness about accessibility issues, but its call for legislative change has been endorsed by such prominent Manitobans as Dr. Paul Thomas, Reg Alcock and John Loxley and by a diverse range of organizations and agencies including groups like:

• Age & Opportunity
• Alliance for the Prevention of Chronic Disease
• Canadian Council of the Blind - Manitoba Division
• Creative Retirement
• Fédération des aînés francos-manitobains
• Provincial Council of Women of Manitoba
• Manitoba Association of Senior Centres
• Manitoba Chapter - Canadian Hard of Hearing Association
• Manitoba Federation of Labour
• Meals on Wheels of Winnipeg
• Provincial Council of Women of Manitoba

The call for legislation has also been endorsed by hundreds and hundreds of concerned Manitoba citizens whose lives have been seriously affected by the lack of accessibility in their communities.

In November of last year, the Government of Manitoba released the Discussion Paper for Made in Manitoba Accessibility Legislation. The purpose of the paper was to encourage discussion on proposed legislation that would move our province toward the goal of an inclusive society. As had been called for by Barrier-Free Manitoba, the legislation being considered would set out a process for elimination of “the institutional and physical barriers faced by seniors and persons with disabilities" and the "prevention of new ones". The paper also stated that “increased accessibility also promises to provide significant economic benefits and will support Manitoba-based businesses in better meeting the growing demand for accessible products and services."

The good news for Barrier-Free Manitoba, and the many that support the call for legislation, is that The Province of Manitoba seems poised to introduce this landmark legislation. The bad news is that there is only one sitting of the Legislature left before the upcoming fall election. As Falconer stresses, "this is an amazing opportunity but if the government does not act this spring – before the next election – it may be years before we have the same chance again.”

The Final Push – Making it Happen

With the cooperation of seniors' organizations across the province, Barrier-Free Manitoba is mounting a final push to ensure that the Government of Manitoba moves beyond promising words when the last sitting starts on April 12th.

The centre point of the final push campaign are action post cards that Barrier-Free Manitoba is inviting seniors and those concerned about seniors issues to send to the Premier's office. Key statements on the cards read:

• The Government of Manitoba needs to play a much stronger role in ensuring the timely removal of the barriers and in creating accessible and age friendly communities.
• I am calling on the Premier to demonstrate leadership by introducing accessibility legislation in the Spring 2011 sitting of the Legislature.
Barrier-Free is providing three easy options to join the ranks of those who are encouraging the government to take action now. Seniors and persons concerned with seniors issues can:
• Complete and mail in action postcards which are available from participating seniors’ organizations.
• Complete a web-based version of the action card. The link to the e-card can be found on the home page of Barrier-Free Manitoba`s web site
• Complete the clip out action card form on this page and mail it to the Premier`s office.

Manitoba’s seniors and those who care about them and provide services to them have historically had a strong voice in Manitoba.

This seems to be a perfect opportunity to use this voice again in a way that will benefit all Manitobans now and in the years to come

(Read more in the March 29 - April 18/2011 issue of Senior Scope)

There is Nothing Better Than Spring Training Baseball to Get Away from the Cold

By Scott Taylor

Spring training in Dunedin, Florida

LAKELAND, Fla. – It’s hard to imagine there is anything better than this on the planet: You’re sitting in a beautiful little ballpark just like Shaw Park in Winnipeg, only it happens to be a warm March day. You have a nice cold beverage, a tasty hotdog with some nachos and plenty of cheese, good friends and there’s Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera hitting back-to-back home runs against the hated New York Yankees.

The Detroit Tigers at spring training.

Well OK, it might not be perfect for Yankees’ fans but they can have their own fantasy. We like ours, thank you.

And so do hundreds of Manitoba seniors who make the trek every year – or every other year – to Grapefruit League Baseball in Central and Western Florida.

Stadium in Dunedin

“I love baseball. There is nothing I love more,” said Tom McClusky, 73, who spent a life in sales in Winnipeg before retiring.

“I always wanted to go to Spring Training, all my life. Ever since I read about it in the Sporting News when I was a kid. I got my first chance 1976. We took our two daughters to Florida and I saw four games. The first Grapefruit League game I ever saw was in Vero Beach where the Los Angeles Dodgers used to be. I’ll never forget it. Then we saw two Cincinnati Reds games in Sarasota and then we saw the Orioles against the Yankees in Miami.

“I absolutely loved it, but I didn’t get back until my wife and I went to Arizona three years ago. Next year, we’re already planning our trip to Spring Training in Florida.”

Interesting. The 2010 Grapefruit League season has just wrapped up and yet Tom and his wife are already preparing for 2012.

“Well, we’re going to go to baseball, definitely,” he said. “But there are a lot of other things to do. I’m even going to apply to be a volunteer at Arnold Palmer’s (PGA Tour) golf tournament, the Bay Hill Classic. There is a lot more to the trip than just baseball.”

Tom’s got that right. When you consider all the casinos, the great beaches, the theme parks, resorts, golf courses, racetracks, hockey teams, basketball teams, hiking trails, shopping malls and restaurants, there is never a dull moment on the Florida spring baseball trail.

Spring Training in Florida is called the Grapefruit League. It’s not a league really. It’s a just a month long series of games in which the stars of Major League Baseball – along with the fresh-faced kids and aging veterans – either get ready for the regular season or try to win that first or last job.

The games begin around February 25 and last until the final week of March (this year’s regular season started on March 31).

There are 15 teams in Florida: the Atlanta Braves are at Disney World at Lake Buena Vista, Boston and Minnesota are in Fort Myers, the Yankees are in Tampa, Philadelphia is in Clearwater, Detroit is in Lakeland, Baltimore is in Sarasota, Pittsburgh is in Bradenton, Houston is in Kissimmee, Tampa Bay is at Port Charlotte, the Mets are in Port St. Lucie, Washington is at Viera, St. Louis and the Florida Marlins are in Jupiter and Toronto is at Dunedin.

There are three ways to attack a spring baseball trip depending on the time you have in Florida.

On a short trip of three or four days, stay in Central Florida and attend games at Disney (Atlanta), Kissimmee (Houston), Lakeland (Detroit) and Viera (Washington) or stay in Tampa, or the beach at Clearwater and attend games in Tampa (Yankees), Clearwater (Philly) and Dunedin (Toronto).

If you have a week, pick a region. North Central will give you Viera, Disney, Kissimmee, Lakeland, Clearwater, Tampa and Dunedin. Southwest will give you Fort Myers (Boston and Minnesota), Port Charlotte (Tampa Bay), Sarasota (Baltimore) and Bradenton (Pittsburgh). The East Coast has Jupiter (St. Louis and Florida), Port St. Lucie (the Mets) and Viera. If you want to stay south, you can start in Jupiter on the Southeast Coast and then take the three-hour drive across Alligator Alley to Fort Myers on the Southwest Coast.

Or, stay for the entire month and catch a game in every park. One of the best things about the ballparks is that none of them are far from the four major highways: I-95 on the East Coast, I-75 Alligator Alley from East-to-West, I-75 on the West Coast and I-4 across Central Florida from I-75-to-I-95.

So now that you know where you’re going, how do you get there and where do you stay? Which means the real question is, “What do I do to get started?”

In December, the Grapefruit League schedule should be announced. Always keep tabs on to make sure you know when the schedule is released and when the ticket-buying dates arrive.

You’ll need to rent a car and you’ll want to keep an eye on hotel prices. The beaches can get really pricey in March. But shop around. Good deals often pop up on the hotel websites and Disney has some very economical resorts (Pop Century and All-Star).

Now, go through the schedule and pick the places you want to go. As an example, we love staying on the West Coast and in Central Florida. We’ll spend a week at Disney World and watch the Braves, Astros and Tigers play. Then we’ll go to Tampa for a night or two to watch the Yankees, then over to Clearwater Beach to watch the Phillies and Blue Jays and then down to Sarasota Beach to watch the Orioles and Pirates. We love beach hotels, tiny ballparks and players who aren’t all caught up in statistics and pennant races and are ready to sign autographs, hang out with fans and talk baseball. It’s pretty loose at spring training and even the big stars are accessible.

(As an aside, here’s how society has changed. Our 27-year-old daughter Betsy who lives in Orlando went with us to Sarasota to watch the Orioles and Minnesota Twins play. She wandered down to the Twins bullpen and caught the eye of a young relief pitcher named Anthony Swarzak. While she Googled his career stats on her iPhone, he threw her a baseball. She then sent him a friend request on Facebook and not 20 minutes after the game, he’d already
accepted the request. Now they’re pals. That’s Spring Training 2011.)

When you’ve decided how long you want to be in Florida and where you want to stay, you’re ready to book your tickets. If you go early in the spring you’ll be able to walk up to most ballparks and buy a good seat on Game Day. If you go later in the month, the parks tend to fill up so you might want to pre-order your tickets. If you plan to attend Yankees games in Tampa or Red Sox games in Fort Myers, you should always buy your tickets in advance. The Yanks and Red Sox almost always sell out.

West Jet has some great direct flights to Orlando and Tampa these days, but make sure you book early. And remember, when going to Florida, six-months-in-advance is not that early to make a booking.

And don’t forget to take your sunscreen and your ball glove. This is the time of year when the weather is just about perfect and the players are tossing baseballs into the crowd almost every inning.

“I love baseball more than anything else,” said Tom McClusky with a grin. “But I love spring training baseball best of all.”


1. Dunedin – Toronto Blue Jays
2. Clearwater – Philadelphia Phillies
3. Tampa – New York Yankees
4. Bradenton – Pittsburgh Pirates
5. Sarasota – Baltimore Orioles
6. Port Charlotte – Tampa Bay Rays
7. Fort Myers – Boston Red Sox
8. Fort Myers – Minnesota Twins
9. Jupiter – St. Louis Cardinals and Florida Marlins
10. Port St. Lucie – New York Mets
11. Viera – Washington Nationals
12. Kissimmee – Houston Astros
13. Lake Buena Vista (Disney World) – Atlanta Braves
14. Lakeland – Detroit Tigers

(Read more in the March 29 - April 18/2011 issue of Senior Scope)


Feline dementia? Or just a cat?

By Willian J. Thomas
Humour Columnist

Cats, like their owners are living longer than ever before. That’s the good news. With enhanced longevity comes the downside of aging – arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney problems and even dementia. If you live long enough you’ll likely inherit these afflictions.

A recent survey by Scottish veterinary surgeon Danielle Gunn-Moore reveals that 28% of cats aged 11 to 14 are affected by feline dementia. That number jumps to 50% for cats 15 years of age and older.

Similar to Alzheimer’s, a protein in the form of sticky plaques build up on the brain’s nerve cells causing mental deterioration by disconnect.

Her research was inspired by Dr. Gunn-Moore’s own cat; 12-year-old Cardhu started showing signs of human senility.

There are exceptions to the rule of dementia for aging cats. Not all old cats are afflicted.

Years ago I stayed one week in a draughty Bed & Breakfast walkup in Chalk Farm, half way up the Black Line of the London Underground system. The Irish lady who operated the place completely creeped me out with her ghoulish theories on Lady Di’s death and how “they first killed her unborn child before they staged the car accident.” So my only solace was Rosie, a 21-year-old blind Tabby who slept beside my bed each night. In the morning this cat, scrawny and rickety, but resourceful would walk along the walls all the way down two flights of stairs, around a couch, around a coffee table, under a TV set and up to a window. From there she leapt up onto a cushioned sill, her resting spot for the day. Touching the walls and furniture with her whiskers she had committed two additional routes to memory – one to her food station and one to the litter box. Rosie’s mind was still sharp at over 100 human years of age.

My Irish landlady made my stay so unpleasant; the day I left I rearranged all the furniture – just to give her cat a bit of a challenge. (No, I did not do that.)

So cats, it seems, more so than dogs are quite prone to aging dementia.

Kidney failure and hyper-tension are just two of the symptoms of feline dementia. Other signs include aimless wandering, a decrease in grooming and a sudden lack of interest in food.

However with some of the signs the dementia survey warns about, with a cat, it can be a little tricky.

“Inappropriate vocalization,” for instance. Could be a symptom of senility, or if the dog walked off with Missy’s stuffed mouse in his mouth, it could be a sign that your dog is about to have a nose bleed.

“Episodes of disorientation?” My neighbour once found my cat Wedgie hiding in his bird feeder. Going a little batty? Hardly, Wedgie all but put his toes to his lips so that Bob wouldn’t alert the incoming birds. Or as Wedgie liked to call them, “lunch.”

“Memory loss that causes your cat to forget commands?” Hullo!!!! A cat that followed orders!?! Until they begin to crossbreed cats with dogs, you’re pretty much talking to yourself while giving directions to felines. In fact, if your cat does heed your commands, that too might be a symptom of senility.

“Disorientation like getting trapped in corners?” Once again I refer you to my juvenile delinquent Wedgie, who, on the first day I brought him home was so curious about his new digs; he got his bum stuck between the couch and the baseboard radiator. In fact, that’s how he got his name.

“Constant pacing back and forth?” Okay, but what if he’s just worried about something like dinner being late or chicken versus beef or you with that bottle of shampoo in your hand?

“Lack of interest in food?” Yeah, that’s probably a sign of dementia unless Tabatha there has found a better deal two doors down.

“Confusion about time?” Forgetting they’ve been fed?

Once again, on a personal note, I once had a cat named Malcolm who could eat a husky under the table. Malcolm ate his food and often cleaned out the bowls of three other cats that were too well-mannered to hiss and scratch. Malcolm was quite thin for a glutton (I know, I know, we all hate people who can pull that off!) and his nickname was “Hoover.” Many a time he tried to trick me into believing I’d forgotten to feed him. It only worked about half the time. Senile? No. Sly? Like The Family Stone.

“Screaming in the middle of the night?” That could well be a sign of advancing dementia or a nightmare involving him, you and a pill.

“Forgetting the location of the litter box?” Either way, you got yourself a big problem. I never had a cat that misplaced the sandbox, but there was old Uncle Randal from Antigonish who … let’s just say the far corner of the dining room does not make a great substitute for the ‘john’ and there are still people from that Thanksgiving Day dinner who are still in therapy.

‘Increased irritability?” Not likely a serious sign. I believe it was a cat who said: “If you’re not angry half the time, you’re letting down the breed.”

“Increased attention seeking?” Yeah, like jumping into even more laps of people who do not like cats, than he normally would?

And that’s the real problem with cats and the detection of dementia – most of them are so wonderfully loony, how do you know for sure?

Editor’s Note: If you suspect your cat is experiencing dementia,
please see a vet. There are medical treatments and behavior tips available to ease the problem. Also your cat could exhibit senile habits, but might just be unhappy or depressed.

For comments, ideas
or a signed copy of

The Cat Rules,
go to

(Read more in the March 29 - April 18/2011 issue of Senior Scope)


Senior Scope - highlighting the programs, services and savings for seniors.

Anyone who is a senior or knows a senior enjoys reading it. And who doesn't have a parent, grandparent, relative or friend who isn't aging? Better yet, who isn't aging? We all are.

Senior Scope offers useful and entertaining information with a focus on active, inspiring individuals, 55 and over, who are happy to share their stories.

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Senior Scope
Publisher: Kelly Goodman
Phone: 204-467-9000
Box 1806 Stonewall
Manitoba, Canada
R0C 2Z0