CURAC (College and University Retiree Associations of Canada): Annual Meeting for 2018 in Halifax, N.S., Dalhousie University, May 23-25, 2018

CURAC is a national organization representing the interests of college and university retirees from Canadian institutions, and it has been successful in representations to federal governments regarding grant applications and other issues affecting retirees.

The mission statement for CURAC reads:

“CURAC/ARUCC (College and University Retiree Associations of Canada / Associations de retraités des universitiés et collèges du Canada) is a non-profit federation of retiree organizations at colleges and universities across Canada. Its primary aim is to coordinate activities that promote communication among member organizations, to share information, provide mutual assistance, and speak publicly on issues of common concern to its more than fifteen thousand members across Canada.”

The organization was started at the University Toronto in 2002 by a steering committee chaired by John Dirks which included Peter Russell, Germaine Warkentin, and Ken Rea, together with representatives from 8 other Canadian universities. The first Annual Meeting was held at Dalhousie University in 2003 and led to 23 academic retiree associations from across the country joining the new enterprise. An account of the launching of CURAC is now available in Peter Russell’s recently published book: “The RALUT Story: The Short and Fruitful Life of the University of Toronto’s First Retiree Organization” — the forerunner of Senior College. Since 2003, Annual Meetings of CURAC have rotated around the country, returning to Dalhousie University, Halifax, in 2018. Coincidentally, 2018 is Dalhousie University’s 200th anniversary.

The Annual Meeting hosted approximately 60 registrants from across the country, including 4 from the University of Toronto: Kent Weaver (UTFA Senior Members representative), Harold Atwood (Voting Delegate from Senior College), Ken Rea (Senior College representative), and Beverley Stefureak (Faculty representative). Accommodations were available both on campus and at the Westin Hotel, located on the waterfront close to the historic immigration entry port Pier 21. Bus transportation was available between the hotel and campus, where the meetings took place.

The major components of the 3-day meeting were: (a) Opening receptions, registration, and later a Conference Banquet at Pier 21 (social occasions, and awards and guest speaker at the Banquet ); (b) Roundtable open discussions on “Best practices in Retiree Associations”, “Association Concerns” (including administrative problems, health policies, and other topics of general interest to retirees); (c) CURAC/ARUCC Annual General Meeting (at which votes could be taken by voting delegates on matters of general concern to the organization); also, a CURAC Board meeting; (d) Speakers selected to present topics of general interest to aging retirees, medical and societal problems, and advisory information on adapting to advancing age (altogether, 4 major speakers, and a 4-member panel on frailty and dementia). Overviews of these components are available from the CURAC website:

As a newcomer to this organization, I found the last component (speakers and panel) of particular interest because useful information and new ways to look at common problems facing our age group emerged. I volunteered to write a report on one of the presentations which delved into the use of medicines and over-prescription of them; this summary report, slightly modified, appears in this issue of the News Bulletin. Other presentations were of great interest and left a lasting impression. Thus, the talk by Dr. Don Shiner on “Aging in Place” provided much to consider for those who desire to stay in their own homes, living independently as they grow older. Among other significant points, home adaptations and renovations were discussed with graphic examples. The panel on “Living with Frailty and Dementia” left an impact because one of the presenters was a person living with progressive Alzheimer’s who has remained active, continuing to serve as a practising minister every week, having worked out strategies to cope with diminished short-term memory and other problems common in Alzheimer’s dementia. This presentation was quite remarkable and inspirational.

After the meeting, I considered again the value of the CURAC meeting and its interest for retired academics. Reasons for being interested in, and supporting CURAC   became clearer. First, it is an organization that serves as a national advocacy group that can convey concerns of retirees (and the aging population in general) to other levels of government; for example, to the national granting councils (SHERC, NSERC, CIHR) to ensure that active retiree scholars are not discriminated against when they apply for research grants; and other lobbying activities. Second, as a national group it can put pressure on universities to ensure that retirees have access to medical benefits including medical insurance (without the requirement for a medical examination), and that pensions are fairly dealt with for retirees. Third, sharing of information from different universities can accelerate improvements for retirees across the country. Fourth, the value of well-chosen presentations for retirement living and adaptation to aging became very apparent at the Dalhousie meeting. Thus, there are many good reasons for supporting CURAC, and going to the Annual Meeting was a worth-while experience.