Hope & CopeSpring 2015

70+ club extends support
to older cancer patients and survivors

In this age of customized cancer treatment for patients in specific age categories with particular types of tumours, psychosocial cancer support is adopting a similarly specialized approach. Having extended assistance to young adults and to the parents of young children, Hope & Cope has now launched the 70+ Club for older individuals.

“It feels good to be with people of your own age who understand how you feel and how cancer affects you at this point in life,” said 74-year-old Marcel Desrosiers after a recent exercise session with the club at the JGH Hope & Cope Wellness Centre (Lou’s House). “Aside from cancer, we have other concerns that it helps to talk about, like the number of years ahead of us once we regain our health.”

Mr. Desrosiers, whose treatment for prostate cancer continues until December, said he also appreciates the flexibility that the 70+ Club gives its members to raise topics of their own choosing during their discussion period. “What we suggest is what matters to us, so we’re able to share our experiences and explain how we feel.”

According to Hope & Cope Communications Coordinator Hena Kon, the club began as a pilot project last November on the suggestion of staff in the JGH Division of Geriatric Oncology. “Those over 70 tend to be more vulnerable,” she says, “and in addition to cancer, they often have other medical conditions that have to be taken into consideration. This is in keeping with Hope & Cope’s objective of offering programs for every age and every stage of cancer.”

The Friday morning gatherings usually begin with exercise, consistent with research that has increasingly shown the usefulness of physical activity for coping with the demands and after-effects of cancer treatment. This is followed by an art session led by Nathalie Leu—“Not all people like to express themselves verbally,” notes Ms. Kon—and a lunchtime discussion led by social-work intern Meagan Murphy.

Volunteer kinesiologist Martin Côté Couillard, who leads the exercise period, says the objective is not to engage in a strenuous routine, but to do what makes club members feel better, move without pain, and improve their posture and balance. For example, seated participants stretch their arms behind and in front of them, bend at the waist to touch the floor, and breathe deeply the entire time.

“I remind them that they don’t need to exert themselves to reap the benefits of exercise,” says Mr. Couillard. “Younger people usually do something demanding for 30 seconds and then jump to the next exercise. But here we move at a more relaxed pace.”

Pierrette Lamothe, 71, who is recovering from breast cancer, says she learned the value of exercise after breaking her right ankle two years ago. “Now look at this!” she says proudly, as she raises her left leg and balances steadily on her right foot. “If I stop exercising, my ankle or my knee or my hip starts to hurt. The 70+ Club gives me a way to keep feeling good.”

For more information or to join Hope & Cope’s 70+ Club, please phone 514-340-3616. Spouses are also welcome to join the club, since some seniors have difficulty getting around on their own.

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