Your VOICE Matters


“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.”

~John Maynard Keynes

I believe to a large degree our personalities determine whether we are risk takers or play it safe.

“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow, is if we change. The only way that we can change, is if we learn. The only way that we can learn, is if we are exposed. And the only way we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. DO IT. Throw yourself”

~C Joybell

Looking back, reflecting on the time I have taken away from work, was one of the best decisions I could make.

Then fear stepped in and I decided come the new year I would return to work.

That decision was taken away from me the day I was involved in a motor vehicle accident. One that I am lucky and thankful wasn’t worse and one I am working on everyday to recover from.   You know the saying “Everything happens for a Reason,” believe it.

What do I think was the Reason: In this case it was my father getting ill and the reality that we almost lost him twice!

Time is something you can never get back and you realize firsthand what is truly important in life. Our family, our parents, our friends, people are important.

It was during this time that I have learned a lot about “Care” in hospital settings, home care support – typically offered within the community by the Health Authority and care facilities subsidized by the Government. I decided I was going to advocate…. my way, not the way others expected me to do it. Not for the fame, not for the glory, not for the money. Which in my humble opinion is the root of all the problems we have today.

your-voiceDo you every feel that you are placed in situations to discover both your weaknesses and your strengths? I do and will be the first to admit that my communication skills weren’t always up to par.

I can thank my wonderful mentor Massimo Scalzo for teaching me to step away, think, look within and find the answers. Look at all the sides, don’t just react. He taught me this during one conversation we had when I was volunteering – feeding the homeless and I saw how the police officers who were driving by, looked at the people on the street. It was a very emotional experience for me, what I thought was, that the homeless were being judged by those in a position, to serve and protect. When in fact, police officers have a tough job keeping everyone safe. They have families no different from any of us. Funding cuts don’t make their jobs any easier.   The same can be said for professionals in the Hospitals, home care systems or care facilities. Lack of funding makes their jobs tough. Lack of hours, lack of time to spend with people.

I grew a lot mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Don’t be afraid, like Emerson said

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.”

There is a real sense of freedom when you step out of your comfort zone and move beyond your fears and do what is right. It doesn’t matter what others think about what you are trying to do, it only matters that you do so with honesty, truth and compassion.

Let’s take this recent story as an example.

Do you think this could have been prevented and if so, how?

Isobel Mackenzie, Seniors Advocate Province of British Columbia issued a Statement in September of this year which you can read here:

“Think you’re not prejudiced? When it comes to seniors, think again.

October 1st is the United Nations-declared “International Day of the Older Person.” The theme this year is ageism, a prejudice that the UN describes as the most socially-normalized form of discrimination worldwide. The term was coined in 1969 to describe a form of discrimination based on age. Since this time, we have seen a number, of barriers broken: gay people can legally marry, women lead governments and the Supreme Court of Canada, people in wheelchairs hold public office and win gold medals, and the United States has elected an African-American as President. Yet, when it comes to age, our entrenched discrimination has remained relatively unchanged. If you think this prejudice doesn’t apply to you, at some point it has or it will. It may be subtle, such as expressing surprise that 80-year-old Aunt Dorothy is still driving and going to the gym, or commenting “isn’t that sweet” when describing someone going on a date at the age of 85. Think if we talked about the achievements of others in such patronizing ways— “He’s so successful for a black man.” “What a remarkable achievement, considering she is a woman.” etc.

This past weekend, I met with my 30-member Council of Advisors, a highly diverse and engaged group of seniors who help guide the work of my office. We had a deep discussion about ageism. One of the more fascinating revelations was the acknowledgement that how seniors view themselves can also feed into ageism. The gathering of the Council was also another opportunity to be reminded that seniors don’t all think the same way. Vigorous debate erupted around the tables about financial abuse and the line between a person’s obligation for due diligence, which does not end at age 65, and the need to protect the truly vulnerable. Anyone who could have witnessed the discussion would have been reminded that age does not homogenize thinking or political views. The conversation also underscored the systemic ageism we practice in the care community when we presume to know what is “best” for seniors, as opposed to listening to what seniors actually want.

It’s important to remember that all people of sound mind in our society are entitled to the right of self-determination. This is true for the 30-year-old climbing Mount Everest and should be equally true of the 92-year-old climbing stairs up to the bedroom they have slept in for 60 years. Both activities have risk associated with them, but we are inherently much better at accepting the 30-year-old’s decision and may be impressed by their bravery and stamina, as opposed to stunned by the 92-year-old’s cavalier recklessness. Many who are 92 are perfectly capable of understanding that they may fall and fracture a hip, but they accept that risk because what they have chosen to value more highly is to sleep in their own bedroom.

Stereotyping seniors and their behaviours is deeply entrenched in society. Contrary to some public perception, seniors are not all rich and enjoying the golf course; in fact, half of BC seniors have an income of less than $24,000. We are not all headed for the nursing home; 85% of seniors over the age of 85 live independently. We are not all going to develop a dementia; 80% of seniors over the age of 85 do not have a diagnosis of dementia. The emergency departments are not flooded with seniors; in fact, only 22% of emergency department visits are from those over 65. I could go on, but you get the idea. Seniors are not a problem to be solved, a cost curve to be “bent,” or victims simply by virtue, of age.

Wikipedia has one definition for ageism, but ironically quite a different one for the word “senior,” a term defined as “a person of higher rank or standing than another, especially by virtue, of longer service.” So just like the Vice President of a company would listen attentively to the wishes of the “Senior” Vice President of the company, let us citizens listen a little more closely to the aspirations of the “senior” citizens of our society.”

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”

~Booker T. Washington

For me this is personal.   If you have a parent or loved one in care, that is not happy with the care or you see medical negligence or neglect…..“Raise your Voice before its too late.”

Where and to whom:

In the Province of BC contact the Patient Quality Care office of the Health Authority in place.

Cc:      Honourable Terry Lake – Minister of Health “hlth minister”

Cc:      Opposition Critic – John Horgan “oppositionleader”

Cc:      Office of the Seniors Advocate BC

Cc:      Facility Coordinator/Social Worker at the facility

Cc:      The media

“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So, write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”

~Neil Gaiman

I am using my voice, will you?


Suzana Matkovic
Suzana Matkovic
SUZANA has a PhD from the School of Hard Knocks. With the guidance of a loving family, she aspired to the best job of Life: Motherhood. People that know her journey will understand how this beautiful and tragic chapter forged her resilience and tenacity to bring her passions to life by being part of the change. Upon graduation in 84, she moved into an extremely successful 30-year career. Nonetheless, she walked away from it in 2014, in order to pursue something more personally meaningful. A School of Life that enabled her to meet people of different nationalities, cultures, races, languages and outlooks, is what she sought. She is an avid advocate and volunteer motivated to help others reach their full potential by raising awareness of numerous social issues affecting many and establishing a legacy for change. Suzana’s training and experience have provided her with a unique foundation from which to produce communication that is Significant, Relevant and Actionable. Her knowledge in sales/business development and marketing started in the early 90’s where she received numerous awards for innovation, customer satisfaction and quality management. She has worked in all business categories: Local Government, Manufacturing and Distribution, Logistics and Lumber Export. Some of the more notable products and services were sold into the Environmental Energy Sector and building products that represented Structural, Civil, Electrical, Mechanical and Architectural Engineering. In addition to Marketing initiatives for various NGOs and causes near and dear to her heart. All this was accomplished by a high school graduate with determination, vision and passion. She attributes her success to many wonderful mentors throughout her personal and professional life and the inner strength God blessed her with.

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  1. Dear Suzana Pekrul. What an Absolutely Awesome Post. Very true indeed not only about Canada, but for the USA as well. I know that from first hand experience when my Mom (RIP) got very ill and had no one to speak up for her. I honestly never thought I had it in me, but… when a loved one needed my Help, I found myself “steeping up to the plate” and became My Mothers Voice and Advocate. It’s so sad as you know that when you’re not familiar with being a caretaker, you learn very early on to Protect and Help Your Loved One. I did, and am Grateful to GOD for giving me the stamina, wisdom and help to reach out to the right people to help my Mother and get her the help that she so desperately needed. I’d do it all over again, IF I could! I found myself, helping others and spreading what I found so that they would NOT have to go through the hardships that I did. Seniors and older people should NEVER be forgotten.THEY DO MATTER AND THEY ARE IMPORTANT!!! The Most Important thing to me, is what you said “STAND UP AND BE A VOICE FOR THE ELEDERLY THAT NEED YOUR HELP”. “MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN SOMEONES LIFE”, AND YOU’LL SEE IT’LL MAKE YOU FEEL SO MUCH BETTER AS WELL!! Thanks Suzana and God Bless You and Yours Always!!!

    • Thank you for your comments and commitment to helping others “Shar.” Your parents are watching over you ? and I know are proud of you. One of the greatest gifts we can give others, is our example.