Old Mother Hubbard Went to the Cupboard...

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard
To get her poor dog a bone;
But when she got there
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.

For some reason, I started thinking about this childhood nursery rhyme.  It was probably triggered by a recent visit with my neighbour who provided an animated demonstration of her superb grocery shopping and meal planning skills.

My neighbour is a retired salesclerk of a local family-owned department store. She is articulate, stylish, smart and organized. I have a hunch she was married at one time but she hasn’t talked about it – and I don’t ask. This morning I watched her carry a few more grocery bags to her apartment. It’s the end of the month and many seniors are out shopping for bargains.

As of January 1, 2016, the basic OAS pension for a single person increased from $569.95 to a whopping $570.52 per month. My neighbour’s total monthly retirement income is fixed at approximately $1600.00.  After she pays rent, utilities and other basic living expenses she is left with $100.00 for luxuries or emergencies. Needless to say, my neighbour has developed great skills in bargain shopping and meal preparation.

​She makes sure she can afford the luxury of fresh fruit and vegetables, by stocking up on canned tuna and salmon when it’s on sale. Her diet is simple but she prefers to call it “minimalist.”  Throughout the week, she alternates tuna salads with salmon salads. Once a week, she makes some type chicken dinner. Approximately one-third of Canadian seniors are at risk of poor nutrition and she may be one of them.

Five years ago, my neighbour’s dog died from kidney failure. She misses him terribly, but the high cost of pet food and vet bills makes it impossible for her to consider a new pet companion. I feel sad because I know she would love to have some pet treats in her cupboard as well, but I also know it would be too stressful for her.


Kathy Smith is the founder and coordinator of the London Creative Age Network. She works with local organizations to develop programs to improve the quality of life for older adults in the community.