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The Benefits of Play by Norma Walton


Adults are generally more serious than children.  We are the responsible ones who must earn a living.  We raise our own little ones and support ourselves. Hence we laugh neither as often nor for as long as we used to when we were younger.  We don’t take time to play.  That is an obvious trend.  Yet humour and playfulness definitely make life better and help keep us young. We discuss the benefits of play in this article.

We can infuse humour and playfulness into our lives as adults by resuming playing like when we were children.  This takes effort but it is worth it.  The play in my case is basketball.  When I was in high school, I was a gym rat.  I would wake up early and head to school by 7:30 am so I could play an hour of basketball with the boys before school started.  Girls’ practice was after school a couple of days a week and we had a game or two as well.  Some of my best friends were on the basketball team. 

Tournaments were a blast.  Teasing and goofing around was compulsory.  I won London’s Fran Wigston Award for best high school basketball player of the year and played varsity basketball at Western.  Basketball was a huge part of my life as a teenager.  I have recently reintroduced it into my life in middle age and am the better for it.

Western Women’s Basketball

Basketball back in the 1980s and 1990s was a team game.  My dad worked for Ford Motor Company who had their head office in Detroit so I cheered for the Detroit Pistons with Isaiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, Joe Dumars and John Salley.  They were the bad boys of Detroit and I loved how they played ball.  I watched them win everything in 1989 and again in 1990.  Their physical method of playing was impressive.  The grit and toughness they showed on the court was to be emulated.  They were all that for me growing up.

In contrast to Detroit, on our high school team, our method of play was entirely different.  Our crew of girls would often go up by two points then roll into a four-corner stall.  There were neither shot clocks nor three pointers when I first began playing high school basketball.  Defense was key and driving to the net was the most common way to score.  Running was mandatory and suicide drills occurred in every practice.  The best conditioned team was likely to win.  Coaches preached about cardiovascular fitness and defense.  Needless to say, we were not as exciting to watch as the Pistons.

Pistons 1990

Basketball gave me a lot.  It inspired my confidence as an athlete while providing a modest sports scholarship which coupled with an academic scholarship assisted my attending university.  It improved my motor skills, coordination, conditioning, and overall fitness level while providing friendship and good times as many of my closest friends were on the team.  I was attracted to fellow basketball players on the boys’ teams in town.  Basketball gave me some swagger.

I stopped playing organized basketball in the early 1990s and did not pick it up again until after the birth of my fourth child in 2013.  Within a few weeks of giving birth, I entered a league with much younger women and ran off my pregnancy weight for eight weeks straight.  It was torture and I was glad when it ended.  I figured basketball had passed me by.  That view didn’t change until recently when one of my neighbours invited me to join Swish Sisters.  I loved her description of the program.  She explained that the women all had to be at least 35 years of age and to have given birth to at least a couple of kids to be qualified to play.  It sounded like just my speed.

Monique, ID 51553609

The first session was physically painful but emotionally enjoyable.  I had forgotten how much fun women who play basketball can be.  The mood is diligent in that we want to improve, but it is also highly humourous and light in the jibes back and forth with frequent guffaws and hoots.  Female athletes on teams are a robust, physical, funny, loud and rambunctious bunch of women. 

There is a joie de vivre that comes through as we put our older bodies through drills that our younger selves would have relished. Pushing those bodies to do things that used to come second nature feels damn good.  And the muscle aches the next day remind us that we once were pretty great at the sport.  What is most gratifying is the improvement that has occurred over the past six weeks since I first joined.  I am better now than I was six weeks ago, and there is a glimmer of the old me from back when I wore Converse basketball shoes and big hair with a side of hops.  That is a great feeling (minus the shoes and hair).

The benefits of team athletic activities for adults are significant. 

  1. The improved fitness level is a given.  As you age, fitness levels inevitably decline so anything you can do to improve your ability is worth doing.  Also the variety of adding a different activity is beneficial.  I swim each day but basketball winds me in a completely different way.  Different muscles are engaged and strengthened. 
  2. The friendships that you make.  There is a sense of camaraderie.  You share the suffering and the improvements.  The new relationships also inspire goodness.  On our team, the instructor’s daughter has just made Team Canada’s Beach Volleyball team so we are going to attend a fundraiser to help her pay her travel expenses to compete. 
  3. The teasing and laughter that abounds in that environment.  There are a lot of smiles.  Dashing out of emergency exit doors while squealing with laughter at the ringing alarms takes me back to my youth and the more reckless, crazy behaviours that were more common back then.  Being with a group of women out to have a good time is always entertaining.
  4. The endorphins that flow from the physical exertion stimulate the amygdala and hippocampus of your brain. That energizes you.  That coupled with the continual laughter makes group play good for the soul.

The benefits of play should be significant and obvious.

Playing for a few hours a week allows us to park the more serious side of our adult nature for a little while.  We come away from the 90 minute practice and scrimmage happier and more positive, ready to smile at strangers and embrace the day.  Incorporating some childlike play into your day will boost your mood. These are all some of the benefits of play. I for one highly recommend it.

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Norma Walton and children jumping in the lake
Jumping into Georgian Bay

Other than playing shinny on a frozen pond, what is more Canadian than jumping in the lake for a summer swim?  When it is warm, Canadians flock to the lakes and beaches to play in the sand and the water.  Most Canadian children have happy memories of canoeing, paddle boarding, building sandcastles, swimming, and hanging out on the dock.   The lake water provides energy and makes Canadians feel buoyant and alive.  One of the first things most Canadian children learn to do is swim so they can fully and safely enjoy and embrace the abundance of lakes and rivers in Ontario.

As you grow older, if you want to swim year-round, you will need access to an indoor pool.  I have many fond memories of swimming as a kid, and I trained as a lifeguard in my teens so have always been happy and comfortable in the water.  Just in the last five years, though, have I begun to swim laps regularly…and I have never felt better.

There are five specific benefits to be derived from a daily swim.

  1. Your Fitness Level Will Improve.

Swimming manages to satisfy the trifecta of exercise objectives:  it increases your flexibility, improves your endurance, and makes you stronger.  It is also ideal for any age since it is low impact and easy on the joints.  Swimming regularly makes your arms far more defined and much stronger.  Your legs will become toned and your belly will be tighter.  Swimming elongates and stretches you so that you stand taller and feel sleeker when you are finished in the pool.  Your body will look and feel leaner than before.  My personal objective when I do laps is to ensure I am breathing heavily and panting when done.  Others take it slower and less taxing.  Still others love aquacise and how it makes their bodies feel.  Any activity in the pool will increase your fitness level.

Norma Walton shows a lap pool for enjoying swimming
Indoor lap pool – Kissing Tree

2. The Pool Will Become Your Sanctuary:

Your phone cannot come with you into the pool.  Your children typically cannot come with you into the pool…same with your spouse.  There is a blissful sanctuary about being in the water by yourself.  The water surrounds you and you float.  You can collect your thoughts and enjoy the stillness and the silence that comes from being submerged.  Your mind can rest and relax.  Sometimes I ponder problems when I am swimming.  Other times I shut off my mind and just enjoy the physical sensations of swimming.  Still others I remember books I have read or movies I have seen and re-live them in my mind.  It is a wonderful time for me and such a nice break from all the distractions that are everywhere during our waking hours.

3. You Will Feel Better About Yourself:

Being in the pool every day always makes you feel better.  Once you are done your workout, the endorphins are coursing through your system giving you that exercise high.  Your body will smell of chlorine or salt which swimmers typically grow to love.  If you are a member of a club, you can enjoy a steam room or whirlpool after your swim along with a shower and spa experience with body cream, face cream, and all manner of pampering products.  Taking time for yourself will improve your self confidence and self esteem.  I always feel great coming out of the club because I have exercised, my endorphins are flowing, I have cream all over my body, my lungs feel good from a steam, and I am happy.  I feel healthy.  It is a great feeling.

4. You Will Be More Optimistic:

The luxury of swimming every day makes you feel lucky.  When you embrace the experience, you cannot help but leave the pool happier than when you entered.  Your body will feel fluid and strong, and your mind will be recharged from the silence and embrace of the water.  The social aspect of swimming will also uplift your spirits.  Inevitably when you leave the pool you are happier and more optimistic than when you arrived.  That sense of optimism bucks you up throughout the day and permits you to be more positive and encouraging.  Swimming is a wonderful lift for anyone who is frustrated or stressed or depressed.  The pool is a place for shedding all your anxiety and allowing the total immersion of your body and the restoration of your mind to become a balm to your spirit.

Norma Walton and children at the grotto in Georgian Bay
The Grotto, Georgian Bay

5. You Will Expand Your Social Circle:

Swimmers are creatures of habit.  They typically swim at the same time each day.  They wear the same suits.  They use the same goggles and swim caps.  They do the same routine.  They follow the same pattern each time.  They track time and laps.  That means that once you become a swimmer, you will identify with other swimmers and will enjoy getting to know them and relating to them each day that you see them.  Swimmers can be any age, but regular swimmers are generally in their 40s and above.  They are often people who may have done power sports in their younger days and have turned to swimming now because of injury.  There is a connection you will find with other swimmers that will forge relationships and permit you to make friends and acquaintances with your peers and elders.  Those relationships will encourage you to view the pool as a social outing in addition to a place for health and exercise.

There are many places to swim in cities and towns.  Usually the local YMCA permits swimming as do local community centers.  Many fitness clubs have pools and they are often the least used amenity so you will sometimes have the entire Olympic sized pool to yourself.  Whether salt water or chlorine or some combination thereof, the water is clean and clear. 

I love to do a mile worth of laps.  I like variety so I start with 40 meters of breaststroke followed by 40 meters of front crawl, then 40 meters of back stroke followed by 40 meters of back crawl.  I then do side stroke and end with butterfly, 40 meters each.  This takes me about six to seven minutes per cycle.  Rinse, wash, repeat.  I swim a mile – 1609 meters – in about 46 minutes.  Other swimmers do different things.  No matter what strokes you prefer, swimming will uplift you.

You may choose to swim to improve your fitness level; you may swim for sanctuary, peace of mind and quiet contemplation.  Perhaps you seek to feel better about yourself and improve your self perception, or maybe you want to encourage a more positive outlook on life.  Alternatively maybe you want to meet some like-minded people.  Whatever your reason, swimming is so beneficial to our bodies, minds and spirits that you may want to give it a try.

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Thoughtful Benefits You Can Offer Your Employees To Show You Care, By Hazel Bridges

Image by Pexels

If you want to send a message to your staff that shows you care, start with a robust benefits package. Getting creative with benefits attracts talent to your business, makes you stand out among competitors, and improves your bottom line. These examples (presented below by Norma Walton) can help you start thinking about innovative ways to create or improve your benefits package. 

Traditional Benefits Improvements

Employees expect paid vacation days and health insurance, but you can make it more exciting. Consider offering paid personal days or extra paid vacation time. Surveys show that daycare cost is astronomical almost everywhere. ZenBusiness suggests offering supplemental daycare assistance or even building a workplace daycare.

Offering dental and vision insurance in the healthcare package is a strong improvement, but you can also actively promote healthy living. Provide nutrition education or fitness coaching programs. Move brainstorming meetings from the conference room to walking trails outside to get everyone moving. Some companies occasionally extend the lunch hour to incorporate intramurals. It promotes exercise and is great for team-building. Emphasize mental health with counseling sessions or paid days off to regroup after a long week. 

Off-the-Clock Services

Many companies have started offering experiences for employees after-hours. You can turn some benefits into fun surprises. One company allowed employees to participate in a luggage party, holding a drawing during the workday and sending the winner on a free weekend trip. Offer a vacation bonus that employees can spend on any trip they choose. Provide sabbaticals outside of the standard annual vacation days. For example, you can include a three-week, paid sabbatical under time-off benefits, and implement it after 10 years of employment and every five years following. If you want to offer a fun short break in the year, appeal to nostalgia and bring back spring break. 

Find a way to contribute to everyday life after the workday. Chore help, such as weekly laundry services or cleaning crews, frees up time for your employees after work hours. If you have employees with a long commute, offer a subscription to Audible. Pay your employees to use their free time volunteering. Many companies are offering 40 hours of paid volunteer work annually. Employees can distribute it throughout the year as they please. 

On-Site Enhancements

Your employees spend a substantial amount of time at the workplace. You can use the benefits package to change up the workday. Some companies implement a break in the day for relaxing activities, such as yoga classes. Allow for flexibility in the form of work from anywhere, not just from home. Schedule social activities, such as Wednesday morning coffee or Thursday off-site lunch together. An increasingly popular move is to reduce hours. In the tech industry, some companies are eliminating the five-day workweek and giving employees Friday off.

You can also help employees develop personally. Provide tuition assistance or funding for classes and conferences. Helping employees further their education benefits the business as well. Create a workplace library for a quiet break. Put in a bookshelf and some informational reading and encourage employees to share their favorite books. 

Employee appreciation comes in a variety of forms, and it doesn’t have to stop when the workday ends. Your employees will recognize when you are invested in their productivity and well-being. In return, they will become more productive and beneficial to your company. 

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The Benefits of a Morning Walk with Norma Walton

Norma Walton Michelle Obama Benefits of Walking

I remember reading that Michele Obama woke up really early to ensure she fit a workout in every day.  When her first daughter was four months old, that meant 4:30 am.  That is a little crazy-early for me.  Nonetheless, the concept appealed to me that if you fit your workout in first thing in the morning then it is done for the rest of the day.

I love a morning walk. The weather is fresh; it is quiet, still and peaceful; you get your exercise out of the way for the day; and you feel more invigorated with energy for the remainder of the day. It definitely takes extra effort to get up early to add a walk into your morning regime but for me, the benefits far outweigh that one challenge. I am now used to the early rise and like being up before the rest of my crew.  I have found that my morning walk brings the following health benefits: 

Energy Boost

We’ll start here because it is the first thing you’ll notice following your walk. Exercising outdoors is an excellent way to increase your energy.  The fresh air and morning quiet gives you a boost.  Although I typically walk for between 30 and 60 minutes each morning, it takes just 20 minutes of brisk walking to enjoy the newfound vitality. Instead of reaching for that cup of coffee in the morning with your eyes half closed, may I suggest you instead lace up your shoes and head out to take in some fresh air and get your circulation pumping.

Happier Mood

I tend to run happy but notice that even generally cranky people benefit from exercise.  So if you live with someone who tends to wake up angry, drag him with you on your morning walk.  Mood improvements are a wonderful benefit of morning walks, which can create an overall feeling of well-being.  Pumping a few endorphins through your body first thing can improve your mood for the entire day. Your daily constitutional can also improve self-esteem, reduce stress and anxiety, shake off fatigue, and even ease symptoms of depression.  All of these positive feelings can be achieved with a 20 minute walk five mornings a week.

Get Exercise Out of the Way

If you’re like a lot of people, the thought of exercise might be a real turn off. However, a morning walk can provide enough exercise for the day. It is one of the best forms of physical activity and I find it far more pleasant than trying to work out at home or in a gym. If you find yourself trying to avoid exercise, walking feels more like a treat than the drudgery of exercising. Even a slower paced walk can do wonders for your health.. Walk at whatever pace you feel comfortable. After your walk, you will feel satisfaction in the knowledge that you’re done for the day.

Weight Loss and Avoiding Weight Gain

At my age, the objective is not to gain any more weight.  A daily walk helps me maintain my weight.  For some, a daily walk will not only permit you to maintain your weight but will allow you to shed a few excess pounds.  Weight loss typically makes you look better, move easier, and improve overall health. A brisk morning walk lasting 30 minutes burns approximately 150 calories per walk.  Walking five days a week means you are burning 750 calories a week from walking.  That makes a difference…that is a pound of weight lost each month you walk.

For Your Health

Walking will improve your health.  A morning walk can help you better manage your health, prevent some health problems, and make it easier to live with chronic health challenges. Because you are exercising, you are receiving an immune system boost, coursing endorphins through your body, promoting weight maintenance or weight loss, and reducing your risk for heart disease. If you suffer from diabetes, walking can also help you better manage glucose levels.  There is even some research suggesting that walking daily will reduce your risk of contracting some forms of cancer and will increase your lifespan.  What’s not to like?

Improve Muscle Strength

As we age, we lose muscle and gain fat.  Our bodies change in ways we typically don’t appreciate.  A nice brisk walk can help strengthen leg muscles. Going uphill or taking the stairs can further increase the impact of walking on your leg muscles and also increase your leg strength. Even a slight incline gets your heart and muscles pumping. A walk is a pleasant way to keep leg muscles toned. To get your arm muscles into the act, consider carrying small weights with you or bringing Nordic poles along on your walk.  I often walk to the grocery store in the morning then walk home laden with groceries in my back pack and in my arms.  Although sometimes I feel like a pack mule, I have no doubt it is good for me.

Norma Walton explores mountains in Nevada

Mental Clarity

For me, being quiet in nature is an excellent stress buster.  If you live in a neighbourhood with green space, you can clear your head by drinking in that natural beauty each morning. Even in an urban space, you can improve mental clarity with a morning walk but the more nature you can incorporate into your morning walk, the more you will benefit. As we age, our brains become foggier.  A morning walk helps keep that youthful cognitive function that keeps your mind sharp. If you do creative work, a morning walk can open up your creativity and remove blocks. You can even experience improved problem-solving skills.  I always find solutions to my problems come to me after a good night’s sleep and a morning walk.

A Good Night’s Sleep

When you are up early for your walk, you tend to tire earlier at night.  When my head hits the pillow, it is easy for me to fall asleep.  In my view, even though you are walking in the morning, that activity actually helps you sleep better at night. Also, if you suffer from mild insomnia, a morning walk is better than an evening walk because you don’t want your body moving into an energy-producing mode just before bed. Also, with a morning kick start, your metabolism will work better throughout the day. Once your morning walk is a habit, you start to create a nice cycle providing yourself with much needed energy in the morning and throughout the day with improved sleep at night, allowing you to wake ready for your next walk the next morning.

Norma Walton kids sleeping

Summer Friendly

Toronto has been hot the past few days.  Walking in the middle of the day would be uncomfortable.  Walking in the morning allows you to take advantage of the coolest part of the day.  I always drink a big glass of water before heading out for my walk, and another one upon my return.  Others bring water with them.

Motion is Lotion

Three members of my household suffer from back pain.  Although laying down may seem the obvious fix, they find it is actually the worst thing you can do.  Staying  up and staying active will help work out the back problem faster than lying prone and still.  If you suffer from chronic pain of any kind, it is hard to get into the spirit of the motion-is-lotion movement.  However, I believe it is true and can help you relieve your pain. You can start out with slower, shorter walks and avoid putting too much pressure on yourself. Instead, take your time and remember that every step is one towards improved health and a reduction in muscle stiffness and joint pain. Walking actually helps protect your joints, as it promotes production of lubrication while helping to strengthen joint muscles. Once again, this is very important as you age, as it can help manage issues such as arthritis. As a low-impact exercise, it is the safest way to avoid increasing pain, and instead helps reduce swelling and stiffness.

I still think Michelle Obama is a little crazy being up that early.  But I agree wholeheartedly with her opinion that morning is the best time to exercise.  Hopefully the above benefits have encouraged you to give a morning walk a try if you don’t already enjoy one.  If so, then lace it up, take it slow to start, and always stay hydrated.

Norma Walton walk in the woods

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Finding Stillness: Six Steps to a More Peaceful Day With Norma Walton

Life is loud.  The humming of your computer; the dinging of your smartphone; your air conditioner kicking in; traffic on the highway; laundry spinning; the dishwasher cleaning…all of these sounds take a toll.  It is difficult in the midst of modern living to find peace and quiet…true live-in-the-country, watch-the-stars quiet.

I am blessed with four healthy children aged 8 to 15; an additional teenager bunking with us during the pandemic; a 94-year old mother-in-law; and a husband of 30 years.  All of these creatures are loud more often than not.  All of them are loving about being noisy most of the time and our house is generally a raucous, rambunctious, happy place.  But it is rarely quiet.

I have read a few articles and talked with a few people who recommend meditation for at least 25 minutes a day to calm the mind and promote health and longevity.  Although a laudable concept, meditation is not for me at this point in my life.  Yet I need daily moments of stillness…of peace…of quiet.  Hence determining how to find peaceful intervals during the day is important.  I have made a few such breaks part of my daily routine.  What follows are six steps that help me find peace and quiet in the midst of the chaos that is our modern society and daily lives.

 Norma Walton peaceful day
Vitamin D in Womens Health, Role of Vitamin D3 Supplements in female health. Young woman enjoying sun in nature background.

1. Walking the dogs:  We have two Yorkshire Terriers.  They sleep with my children but the moment I wake up, they start to snuffle and whine and move around because I walk them each morning and each evening.  I have found that the 20 minutes I spend walking the two dogs twice a day is a time of immense peace and happiness for me.  Other dog walkers are generally friendly but most of the time I am alone with my puppies and my thoughts.  It is an ideal time to bask in the quiet while also marveling at the natural beauty all around.  Walking the dogs is a time of quiet reflection for me.

2. My daily walk:  After walking the puppies, I walk myself.  Rain or shine, I am typically out for a morning walk of between half an hour and an hour in duration. Although I enjoy calling and catching up with my folks or my friends during my morning walk, half of the time I walk in silence just thinking, looking around, greeting other walkers, and being present.  That is a good time for me.  I always come back from my walk refreshed and feeling much better.

3.  Stretching in the shower:  I love a hot shower and after I shower, I always stretch for at least a few minutes.  The air is warm and full of moisture and I inhale deeply while stretching with the water beating down on my back.  It is peaceful and my body appreciates being limber for the day because of the calisthenics.

4.  Reading a good book:  I have always loved to read.  My first part-time job was at the Byron Public Library where I would bring home loads of books every day after work.  Still decades later when I want to relax, I tuck into my chair with a good book and can read for literally hours at a time.  Jeffrey Archer is a favourite author along with John Grisham, but anything that engages me will do.  Reading a good book always makes me feel relaxed and happy, as does going to the library to find my next one.

5.  Journaling:  I keep a current journal with photos, pictures, words, poems, quotes, ideas, financial plans, business ideas, goals, items from the kids…anything that I find meaningful.  Spending time writing in my journal or cutting out a photo or picture that speaks to me and taping it in is satisfying.  I like the feel of the thick paper in my hands as I dream and create.  That activity makes me feel good and at peace.

6.  Hugging loved ones:  The moment of a hug is a peaceful, happy point in time.  We sometimes forget to slow down and hug our children, our parents, or our spouse.  Life is rushed and hurried and often stressful so we race around oblivious to the power of touch.  When we do take a moment to put our arms around someone we love, time slows down or stops.  That point of touch allows us to take a deep breath in and out to remember the value of the people around us whom we love.  When we take the time to show them we appreciate them, life always becomes a little bit better.

norma walton walks dogs

Daily life is hectic.  Modern society values speed.  Rushing around has become the norm.  We are rarely without our phones.  It is no wonder, then, that many people are anxious and unhappy.  Being stressed on a regular basis is not healthy.  In contrast, being able to find peace, stillness and relaxation in the midst of your day keeps you grounded.  Your mental health improves with every touch, with every deep breath, with every positive thought.  It doesn’t require hours of your time but merely minutes to change your mood.  Yet taking those minutes is crucial to enjoying your life.

The key for me has been incorporating the above six steps into my daily routine.  Once something is a habit, there is no need to motivate yourself to do it.  You just do it.  The above examples are mine and reflect what I find provides stillness and peace in my life.  You may have different activities that make you feel happy each day.  The key is being aware that you need some quiet in your daily life then determining the activities that provide you with that time.  The objective is to find your own activities that bring you contentment and then incorporate them into your daily life and daily routine. Life is still loud.  I don’t live in the country and the lights of the city make the stars hard to see.  But the six activities above have permitted me to find stillness and contentment in the midst of all the noise. I am much happier for it.

Norma Walton mother
Hugging mother and daughter in the park
Posted in Investing

Three Lessons Learned from Owning a Bridle Path Home

Owning a Bridle Path Home 2

The Bridle Path or “Millionaire’s Row” seems the pinnacle of Canadian home ownership.  Celebrities such as Celine Dion, Drake, Prince, Mick Jagger and Gordon Lightfoot have all called this neighbourhood home.  Living in the Bridle Path is considered “making it” by many ordinary Canadians. 

My husband and I lived there with our four young children between 2012 and 2014 and there were definite pluses, the biggest being the park-like back yard.  But I would not go back even if I could.

The three lessons I learned from owning a Bridle Path home are as follows:

Lesson One: If you need a mortgage to afford a home in the Bridle Path, this neighbourhood is not for you. 

I was told this by one of our lenders at the time and thought it a strange comment, but in hindsight he was absolutely right.  This is a neighbourhood for extremely wealthy people – celebrities, titans of industry and old money.  If you require a mortgage to join them, you should move somewhere else.

Lesson Two: This is not a neighbourhood in the real sense of the word. 

You will not have any neighbours within view when you exit your home; your children will not have any playmates on the street; no one will have eyes on your house when you are not there; almost every house has large fences or walls around it; and you won’t meet any of your neighbours.  There is no street activity like ball hockey, raking leaves, playing hoops in your driveway, sitting on the porch, or walking and jogging like on a normal street.  This is an exclusive, estate-lot type setting, where everyone keeps to themselves and everyone expects privacy.

Lesson Three: Buying a home in the Bridle Path is not an investment but an expense. 

Even without a mortgage you will likely have property taxes of $10,000 per month, utility bills of $10,000 per month, and maintenance fees of $5,000 per month.  That tallies $300,000 per year in home expenses even without a mortgage.  Hence this type of home requires that the owner have a robust ongoing income from other sources to cover the $25,000 monthly bills. Even if the home increases in value over time, the ongoing expenses will likely eat up any capital gain.

Drake is a perfect resident of the Bridle Path.  Normal folk not so much.

Drake - Canadian Musician

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Norma Walton Talks: Retail Real Estate Predictions

Over the past two years, I have watched with interest and some consternation as more major retailers than I have fingers and toes have gone into receivership or bankruptcy.  COVID has accelerated trends that were already happening in the marketplace.  Four of those trends bear highlighting.

Apparel retailers are in trouble.  Any apparel retailer with significant debt will fail in the next two years.  COVID has caused those stores to be completely closed for the past three months.  Now that they are permitted to re-open, the restrictions being placed upon them coupled with the general anxiety amongst a large portion of the population about venturing outside of their homes will work together to significantly reduce their sales.  This reduction in revenue will leave them unable to cover their debts.  That means receivership or bankruptcy.

Even those apparel retailers who don’t have a lot of debt will be forced to dramatically reduce their real estate footprint and significantly increase their online sales and web presence.  That trend is unstoppable.  Stores will be smaller and more reliant upon online sales in the future.  They will have to push their brand online and ensure their websites can accommodate and promote online sales.

That rolls into my third prediction, which is that warehousing space will become more expensive and warehouse fulfillment centres will boom over the next two years.  Any landlords who have warehouse space available will be able to ask more per square foot because as retailers reduce their real estate footprint, they will need a place to receive, store and ship out their clothing.   Warehouse fulfillment and distribution centres will be in demand given the shift to online shopping.

Real Estate Prediction

The final prediction concerns malls.  Malls will have to diversify their sources of income and their revenues to survive going forward.  They will not be able to rely solely upon retailers.  This trend has already started.  The Shops of Don Mills has ringed the mall with residential towers, providing built-in shoppers.  The retailers there still struggle but the restaurants, movie theatres, grocery stores and drug stores are thriving.  Bayview Village and Yorkdale malls are trying to replicate that trend, adding significant residential density to the mall and adding more restaurants and entertainment centres to service the residents they propose to move in.  Malls in Canada will need to move in that direction to survive.

Those are my four retail real estate predictions for Canada for the next two years.  I will continue to watch with interest to see what comes to pass.

Posted in Finance

Norma Walton Talks: Predictions for Residential Real Estate

I predict that the price of houses in towns and cities that are within one to two hours of Toronto will skyrocket in value over the next two years, outpacing the average price appreciation for all residential real estate in Ontario.  There are three reasons I make this prediction.

Residential Real Estate

First, with the onset of COVID, a lot of employers have been forced to permit their employees to work from home.  This is a trend that is here to stay.  Even bankers and lawyers are working from home.  That flexibility and the concept that you may only need to attend the office in person two to three days a week removes the need for people to live in or near the big city.  Commuting a few days a week is not as onerous as commuting every single weekday.  This provides flexibility and opens up a much larger radius around the city for purchasing a home.  The smaller towns are far more affordable than Toronto.  A colleague of mine recently bought a brand new home in Bracebridge for less than $500,000.  That is an attractive metric for many people who currently live in the city.

Second, there are so many condominium dwellers and apartment dwellers who are sick of waiting 45 minutes or more for the elevator due to social distancing.  They are also tired of heading up and down the emergency exit stairs trying to keep their distance.  They are desperate to breathe the fresh air and spend some time outdoors given the state of emergency orders that have been in place.  Many condominiums and apartments have no outdoor space.  Those feelings of having been cooped up in a box will drive many of those condominium owners to sell their condominiums and purchase houses that they can afford…and those affordable communities are typically at least an hour outside of Toronto and often as far away as two hours away.

Predictions for Residential Real Estate
Macleans photo

Finally, the price of houses in the city of Toronto remains incredibly high.  The prices are completely unaffordable for most families.  Anyone coming into the city from elsewhere in Canada cannot afford to buy in Toronto.  That lack of access to affordable houses in the city will drive people who want a backyard and their own house further and further outside of the city limits.

Those three trends support my prediction that homes in the surrounding communities within one to two hours of Toronto will skyrocket over the next two years.  We’ll see if the prediction comes to fruition.