Let's face it: Sex at the beginning of a relationship is different from sex in the midst of a long-term relationship. The former is intense, exciting and frequent. The latter is more comfortable, often predictable and likely doesn't happen twice a day, every day. But that doesn't mean it has to be boring. Sex with someone you've been with for years can be just as exhilarating as it was the first few times you slept together.
If your sex life has hit the skids it's time to kick it back into high gear. "Winter is a great time to bring some novelty and mystery to your sex life," says Terri Orbuch, a marriage and relationship therapist and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great (Delacorte, 2009). "Small changes in your routine and relationship can reignite the sexuality along with the passion."
1. Let's talk about sex If you want to keep your sex life interesting you have to be willing to talk about it. "This can be helpful, as well as physiologically arousing, for both of you," says Orbuch. That's right: Talking about sex can turn you on. Discuss with your partner what you find exciting and what you would like to be getting more of in bed. Not sure where to start? Think about what your sex life was like at the beginning of your relationship. What do you miss? What could be reintroduced? When you do talk about sex, focus on the positive. Rather than talking about what your partner doesn't do, tell him what he can do (or do more of) to turn you on.
2. Develop sex signals A wink or a simple caress on the arm is a lot sexier than saying, "Let's go have sex." Developing small signals with your partner is a great way to keep committed sex from falling flat. "Some couples have their own secret or personal ways of telling each other they're interested in having sex," says Orbuch. It can be a nod, a word or even a certain outfit. "This kind of secret language adds mystery and suspense to your relationship since you and your partner are the only ones who can understand and identify the signals."
Page 1 of 2 -- Has a little fantasy ever tickled your fancy? Find three more ways to spice up your bedroom routine on page 2 3. Add a new twist Avoid getting bored in the bedroom by regularly introducing new ideas to your sex life. It doesn't have to be a dramatic shift, but steering clear of sexual ruts requires creativity. What you do depends on your comfort level, but start by switching up where and when you usually have sex. "If you always have sex in the bedroom, try the kitchen, the shower or even a hotel room," suggests Orbuch. "Changing the place and situation for sex will help stir things up." You can also buy some new lingerie, test out a new position (or two) or go shopping for a sex toy. The point is to take the predictability out of committed sex and make it more interesting.
4. Just do it Sometimes all it takes to reignite your sexual spark is to simply have sex -- especially when you don't feel like it. Were you ever too tired or too stressed out to have sex when the relationship was new? "One way to boost libido is to schedule frequent sex, even if one or both of you isn't in the mood," Orbuch says. Getting those sex hormones into production again leads to more desire going forward. "Increasing the frequency of sex can have dramatic effects on the relationship," says Orbuch. 5. Explore sexual fantasies Whether you have a vampire fetish courtesy of True Blood or a thing for getaway drivers who don't say much after watching Ryan Gosling in Drive, one of the best ways to make sure sex stays exciting is with fantasies. "Sexual fantasies can be a healthy and natural part of a relationship," explains Orbuch. The decision to come clean about what scenarios really turn you on can feel risky -- but it can also completely change up your sex life. The key is to take each other's fantasies seriously (no teasing), be creative and just have fun with the experience.
Sex in a long-term committed relationship doesn't have to be ho-hum. Take advantage of the comfort level and familiarity you have with your partner. If you are open to trying new things together, the potential of amazing sex is limitless.
Our editors share the items they are coveting this February—and they're all under $100.
As much as we love shopping, what we love even more is a good deal. Which is why we asked our style editors to share the items that they'll be shopping for this month. The good news? Everything is under $100, which means you don't have to feel guilty about picking a few things up yourself.
As I think about spring, I always begin to think about what sneakers I’m going to pick up. Spring is sneaker season, at least if you ask me. This year, I’m going back to basics with a classic pair of Vans. Bonus—they’ve been spotted on bloggers, models and off-duty actors, so you know this style is making a comeback. At the very affordable $80 price point, this will be money well-spent seeing as how I'll be living in them for the season. - Alexandra Donaldson, contributing editor
Graphic pants are everything at the moment. Dress them down with sneakers, add heels for a more professional look, pair it with a form-fitting top to keep it sleek. They'll go with everything. - Noelle Gauthier, style intern
Uniqlo women smart style ankle length pants, $40, uniqlo.com.
Easy to apply eyeshadow
If I’m wearing makeup beyond my under-eye concealer and mascara, it needs to be efficient. Which is why I have my eye on this Nudestix eye crayon. The metallic hue will add a bit of pizzazz to my makeup look, without too much extra effort.
Nudestix Magnetic Eye Colour in Twilight, $28, sephora.com.
How come boyfriend jeans always seem amazing in theory, but never translate into the model-off-duty look when worn? These "girlfriend" jeans have a tailored fit making them far more wearable.
Animal motifs have been hot on the runway—but if you can’t afford to spring for Gucci (and really, who can?) you can pick up this panther cropped sweatshirt from Forever 21. At $25 it’s a steal—and super cute to boot.
A few years ago I never could have imagined loving the kitten heel like I do now—but these days everything is old new again. The low-heel allows me to survive in them all day, so I'm thinking they'll be sticking around for awhile.
Say what you want about the Kardashians, but they have the perfectly tousled California-girl waves I'm after. Enter this new haircare line by their trusted hairstylist, Jen Atkin. I'm eyeing this texturizing spray to recreate their manes.
Here are some scary truths: 70 percent of new Alzheimer's patients in Canada will be women, and we're diagnosed with depression and dementia at twice the rate of men. But new research says there are three simple lifestyle changes we can make right now to keep our brains healthy as we age.
You brush your teeth to prevent tooth decay and check your blood pressure to monitor for signs of heart problems. But are you doing anything to keep your brain in tip-top shape? Because you should be. Brain health, which experts define as a combination of cognitive (memory, attention, thinking) and mental (emotional well-being) fitness, is a major, albeit under-the- radar, health issue for Canadian women.
It's major because as we age, so do our brains. Vascular changes can decrease blood flow; we can lose volume in key areas, including the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, the regions responsible for learning and memory. Myelin, a fatty material that makes up the protective coating around nerve fibres, starts to deteriorate, causing the brain to slow down. And nerve cells can develop plaques and tangles— structures caused by the buildup of proteins called beta-amyloids that can disrupt the brain's normal function. In some people, these and other signs of normal aging can cause mental health problems, strokes and brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's, and increase the risk of diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Brain health is an under-the-radar issue because, though women are more likely to experience cognitive decline (thanks to dementia or Alzheimer's) and to suffer from depression, most of the research on these conditions still focuses on men.
Thankfully, studies are showing that straightforward lifestyle changes—exercising regularly and not smoking are at the top of the list—help shore up what researchers call "cognitive reserve," a buffer that "delays the changes or makes your body better equipped to handle those changes," says Lauren Drogos, a brain researcher at the University of Calgary.
In fact, Drogos says there's evidence to show that, in some people, even serious symptoms do not necessarily develop into cognitive impairment. She points to the Nun Study, a famous long-running research project on aging and Alzheimer's that has been tracking 678 nuns from convents across the United States since the mid-1980s. One of the nuns, Sister Mary, died at the age of 101 showing no outward signs of cognitive decline—but when researchers examined her brain, they were shocked to find she had "abundant neurofibrillary tangles and senile plaques, the classic lesions of Alzheimer's disease." Scientists don't know exactly why some people can have severe symptoms, such as plaques and tangles, without experiencing cognitive decline, but, happily, cases like Sister Mary do show that dementia isn't an inevitable part of aging.
And since women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with many of these problems, the more we consider brain health when making our day-to-day lifestyle decisions, the better. (Bonus: These changes also benefit your heart and help prevent other diseases, including Type 2 diabetes and cancer.) So here's what you can do to take care of your brain.
This is your brain on exercise If you had to pick just one lifestyle change to make in the name of brain health, experts agree exercise tops the list—especially for women.
We consider neuroplasticity, the brain's capacity to form new neural connections, an exciting part of a child's development, but we now know our brains can continue to grow, repair and improve as adults, too. Physical activity is a well-researched trigger. Not only can working out bolster our day-to-day functioning and alertness but it also appears to help us repair brain damage. Plus, it slows down aging and the onset of age-related brain diseases.
Working up a sweat and pumping up your heart rate can lead to a healthier vascular system in the brain, which decreases blood pressure and oxidative stress (when your body's antioxidants can't fight off free radicals), and increases antioxidant activity, according to Marc Poulin, an Alzheimer's researcher and professor of physiology at the University of Calgary. Vigorous exercise also floods the bloodstream with a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which readies the body for repair and heightens the brain's ability to learn and form new memories. Plus, hitting the gym helps the brain repair myelin; a lack of the nerve fibre–protecting substance is a factor in developing multiple sclerosis.
Exercising can also restore crucial brain volume. Research has shown that the hippocampus— home to memory, learning and emotion—starts shrinking after age 55 by about one to two percent a year, but just one year of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise done three days a week can increase its size by two percent.
And while most of the research is about the benefits of getting in your cardio, Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an associate professor and Canada research chair at The University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, says strength training is also effective, as it can enhance brain performance and function by 11 to 17 percent. "Women live longer [than men], and age itself is the greatest risk factor for dementia," she says. "But the good news is when we look at the benefit of aerobic exercise on cognition in older adults, women seem to benefit more."
The takeaway: You can reap the rewards from even a 15-minute walk. Of course, the longer you exercise, the better, especially if you get your sweat on and your heart rate up. If you want to tick a few other brain health tips off your list, consider joining a team sport. It blends physical, social and cognitive skills, and "can also add pleasure and meaning to our lives," says Dr. Nasreen Khatri, a registered clinical psychologist, gerontologist and neuroscientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto.
If you have an office job and find you're sedentary most of the day, take a few minutes every hour or so to get up and move around. Research also suggests switching to a standup desk may improve your brain function.
Did you know? Taking care of a loved one—most often a spouse in your later years—can be a risk factor for developing depression and, eventually, dementia . But research out of the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto found, for the first time, that cognitive behavioural therapy, a form of talk therapy, can improve both mood and cognition.
This is your brain on sleep After a good night's sleep, you feel alert and ready to tackle the day. But that's not just because your brain has been resting. It has also been busy filing away memories and taking out the trash, so to speak, thanks to the glymphatic system, which washes the brain of waste materials. For example, a protein called betaamyloid, which is known to play a role in the development of Alzheimer's, acts as a neurotoxin when it builds up, killing neural cells in the brain. But a good sleep removes excess beta-amyloid and other waste materials, says Dr. Liu-Ambrose.
Because one of the common symptoms of Alzheimer's is disrupted sleep, it's unclear whether a lack of shut-eye should be considered part of the progression of the disease or a risk factor on its own, due to the buildup of beta-amyloids.
Nevertheless, poor sleep hastens your brain's aging process—much like sitting in the sun sans SPF speeds up your skin's aging process. And disturbed sleeping has been linked to all aspects of brain health, including an increased risk of depression and a decline in cognitive functions such as memory and reasoning. In one U.K. study out of University College London Medical School, middle-aged women who reported a drop in the average number of hours they slept had lower scores on cognitive tests involving reasoning and vocabulary.
What's more, our central clocks—a.k.a. our circadian rhythms—can drift from the patterns of our childhood, making it hard to get that much-needed rest. "As we age, our central clock is less sensitive to stimuli like light, food and physical activity," says Dr. Liu-Ambrose; this change makes it harder to fall, and stay, asleep. We can also become more vulnerable to stress and anxiety, which further disrupt those rhythms.
One way to combat these fluctuations is to try what seasoned travellers do for jet-lag recovery: Get exposure to real daylight and eat your meals on time to nudge your brain into a routine. And don't use bright screens at night, especially before bed, because they mimic sunlight and tell our circadian system that it's day, not night—and, therefore, not time to sleep. Those who need more help might consider light therapies that have been developed to treat seasonal affective disorder, says Dr. Liu-Ambrose.
The takeaway: Many researchers consider six to eight hours of sleep a night to be the standard sweet spot, though this can vary by individual. If you're routinely getting less than that and waking often in the night, not feeling refreshed in the morning and experiencing bouts of sleepiness during the day, talk to your doctor about sleep strategies—especially if you're experiencing anxiety or depression. In the short term, napping can reverse some of the effects of poor sleep, including memory loss and increased stress. And you only need a 30-minute catnap to feel the results.
This is your brain on a healthy diet There's no perfect "brain food," but eating a nutritious diet (lots of veggies and fruit, lean meat, fish and healthy fats) is the smartest way to maintain long-term brain function and memory, and to slow the development of brain diseases.
Getting enough of specific nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids is important but not the holy grail. University of Pittsburgh researchers recently found that people who eat broiled or baked fish at least once a week have larger brain volumes in the areas used for memory and cognition, despite varying levels of omega-3 in the fish they ate. Senior researcher James Becker concluded that he and his colleagues were "tapping into a more general set of lifestyle factors that were affecting brain health, of which diet is just one part."
In a 2015 study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, researchers looked at the broad set of eating habits of more than 900 people over 4 1/2 years and found that those who adhered to a diet high in fish, vegetables, nuts and berries, and low in fat and sugar, slowed down their brains' aging by about 7 1/2 years when compared to those with less-healthy diets. The healthy eaters cut their risk of Alzheimer's by up to 53 percent. And even when those people only adhered to the diet part time, they saw some benefits— an effect that has not been found in other diets, says Drogos.
The researchers dubbed the most promising cluster of these eating habits the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, which blends the longevity-boosting Mediterranean diet and the heart-healthy low-fat DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet that doctors recommend to patients at risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. More studies need to be done on why it works, but in the meantime, there's no downside to eating healthier and ditching the junk.
The takeaway: Add more veggies to your diet. Research shows that older adults who report eating more of this food group perform better in mentally stimulating activities than those who don't.
Did you know? "Menopause brain" is a real thing. As with "pregnancy brain," its more famous counterpart, women approaching menopause really do experience memory problems and brain fog. Researchers think a drop in estrogen levels might be the cause.
Can you train your brain? Does firing up a brain-training app actually help improve your memory and ward off dementia? Sorry to disappoint, but right now, evidence for the benefits of computer-based brain games is weak, says Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an associate professor and Canada research chair at The University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Coastal HealthResearch Institute. Brain games appear to help you learn to play them better, but research doesn't show that those tasks transfer to other aspects of brain performance. The same goes for crossword puzzles and sudoku, which help your vocabulary and math skills, but nothing more.
How to maintain your mental edge at any age
In your 30s: This is the time to make sure you establish healthy habits—such as getting plenty of exercise and sleep, and eating a good diet—that will affect your brain health throughout your adult years. "When it comes to maintaining brain health, the best time to start is yesterday," says Dr. Nasreen Khatri, a registered clinical psychologist, gerontologist and neuroscientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto. If you feel you need a boost at work, consider old-fashioned writing instead of typing on your computer. A study in the journal Psychological Science found that university students who made handwritten notes were better equipped to recall conceptual ideas from their professors' lectures than those who had typed notes on their laptops.
In your 40s and 50s: People in this age group are part of the "sandwich generation," and often face caring for their aging parents on top of dealing with their other work, financial and parenting obligations. So, unsurprisingly, they're super stressed—and this can affect both mental health and day-to-day brain function. Dr. Khatri says it's essential to prioritize and edit out activities and commitments that increase stress without adding value to your productivity or happiness. That's because "maintaining mental health in early and mid life is key to safeguarding cognitive health later on," she says. "Untreated depression in midlife doubles your risk of developing dementia in later life."
In your 60s and beyond: In your senior years, socializing with friends and family, and picking up activities that allow you to connect, such as volunteering, are key to maintaining brain health. And sorry, keeping up with folks on Facebook isn't enough. "Ask yourself: Is social media rounding out my real-life social experiences?" suggests Dr. Khatri. What you need is face-to-face interaction.
Customize your topper by ironing on some DIY patches—or opt for the quick-and-easy approach by purchasing a vest or jacket that's already decorated.
Jean jacket, $267, tommy.com.Image by: Genevieve Caron
6. Denim squared
Denim on denim has earned its right to be considered a modern-classic way of dressing. A good rule is to mix up your washes: Wear lighter denim on top, with darker on the bottom. The deeper shades helps create a slimming effect.
It's hard to remember a time when skinny jeans weren't the standard in denim. The slim silhouette is still the shape du jour and can be found in just about every wash, colour, pattern and level of distress.
Patrick Hickey Superpower: Raising awareness about mental health
A couple of years ago, 16-year-old Patrick Hickey had what he calls an "epiphany." He decided he needed to do something to help the people he loved and valued in his life who were quietly struggling with mental health issues. "There was no watershed moment," says Patrick, "just a realization that, although I hadn't talked down to these people or made their condition any worse, I'd never done anything to make it any better or easier." So, in November 2014, after a few months of planning, the teen organized a Mental Wellness Day for 600 students at Holy Heart High School in St. John's, N.L. The event, which included two dozen workshops, guest speakers and information booths, prompted an outpouring of appreciation. "One student who had been suffering from depression and had just listened to a guest speaker talk about it hugged me," says Patrick. "I remember him saying, ‘This is happening—it's really happening.' It was such an emotional day."
In April 2015, Patrick went further, cochairing Mental Health Matters: A Whisper to a Scream, a two-day provincial mental-wellness conference involving more than 30 high schools from Newfoundland and Labrador. "Over a weekend, willing and eager youth became accepting, supportive networks for each other," says Patrick. "It was overwhelming."
Now a student at Western University in London, Ont., Patrick is working on creating similar mental health initiatives, including a mental health conference in Kangiqsujuaq, Nunavik, planned for 2016. "We need to keep the conversation going," he says. "Although a lot has been achieved, there's still so much to do for mental health—in my city, in my province and in the country."
Superpower: Helping people with Parkinson's disease through dance
Sarah Robichaud has always understood the joy of movement; it's been part of her life for 25 years as a dancer and 14 years as a personal trainer. But it wasn't until 2007 that she discovered dance can also be transformative. At that time, Sarah had begun working with a new client who had Parkinson's disease, a progressive nervous-system disorder that may include symptoms such as tremors, stiffness, slowness of movement and difficulty maintaining good posture. While researching ways to ease her client's symptoms, Sarah learned about Dance for PD, the internationally acclaimed dance classes in New York City for people with Parkinson's disease. Soon, she added dance to her client's more functional resistance training and stretching sessions. "He enjoyed the workouts more when he was dancing," she recalls. "His balance was better and his gait was better."
In 2008, Sarah started the charity Dancing With Parkinson's, which offers dance classes to help people with the disease develop core strength and balance, and increase their range of motion, all through simple movements and improvisation. "With Parkinson's, people lose their ability to initiate movements needed for basic daily tasks," says Sarah. "In class, it's about finding ways to activate those neural pathways with live music, imagery, choreography, camaraderie and motivation. All of these things, intertwined, help people move."
Dancing With Parkinson's classes are taught by Sarah and 12 teachers trained by her organization. Offered daily at seven Ontario locations, with five in Toronto and two in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, the classes have become so popular (additional classes were added due to long waiting lists) that, over the next five years, Sarah hopes to expand the program across Canada. "I never thought I would be so lucky to find such meaningful work," she says. "When someone tells you after a class, ‘I haven't seen my husband stand up and move for the past five years,' it's profound."
Superpower: Providing education and raising funds for HIV relief
Even while managing her own health crisis, Moréniké Oláòsebìkan was thinking about others. More than a decade ago, while she was undergoing treatment for tuberculosis in her native Nigeria, Moréniké noticed how patients living with HIV were stigmatized. "I was moved by their challenges, so in 2003, when I arrived in Canada to study, I knew I wanted to do something to support that community," says Moréniké, who now has her own fashion label and is a pharmacist and associate owner of a Shoppers Drug Mart in Edmonton. What she didn't have in funds, she had in drive and talent. "I could paint, design clothing and sew, so I took an idea to the African-Caribbean society where I was studying at the University of Alberta," she says. "We would invite all of our friends and everyone on campus, charge a little money and organize a fashion, arts and music exhibition." The result was the Ribbon Rouge gala, a night of fashion, food, music, dancing and fine art, with proceeds going to support HIV relief.
Ten years later, the Ribbon Rouge gala has raised almost $46,000 for three organizations: HIV Edmonton, The Stephen Lewis Foundation and UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. "The theme of the gala is conveyed through art, poetry, music and dance," says Moréniké, "and the speeches are directed toward social action and breaking down the barriers to care." She hopes to grow Ribbon Rouge into a charity that, through the arts, advocates and educates locally and globally to raise awareness and funds for a cure. The challenge, she explains, is that HIV is no longer a media headline, so many people don't think it's relevant anymore. Yet, according to Alberta Health's annual report, there were 255 newly diagnosed cases of HIV in that province in 2013—an increase for the third year running. "The ultimate goal is that we get to zero," says Moréniké. "It would be awesome to be able to say that there are no AIDS-related deaths in Edmonton anymore."
Superpower: Renovating buildings to help charities work more efficiently
It all started very simply, says Paul Latour. A friend with multiple sclerosis needed help fixing up her backyard so she could access and enjoy the overgrown garden she'd once loved so much. "I thought I could get 20 friends together, have a pizza party and help her out," says Paul. Seven weeks later, about 70 volunteers and 27 businesses had contributed time and supplies to perform a one-day reno that would have cost his friend $25,000. "Not a single person I approached said no; not a single company I asked for supplies said no," Paul recalls. It was then that the Victoria-based artist, writer and waiter realized he could tackle projects on a larger scale .
He soon founded HeroWork, first as a private business and then as a nonprofit, and finally as a charity that renovates buildings for other charities in need. HeroWork's first project was a widely lauded reno valued at $100,000 for the Casa Maria Emergency Housing Society, which provides shelter for families in crisis. Now, the organization has completed its fifth renovation in the Victoria area, and plans for three more are underway. To be selected for a renovation, a charity has to own its building and contribute 20 percent of the value of the renovation, which is largely used to purchase the supplies needed for renos that include everything from electrical and plumbing overhauls to roofing repairs to structural work to landscaping. By 2017, Paul plans to roll out HeroWork's community construction model to other towns on Vancouver Island, and in 10 years, across the country. "It's a franchise for social good."
Sandra Jarvis-Selinger Superpower: Mentoring aboriginal students
Many kids dream of being doctors or pharmacists or researchers. But by the time they're in Grade 12 and applying for postsecondary education, poor grades or their choice of courses throughout high school may make it impossible to get accepted into a health-sciences program. And although The University of British Columbia's outreach department encouraged Grade 12 aboriginal youth across the province to consider careers in medicine and health sciences, they were sometimes reaching students too late. That's why Sandra Jarvis-Selinger, associate dean academic in the faculty of pharmaceutical sciences at UBC, and her team created Aboriginal eMentoring BC.
Since 2010, the program has reached out to aboriginal youth as early as elementary school. Students work through a fun, interactive online curriculum called Personal Quest and communicate with mentors on an online discussion board, with the goal of helping participants explore possible career paths. To date, 189 youth and 119 mentors (34 percent of whom are aboriginal) have been enrolled in the program. Based on this initiative's success, in 2016, the program will be expanded to include aboriginal and nonaboriginal youth in rural and remote areas of B.C. Sandra says this model could easily be applied to other areas such as engineering, education and humanities, and that it's robust enough to help youth on any postsecondary career path. For her, the most important takeaway is that aboriginal youth understand that, when they graduate from high school, they have choices and feel empowered to make those choices. The positive impact on these young people is already evident. "E-mentoring changed my life," says Rae-Anne LeBrun, 19, now enrolled in the child and youth care counselling program at Douglas College in Coquitlam, B.C. "I was actually homeless when I was in the program. I got to learn who I was as a person, and also to talk about how I felt with people who accepted me and didn't judge me. They wanted to help me along my journey."
Tamar Huggins Grant Superpower: Increasing educational and economic opportunities for youth in underserved communities
Tamar Huggins Grant noticed that few people of colour were applying to her Driven Startup Program, the nonprofit social enterprise she'd founded in 2012 that aims to help under-represented entrepreneurs take their business to market through advancing training, mentorship and access to capital. It was then she realized she could create a greater impact by reaching out to tech providers of the future. "I wanted to teach youth that they are more than just consumers," says Tamar. "They can create the technology they consume every day." So, last year, she launched Tech Spark (techspark.ca), a program that's free for participants, thanks to funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation's Youth Opportunities Fund and support from Access Alliance, a multicultural community-services organization. Tech Spark teaches coding and other digital literacy skills such as web development, UX design, digital drawing and mobile gaming to youth aged 15 to 29; it's designed to help develop a new generation of innovators and creators. Through Tech Spark, Tamar focuses her efforts on inner-city communities like Toronto's Weston–Mount Dennis—identified as one of the poorest and most at-risk neighbourhoods in the city—where there are barriers, both economic and social, to learning. In addition to training (the 12-week program runs four to six times a year), Tech Spark provides transit tokens and hot meals, and youth mentors are available to help students with personal issues that may affect their studies. Even more crucial, each Tech Spark session ends with student-internship opportunities at established technology companies like Pixel Dreams, a digital design studio in Toronto. This year, Tamar plans to launch Tech Spark Digital, her own digital agency, where program interns will be hired to do design and development work for local businesses.
"We try our best to provide the students with what they need to be successful," says Tamar, who hopes to expand Tech Spark to other inner-city neighbourhoods in Toronto. "They leave with skills that employers are looking for." For Tamar, the ultimate reward is opening doors for not only Tech Spark students but also those students' siblings and their future children. "Our reach goes beyond the individuals who are part of our program. It means so much to be part of that."