Look out life!

“I have accomplished a lot in my life, but there’s more I want to do – look out life!” – Richard McDonald

by Richard McDonald

Richard McDonald was born in 1943 in Vancouver, B.C. He lived in both Woodlands and Tranquille. His experiences in these two institutions have been the source of his passionate advocacy on behalf of other survivors of institutions in B.C. Richard was a key member of the coalition who worked to ensure that the Centre Block at Woodlands was razed to the ground. For this conversation, Richard was interviewed by his friend Jandy about getting older, what he knows now at 72, and what he feels he has yet to do.

When asked for his insights about getting older, Richard offered “the thing is, everybody is getting older…I just want to continue what I am doing…talk about things while I’ve got a good mind and can help people realize what aging is about.”

He uses a ladder as his metaphor for the aging process, “My way of thinking about getting older is you start at the bottom step and keep climbing, accomplishing things along the way. You climb up one side – to the mid point of your life, go over the top, and down the other. When you get to the bottom rung on the other side, you’ll know you accomplished what you’d want to do.”

Richard has a keen sense of responsibility to be a force of change; to challenge injustice and discrimination. Climbing the ladder of life is part of a commitment to accomplishing the changes he feels are necessary to help others with developmental disabilities live full, happy, and safe lives as members of their communities.

Richard recommends planning ahead to be responsive to the aging process, including ensuring a Representation Agreement is in place, “People need to talk about getting older…others need to know what you want, and think about things so that they can help you.” He also reflected on the importance of friends and family for support. “I never did get married or have children…one thing I wish I had done, (because) then I would have a family for support. I would have if I hadn’t ended up in Woodlands – that was taken away from me.”

When asked about what he knows now that he is in his ’70s, Richard said, “I hope I’ve left a legacy for others to benefit from – I want others to know what I did so that they can continue the work.” He is deeply proud of his involvement in bringing down the Centre Block at Woodlands and the creation of the Memorial Gardens there. He also knows how important it remains to keep speaking up for and with others about the harm that institutions have done in order to prevent their use again to house people with disabilities.

Despite his many accomplishments, Richard has more to do. Already a published author, he would still like to write a book of jokes to market and has aspirations of having his “name in lights as a stand up comic.” As he puts it, “I have accomplished a lot in my life, but there’s more I want to do – look out life!”


Richard’s full story is included in a new story book and resource guide on aging that CLBC, with the help of our partners in community, is currently developing. Information about the new book will be shared on the CLBC website in the coming months.

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