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5 Biggest Problems...
Baby boomers and seniors make up almost 40% of the Canadian population. Despite generational differences, both groups share many of the same problems and concerns.
Financial Uncertainty: Not knowing how much you’ll need in retirement.
It’s a financial wake up call for many aging Canadians. 1 in 6 Canadians 55+ hasn’t even started saving for retirement and almost half feel they are not on track with their retirement planning.
Almost half of Canadians aged 55 to 64 don’t have formal pension plans. In a recent poll by CIBC, over half polled did not know whether they were saving enough money to last through their retirement.
While procrastination may seem like the obvious reason for this lag in retirement savings, it may not be the only one.
False confidence can be a factor. Close to half of seniors feel confident that they are reasonably prepared for what lies ahead. But are they really? Many feel they can survive comfortably on their Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits alone. Relying on CPP and OAS to fund your retirement may give a false sense of security. The combined benefit may offer less than $1,500 per month. Even with the Guaranteed Investment Supplement (GIS) added, an individual’s income may be less than $25,000.
Another reason for the savings shortfall may be the impact and fall out of unavoidable risks caused by once-or-twice in a lifetime surprises. Sixty-six per cent of retirees with savings regret can identify a negative shock during their working years related to an event such as divorce, illness or job loss which caused their savings shortfall. Such an event coupled with slow recovery can result in hindsight bias, the assumption that history will continue to repeat itself.
Fortunately, it’s never too late to get back on track with the retirement planning process.
Start with an overview of your current financial situation and set some realistic goals. Many banks include free retirement planning tools and calculators on their websites. You can also refer to the Government of Canada’s Canadian Retirement Income Calculator at
But as the old saying goes “ You don’t know what you don’t know” so it’s always best to speak to a professional advisor, financial planner or accountant that can uncover the things you may not even have thought of. And always remember to build in a margin for unexpected negative shocks to inure against those risks that you can manage.
Health Worries: Concerns about physical and mental health.
Even though boomers and seniors are living longer, increases in longevity have been accompanied by an increase in disability. Over 90% of Canadian seniors have at least one chronic condition. Heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes are amongst the most common health issues. Falls are the leading cause of injury among the elderly. Cognitive health is of primary concern as the number of people with dementia and Alzheimer disease grow. As many as 15% of adults over the age of 60 suffer from a mental disorder such as depression while others may be grappling with some form of substance abuse.
While health concerns can seem overwhelming, there are steps to take and available resources to prevent illness or lessen symptoms to significantly improve the quality of life.
Awareness and self management support is key. It’s important to recognizing the warning signs and red flags of life threatening illnesses. Learning skills to recognize problems early and manage chronic conditions regularly can help reduce pain and disability and perhaps even prevent the onset of illness or the chances of a chronic condition getting worse.
The medical community can play a vital role in providing information, education and personal care plans to support seniors and their families in self-managing chronic conditions on a regular basis. Self-management support can also be provided through group programs. Social support from family, friends and support groups can also help.
Diet, medications and lifestyle choices may be key contributors to health woes.
Do what you can now to prevent illness. Take the first steps to have an annual check up. Preventative measures should include an examination of your diet, a review of your medications, an annual check up and a list of resources to keep you updated and informed.
Downsizing Dilemma – Deciding whether to move or re-locate.
Change is stressful. Fear of the unknown can create discomfort and anxiety especially amongy senior who look to consistency and routine for comfort and stability.
Unfortunately, when your home’s upkeep becomes too overwhelming or financial and health issues dictate a change, then downsizing or relocating may be the best option.
How to make the decision? It’s best to take a proactive approach and consider your options ahead of time based on what your needs might be if your health fails, spouse dies, or some other major event occurs. No one likes to think of these things but there’s a greater chance of making the wrong decision if it’s made in haste. It’s also a good idea to include your family in the decision-making process so they are aware of your wishes.
What to consider before you make your move? Evaluate both your present and future needs based on your health and financial situation. Examine whether there will be a need for a more supportive environment in the near future and determine the costs associated with the lifestyle you wish to have in your later years.
Compare both the design, layout and location of your existing home versus that of a new residence. If aging at home, can your existing home be renovated to improve accessibility and at what cost? Is assistance available from family, friends or community support services to help with the upkeep of your home? If health concerns take top priority, would a retirement or assisted living residence with available personal care and support services be a better option?
Whether a smaller home, townhouse or condo seems like the right fit or a retirement residence, assisted living facility or long-term care is the best choice, it’s important to find out more about each option and compare the positive and negative aspects of each one based on your needs evaluation.
Speak to a real estate agent that is familiar with selling seniors’ homes. They know the housing market and can suggest the best options for townhomes and condos that are currently on the market or that will be built soon. They are often connected with other professionals who specialize in seniors’ needs such as lawyers, appraisers, senior move specialists and companies that offer reputable home repair and maintenance services.
Get a list of retirement residences and seniors’ apartments within the areas that you are considering and visit each one. Many offer tours and complimentary lunches. Make sure to take a family member or friend that will give an objective opinion. Evaluate each one and compare the strengths and weaknesses of each.
To help with your search, listings of retirement homes, long term care facilities, condos and townhomes are available at www.go50plus.com.
Lastly, plan ahead and give yourself time to organize and pack what you wish to keep and store, sell, discard or giveaway. This can be started even before you make your final decision. Talk to a senior move specialist who is trained and experienced in relocating seniors. Their advice and assistance can make moving easier and reduce stress.
Caregiver Stress- Dealing with the strain of caregiving.
Caregiver stress can take many forms. For instance, you may feel frustrated and angry one minute and helpless the next. Burnout and illness are often the result when the physical and mental health of the caregiver is ignored. The sources of stress are numerous. No off time, interrupted sleep, having little time to oneself, managing familial relationships and dealing with the dynamics of role reversal when caring for an aging and demanding parent can all take their toll. Lack of economic support, extra expenses and reduced income from a reduction in working hours can also put tremendous pressure on a caregiver.
How to reduce caregiver stress? The first step is to ask for and accept help. No one should go it alone. Find and use caregiving resources in your community that can assist and give you a break in your caregiving duties. Look for ways to ease the workload with meal delivery, home health care services such as nursing or physical therapy, housekeeping, cooking or companionship, even if it frees up a few hours a week. Make changes to your home to improve accessibility and mobility such as installing ramps, stair lifts, and modified bathtubs. Stay social by keeping in touch with family and friends. Join a support group for caregivers that can offer tips, resources and support. And take care of your health by getting regular check ups, getting enough sleep, eating well and keeping physically active. CLICK HERE for a list of caregiving resources.
End of Life Care – Will your needs will be met?
Planning for the last years of life is often difficult to undertake due to the topic’s sensitive nature. As a result many people don’t make their end-of- life decisions known to their families. Many parents as well as their children don't want to acknowledge the inevitable realities associated with aging. Others want to focus on the positive aspects of their retirement years and avoid thinking about such issues until absolutely necessary. There are also issues around relinquishing the control in their lives. The end result is unmet expectations and family members facing caregiver responsibilities without training, warning or enough support.
It’s best however to start the planning process early while you are mentally and physically able to direct the discussion and provide input into the decision-making process.
The conversation with family members should include not only an overview of will documents and funeral arrangements, but how and when the transition of decision making, care and daily responsibilities will be made and to whom they’ll be given.
Open and honest communication may include matters such as management of your financial affairs, housing options, the type of medical care and support you may need as well as the point at which your family should take charge and step into their caregiving roles.
The caregiving plan should be tailored to all family members’ needs and be flexible over time as each person’s circumstances change. The goal is to ensure that you are well cared for in a manner that’s sustainable for all family members and that everyone’s mental, physical and financial wellness is taken into consideration.