By now I think we are all aware that Canada as a nation is getting older, according to the 2006 Census, 13.7% of the population is made up of those over the age of 65 and this trend is not slowing down either. Fuelled by an increase in life expectancy, quality of life and health care, it is predicted to accelerate throughout the country when the leading edge of the baby-boomers cohort (those born between 1946 – 1966) turns 65 in 2011.
Now while it used to be that retirement was the norm with relatively few individuals participating in the workforce beyond the age of 65 this no longer appears to be the case. As an Employment Counsellor and now with working on the Second Career program, I consistently work with mature and retired individuals who are looking at returning to school and the labour force. There are a few reasons why they wish to do:
1. Finances: the income they receive from pension plans and government supports is not enough to meet their expenses
2. The initial appeal of retirement has lost its allure
3. They are looking for something to make them feel useful again
This is something that The Conference Board of Canada has also recognised. In their Executive Action Report on Canada’s Demographic Revolution; their recommendation was to encourage individuals to take later retirement. This meant not forcing older workers to stay in the work place but instead to make it easier for those that wished to work beyond the ages of 60 or 65 to do so. One of the biggest changes in recent years across Canada to help facilitate this solution was the removal of mandatory retirement laws, which has allowed many individuals to keep working.
Now there are many people who disagree with this stance and say that these ‘old folk’ should leave the workforce and let others take their place. What these people have failed to realise though is that if all these mature workers retired, the labour gap it would produce cannot be filled at present even with the high levels of immigration that Canada has. The fact is that we need these mature workers in order to maintain our workforce as well as assist with the training of replacement workers.
Canadian seniors and mature workers today in general are in a better physical and mental condition than the generation before them. The stereotypes of aging being an unpleasant and lonely experience, of seniors having poor health and being less educated and unproductive is no longer the case due to changing perceptions by seniors and society about life and health. This has enabled many older individuals to remain active well into retirement and beyond, not only within paid employment but in a volunteer capacity as well, as the drive to be useful and give back to society increases.
This spirit of independence also serves as an example for future generations to start preparing for retirement at an earlier stage so that they will not be solely dependent on government supports that may not adequately provide for them or their families in the future.