A Society for All Ages

Change is needed to give older Canadians opportunities to be active, creative and thriving participants in society.

Mindsets have to be changed if we are to go beyond our obsession with defying aging and a youth-oriented society. There is nothing wrong with looking and feeling as good as we can as long as it does not preclude a dynamic and productive society for all ages.

Social attitudes and marketing practices that are based on ageism create demographic silos where age groupings are pitted against each other – for example, in the workplace. This must change.

The way to make these changes happen is to give older Canadians opportunities to be active, creative and thriving participants in society.

What a mistake to buy into ageist stereotypes and prejudices! In fact, seniors bring with them life experience, work expertise, commitment and a passion for lifelong learning. This dynamic can and should be nurtured by making healthy and active living and aging a possibility for everyone.

Most older Canadians look forward to retirement, but there are those who want to, or have to, work. Matching their skills with the growing number of available jobs is one way to go.

However, there are still places in Canada where a big obstacle for seniors who want to or have to work is mandatory retirement – particularly in federally regulated industries. It is a human right for Canadians to have a choice about when to retire based on desire and ability, not on age. CARP is against mandatory retirement, believing in the carrot of incentives rather than the stick of enforcement.

When older workers are part of the labour force, the economy and government coffers benefit as well as the individual. Not only do older workers pay taxes, but they also spend money on goods and services, stimulating productivity and economic growth. This is an important justification not to claw back public pension income from those who are still working. In fact, there should be a band of supplementary income allowed for Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) recipients without any negative impact on their GIS.

Incentives are also needed for employers to retain and hire older workers such as funding and/or tax credits for training, retraining and upgrading.

Access to CPP at age 60 without having to leave work to apply is another example of what is needed to encourage older workers to stay in the workforce.

On the other hand, the current age of pension eligibility should not be delayed – for those who retire or those who continue to work. Let’s not forget that there is a progressive tax system for those who receive both pensions and salaries.

There is, also, a new face of retirement. The traditional rocking-chair image disappeared a long time ago, and those who do retire tend to remain active physically, intellectually and spiritually. But opportunities for such activity must be more widely available, accessible and affordable whether it is continuing education or fitness regimes. Why not have tax credits for these activities?