This article was published by Tri-City News on April 12th, 2013. To see this article and other related articles on The Tri-City News website, please click here
Critics have written lately about the burden baby boomers and seniors will become as they age. “Experts” have predicted drastic increases in medical costs as these boomers become old and infirm.
Older Canadians will form an increasingly larger part of the population and some will develop chronic medical conditions that didn’t have time to develop when people died younger.
But the concept of aging is changing dramatically, too.
Zoomers — boomers with zip — are not content to lounge in their rocking chairs until infirmity puts them in wheelchairs or sends them to an early grave. This old image no longer applies.
David Cravit, author of The New Old: How the Boomers are Changing Everything… Again, and his latest book, Beyond Age Rage, offers these comparisons:
• The Old Old: Work is over.
• The New Old: Work goes on — possibly a whole new career.
• The Old Old: Future planning is over.
• The New Old: Planning is active and may take surprising new directions.
• The Old Old: Sex is over.
• The New Old: Sex is never over.
• The Old Old: Brand choices and shopping are set in stone.
• The New Old: There is no brand loyalty.
• The Old Old: The modern world is engaged slightly.
• The New Old: The modern world is a playground — and guess who’s boss.
Zoomers travel extensively, participate actively in sports and other recreational programs, and contribute to their local communities in many ways, as Cravit points out:
• There are 14.5 million Canadians over the age of 45, representing 57% of the population.
• They account for more than 60% of all consumer spending.
• They represent 65% of all homeowners and 80% of all mortgage-free homeowners; and they’re the largest spenders on home improvement and renovation.
• They own 60% of all cars and buy more cars than any other age group.
• They attend concerts, the theatre, museums, art galleries and other public attractions more than any other age group.
Through their consumer spending, zoomers and seniors substantially improve Canada’s economy for all age groups.
Seventy per cent of over-45s use the internet and buy more online than any other age group. Many give unpaid aid to their elderly parents.
They are the largest group of volunteers, contributing millions of hours of unpaid work to sports organizations, charities, community and health organizations.
According to Investors Group 2010, 60% of boomers provided an average of $3,675 per year in financial assistance to adult children no longer in school.
Some are delaying retirement and delaying downsizing their homes, accepting the need for intergenerational homes to provide space for their aging parents and their dependent adult children.
Many older Canadians delay retirement and continue working. In 1996, the proportion of people over 55 working bottomed out at 22%; by 2008, it had risen to 35%.
What conclusions can we draw? In spite of being major contributors in their younger years to the economic well-being of Canada and rightfully expecting to be cared for if needed in their later years, boomers and seniors continue to contribute. Far from being burdens on the Canadian taxpayer, they are valuable contributing members of society.
Bruce Bird is chair of the North Fraser Chapter CARP (www.carp.ca).