The changing perceptions of what it means to be “old” in Canada

Click here to read ‘The changing perceptions of what it means to be “old” in Canada‘ – News 1130, September 30, 2015

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Call it the silver tsunami.

As Canada’s population reaches a tipping point, aging baby boomers are changing the perception of what it means to be old.

Statistics Canada has found there are now more Canadians over the age of 65, than under the age of 14.

Nearly one in six is now a senior — that’s more than 5.78 million Canadians — and the trend is only going to continue, considering fewer than one in five baby boomers has actually hit what we used to call official retirement age and the growth rate for the demographic is almost four times that of the rest of the population.

“But today’s senior is not your grandparent’s senior,” says Susan Eng, executive vice president of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.

“It’s a different kind of person who carries on living and is probably still working, travelling, buying and all of those things we anticipate people quit doing at age 65,” she tells NEWS 1130.

Seniors wield a lot more power than they used to in many areas, with more assets and buying power than ever before.

“What’s interesting is not everyone over 65 is retired anymore. Greater numbers of people are staying in the workforce and while 50 per cent of those work because they have to, the other half stay working because they really enjoy it, they have more to contribute,” Eng says. “These are people not only spending for themselves but also for their children and grandchildren.”

Eng suggests policy-makers still have to come to grips with Canada’s aging population.

“The first presumption for many is that there won’t be enough productivity because as soon as people turn 65, they stop working, they stop contributing and we will have to carry them for the rest of their lives. I think we have to stop a minute and look more carefully at the numbers to see how people are continuing to contribute, continuing to pay taxes and continuing to work.”

Eng says baby boomers more than anyone have benefited from an increase in housing values over the past four decades, amassing assets they can draw upon to live on and help their families.

“It is true that the issues that concern us as we get older will loom larger in the public discourse, especially during the election campaign. That is healthcare, the cost of drugs and the cost of housing. We do worry about people who are aging into poverty.”

But Eng also points out seniors are gaining more influence.

“Of course, those over 65 do all the voting,” she says with a smile in her voice.