By Joyce Wayne
There are more older Canadians than ever before, and more of us are speaking out about what we want to live joyful and safe lives as we age. One startling statistic is that over-85s are one of the fastest-growing cohorts in Canada and the 2021 census shows that the number of those age 85 and over is expected to triple in the next 25 years. No question, we’re concerned as we ponder our future.
CTV reports that the latest census data from 2021 shows that since 2016, the number of people aged 85 and older grew by 12 percent — more than twice as high as the overall growth of the Canadian population at 5.2 percent. The 65 and older sector of the population is growing six times faster than children 0 to 14 years old.
Dr. Samir Sinha, Director of Health Policy Research at the National Institute on Ageing told the CBC: “We’ve known about the data for a long time. I think we have always decided to prioritize other populations and other needs earlier. I don’t blame us as a country – when we created Medicare in 1966, the average Canadian was 27 years of age, and most Canadians didn’t live beyond their 60s. So, while other countries started realizing that their populations were aging, Canada kept prioritizing other things, and now we need to play a game of catch up.”
How the federal and provincial governments will do that, “to catch up” depends on the formation of expansive new social and financial policies that consider our needs. How well we speak up for ourselves will make a difference. For more than two years, the COVID pandemic has taken front and centre stage to all other concerns. Canada has done an exemplary job obtaining and vaccinating its population. My husband and I both had our second booster in April. The vacant shopping mall in Oakville where the vaccine clinic was set up was efficient and friendly. I didn’t wait a minute for my turn in the chair, and the other over-60s appeared relaxed and grateful for the opportunity to boost immunity.
At the same time, I’d be willing to bet there wasn’t an over-60s in the room that hadn’t considered where and how they would manage aging. We discovered that aging is complicated if we learned nothing else from the pandemic. In previous generations, when couples had more children and they remained in the same community as they raised their own families, it was possible to depend on kids for care.
Today the picture is entirely different. We baby boomers had fewer children, and those children often re-locate to faraway cities, provinces and countries. Increasingly, older folks are on their own. As Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald, Director of Financial Security Research of National Institute of Ageing, explains, “Baby boomers aren’t just the largest generation; they’re also the first generation to have relatively few children. So, they’re not going to have the same family support that’s existed since basically the beginning of time.”
MacDonald points directly to the issues we face: “Last year, the oldest baby boomers turned 76, and they most probably live independently. They haven’t started hitting these critical ages that are usually associated with needing care and support.” Rather than waiting for a critical moment in an emergency ward or a worrisome health prognosis, it makes sense to consider our alternatives for aging now.
Although various governments have pledged much-needed support for long-term care facilities, there can be a long interval between retirement and requiring long-term care. For many of us, years of home care is a viable option, but we’ll need financial support or a nest egg to hire the care we need. Along with hands-on care, older Canadians require increased access to medical teams, technical and digital health options and municipal resources that make transportation, mobility, and community activities possible. Recent surveys demonstrate that more than 91 percent of Canadians wish to age at home, in the environment and neighbourhood we treasure. To make that possible, all levels of government need to step up to make accessibility the norm and not the exception.
When President and CEO of Home Equity Bank Steven Ranson recently joined TV host Paul Bagnell on BNN Bloomberg, they discussed what the new Stats Canada data reveals about housing market trends for Canadians 55+ since the working population is retiring at a remarkably rapid rate. One in five of us is close to retirement. It’s an all-time high recorded by Stats Canada. According to Ranson, “The good news is that older Canadians are sitting on a significant nest egg when retiring: the value of the equity in their homes. During the last year, house prices rose roughly 20 percent across the country with smaller urban centres also growing in price.”
For many of us, that means that we can investigate a reverse mortgage on our homes, taking it out in a lump sum or in monthly payments to cover the costs of home care and other medical expenses. A reverse mortgage is an excellent option because not only does it allow us to remain at home, but it provides the funds needed to enjoy the life we prefer. With help from good government planning and policy, we should have less to worry about as we age.
To learn more about a CHIP Reverse Mortgage and how it can help you as you age, please call 1-866-522-2447 to find out how much tax-free cash you qualify for.