Aging at Home: making a plan for the future

By Joyce Wayne

My daughter and I were driving to Toronto when she asked me if I had a roadmap for aging in place. Figuring out how to buy her first home is top of mind these days, so I was surprised that she was also anxious about my future.

When I got married four years ago, my daughter made a speech at the reception saying, “It’s only been me and mum for the longest time…” She continued, talking about the two of us managing on our own: the struggles and the joys. Today my husband and her partner round out our family, but there’s always a sense that we made it through the rough years when I was working full time, and she was a young child attending school.

Now we’re both looking to the future. I want my daughter to be able to purchase a first home, and she wants to feel confident that I’ve made plans for how I wish to grow older while remaining in my home. We discussed the usual things: pensions, Canadian Pension Plan, Old Age Security, RRSPs, TFSAs, and other assets. It was the best discussion about finances we’ve had as we figure out a way to support each other’s goals going forward.

She wants me to know that she’s here for my husband and me if we need extra help around the house as we age. She also wants me to think about how I can avoid moving into a long-term care facility and how I’ll be able to afford home care if I need it. Since the Covid crisis in long-term care, our ideas of how best to age have altered dramatically. In fact, 93 percent of Canadians are now reporting that they plan to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, but we may be financially unprepared for a safe and comfortable retirement at home.

The big question facing us is how to make aging in place a reality.

During a recent webinar hosted by the Empire Club of Canada and sponsored by HomeEquity Bank, journalist and author Peter Mansbridge moderated a panel of red-letter experts on aging. It featured Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald, Director of Financial Security Research at the National Institute on Ageing, Dr. Samir K. Sinha, Director of Geriatrics at Sinai Health System and the University Health Network and Laura Tamblyn Watts, CEO at CanAge.

Dr. Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald described older Canadians as “facing a perfect storm with disappearing pension plans, low-interest rates, fewer children to help take care of them and an under-funded long-term care environment across the country.”

Facts About Canadian Retirement Assets and Savings

According to a new report, Canadian Perspectives on the Financial Realities of Ageing in Place, issued by the NIA and Home EquityBank, nearly two-thirds of Canadians do not participate in a workplace pension. The overall median value of retirement assets among Canadians aged 55-64, without a workplace pension plan, is just over $3,000.

A 2018 survey showed that 30% of working-age Canadians have no retirement savings and 19% have less than $50,000 saved. Recent research by the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA) indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated concerns about financial security in retirement. Nearly one in four Canadians now say that COVID-19 has affected their timeline for retirement, for either themselves or their spouse, and that they will have to work longer to address the shortfalls.

“The last 18 months have caused uncertainty for all of us, especially Canadians looking toward retirement. Homeowners 55 and above are anxious for financial solutions to stay in their homes,” said Yvonne Ziomecki, Executive Vice President at HomeEquity Bank. “It’s absolutely critical this group understands there are options available that allow them to retire comfortably, securely and with dignity in the place they love.”

While driving with my daughter, we talked about how owning my own home is the cornerstone of my retirement plan. My intention is to remain at home as long as possible, investigate the cost of home care, and consider investing in refitting our home for greater mobility and safety. I figure the renovations will be completed over time, the first one being a grab bar for the walk-in shower. But the plan is not only about physical changes. It’s also about mental health. As Dr. Sinha said during the webinar, “When people move away from family and friends, the results can be devastating.”

As I age, four factors are becoming increasingly important to me.

  1. Staying connected to family and friends either in person or digitally. For me, time spent together makes all the difference in how I feel and respond to daily life.
  2. Making certain that my home remains in good shape and that repairs and renovations are made promptly both for safety, quality of life and to maintain the property’s value.
  3. Keeping as healthy as possible by exercising my mind and body and attending regular medical and dental appointments.
  4. Creating a realistic budget that anticipates the cost of home care and various ways to ensure that I can both afford and enjoy the benefits of aging at home.

If we put our shoulders to the wheel and get busy making a realistic plan, there are alternatives to the crisis in long-term care and to the limitations of our own savings. Let’s make the effort to discover them.

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