by Sherrin Griffin, VP, Operations, Sidney SeniorCare –
I used to joke with my friends that “we’ll be working ’til we drop.” These days, it’s hard enough to make ends meet, let alone put enough funds aside to last through our retirement years.
I realize now that it’s no laughing matter. This has become the new normal these days, with many seniors working past age 65 and still very active in the workplace, including my own 81-year-old mother who comes into our office once every two weeks to help out.
As I go through my day, I encounter many seniors in various places of business – at Tim Hortons where I get my morning coffee, in retail stores at the mall where I shop, at the local gas station where I fill up, and at the supermarket where I get my groceries. At first, I felt sorry for the seniors that I saw working, and thought how sad that they can’t just enjoy their retirement with the free time and opportunities that come with it.
But, the reality is that B.C. has the highest rate of seniors living in poverty across the country and that number has more than doubled since 2000. Quite simply, working helps seniors make ends meet. Many seniors just can’t afford to retire, or end up coming out of retirement forced by the high cost of living these days, especially in our province. With no other pension other than the meager CPP (Canadian Pension Plan), and possibly OAS (Old Age Security) / GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) IF they pass the rigourous qualifications, a large group of seniors are not able to cover their basic needs, let alone any health care expenses due to illness or disability, or any unforeseen large bill that comes up. I can’t even imagine how seniors fared before B.C. eliminated mandatory retirement in 2008.
Now, government programs such as The Older Workers 55+ Program provided by Work BC provide skills training and employment supports that help seniors achieve sustainable employment. Support can include counselling, mentoring, transportation, disability supports, work experience, wage subsidies and equipment.
As I approach the antiquated “Freedom 55” myself, I realize that there are many reasons, other than purely financial, for seniors to hold down jobs in the workplace.
• Continuing to work even part time can help ease seniors’ transition into retirement, allowing them to adjust gradually to this new stage of their lives.
• It establishes daily routine. We all function better with consistent routine in our lives, and breaking the work routine entirely can be overwhelming for seniors. Many find themselves lonely, depressed and at odds with what to do with their time.
• It gives seniors a sense of purpose and accomplishment. They feel needed and validated. Staying in the workforce can help seniors be more active and involved in their communities.
• It can improve overall health and wellness, keeping seniors’ bodies moving and their minds sharper.
• It improves mental and social stimulation. Interaction with colleagues, performing daily tasks, problem solving and engaging with the visitors/clientele that come into the workplace offer invaluable benefits for seniors.
Many employers as well are realizing the benefits of hiring older workers who have decades of skills and experience to share, have a strong work ethic and sense of pride in what they do.
So will I be joining the ranks of the working seniors when I hit retirement? You bet I will! As a chronic workaholic, I can’t even imagine slowing down, let alone not working at all. Working keeps us young, and is a tonic for the mind, body and spirit!