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Baby boomers over 65 are reinventing old age

Senior couple sitting at the parkJust in time for National Seniors Day in Canada on Wednesday, October 1, Paul Luke of The Province wrote a feature article titled “Over 65 and going strong: Baby Boomers are reinventing old age”. In the article, he talks about the following themes:

  • Baby boomers’ perception of physical appearance;
  • Baby boomers are the richest and healthiest generation;
  • Seniors in the workforce;
  • Good health in seniors;
  • Statistics on the numbers of seniors in Canada; and,
  • The road ahead.

Please find below a summary of each section.

Baby boomers’ perception of physical appearance

According to Dr. Nick Carr, president of the Canadian Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, older Canadians seeking cosmetic surgery have come to form up to half of his practice. People in their mid 50s to early 70s are visiting his practice for services such as facial rejuvenation and tummy tucks, to name a few.

In an interview with The Province, he stated: “This is a generation of people that is healthier and more vital. It’s natural for them to want to have their external appearance match their internal health.”

Statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in the United States show that people 55 and older accounted for 24 per cent of cosmetic surgery in 2013, making them the second largest surgical group after the 40-to-54-year-olds.

Baby boomers are the richest and healthiest generation

According to Andrew Sixsmith, director of the Gerontology Research Centre at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, gerontologist used to group life into three ages: childhood, adulthood and old age. But because of the growing wealth and affluence of baby boomers who have been approaching retirement over the last couple of years, a new age has been added – a phase that appears after retirement but before disability.

“In this third age, people are still relatively affluent, live with their families and are fit enough to pursue hobbies, with many having a job,” Sixsmith says.

Victoria-based retirement coach Kate Dack works with people five to seven years away from retirement to shape their plans. She finds that baby boomers aspire to do something meaningful after they retire, such as  becoming entrepreneurs, remaining paid employees or volunteering their professional skills, locally and internationally. “People are moving away from the leisure model of retirement. It’s still a component but it’s no longer the centrepiece,” says Dack.

Seniors in the workforce

Data from the Canadian Association for Retired Persons (CARP) states that the number of seniors in Canada’s workforce doubled from 300,000 to about 600,000 between 2006 and 2013. Susan Eng, vice-president for advocacy at CARP, says the number will continue to grow as more Canadians enter retirement years without a company pension. Statistics Canada shows similar results: the percentage of 65-year-olds taking part in the workforce jumped to 25.5 per cent in 2013 from 15.5 per cent in 2003.

Reasons baby boomers want to stay in the workforce include:

  • Feeling a desire to stay at work because of the sense of engagement and contribution that paid employment brings;
  • Working out of necessity to support the household;
  • Feeling a fear that they will outlive their retirement savings; and,
  • Earning extra income to support lifestyle expectations.

Good health in seniors

Statistics Canada states that 65 per cent of Canadians aged 65 to 74 were classified as being in good health in 2009, up from 61 per cent in 2000. The federal agency reports that it is because seniors are likely to eat the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables. Seniors are also exercising more intelligently.

“As you get older, exercise becomes a little bit more intelligent. You’re looking at what your body needs and at different modes of exercise that fit with how your body has aged,” says Sandy Reimer, director of health and fitness at YWCA Vancouver.

Statistics on the numbers of seniors in Canada

As of 2014, there are more than six million Canadians who are 65 or over. This group makes up 15.6 per cent of Canada’s population. By 2030, the number will increase to 9.5 million, accounting for 23 per cent of the population. Statistics Canada reports that in 2011, Canadians lived an average of 81.7 years, up almost 25 years since 1921. It is also noted that on average, disability that limits physical activities occurs around age 77.

The road ahead

Not all baby boomers are wealthy. The income gap between rich and poor Canadians is widening. Many boomers lack financial stability. They have little to live on and have never owned a home. Baby boomers may not have big pensions or lots of money saved up. Furthermore, the older baby boomers have complex health problems that require costly medications. As baby boomers had fewer offspring compared to previous generations, they also lack family support. They have to rely on siblings or their significant others to care for them.

Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE) feels that there is one important point that complements Paul Luke’s “Over 65 and going strong: Baby Boomers are reinventing old age”. In good old ACE fashion, we decided to write a letter to the editor. Keep posted on the Arthritis Broadcast Network website to see the letter.