Aging: Keep Moving

By Sandra Fletcher

Retirement is the time of life when people stop working. Usually retirement is encouraged between the ages of 55 and 65 as people become eligible for pension, or able to live off their retirement savings.

Some fully retire and some semi-retire continuing to work in some capacity. Harold says that he’s planning his next career in customer service for after he retires. And Kay tells me that she has already planned her next career move to grief counseling! I try to explain to each of them that after you retire, you’re not generally expected to have another career! Both look at me as if I’m the one who just said something unusual.

Here in Canada, there is no specified age that employees must stop working. As well, it is against the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms to discriminate on the basis of age. Governments around the world all have set different retirement ages. Because Canadians are living longer, healthier lives there are a multitude of options open – no matter what their age.

A Whole New Direction

Sometimes a change in life can provide a change in the direction of your future. Both Harold and Kay have plans to change their professions. Harold will go from being a handyman to being a customer service person. He will use his people skills, take himself away from the physical demands of this current job, travel back to his home country and spend more time with his grandchildren.

Kay’s career change from being an office administrator to a grief counselor will take more time. While she has been planning on making this change for a few years, she has been volunteering as a counselor at her family’s church. She may also need to return to school.

Many universities across Canada offer free tuition for senior citizen students and some seniors, like Kay, will register for classes, make new friends, step outside the world they are comfortable in and pursue a university degree.

What to do with all that time

Other retirees find that even though they planned to just enjoy their leisure time, once they have retired they miss their routine. Some get bored, some find work and others find play!

In the town of Richmond Hill, the M.L. McConaghy Senior’s Centre offers a variety of programs to its members (there is a small fee to become a member). Most drop-in programs are free to members including their new Hiking Program which entails 2 hour hikes in York Region for active seniors looking to explore nature.

In the city of Toronto there are over 2 dozen locations and over 100 programs for seniors throughout the city to choose from. Some programs are for active seniors such as dance, sports and fitness programs from Tai Chi to Aqua-fit. Other programs are for social activities including cards and other social activities. All City of Toronto sites are accessible.

How can you help
Most recreation centers also offer an opportunity to volunteer time to assist other seniors. This is not uncommon, according to Volunteer Toronto, as age is not a barrier for volunteer positions. From their website at www.volunteertoronto.ca you can view the volunteer opportunities available and put your transferrable skills back to work helping others.

Claudette has volunteered for many years as a weekly caregiver. Each Monday she feeds meals delivered by the local Meals on Wheels to her client, Helen. Helen is 70, the same age as Claudette will be this winter, but has been paralyzed from the neck down for over half of her life. Both women say that just getting together once a week and having a visit isn’t like volunteering anymore at all.

What’s important to you

For Claudette, a former accountant, it was also important to have an income to supplement her savings after she retired. Keeping her mind and body active and finding the right kind of part time job was a priority.

“I wanted a reason to get out of bed on a snowy day. The summers are easy”, she says. Now working as a part time lunch room supervisor at a local public school, she has a reason to not only get up but to keep herself in tip top shape to deal with the challenges of a day full of activity. “I find children that age fascinating. It keeps me on my toes.”

While the money she makes working 2 hours a day for 10 months of the year is not enough to keep her lounging on a beach, the rewards are more than financial. Her role is extremely flexible, something that an office job could never provide.

Claudette’s situation is not unique. Peter, a retired restaurant owner now acts as occasional caregiver to his 2 young grandchildren. Its unpaid work but, like Claudette, the rewards outweigh the financial gains. Peter is teaching his grandchildren to speak Greek and enjoys every minute he gets to spend with them and then enjoys sending them home!

Making a Plan

Deep down inside, we all have dreams of winning the lottery, packing up our cares and spending our summers on the ski hills and our winters on the beach. We’d all love the freedom to do what we want, when we want. But that’s not often the way life works.

It’s important to plan for your retirement years – whenever you plan for those years to start. Will you retire at 55 and travel? Will you retire at 70 and continue to work part time?

Or will you simply work until you are no longer able? A financial planner can help you get your finances in order. They can tell you how much you will need to save, in combination with other retirement sources, to be comfortable in your twilight years. What a financial planner won’t be able to tell you is what your idea of happiness is – that will require that you do some soul searching about your values and priorities.

In whichever direction retirement takes you, it’s important to continue to enjoy yourself. The horizon isn’t receding as you get older, it’s just opening up to new possibilities.

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