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Photo Credit: Daily Mail

According to Statistics Canada, as many as 20 to 30 percent of people in the general population sleep poorly. They may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, some awaken much too early, while others do not feel rested despite spending a full night seemingly asleep in bed. For one person in 10, insomnia is a chronic problem that repeats itself night after night. Nearly one-third of older people in Canada resort to sleeping pills.

Stats Can also found out that more than 50 percent of women aged 18 to 64 have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep. Only 43 percent of men reported the same troubles. Among those who have no problems with sleeping, women slept about 15 minutes more than men.

Canadians are getting even less sleep than we were in 2005. Between 2007 and 2013, Canadians got an average of 7.12 hours of sleep – compared to 8.2 hours we got back in 2005.

The same situation happens to our neighbours down south. According to the website https://disturbmenot.co, between 50 and 70 million people in the U.S. suffer from chronic sleep disorder.  Approximately 35 percent of American adults get less than the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Like Canada, 10 percent of U.S. adults have chronic insomnia and approximately four percent of Americans used prescription sleeping pills in the previous month. According to the U.S. National Sleep Foundation, 44 percent of the elderly population experiences insomnia. The condition is more serious in this age group as it increases the risk of falls and can lead to cognitive decline.

There is a general misconception that older people need less sleep. The National Sleep Foundation says that people’s total sleep needs do not change much as they get older. Older people might go to bed and wake up earlier in the morning, but they also need an average of seven to eight hours of sleep while younger adults are advised to get seven to nine hours of sleep nightly.

More than half of adults over the age of 65 complain of having at least one sleep-related condition, including insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome. Health problems such as heart failure, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s can also steal sleep from older adults. Certain medications may also lead to sleepless nights. Even the change in retirement can throw off someone’s sleep schedule. Lack of sleep, both duration and quality, is often associated with obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, injuries, depression, irritability and reduced well-being, researchers said.

By now, the theory of how to get a better night’s sleep has been repeated so frequently that it’s like flogging a dead horse. Many sleep experts have already outlined tips for better sleep which include exercise and physical activity; keeping a routine; try not to eat right before bedtime; avoiding caffeine after 3 p.m.; limiting alcohol; avoiding bright lights and electronic devices; and maintaining a dark and cool bedroom environment.

Doctors often prescribe to patients sleeping pills which have a time-limited benefit and can sometimes cause more serious problems than they might prevent. According to The Globe and Mail, the Food and Drug Administration added a boxed warning in April to the prescription insomnia drugs zolpidem (Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo and Zolpimist), zaleplon (Sonata) and eszopiclone (Lunesta) following reports of injury and death from sleepwalking, sleep-driving and engaging in other hazardous activities while not fully awake.

According to Dr. Adam P. Spira, a sleep researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, there are better, safer and more long-lasting alternatives than prescription drugs to treat this common problem. For the mature population, the alternatives are especially valuable since older people who metabolize drugs more slowly, are more likely to have treatable underlying causes of their insomnia and are more susceptible to adverse side effects of medications. Geriatric experts wrote that insomnia is typically undertreated, and nonpharmacologic interventions are underused by healthcare practitioners. When persistent insomnia is a problem, before your doctor writes a prescription for a sleeping pill, ask whether there are other remedies that may be safer, more effective and longer-lasting. If pain or other symptoms of a medical disorder are keeping you awake, the first step should be treatment of the underlying ailment to minimize its sleep-disturbing effects.

If persistent emotional problems are what keep you awake, consider consulting a psychologist, psychiatric social worker or psychiatrist before reaching for a sleeping pill. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT-I) is now considered the best treatment for insomnia, especially for older adults. It teaches people to challenge disruptive negative thinking and replace it with positive thoughts that counter arousal and induce relaxation. The American College of Physicians recommends cognitive behavioural therapy as “the first-line treatment for adults with chronic insomnia.” The therapy teaches effective strategies that continue to work long after the therapy ends.

Sleep experts on the https://disturbmenot.co website also recommend a few technologies which might help provide solutions to people suffering from chronic insomnia. Using a Good-Night Biological LED Bulb, originally designed for NASA astronauts, might help you fall asleep by eliminating some of the blue-sky light rays that disrupt sleep. Ebb Insomnia Therapy also gives the brain a gentle “push,” by only lowering a specific part of the brain’s temperature by half-a-degree centigrade. Using the Sleepio system, which identifies your core sleep issues and behavioural patterns, may help you create an optimized sleep routine to ensure each bedtime hour is a time for relaxation and rest.

Should all these technologies still fail to get you a better night’s sleep, you should consider mindfulness training at a wellness or yoga centre which will help you focus on deep breathing, relaxation techniques and meditation before going to bed.

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Photo Credit: Benefit Strategies Inc.

Ageism is alive and getting worse in Canada. Findings from a recent study, Ageing Research Reviews, conducted by two nursing professors at the University of Alberta, indicated that 48 to 91 percent of all younger people admitted having discriminatory thoughts or behaviours toward older people.

A recent study by Spherion also found that roughly 25 percent of employees make judgments about their co-workers’ and supervisors’ abilities to do their job based on their age alone. The rate is as high as 39 percent among millennials, higher than any other generation. The research also identified that in 2017, 69 percent of younger workers lack the business and life experience required for leadership positions.

According to Chartered Professional Accountants Canada (CPA Canada), ageism can come in many forms: from “the senior’s moment” jokes to “you’re too experienced” insinuations during a job interview to “when are you going to retire” workplace inquiries. It can be nuanced, unintentional, and difficult to prove.

Many of such ageist attitudes originated from myths and misconceptions about the mature population that need to be debunked. Wanda Morris, Vice President of Advocacy for CARP, outlined misconceptions including older workers are not tech-savvy; will have more absences, health issues and limited longevity compared to their younger contemporaries; and they will cost the business more.

With a rapidly aging population, people associate the ageing trend with a strain on our healthcare systems and a debilitating impact on the workplace. These fears are, however, not founded in reality. The Albertan research reported that 80 percent of the people admitted to hospitals in Alberta are under the age of 65, and 95 percent of people admitted to emergency departments are under the age of 65. Only about three percent of older Canadians are so chronically ill that they require a nursing home. So researchers said that we should not be concerned about older people and their health.

Morris also pointed out that people want to invest in employees who are here for the longer term. “The truth is, there is much more turnover among younger people than older workers, who tend to be more loyal. The employers may be pursuing the wrong group of people,” she said.

It is expected that the percentage of Canadians aged 65 and above will rise from 19 percent of the current population to 26 percent of the population in 2030. Older Canadians in the workforce are a living reality. Some are staying for financial reasons, others are so healthy and active that they are not ready to retire yet, be it in their second or third acts, full- or part-time.

So corporations should really address ageism in the workplace and balancing the needs of both millennials and boomers. The Globe and Mail reported that the 2018 South by Southwest (SXSW) conference, an annual event featuring content in the unique and converging interactive, film and music industries, added panels on the topic of ageism to its roster. There was a strong sentiment that we are on the precipice of the creation of an ageist hashtag that will raise the awareness of the need for inclusivity and diversity at all ranges of the age spectrum. While younger workers might be more savvy and innovative with technology, the boomer professionals can bring more management and leadership experience to the table. Different generations should respect, leverage and learn from each other’s talent.

Companies should also take into account that the desire to grown, learn, explore and develop personally and professionally is common to every age. So when senior management is thinking of training and professional development, they should not only just focus on development plans for the younger generation, but also ensuring that the older demographic in the workplace remains sharp and motivated. As the population ages, development plans across all ages and stages of life should be offered and implemented.

To avoid age discrimination, companies should develop non-discriminatory policies and procedures; develop internal human rights complaint procedures; and implement pro-active measures as a code of conduct in the workplace. In accommodating older employees, employers may want to consider flexible hours and conditions of work; part-time arrangements and job sharing; and/or employing workers who have chosen to retire on short-term contracts or as consultants.

In an era of diversity and inclusivity, both employers and employees should perhaps start changing their attitudes towards their mature co-workers. While millennials often have greater tech skills, more-seasoned generations bring to the boardroom table life and business wisdom, leadership skills and the resiliency to combat the unprecedented pace of change. Whichever organization that can optimize the age spectrum in the workplace will eventually win.

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According to the latest data from Statistics Canada, about 50 percent of Canadians have cared for an aging, sick or disabled family member or friend at some point. Women face a larger caregiving burden: the proportion of women who cared for an adult family member or friend on any given day was three times that of men in 2015. Forty-three percent missed work, 15 percent cut down their hours and 10 percent passed up a promotion or new job because of their caregiving duties.

It is, therefore, important for boomers, many of whom have caregiving duties for their elderly parents, to prepare themselves, and, as much as they can, their employers, about potential scenarios and unexpected crises. Even if caregivers are relying on available services for elder care, even navigating these resources can require a major time commitment. This might involve signing up for home nursing or having a case worker quickly find room in a suitable-care home for their parent; recommending temporary respite care; and day programs that give time for caregivers to look after themselves.

According to The Globe and Mail, provinces in Canada allow 27 or 28 weeks of compassionate leave for caregivers tending to gravely ill or dying relatives, or to people they consider family. Federally, some employment insurance benefits are available as a non-refundable tax credit to family caregivers. Human resources experts said that most organizations will defer to the provincial Employee Standards Act (ESA) regulations, but different employers will provide access to different types of internal leaves and/or may be flexible in how an employee is using their sick days, personal days and vacation days to cover off intermittent absences from work.

Employees should always keep their employers apprised of their personal situation and flexibility from the employer to work with the employee during this period of time will be critical. Employees can take heart in the fact that compassionate care regulations mean that even reticent employers have an obligation to try and be helpful in these situations because boomers are often part of the ‘sandwich’ generation with responsibilities of taking care of both their children as well as their elderly parents.

For employers, apart from observing all government regulations to support caregiving employees, the former should also recognize the economic importance of the latter’s continued participation in the workforce by creating more flexible working schedules. According to the Federal Government’s national seniors strategy policy brief, caregivers often end up earning less and foregoing advancements in their own careers than others without these additional responsibilities. According to the Canadian Caregiving Coalition, a virtual alliance of partner organizations that work collectively to identify and respond to the needs of caregivers in Canada,15 percent of working caregivers reduce their work hours; 40 percent miss days of work; 26 percent take a leave of absence; 10 percent turn down job opportunities; and six percent eventually quit their jobs. While the cost to working caregivers includes lost wages and decreased retirement income, 19 percent further report that their physical and emotional health suffers as well.

For Canadian employers, productivity losses become substantial, with estimations totaling a loss of 18 million work days per year due to missed days and increased employee turnover. It is estimated that the cost to the Canadian economy from lost productivity due to caregiving responsibilities is $1.3 billion per year. Finding ways to better accommodate the needs of older Canadians, including those who may be balancing caregiving duties, can result not only in improved workplace productivity and reduced employee turnover, but an opportunity to retain highly skilled older workers whose experience and expertise are difficult to replace.

According to a recent federally-sponsored Employer Panel for Caregivers report, Canadian employers indicate a clear lack of knowledge around how best to support older Canadians and caregivers in the workplace. Participants indicated that the main barriers for employers in providing support for working caregivers includes lack of awareness, the nature of certain jobs, and a lack of leadership and support to advance best practices and supports. A lack of communication among employers and employees was also considered among the major barriers to supporting working caregivers. The report further explained that fostering a workplace culture that views older workers and caregiving positively must include providing clear information about employer guidelines, sources of information on best practices to support older workers, caregiver benefits available, and leadership and training opportunities which encourage flexible work environments.

It is, therefore, encouraging that the Federal Government is recommending the following options of evidence-based policy options to consider in this area:

  • Creating national standards or a framework to support more flexible working environments for older workers and caregivers
  • Federal recognition of employers with best practices for engaging and supporting older workers and caregivers

In the meantime, there are a number of measures that employers could consider. According to the Canadian Caregiver Coalition, here are a few tips and tools for employers to prepare their workplace in support of caregivers:

  • Recognize employee caregivers within your organization
  • Make a supportive environment part of your corporate philosophy
  • Be flexible and creative
  • Provide employee caregivers with necessary information
  • Know your legal obligations
  • Evaluate your commitment to a supportive workplace environment

As the population ages, whichever company or organization that excels in supporting caregiving duties for their employees will become a winner in recruiting and keeping talents.

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Photo Credit: International Airport Review

I’ve written on this blog before on how cities and countries around the world should change and adapt to aging populations which is now a global phenomenon. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the percentage of the world’s population over 60 will nearly double by 2050, rising to 22 percent from 12 percent. In the U.S., the Census projects that by 2035, people 65 and older will outnumber children for the first time. In Canada too, by 2031, close to one in four Canadians (23 percent) could be 65 years of age or older, while the proportion of children 14 years of age and younger could remain similar to the 2016 level (16 percent), according to Statistics Canada.

It is not surprising then that design adaptation for older travellers are beginning to appear, for example, benches placed for frequent rest stops. However, other than the basics, designs of airports and roads still need a lot of improvements in this area. The New York Times reported that research conducted by Corgan found that elderly people were more likely to look down while they were walking, which means they could miss directional signs above their heads. So the company suggested that its airport clients place more information closer to the ground.

It also found that older air travellers often headed straight for their gate to reduce anxiety about missing flights, so they bypassed the main concession hubs. The firm recommends that airports add more food options near the boarding areas. The firm also found that shiny floors should be avoided because they could appear wet and cause people to worry about falling.

The leisure and tourism industries should also focus more on the boomers and seniors groups. Any industry which considers and accommodates the disabilities related to aging would do well. At hotels or airports, for instance, shortening the time spent waiting in line to check in, training staff to recognize and act on guests’ special needs, or designing simpler websites and more ergonomic bathrooms could improve everyone’s experience.

According to The New York Times, a few U.S. airports have begun installing special systems that transmit announcements directly to the telecoil receiver in a user’s hearing device, allowing those with hearing aids to more easily understand announcements at the gate. The airports in Detroit and Rochester are among those rolling out the system. A handful of airports, including Los Angeles and Seattle-Tacoma, have recently begun offering Aira, glasses for low-vision or blind people. The glasses connect through Wi-Fi to allow a trained guide to see what the wearers are seeing and help them navigate through the airport, identify luggage and accomplish other tasks.

The Seattle airport has estimated that 35 percent of the people coming through last year were 55 or older. To serve this group and others, the airport has begun offering electric cart service between the airport’s light rail station and the terminal, so passengers don’t have to walk the few tenths of a mile. A service for travellers arriving on cruises from Alaska lets them send their luggage directly from the ship to their departing flight.

At Tampa International Airport, the proportion of older travellers is even higher than national levels – 40 percent of adult travellers are 55 or older. During a large renovation and expansion project that was completed last year, the Tampa airport worked with a design firm and a construction company to minimize walking distances and create an open layout so passengers could easily find their way to gates, restrooms and restaurants. Additional staff members were stationed throughout the terminal to offer assistance as well.

In Canada, cities are also beginning to be more age-friendly. In response to the WHO’s Global Age-Friendly Cities Project in 2006, four Canadian cities – Saanich, British Columbia; Portage la Prairie, Manitoba; Sherbrooke, Quebec; and Halifax, Nova Scotia – joined 29 other cities in the world to participate in this project. These cities from around the world were interested in supporting healthy aging by becoming more age-friendly. The cities gathered information from seniors, senior-care providers and other groups and individuals with an interest in age-friendly communities. This information helped to identify eight key domains of community life in which communities can become more age-friendly: outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, and community support and health services.

To date, 10 provinces in Canada are also promoting age-friendly community initiatives. These include British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

In April 2018, Ontario has announced the recipients of the first Age-Friendly Community Recognition Awards, recognizing 40 communities for being leaders in creating inclusive and accessible environments for seniors. These included Brantford for a plan that focuses on improving housing and transportation infrastructure, social and recreational opportunities, and primary healthcare services. The city of Peterborough was also recognized for working with the County and the Curve Lake and Hiawatha First Nations over three years to establish ways for the city to support healthy and active aging. Thunder Bay was also awarded for launching a plan in 2015 to improve programs and services for older adults. After launching initiatives such as adult outdoor exercise spaces, information-sharing opportunities, and more resources to support the community’s ethnic diversity, health and housing needs, the City launched a new Age-Friendly Community-Wide Action Plan in 2017.

The city of Barrie has also been recognized for making strides to become an age-friendly community. With assistance from a grant received from the Ontario Government, the city has developed an Age-Friendly Community Plan which features policies, services and facilities that support older people to live in a secure environment, enjoy good health and continue to participate fully in their communities. Work on the plan included a needs assessment, the organization of a successful community forum, and the circulation of a discussion paper to gather further input. In 2014, Barrie also established a Seniors Advisory Committee to provide advice and recommendations to City Council concerning opportunities to make Barrie a more age-friendly community so all seniors can be meaningful participants.

Big cities such as Toronto and Ottawa were also recipients of the first Ontario Age-Friendly Community Recognition Award. But unless Canada has a country-wide age-friendly initiative, these regional efforts may not suffice. With the changing demographics across Canada, urban and community planning should speed up with adapting and catering to the needs of greying populations.

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Photo Credit: CNN

It is about time that the identities of anonymous sources of leaked information to the media should be named and disclosed to the public in order to hold the whistle-blowers accountable. Unless the naming of the sources would put those lives in danger, whistle-blowers should be bold and courageous enough to tell all by attaching their names to the stories they are telling via the media.

In recent years, there were numerous cases whereby anonymous sources in the media wrecked the careers and lives of politicians, their parties and their families. In the #MeToo movement, men should be made accountable for how they inappropriately misbehaved to women, but the victims should also be brave enough to put their names behind their accusations. When former Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown was accused of sexual harassment by his female staff as first reported by CTV News, the two women victims remained anonymous even though they’ve left the service. Meanwhile, a career politician’s dream to become Ontario’s Premier was shattered and Brown stepped down in a cloud of mystery and shame. He eventually filed a lawsuit against CTV and demonstrated that he’s a cat with nine lives by winning Brampton’s mayoral elections.

The two-month SNC-Lavalin affair began on February 7 this year when The Globe and Mail revealed that an anonymous source has disclosed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his senior staff have inappropriately attempted to influence the decision of the then Attorney General and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. Fifty-four days of back-and-forth denials, clarifications and after three resignations of senior Cabinet staff, the retirement of the Clerk of the Privy Council, and the ejection of two senior Liberal members from caucus, the scandal still lingers and is likely to cost the Liberals the Federal elections this fall.

Throughout this two-month affair, numerous emails and text messages were shared during witness testimonies before the House Justice Committee. Whether one believes the Prime Minister or Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, the truth of the matter is: the former was weak with and ill-advised on crisis communications and the two senior women just threw in a series of innuendos and vague accusations targeted at the Prime Minister after their resignations from the cabinet. Trudeau might have handled this scandal badly, but the two women also deserved to be fired from the Liberal caucus. If they wanted to say something, just say it and tell the whole story when they had had the first chance. Why tell their stories via innuendos to the media?

Then came another leak of what happened during the recent appointment of a Supreme Court justice. Somebody in government obviously breached the confidentiality of the appointment process. The leaked reports focused on years-old tension between Jody Wilson-Raybould and the Prime Minister over her choice of a Supreme Court justice. She wanted to appoint Manitoba Justice Glenn D. Joyal in 2017 to not only fill a vacancy on the top court, but also be appointed to the chief justice role. Trudeau rejected her pick and the ‘sources’ familiar with the matter told the media that this disagreement was the point when relations between the two began to fray. Shortly after the news broke, Joyal issued a statement confirming he applied for the seat on the court but said he ultimately withdrew his name for personal reasons. “I fear that someone is using my previous candidacy to the Supreme Court of Canada to further an agenda unrelated to the appointment process. This is wrong,” Joyal wrote.

Opposition parties asked to probe this leak while Liberal MPs said that while they agreed with the seriousness of the matter, they could not support the idea of asking journalists who reported the news to appear before the committee to discuss the leaks. But if the media would, from now on, stop using anonymous sources, then we, the public, would understand how everything has unfolded in full transparency. First and foremost, who leaked the information to The Globe and Mail that the Prime Minister and his senior staff have inappropriately tried to influence Jody Wilson-Raybould’s decision not to grant a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) to SNC-Lavalin? Why should we believe The Globe‘s anonymous source? One is likely to conjecture that somebody close to Wilson-Raybould might have been the whistle-blower in this case. On the other hand, who could have benefited from the Supreme Court justice appointment leak? Probably the Liberal government.

So we can go on and on with further leaking of information and dirt. But without knowing who those whistle-blowers were, there’s no way to hold them accountable and, therefore, the credibility of those stories became questionable. I would strongly recommend that moving forward, the media should seriously look into disclosing who their sources are in order to have full transparency. For whistle-blowers, unless you’re bold enough like Edward Snowden and Julia Assange who are not afraid of what they have done and disclosed, please hold your tongues and stop hiding behind anonymity.

I would also suggest that the Prime Minister immediately fire his current crisis management team and hire a new, strong group of communications professionals to prepare him for the blood sport between now and the October elections. Instead of playing defence, Trudeau should be focusing on selling the new Federal Budget and what he and his team have accomplished during the last four years. As for the Opposition leader Andrew Scheer, Canadians are going to tune-out if he keeps complaining and attacking the Liberal government without any new inspiring policy of his own. Pierre Poilievre’s marathon filibuster in Parliament was just another sign of the Opposition Party’s immaturity that might come back to haunt the Conservatives during the upcoming elections.

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Photo Credit: National Post

The news media called Bill Morneau’s latest budget an “Oprah Winfrey” budget – something for everybody, but the 2019 Federal Budget unveiled earlier this week primarily appeals to the two largest demographics that voted for the Liberals in 2015: baby boomers/seniors and the millennials.

For the older population, Ottawa lays out a road map for how a national pharmacare program will be rolled out. The government is proposing to create a new department, the Canadian Drug Agency, to manage federal pharmacare. To establish this office, the government is earmarking $35 million for Health Canada over four years. The budget also included funding for the development of a national strategy for high-cost drugs for rare diseases. Although seniors’ drug costs are now covered by OHIP, drugs for rare diseases are not included. Very often, these drugs can cost upwards of $100,000 a year per patient. The government is promising $1 billion in funding over two years, starting with the 2022-23 fiscal year, plus up to $500 million each year after that. This is music to many seniors’ ears since this is the most vulnerable group in terms of healthcare. Findings from an advisory council, formed last year and chaired by former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins, would be unveiled in the summer and I am sure that will be part of the Liberals’ campaign strategy.

The budget also included a series of measures aimed at improving the lives and security of seniors and those nearing retirement. The Globe and Mail reported that according to the government, 40,000 people 70 or older are currently not enrolled in the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), meaning they are not receiving a monthly retirement pension. The budget is proposing to proactively enroll eligible seniors so they do not miss out on their CPP benefits.

The budget also included measures aimed at protecting pensions when a company goes under, as was the case with Sears Canada in 2017. The Liberals are also proposing an increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) earnings exemption for low-income seniors, from $3,500 to $5,000. This means seniors receiving the GIS will be able to exempt $1,500 more in income each year before claw-backs. At a time when the debt level is the highest among the seniors cohort, every single dollar would help.

The federal government is also permitting annuities that would allow retirees to move some savings out of their registered retirement funds to an annuity deferred until age 85. The tax rules generally require an annuity purchased with registered funds to begin after the annuitant turns 71. The Liberal government is, instead, amending the rules to permit seniors to purchase an advanced life deferred annuity (ALDA) under certain registered plans. According to financial and tax experts, for clients who do not need to take out RRIF minimums but are forced to, this may provide an avenue for those people to keep more of that money remaining in a tax-sheltered place by making use of these ALDAs.

The ALDAs would reduce the amount retirees are forced to withdraw annually from a registered retirement income fund (RRIF) or other registered plan while preserving savings until later in retirement. According to the budget, the ALDAs, which will apply beginning in the 2020 tax year, will be qualifying annuity purchases under an RRSP, RRIF, deferred profit sharing plan, pooled registered pension plan and defined contribution pension plan.

Lifetime limits will be 25 percent of a specific amount of a qualifying plan, calculated as the value of all property (other than most annuities including ALDAs) held in the qualifying plan as at the end of the previous year; and any amounts from the qualifying plan used to purchase ALDAs in previous years.

If the value of an ALDA purchased in previous years exceeds the 25 percent limit for a particular year due to a decline in qualifying plan assets, the retiree will not be forced to surrender or dispose of the annuity, the budget says. ALDAs will also have a lifetime limit of $150,000 from all qualifying plans, indexed to inflation for taxation years after 2020, rounded to the nearest $10,000.

Another good news for the older population is the budget’s proposal to include $50 million over five years to the Public Health Agency of Canada for the development of a National Dementia Strategy, slated to be unveiled this spring. Over 420,000 seniors in Canada have been diagnosed with dementia and the rate of  seniors living with this debilitating disease is on the rise.

Even for the skills training measures introduced by the budget, baby boomers will be able to benefit even though the Canadian Training Budget is intended to help workers between 25 and 64 pay for training costs. According to Statistics Canada, national job vacancies have risen sharply over the past couple of years, with many employers struggling to hire people with the right skills. Beginning 2020, eligible workers would accumulate $250 in training credits every year, rising to a lifetime total of $5,000. Canadians could apply their accumulated credit against half their training fees and claim their refund when filing tax returns. The amount is not much, but at least it would help those boomers who might want to change their careers.

Housing affordability and student loans are also addressed in the 2019 budget obviously aiming at helping out millennials. I would say any measures alleviating the burden of this young demographic will also be good news for their parents. Many baby boomers still have adult offspring living in their basements without a job and without a home of their own. The government’s support of the young is also helping the old in many ways.

After presenting the budget, the Liberals now have seven months to sell it to Canadians across Canada and I’d bet they would make it a key message that in order to get all these measures implemented, you will have to vote for the incumbent party!

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According to Statistics Canada, Canada’s aging population continues to grow and could reach upwards of 10.9 million people by 2036. At the same time, the vulnerability of financial fraud also increases. A 2016 General Social Survey titled Canadians at Work and Home, internet use from 2013 – 2016 rose from 65 percent to 81 percent  among 65- to 74-year-olds, and from 35 percent to 50 percent among those aged 75 and older. According to CPA Canada’s Fraud Protection for Seniors webinar, financial investments are among the top financial fraud scams among seniors who are most vulnerable because they are often lonely, overly trusting, struggle with health issues, and have more readily available money. Unfortunately, when it comes to reporting financial fraud to authorities, many seniors are too ashamed to do so.

The same vulnerability exists in the U.S.A. According to research by the Stanford Center on Longevity and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Investor Education Foundation, those over the age of 65 are more likely to have lost money due to a financial scam than someone in their 40s. Investment frauds are among the top 10 scams targeting American seniors, according to the National Council on Aging. Many seniors plan for retirement or manage their savings after they finish working, which makes them more vulnerable to become victims of investment schemes. Fraudsters can take advantage of victims by posing as financial advisors to get access to their retirement funds and savings. Once they have access to the funds, they take their money and run.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), many people don’t know their rights and there should be a stronger focus on making sure there is a sense of community for older adults – bringing people together for continuous education and learning.

It is, therefore, enlightening to hear that FAIR Canada and the Canadian Centre for Elder Law are recognizing the special needs of vulnerable investors and urging banks and investment dealers to play a greater role in protecting their clients’ interests. The Globe and Mail reported that in a joint presentation to the New Brunswick Financial and Consumer Services Commission in 2018, FAIR and Elder Law offered six recommendations:

  1.  Require investment firms to make reasonable efforts to obtain the name and contact information of a trusted representative for each client, who can be contacted in case of suspicion of abuse or diminished mental capacity.
  2. Allow authorized individuals within an investment firm to place a temporary hold on trades and disbursements of funds when there is a reasonable suspicion of financial abuse, or where the client has lost the capacity to provide instructions.
  3. Provide a legal safe harbour for investment firms and financial service providers who reach out to report suspicions of financial abuse or mental incapacity.
  4. Create a conduct protocol that defines key terms and sets out the steps that firms and financial services representatives should take to identify and protect vulnerable clients.
  5. Mandate education and training for all investment firms in the areas of elder abuse, undue influence, mental capacity issues, enduring powers of attorney and ageism, and have the required proficiencies.
  6. Require that investment firms become familiar with outside resources and responders and learn how and when to refer a case of suspected elder financial abuse, undue influence or diminished mental capacity.

Currently, there are already a few organizations which provide fraud-related support for the elderly population. CPA Canada has a series of financial literacy programs to better arm aging Canadians and prevent fraud from happening. The CAFC also offers a SeniorBusters program which provides support and promotes awareness about financial elder abuse including investment scams and fraud. The Canadian Network for Prevention of Elder Abuse (CNPEA) also offers strategies for fraud protection.

Apart from staying alert and getting educated, the most important thing for the mature population to remember is that in case they became a victim of fraud, the first thing to do is to contact their financial institutions, Equifax and/or TransUnion to place a fraud alert on all their accounts.

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Photo Credit: LICKERISH,
Daily Mail

When I started this blog some 12 years ago, I’ve always said that very few companies have fully realized the immense opportunity that baby boomers present for their businesses. Marketers must consider the needs of this demographic now, more than ever, as the aging population increasingly grows in importance.

Few companies have succeeded, however, in marketing to baby boomers primarily because they have been treating older consumers as crises to be managed or puzzles to be solved. As Joseph F. Coughlin, Founder and Director of the MIT AgeLab and author of The Longevity Economy, said, the marketing opportunity “is a chance not just to grab a piece of the longevity economy – already one of the most enormous opportunities facing industry – but also to grow it by empowering older people culturally, socially and economically. By pushing the envelope of their quality of life. By making old age better.”

For example, legacy has preoccupied the thoughts of older people since ages ago, and products offering to preserve one’s name and deeds for posterity already abound. The self-publishing book industry enhanced by tech giants such as Amazon, has hugely benefited from older adults’ desire to write down their thoughts and recollections. I’ve often advised former colleagues of mine, who are now retired and looking for publishers to bring their newly-penned novels to market, to simply go on Amazon and self-publish instead of waiting to be “discovered”.

Many boomers and seniors also continue to strive to achieve something after retirement in terms of self-fulfillment. Some want to be a perfect grandmother; others want to challenge themselves athletically or creatively express themselves in painting pictures, playing a musical instrument or learning a new language. For me, my “self-actualization” after retirement is to learn Spanish. I went to classes for two years and am still learning and practising daily via the language app Duolingo.

Marketing to older women is another example of where companies can get it right or screw it up. Companies which are doing a good job in this area are those that portray older women in non-stereotypical ways in their marketing. Some financial services companies show consumers achieving goals in retirement beyond golf courses and cruise ships. American Express, for instance, asks older women to consider, “How are you going to fund your business?” Microsoft also asks them, “How are you going to run your home office?” They are all good examples of companies speaking to women like people.

Contrary to stereotypical beliefs, older women have never felt better and more empowered. From the 78-year-old U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who proved to be the President’s most formidable opponent, to the 71-year-old Glenn Close who won a Golden Globe for best actress this year, to the 66-year-old  Susan Zirinsky, the first woman put in charge of CBS News, older women are now the happiest demographic in the U.S.

According to research from the University of California, San Diego, along with census data from the U.K., not only are people becoming happier as they age but that “the happiest people are women aged 65-79.” For marketers to succeed, they need to better understand what motivates and empowers older people and communicate with them accordingly in a realistic and inspirational way. Simply put, boomers and seniors want marketers to make them feel valued as people.

Marketers also need to beware of their tone when communicating with the older population. Most boomers and seniors do not want to be referred as the elderly, and it’s important for marketing campaigns not to talk down to this demographic.

“Products that will succeed in tomorrow’s longevity economy will treat older consumers as full-fledged members of society with recognizable wants, needs and ambitions,” said Coughlin. Companies which will help celebrate older people’s lives when they are still alive and well will fare much better than those which only celebrate lives at funerals.

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Photo Credit: New York Post

The world of technology is increasingly making breakthrough innovations to help the aging population. Research for The Daily Telegraph last year found that global investment in technology designed for older people has almost trebled since 2017. During the first 10 months of 2018 alone, investment in technology companies creating products in the elderly care market increased to US$453 million, up from US$166 million in investments in the whole of 2017.

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week in Las Vegas, the artificial intelligence (AI) industry was showcasing new ways to help the elderly remain independent, mentally fit and connected. AI is already detecting falls at home and helping seniors do household chores. Now virtual reality also helps combat isolation and “powered” clothing to assist the incapacitated.

Some systems took a page from the gaming world of youngsters to help seniors “travel” to new places and connect with loved ones. According to Kyle Rand, founder and chief executive of Rendever, a Washington, D.C.-based startup company which works with assisted living homes to give seniors a way to virtually visit remote locations, everyone knows seniors get lonely but that isolation can also lead to a lot of medical problems, including the acceleration of dementia. With this virtual reality travel, seniors can now stand atop the Eiffel Tower, go on an African safari, or revisit their childhood home.

Also at the CES, Japanese manufacturer Groove X launched its pet robot Lovot, which coos when its owner strokes it and is designed as a loyal companion for lonely elderly people. The company said the robot comes complete with cartoon eyes and fuzzy teddy bear arms. Packed with sensors to respond to human touch, when Lovot wants to be cuddled, it waves its arms in the air, and will trail around adoringly behind its owner on wheels. It will even ‘fall asleep’ in their arms if offered a cuddle.

Another technology business, Intuition Robotics, also used CES to announce its ElliQ robot, which is designed to befriend the elderly. The device features a light-up head which nods as the robot talks, as well as a detachable tablet screen and a camera which can be used to make video calls.

Samsung revealed its new Bot Care, two-foot tall, white, wheeled AI robot that can provide a companion to its human owner while monitoring their health through blood pressure and heart rate tests. It has emergency settings to call emergency services if something goes wrong, and can play relaxing music to deal with stress. It can also enable video calling from families to check up on sick relatives. According to the company, Bot Care gives daily health briefings, shares exercise guidance and monitors medication intake.

Hyundai also revealed a car with robot legs that can help individuals with reduced mobility, such as the elderly. The car legs that allow the “Elevate” vehicle to walk like a dog were initially designed to be used by emergency services, but its designers said it could have other applications. According to Hyundai’s project leader, people living with disabilities worldwide that don’t have an access to an ADA ramp could hail an autonomous Hyundai Elevate that could walk up to their front door, level itself, and allow their wheelchair to roll right in.

Technology companies are also increasingly tailoring their products for caregivers. The brand new system Hive, launched by Centrica in the U.K. last month, allows caregivers to remotely check on a vulnerable person using sensors placed around their home. The system learns someone’s daily routine and alerts family or neighbours that something may be wrong if they don’t stick to it. The system can also detect whether the front door has been closed, the kettle switched on, and the kitchen cupboards or fridge opened. Centrica says it helps caregivers feel less worried and guilty about leaving their loved ones alone, and lets older people stay in their homes for longer.

We will continue to see the aging population tap technology to meet their needs in the future. The physical environment of aging includes transportation and the ability to travel from one place to another; the home which is the principal space where we give and receive care; and personal communications which connects older adults with friends, relatives, healthcare providers and prevents isolation and loneliness.

As Joseph F. Coughlin, author of The Longevity Economy, and director of the MIT AgeLab, said, the aging of baby boomers will affect every aspect of society. Leveraging the technological power that in part helped us achieve our longer life span will be an important part of how we will live tomorrow.

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It is a brand new year with year-end reflections giving birth to new year resolutions. I’ve decided to name this coming year the Year of Tolerance for me – tolerance of people who irritate me; tolerance of populists and right-wing politics; and tolerance of people different from my values and culture.

Inspired by my favourite jazz musician Jon Batiste’s Christmas song, Endless Love, in his Christmas with Jon Batiste album, I too, should think to myself, “Who I am and who I can help…..What really matters is what you do for someone else….” Instead of focusing on myself which I’ve done for my entire life, I’ve decided to think about what I can do for other people this year. I’ve always mentored millennials who were willing to listen to me. I’ve been volunteering for my Catholic Church parish for close to 13 years now. So it has always mattered to me what I can do for someone else. But this year, I want to do more helping and tolerating, and focusing less on my needs, desires, likes and dislikes.

At the same time, I would like to continue to live and enjoy life. Spending more time with friends whom I care is another priority. Continuing to enhance my knowledge in everything and brushing up my Spanish is also of importance. And, to you, my readers and supporters, I’m making a promise that I would increase my blog posts to once every two weeks.

Most people’s new year resolutions centre around eating healthy, exercising and sleeping more. I’ve already been doing all of the above and would, therefore, move on to more spiritual resolutions. Because a lot of new year resolutions cannot be kept, I’d prefer to call them new year intentions which always mean well and are less goal-oriented. Intentions are thoughts that you should bear in mind every day so that they could be put into practice.

So, to all of you boomers, I’d like to end this first blog post of the year with a note of optimism in the lyrics of Jon Batiste, “Let us come together sharing love that lasts forever, because life is so much better when there’s Endless Love.” Happy and Healthy New Year!

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