Guest Comment: Trouble for baby boomers is looming

Today, approximately 10,000 baby boomers (born 1945 to 1960) are exiting the workforce and will do so for the next two decades.

As each day goes by we grow a day older and a day closer to retirement.

Today, approximately 10,000 baby boomers (born 1945 to 1960) are exiting the workforce and will do so for the next two decades. As a group, they are the wealthiest, most active, most physically fit, and most optimistic generation of all time.

Through their lifetime, boomers fostered a huge array of opportunities, stabilized the workforce, survived periods of high and low economic surges, indulged in a gourmet of consumables, and developed countless products.

Boomers differ from the groups that followed them.

Generation X, (1960 to 1980) is a diverse, educated generation, with both sexes focused on achieving gratifying employment. They are less interested in politics or world affairs, are focused on material growth and credit purchasing, and either have no children or started their small families at an older age.

Generation Y (born 1981 to present) are known for their appetite for communications, media, and digital technologies, they have a strong need to be plugged in, are “me” centered and carry a large debt load.

Boomers on the other hand are an innovative generation of achievers and hard workers that dominated our society, not only by their population, but also by their leadership and conviction.

As the world has changed, this large group of up-and-coming retirees has evolved the process of work and retirement.

Boomers are born from a generation that was known for working to the grave, but they have become the generation that now considers pre-retirement and semi-retirement alongside a fixed retirement age of 65.

Many boomers bought into retirement plans in the hopes of securing a comfortable nest egg for just that.

But today those plans are frustrated by diminishing returns and negative growth. Many company pension plans have dissolved, as boomers have become the victims of empty payout promises.

With more accumulated savings per head than any generation, investment shortfalls and inflation costs are quickly sucking out their reserves.

For those without reserves, government pensions like the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) offer those Canadian workers over age 65 a combined average monthly income of $1039.09 per person, top this up with a Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and qualifying retirees will take home about $1375. Not a big chunk of cash.

According to Stats Canada in 2009, 84 per cent of retirees can afford to cover their costs. Sixteen per cent cannot. The average woman in Canada will spend 21 years in retirement, men will spend 15.

Thirty-four per cent of boomers carry debt. While half of those claim their debt is under $25,000.

As boomers age, health care costs are forcing some to choose medication or care over food. For the first time, food banks and shelters are seeing increased numbers of seniors using their services as they face poverty issues.

Generation X and Y report increased numbers of long-term diseases that are overburdening our health care system.

As a result, seniors wait in line for their needs behind those who are younger.

The wait reduces their ability to remain active as well as diminishes their chance for quick recovery.

As boomers retire they take with them an expertise and work ethic that is not as evident in their replacements.

Assisted living and seniors care facilities are understaffed due to a lack of skilled personnel.

The need for care coupled with the lucrative cash flow of many seniors has perpetuated a surge of private high-priced services and facilities that are expensive and selective.

With a shortage of assisted living facilities and a move by government to promote home care over institutional care, boomers are encouraged to remain in their homes.

As boomers age the risk of falls, isolation, and unmonitored care increases.

Reports indicate that boomers are now targets for abuse, neglect, home invasion, and various money grabbing marketing schemes.

Age friendly communities are working with seniors to address these issues.

How are we doing?

Diane Penner