I Repeat… Where Is The Surprise In The Baby Boomer Bulge?

Some time ago I wrote an article asking the title question: Where is the surprise in the baby boomer bulge. It appears I am writing another one.

I was on Facebook last night and saw this link in my feed: http://www.leadnow.ca/pensions?t=fb – it’s a form letter that will be sent to quite a number of government party leaders, MPs, Premiers and MLAs. To encapsulate: “Employers have been slashing pension benefits for decades, leaving Canadians young and old to face an uncertain future with little security. It’s time to start fixing our pension system for the 21st century. Our Premiers know that they need to do something about this growing crisis , and momentum is building around a common-sense plan from Prince Edward Island that would boost Canada Pension Plan benefits and help millions more Canadians save for a secure future. Canada’s federal and provincial finance ministers are meeting in Ottawa this weekend to discuss PEI’s plan, but the federal government and a few provinces may block the deal.

Here’s a 2011 article from the Library of Parliament: Some Public Policy Implications of an Aging Population. The highlights:

While seniors (people aged 65 and over) represented 8% of the population in 1971, this segment is expected to increase to 14% in 2011 and almost 25% by 2036, when senior women are expected to outnumber senior men by approximately 700,000, compared with 545,000 currently. Among its impacts, this phenomenon is expected to place a financial burden on public pensions, health care and caregiving.

While seniors represent about 14% of the population, they consume nearly 44% of all annual provincial and territorial health care expenditures. Total spending on health care exceeded $191 billion in 2010. Two thirds was provided by provincial and territorial governments, including $25 billion in federal government support through the Canada Health Transfer.”

Recent research reports that one in four employed Canadians care for an elderly dependant. Of these, 75% are middle-aged women caring for a parent with chronic health issues. Increased expenses and reduced work hours may create financial strains.”

Every time I read these alarming and alarmist statistics, I get really frustrated! The Baby Boom refers to all those babies born between 1945 and 1965.

  1. >15% of the population is 65 and older today, and increasing… seems to me those statistics are simple math. Surely since about 1970 we have been aware of the population bulge that was heading for “senior” status. 40 years isn’t enough time to create a plan?
  2. 14% of the population consumes 44% of the health care expenditures. Part of that goes with the territory: the older you get, the greatest your risk of illness or age-related frailties. However, many health risks have been common knowledge since the 60s or 70s: smoking, excess weight, sedentary lifestyle, food preservatives, food “enhancements”, genetic manipulation of food, over-use and mis-use of prescription drugs, pollution… the list goes on. In my view, however, as long as the government could make some money off it, they encouraged it. And now they are whining about the outfall.
  3. I was one of those Canadians caring for parent. Other than a few breaks on medical expenses, I sucked up the cost… we all do… that’s why we are called CARE-givers! and even today, with the statistics that are coming in, I would be curious to know what pro-active steps the government is taking to ensure they don’t end with both the elderly and their caregivers as “medical expenditures”.

I’d be curious to know how many service groups, church groups, non-profits, have come up with great plans for seniors’ housing and assisted living, needing only some government subsidy to get their plans off the ground to be successful. It is my opinion that if the government has anything less than majority control, they do not help. Short term pain for long-term gain does not appear to be in their vocabulary. And because they either refuse to or can’t afford to implement all the necessary safety nets themselves, they are then left in crisis mode when seniors continue to live alone and failing, suddenly with an acute issue that leaves them “in the system” for far too long and sometimes forever.

During my career in ElderCare, I have watched umpteen beautiful senior living facilities being built. Chefs in the kitchen, marble on the walls, and cocktails at 5 – the living is good! if you can afford it!! Low rates at these sites usually started at about $1500/month, and if you needed nursing care it was upwards from about $4000/month. I cannot remember a single senior living facility where there was simple accommodation, linoleum on the floor and meatloaf for dinner… at an affordable price for seniors on fixed income.

Now the government is whining, pointing fingers, and telling us the sky is falling because they are just now realizing this is only the beginning of a really large influx of Canadians into the ranks of “senior”dom.

I could carry on here for days but it accomplishes little.

My wish is for a government who plans ahead for fiscal and human reasons; I am tired of governments who spend a chunk of their time complaining about the previous government and acting in the moment with a flurry of strategic spending in the months before election day. We have some brilliant minds out there when it comes to Finance and long-term planning – call on them!!

In the meantime, I recommend you take responsibility for your own retirement and create residual income that will keep you far better than any mismanaged government plan or waning company plan.

I am.

You in?