Why raising the OAP to 67 doesn't make sense
Ellen Roseman, The Toronto Star
Prime Minister Stephen Harper raised eyebrows with a speech last week that fueled speculation he plans to lift the eligibility for Old Age Security to 67 (from 65).
Harper’s argument that deep cuts are required to keep the program afloat deserves closer attention, even though he’s been backpedalling ever since.
I have two points to make:
— There is nothing new in the numbers he quotes about OAS costs rising as baby boomers retire.
— There are ways to reduce costs that won’t incense Opposition parties and organized seniors’ groups.
Let’s start with the statistics, which show that taxpaid pensions for people over 65 will triple to $108 billion by 2030 (from $35.6 billion in 2010).
The Conservative government seems spooked by this figure. But why should it be?
When looked at in the context of Canada’s growing economy, the cost of supporting the demographic bulge is not nearly as scary.
As a percentage of our gross domestic product, Old Age Security will rise to 3.1 per cent by 2030 (from 2.3 per cent in 2010) — before declining again after the boomers retire.
To read the full story: http://www.thestar.com/article/1124518--roseman-how-to-cut-pension-cost-without-hurting-everyone
Harper doing seniors a favour
Brian Lee Crowley, Calgary Sun
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has renewed a perennial debate about when Canadians should expect to retire.
According to media reports, Harper has in mind changes to the Old Age Supplement (OAS) and the GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) that would raise the eligibility age for these benefits from 65 to 67.
Much of the reaction has focused on how such changes would affect public finances and the Canadian economy, essentially asking whether the benefits of reducing the cost of old age income programs, plus the increased labour supply, justifies making older Canadians “worse off.”
But that approaches such changes exactly backward.
Such reforms, far from taking something away from seniors, are a tiny step in reversing decades of bad policy that has marginalized older Canadians, damaged their health and harmed their morale.
Raising the age of eligibility is not a matter of imposing costs on seniors to benefit the rest of the population. It is an exceptionally pro-seniors policy to reduce the incentives to stop working at 65.
There was a time when age 65 and retirement were closely linked for a compelling reason. By then, a life of labour had left the average worker depleted. A few short years of decline were all that they could expect before death.
A Canadian male born in 1966, when the Canada Pension Plan was introduced, would only expect to live to age 68 or so. Today it is 79.
The age of 65 and the moment when one can no longer reasonably be expected to work have long since parted company. We live longer and in better health.
To read the full story: http://www.calgarysun.com/2012/02/04/crowley-harper-doing-seniors-a-favour
Top five regrets of the dying
Susie Steiner, The Guardian
A nurse has recorded the most common regrets of the dying, and among the top ones is 'I wish I hadn't worked so hard'. What would your biggest regret be if this was your last day of life?
There was no mention of more sex or bungee jumps. A palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is 'I wish I hadn't worked so hard'.
Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. "When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently," she says, "common themes surfaced again and again."
Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."
To read the full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/01/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying?fb=optOut
Joe Schlesinger: The problem with growing old, as a society I mean
Scientists continuously tell us that we are going to live longer than any generation in human history. And that our children and succeeding generations will enjoy even longer lives, much longer.
Sounds great. But there are pitfalls on the road to longevity, and we had better be aware of them before they trip us up.
First the good news: The average life expectancy of Canadians has risen from 60 in the 1920s to 80 today.
By the end of this century, according to a UN study on world population trends, Canadians will live to age 88 on average, and to 92 by 2150. Those born in the year 2300 are likely to live long enough to celebrate New Year's Day 2400.
So we humans are going to have to get used to two terms that have lain dormant in dictionaries: "nonagenarian," for people in their nineties, and "centenarian," for those over 100.
This dramatic extension of life expectancy is due to the great array of implants, transplants, pills, shots and treatments that have come out of research labs and hospitals.
I am a beneficiary of these medical advances. I'm an octogenarian who owes his life and relative good health to a bunch of pills I take that didn't exist just a few decades ago.
And more advances are coming. A series of intriguing reports on The National recently entitled "Chasing Cures" took a look at the marvels that are in the works to keep us living longer.
To read the full story: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/01/16/f-vp-schlesinger-aging.html?cmp=googleeditorspick
Paying pensions to an aging nat
National Post Editorial Board, The National Post
When Old Age Security (OAS) was introduced in the early 1950s, no Canadian was guaranteed a pension until age 70. At the time, the life expectancy of the average Canadian man was 66; for women, it was 71. (Some seniors qualified for a pension at age 65, but only if they had little in the way of other income.) Consequently, the number of pensioners was small and so were the government’s costs.
The numbers worked in Ottawa’s favour. Even after the Liberals under Lester Pearson introduced the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) in the mid-1960s, relatively few Canadian men lived much past 70. Those who qualified for the new pensions were not expected to draw from the fund for more than a few years.
But now, the average man lives 10 years longer than he did in Mr. Pearson’s day, and the average woman almost 12 more years. The majority of Canadians born in the last decade could live well into their 80s, 90s or even 100s. While contribution levels have been increased five-fold over the years, neither the OAS nor the CPP is flush enough to meet the upcoming pension demands of retiring Baby Boomers and beyond. Either Canadians need to contribute more or retire later. But the current plans are unsustainable without one change or the other, or some combination of both.
First, some basic facts about the way the current system works. OAS is a universal pension open to any Canadian citizen or permanent resident who has lived in the county for at least 10 years before becoming eligible at age 65. Canadians with less than $68,000 of annual income receive the full basic amount of about $540 a month, an amount that is gradually clawed back until it disappears for those seniors earning more than $110,000. The CPP, on the other hand, is available only to Canadians who have contributed to the plan over their working lives. Employers and employees both contribute 4.95% of an employee’s income between $3,500 and $48,000 a year, and payments are calculated based on 25% of the maximum amount a worker could have contributed over his or her lifetime.
Is it old age or Alzheimer's? Study alarms health-care experts
Paul Dalby, Toronto Star
“I’m just having a senior moment.” It’s a phrase uttered so often in our aging population to explain away lapses in memory that it has become part of the everyday lexicon of language.
But for the Alzheimer Society of Canada, it’s a throwaway phrase that goes to the very heart of a worrying trend. According to a study released Jan. 4, far too many Canadians are living in denial, dismissing symptoms of dementia as “just old age”.
In an online survey of 958 Canadian caregivers of people with dementia, close to 50 per cent revealed their loved one had lived a year or more with symptoms before seeing a family doctor. Of those, 16 per cent waited more than two years.
The delayed diagnosis almost certainly prevented many people from getting early treatment, such as medication, counseling support and better disease management. Most critically, they also lost precious time to take part in the decision making about their own future.
“In a sense, it reaffirms for us we still have a great deal to do to raise public awareness,” says Mary Schulz, national education director at the Alzheimer Society. “If we can do one thing, it is to help people understand (that), while it’s a devastating illness to receive, there is hope, there are things you can do and it’s better to get help early. We are trying to bring it out of the shadows so that people can understand that when they’re making jokes about having a senior moment, they’re really saying I’m afraid that this is a slippery slope.”
More than 500,000 Canadians live with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. As the population ages, this number will reach 1.1 million within 25 years. “We are looking at doubling the number of people with dementia in a single generation,” Schulz says. “It is really shocking to see those numbers.”
Gay seniors face a new activism as they age
Andrea Houston, Xtra
Tim McCaskell admits he doesn’t know much about Twitter. But the oldest member of human rights group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) says he has watched with amazement as young activists have harnessed social media to get the message out.
“Social media is being used to engage and empower activism,” he says.
Page 7 of 15