Canadian seniors reconsider retirement amid affordability crisis, waning pandemic concerns
Many Canadians are reconsidering what retirement looks like for them as the pandemic recedes and Canada’s affordability crisis continues. More seniors are choosing to delay theirs or head back to work to make ends meet, and a 90-year-old Winnipeg woman is getting creative as she faces difficult choices to stay out of the red.
For Peggy Prendergast, painting is a way to both relax and secure income.
Teaching watercolour at least three times a week never seemed like a job to her, but more and more, she’s depending on it to keep up with the cost of living.
“Now, I’m really struggling because my pension is still, I still get the same dollars,” she said.
Prendergast retired from being an elementary school principal and teaching in schools about 25 years ago, a move she’d delayed after her husband died unexpectedly 40 years ago.
She’s lived in her Windsor Park house for 65 years.
Earlier in the pandemic, she got a low-interest loan for some upgrades to make sure she could call it home for many more.
“I want to stay in my house, and I’m lucky enough to be healthy,” she said. “There isn’t affordable housing for older adults to the extent that there needs to be. Assisted living is very expensive.
“I just have mobility issues, and so I put a ramp in, and I was able to get things done in the house that make it much easier to live.”
But rising interest rates on her loan along with inflation are forcing her to consider tough choices.
“It’s very scary. I don’t want to sell my house,” Prendergast said. “I have a place at the lake that feel I’m going to have to (sell), although I love being there, and that’s where the art comes from.”
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The Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) says Prendergast’s financial concerns are common.
Their surveys tell them it tops all seniors’ worries, ahead of health, housing and the environment, CARP’s COO and chief policy officer Bill VanGorder said.
“Things like gasoline, groceries, rent, mortgages — all those things have really hit seniors very, very hard.
“The good news is that seniors are living longer. The bad news is seniors are living longer and weren’t prepared to be still living active lives.”
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Frugal spending is only going so far for some, VanGorder told Global News. Delayed retirement and returns to work are happening more often — some because they enjoy working, but others because they don’t have a choice, he said.
“Often they end up doing jobs they really don’t want to do in hospitality or retail or other areas, sometimes even security,” VanGorder said.
HR specialist Tory McNally also sees employers accommodating seniors who are helping sectors such as health care and retail fill their labour shortages, after the pandemic’s “great resignation” or “great retirement.”
“I think the nature of work is just really in flux right now with people wanting to be able to choose when and where they work, and that’s happening for the 20-year-olds and that’s happening for the 60-year-olds as well,” McNally, who serves as the VP of consulting services at Legacy Bowes in Winnipeg, told Global News.
Manitoba’s branch of the Retail Council of Canada is pleased to see an experienced demographic help fill the sector’s labour shortages as concerns over COVID-19 settle.
“After a few years of staying at home, there’s a lot of (the) senior population that are looking for opportunities to get out a few hours a weekend and be active again,” John Graham, the Retail Council’s Prairie director of government relations, told Global News.
An April report by Indeed’s Hiring Lab suggests 3.2 per cent of U.S. workers who retired a year earlier were employed again as of March.
Overall, the average age of retirement in Canada has also increased by half a year from 2018 to 2022, Statistics Canada reported in January.
For VanGorder, “the old-fashioned concept of retirement is passed.”
CARP was disappointed the federal government’s 2023 budget didn’t outline more supports for seniors, including increasing monthly Old Age Security payments for those between 65 and 75, he said.
Seniors should have a choice when it comes to retirement, VanGorder said.
“Some people want to retire and do other things that may not involve employment,” he said. “That could be volunteer work or travelling or being involved with social causes.”
Prendergast recently celebrated her 90th birthday, and she doesn’t have plans to stop painting or working any time soon.
She’s looking for a job to meet the demands and uncertainties of the future.
— with files from Global’s Talha Hashmani
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