Men and Retirement - New Book Coming Soon 

     Over a million Canadian men are of retirement age and as many as a third of them will struggle with retirement. For the past year, I've been reviewing the research and interviewing men and their partners to understand what it is to be a retirement-aged man. I've found some deeply rooted fears.

  • Retirement, particularly early retirement, can kill you.
  • Retirement is usually followed by the three D's - depression, divorce and drink.
  • When men retire, they turn into grumpy old men.
  • When men retire, they become a "used to be."
  • When men retire, they become their father.
  • If a retiree wants to keep working, no one will want him.
  • After retirement, life is a downhill slide.
  • You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

     This new book will replace these stereotypes with the reality of men's lives. The people I interviewed cover the retirement spectrum. Some of them retired in their 50's, and some are still working in their 80's. Some left work happily, some unhappily. Some retired and then went back to work. Some are working and wish they weren't. Others wish they were still working. Their stories will inspire you, surprise you and sometimes make you laugh. Look for the book in January 2016.


Finding Something to Carry

     In a Buddhist parable a young man meets an old man on a path. The old man is bent over with age and using a cane to make his way slowly up the mountain. The young man is overcome with compassion and says, “Old man, what is the greatest burden of your old age?” The old man replies, “That I have nothing to carry.”

     Goward House, a community centre for people 50+ in Victoria BC, gives its 500 members many opportunities to find something to carry. The centre offers courses from Spanish to line dancing, seminars from downsizing to nutrition, and dozens of events per year including art shows and crafts fairs. At Goward House, you can play bridge, billiards or cribbage, sing in a choir or improve your writing. Oh, and they serve tea and lunch five days a week and full sit-down meals on special occasions. 

     One full-time staff member and a couple of part-timers are responsible for providing this full menu of services. And they do this with the help of 80 volunteers who range in age from 50 to 90. At Goward House, you can donate your services in just about any way imaginable - from answering the phone to making a salad, from teaching a course to donating your jams and jellies to the craft fair.

      On October 30, Heart Pharmacies and I joined forces to sponsor a fund-raising luncheon for Goward House. Over 70 people came to hear about The Perfect Home For a Long Life and take away a copy of the book. One of the book's key messages - live near a wonderful resource like Goward House where you can both give and receive. It took about 14 volunteers to support our event.


Tiny Sointula Prepares for a Senior Surge

        Sointula may be a tiny village on a small island (Malcolm Island, BC - population 886) but it's anticipating its own senior surge and wants to be prepared. Over a century ago, the community was created as a utopia by immigrants from Finland. Sointula, meaning "place of harmony", was to be a community of equality, participation and sharing. Although the original utopian concept was not fully realized, the island continues to draw people who are attracted to these principles. The senior population is a mix of long-time residents who are aging in place, native-born Islanders who are returning home to retire, and newly-arrived retirees attracted by the bucolic lifestyle and friendly spirit. Locals have noticed that, although the population size is staying fairly constant, the average age is increasing. Families with children are leaving the island and being replaced by retirees.

         Seniors housing is provided by Harmony Glen, an independent-living facility with eight one-bedroom suites. With support from family and hired caregivers, residents are able to live at Harmony Glen for years, if not decades. But if their needs become too great, they must relocate to a long-term care facility on Vancouver Island. Harmony Glen is owned and operated by Malcolm Island Senior Citizens Housing Society and BC Housing. To help seniors age in place, the community will need to expand facilities for independent seniors, increase home care for people choosing to stay at home, and extend the level of care available locally. The Lions Club intends to answer the call - again. It was the Lions Club thirty years ago that set up Harmony Glen and they are prepared to jump in once more.


We ALL need a MAC! 

      Whistler gave me an outstanding welcome on Monday night, with well over 100 people attending my talk. I wasn't surprised given that the event was organized by MAC (Mature Action Committee). You may recall that MAC was one of the groups I highlighted in The Perfect Home as a reason for optimism about our chances for healthy aging. The organization was set-up in the mid-90's to tackle senior housing needs and has expanded to address all aspects of growing old in Whistler. Their goal: to make their town a model community for aging in place. They have over 200 members, which is impressive for a place where people pride themselves on staying young forever. They're making it fun to be old, even "hip", by throwing great parties, sponsoring terrific activities and attracting people who want to be associated with success. Whistler has about 1900 full-time residents aged 50+ and this number is due to increase as people retire to their vacation homes.

      One of MAC's successful strategies is partnering. They work with the local health care providers on medical issues, with the seniors centre to develop programming, and with nearby communities on transportation solutions. They want to have seniors involved in all decisions that affect them both through a senior advisory committee at the Municipal level and having senior spokespeople on all appropriate boards. This senior engagement is another tenet of their work, also encouraged through a volunteer program of Seniors Supporting Seniors.

      Another successful strategy is research. They hold an annual Town Hall Meetings to find out what aging in place means to the residents and what might prevent them from staying in Whistler for the long term. They ask people for their ideas for solutions and for advice on MAC's role. As President Sue Lawther says, "We get dozens of smart practical ideas from this forum. We give each solution a priority, identify what agency owns the issue and meet with them to determine an action plan going forward."

      We all need a MAC in our community!


Leading the Way

     On Feb 9, I spoke at the Parksville Community Centre in support of the excellent Oceanside Hospice. This gave me a chance to check out some terrific projects for seniors that are taking place in the area. Parksville, BC and the neighbouring community of Qualicum Beach have the highest proportion of seniors in Canada. By 2030, Parksville's current population of some 12,000 people is estimated to grow by 31%. And the population of seniors aged 75+ is expected to double. So I'm watching with interest the plans and projects launched for seniors by these savvy communities. I suspect they'll be leading the way for the rest of us.

     The photo above shows a great example. Last summer the Parksville Lions Club installed Adult Fitness Equipment at the Parksville Community Park next to the kids Adventureland and right near their boardwalk. As a fan posted on their facebook page "... judging by all the comments and the people down there trying out the equipment, it is a big hit! This will greatly enhance my regular walks down to the beach along the boardwalk by giving me some circuit exercises too, and you sure can't beat the view!"