How Canadian Seniors are redefining aging

What will you do when you grow up? That’s a question that we typically ask in childhood. But for a growing number of seniors, it’s the question being asked during elder years. What used to be a quiet time in many of our lives is now being embraced with a sense of gusto and energy. Today’s seniors are redefining what it means to become older. For many, the later years in life now include a second career, renewed optimism and even better health.

It’s safe to say that growing old is no longer on autopilot for most.

Seniors are changing what it means to retire

One of the biggest ways that aging is changing has to do with the traditional view of retiring. In the past, retirement meant you stopped working. This is no longer the case. Many Canadians are working longer, and older Canadians are occupying a large (and fast growing) segment of the workforce. This may be due in part to financial constraints and overall economic uncertainty, but much of it is driven by baby boomers’ needs to stay active. Some enjoy getting up to go to work so that their days can have a routine, feel as though they are contributing to something, and to simply be around people. Whatever the reasons are, we’re slowly discovering that working into elder years can be good for you – if it’s on your terms.

The notion of a traditional retirement cliff – the point where an employee ends their working years and begins full-time retirement – is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Phased retirement, where employees move from full-time employment to part-time and then gradually towards retirement is the new norm. In fact, a recent report from AEGON noted that:

The majority of current employees (60%) surveyed expect to keep working in some manner beyond their retirement age.

Even if they’re not staying at work, many retired seniors are still working towards career ambitions. The term “silver entrepreneurs”, meant to describe elder entrepreneurs who spend their retirement years focusing on building new businesses and taking advantage of new professional opportunities, has become popular in recent years. T

Seniors are travelling more adventurously

In the past, travelling as a senior meant going south for the summer, playing golf and enjoying quiet time. That’s not so much the case today. Modern seniors are using their later years to pursue new adventures and cross exotic destinations off their bucket lists. Indeed, travel has always been one of the most popular activities for seniors. But the very nature of what it means to travel as a senior is changing.

In a recent article in the New York Times, a 74-year old traveller admitted that over the last several years she had climbed the Uhuru Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro, pitched a tent in the Gobi Desert, and even visited Mongolia Madagascar and Peru along the way. She’s also planning trips to Ethiopia and the Andes in the coming years.

She’s not alone. Across Canada, travel industry experts are noting that a growing number of older travellers are seeking out adventurous and exotic travel destinations. This is a stark contrast compared to previous generations who leaned towards quiet, fitness oriented destinations.

Seniors are healthier than ever before

Go back to the 1960s. People retired at age 65, and life expectancy was 72. People retired because they were older, and had to. Today, even if people retire at age 65, they can live another 10, 15 and even 20 healthy years. The point is that modern seniors have more time to enjoy at the end of their careers. They’re looking forward to retirement and their later years as new beginnings that are meant to be filled with adventure and fun.

There’s even a renewed sense of optimism. The same AEGON report mentioned earlier found that 80% of seniors surveyed look forward to spending time with family and friends, over 2/3 believe they will be able to stay physically active, and nearly half are confident they can maintain their good health into later years. Add all this to the drastic increase is self-esteem and self-awareness that old-age brings, and old age is quickly starting to look like a pretty great time in our lives.

Seniors are reaching for new goals and dreams

The very notion of aging has changed is recent years. The term “active aging” has emerged as a result. Simply put, “active aging” means living an active lifestyle well into later years. While the desire for leisure time is still one of the things people look forward to, many see retirement as a time for entrepreneurship, adventure, and even philanthropy.

More than anything, our elder years a time for new beginnings. The renewed sense of optimism and adventure that seniors are approaching life with is not only changing how we think about aging, it’s changing the very societies we live in.

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