The outlook is very scary for aging Boomers. Recent studies show that if we don’t change, we won’t be able to continue working or playing for much longer.
Surveys can be very confusing. Research from human capital consulting firm Towers Watson shows 75% of Boomers intend to continue working well past retirement age. Of these, the study shows, 41% of Boomers will stay in the workforce because they want to, not because they have to. However, just more than one-third of pre-retirees will continue working because they have to. These are individuals who either haven’t saved enough to subsidize the retirement lifestyle they want or who lost a substantial portion of their nest egg in the 2008 financial market crash and are still trying to recover it.
Compare this with the recent Heart and Stroke Foundation poll where Canadian boomers are planning full lives for their later years. Half of Boomers (54 per cent) want to travel and be active around the house, 38 per cent want to be involved grandparents, 36 per cent want to take up a new hobby and a quarter (27 per cent) would like to winter somewhere warm and sunny.
Whether to work or play, Boomers expect to be living full lives past the traditional retirement age. Our Government thinks so as well. This is part of the impetus in raising the retirement age from 65 to 67 years of age. I heard one health economist state that the average 73 year old today has the health of someone who was 65 years old in 1966, the year the Canada Pension Plan was introduced.
Although we may be living longer – are we healthy enough to fulfill our desires? Apparently not. According to Statistics Canada, on average, there’s a 10-year gap between how long Canadians live, and how long they live in health. This gap manifests as heart disease, stroke and other chronic conditions.
The real gap, however, is in the perception of how healthy we are versus how healthy we think we are. We are in denial if 80 percent believe that doctors would rate us as healthy. More than a quarter of Boomers don’t feel concerned about how healthy they will be later in life. And three quarters don’t know that lifestyle modifications can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by up to 80 per cent . Even after being diagnosed with a chronic condition like heart disease or diabetes, Boomers rarely make lifestyle changes that would improve quality of life or prolong their lives.
We’ve got to stop kidding ourselves. Lifestyle changes can lower risks to debilitating chronic diseases. Diseases that will derail fully living out the future – whether it is work or play.