SPRINT Senior Care featured in Toronto Star article
The following article features quotes from our CEO and Senior Director of Client Services, and was published in the Star on Saturday, June 15, 2019.
Solo retirees face challenges
By Nina Dragicevic
Retirement promises to be the best chapter yet. For many Canadians, it means leaving the workforce with decades of good health and active living ahead.Retiring solo, however, brings its own unique opportunities and challenges – particularly around health care, finances and social connections. The last is arguably the most important.
Health, safety and care
“We hear time and time again from people who are retiring solo that they are quite worried what will happen to them if they don’t have anyone to take care of them,” says Laura Tamblyn Watts, national director of law, policy and research at the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP).
Without a spouse as a stand-in caregiver, arrangements will have to be made elsewhere when the time comes, she says. This can mean hiring a caregiver or moving to a facility where services are available, or cohabitation. “We’re seeing a real increase in interest in what we call co-housing,” Tamblyn Watts says. A so-called Golden Girls arrangement brings seniors together to share a living space, which provides additional care and security. But increasingly, inter-generational pairings are also an option.
“For people who find themselves a single senior, there are a lot of new initiatives – particularly in big cities, there are students living with seniors,” says Stacy Landau, CEO of SPRINT Senior Care, a not-for-profit community support service agency in north Toronto. Such an arrangement can mean cheaper rent for the student in exchange for housekeeping tasks, Landau says – such as garbage removal or snow shovelling – as well as providing simple care, including help to go up and down stairs.
Planning further into the future is also crucial. While your health is still good, make decisions now on the care you want if your health-care needs change.
“One of the key issues most people don’t like to talk about – but we promote all the time – is advanced care planning,” Landau says. Her agency has prepared a detailed kit on the topic, which includes details such as a living will, power of attorney and decision-making on your care if you’re no longer able to decide on your own.
“This is a perfect time to really start having those conversations if you haven’t already them – about finances and health.”
As Canadians live longer and longer, financial planning throughout retirement keeps your situation updated as your needs evolve. Health problems can pop up, and some may be costly. Naomi Ziegler, senior director of client services at SPRINT Senior Care, says there’s a “major gap” in disability insurance in Canada.
“In the States they have what’s called long-term care insurance,” she says. “It’s really not easily accessible in Canada, but it’s coming. I think this is a huge window of opportunity for insurance companies and it needs to be something our community investigates.”
Cohabiting with other seniors is a smart move on the financial side as well, not just for sharing rent and utilities, but for care costs.”If you need some home care and you have four people, you can schedule that home care much more effectively and get better value for your dollars,” Tamblyn Watts says. “You’re able to purchase those services at a more economical rate.”
Planning for additional health costs isn’t the biggest concern for your finances – remain vigilant about protecting the money itself. Watch out for “new best friends,” Tamblyn Watts says, and “romance scams, grandparents scams, phishing scams.” She says financial fraud is at a breaking point in Canada.
“This is an explosion; this is billions of dollars each year financially exploiting older adults in Canada,” Tamblyn Watts says. “It is only growing. And remember these are professionals – they’re really good at it.”
“Loneliness is a really important piece here,” says Tamblyn Watts. “Loneliness has been found to be as detrimental to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness is an actual killer.”
Social isolation also makes seniors more vulnerable to financial scams, elder abuse and neglect. Staying socially active is “the best protective factor,” she says.The good news? Resources are everywhere. Libraries, service agencies, community centres and Active Living Centres offer countless programs to suit every hobby and interest. Tamblyn Watts says programming that combines light exercise with social interaction is the best bet, such as a “Nordic walking plus coffee” group.
Cohabiting comes with social support built-in, in addition to its health and financial benefits. Other options for social enrichment include volunteering, working part-time, joining online communities, and even dog ownership or dog-sharing arrangements.
Seniors today are lucky – they’re part of the biggest cohort in the country. In other words, you are definitely not alone.”We know the number of seniors aged 65 and over is almost projected to double,” Landau says. “There are more seniors now than any other type of population in Canada.”