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December 04, 2013
We’re getting older — and younger

Age 60 is the new 50.  Almost.

While many publications, including the Coughlin Courier, have devoted much space to the aging of the Canadian population, in real terms, we are actually getting younger, according to a demographic study comparing longevity from 1950 to 2010.

According to a C.D. Howe Institute report entitled “The Main Challenge of Our Times: A Population Growing Younger”, increases in lifespan from 1950 to the present day have actually resulted in the population growing younger in relative terms.

According to study authors Marcel Boyer and Sébastien Boyer, a 35-year-old in 1950 could expect to live another 38.6 years.  However, in 2010, a person that age should live another 46.8 years, or 8.2 years longer.  Or, taken from another perspective, the 35-year-old living in the year 2010 has the same life expectancy as somebody 26.8 years of age in 1950 (35-8.2).

That difference is not just reflected among the young or middle aged.  The C.D. Howe study noted that, in relative terms, the “real” age of today’s 65-year-old is 59.5 years compared to his/her counter-part in 1950.  A 75-year-old is really age 70.9 in terms of the life expectancy of the mid-20th century.

The difference in longevity, lifestyle and career expectations of 2010 should be adapted to public policy and social programs, the authors argue.

“Canadians are experiencing increases in longevity and are willing to work longer than previous cohorts,” Marcel Boyer says.  “Public policy should aim to provide Canadians with the instruments to better manage retirement decisions.”

One example of changing expectations resulting from increased life expectancy is the significant increase in those age 50-plus reporting a willingness to have an “encore career” following their retirement.  

While people following a solitary career path for 35 to 45 years gradually lose interest in their careers in their early 60s and retire at age 65, a double career path, where one begins an entirely new career in their 60s, opens the potential for longer and possibly more meaningful working lives, the study suggests.

“A significant percentage of 50-plus workers say they would like to embrace an ‘encore career.’  In a double-career path, people would have the opportunity to complete one career, start cashing their pension from it, train for a second career and continue working,” the study notes.

“New and more flexible labour market arrangements will be necessary. If continued labour force participation after age 60 to 65 is deemed desirable for the individual involved and society,” Marcel Boyer says.  

The C.D. Howe study concludes that a number of new and more flexible working arrangements will be necessary to ensure continued labour force participation after ages 60 to 65.  Among the reforms suggested are the following:

  • The elimination of arbitrary retirement ages for public benefits such as Old Age Security (OAS).
  • Increasing the qualification for OAS to age 67 between 2023 and 2029. 
  • Changing tax and pension regulations to encourage phased-in retirement.  Suggested steps include allowing workers to work and receive pension benefits while contributing to a pension plan.
  • Reducing clawbacks on earned income for Guaranteed Income Supplement recipients.
  • Adjusting Employment Insurance rules to better serve those who have been laid off late in their careers.
  • Encourage lifelong education and training to encourage people to embrace a second career following their retirement.
  • Changing severance pay rules to encourage older workers to retrain for a new career.

“Our population is not getting older in the traditional sense,” the C.D. Howe Institute report says.  “Many workers approaching retirement age are able and willing to remain in the workforce longer.  Significant portions of older Canadians are already deciding to postpone their retirement.  Public policy should provide Canadians with the proper instruments to better manage their retirement decisions.”

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