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Home Staging Worth the Money, Effort? Yes.

Nearly every home seller hopes to get their property sold quickly and at top dollar.

Staging may be just the thing to help in that quest, according to the National Association of REALTORS’® 2017 Profile of Home Staging (

Using things like furniture, color, lighting, and accent pieces, professional stagers transform for-sale homes from ho-hum to oh-ah and work to make a property appeal to the largest number of prospective buyers

And their work has an impact: 39 percent of sellers’ agents said that staging a home greatly decreases the amount of time the home is on the market, according to NAR’s report.

Here are some of the report’s key findings:


Additional findings include:

  • The most commonly staged spaces include the living room (83 percent), kitchen (76 percent), master bedroom (69 percent), and dining room (66 percent).

  • Staging the living room was found to be most important to buyers (55 percent), followed by staging the master bedroom (51%), and the kitchen (41 percent).

  • Seventy-seven percent of buyers’ agents said staging a home made it easier for buyers to visualize a property as a future home.




Wildfires already have been raging in British Columbia, and that’s good reminder to do everything possible to protect yourself and your house should a fire start in your region.


PreparedBC has helpful resources like the “Homeowners’ Manual: FireSmart Begins at Home”


It illustrates the steps you can take to reduce the risk of fires destroying your home, including using zones to make your outdoor space more fire resistant.


For instance the area closest to your house should be free of all materials that could easily ignite. It also shows you how to create fire breaks; prune and properly space trees; and choose trees and plants that are most resistant to fire.


Another guide, the “Household Preparedness Guide”, gives you tips on how to react to and prepare for an emergency.


It includes everything from creating phone lists and establishing meeting places, to understanding how to cut your utilities and what to pack in a grab-and-go-bag if you have to leave your house quickly.


Perhaps your desire to travel is great, but your budget to tackle your bucket list is minimal.

That’s ok. If you are willing to be a little less conventional in your approach to travel, you

can still save money while getting a more authentic experience.


Some of the best options for seniors include:


Hostels – No, they aren’t just for backpacking 20-somethings who have left home to “find”

themselves. Many overseas hostels are immaculate, loaded with amenities, and offer private rooms

with bathrooms. They are a “best kept secret” in travel circles. Learn more at



House sitting gigs – Homeowners often look for older, more mature individuals to do house

sitting—perhaps including care for the family pet(s)—and this can be one way for seniors to

travel on the cheap. Resources to learn more include,,



Couchsurfing – Yes, seriously. This increasingly popular mode of travel involves joining a social

network of fellow travelers ( who believe in fostering friendly cultural exchanges

through local meet-ups and/or hosting travellers (who stay on their couch, an air mattress or in a

spare bedroom). Visit the site to learn more and join in!


House swapping – For people who own their own home (or even live in an apartment, if the lease

doesn’t prohibit it) and are willing to “swap” with someone in order to travel without incurring hotel

and lodging fees, this may be a great option. Check out opportunities at and

HomeBaseHolidays (


Adventures – Enjoy a full immersion experience in another culture through a variety of travel styles

(and costs) by booking through one of these sites geared to adventurous explorers:,,, and


Volunteer – One way to travel for free (or at very low cost) is to volunteer in your area(s) of expertise.

Visit for thousands of opportunities in exotic locations. (In particular, explore options

with “housing available.”) Imagine helping out in a wildlife sanctuary in Brazil, at an orphanage in

Tanzania, for a community development program in Uganda, or conservation programs in Costa Rica. All these and many more are listed on the site.


So, regardless of your budget, there is a way to go forth and see the world.

MAXIMIZING SENIOR OPTIONS: Getting More, often for Less

Reigning in unnecessary expenses is only the first step in learning how to live large on a fixed income. The real fun is shifting the focus to discovering a world of budget-friendly opportunities to learn new things, enjoy new experiences, and establish new friendships. Consider sharing some or all of these ideas with your clients.


Healthier Eating Choices

It’s hard to enjoy anything when health issues arise, which means prevention should always be a top priority. Encourage yourself to expand your nutritional horizons by supporting local farmers and improving your own eating and cooking options.


Avoid fast food – As life slows down, there is often more time to shop for, prepare and consume healthy homemade meals. Eliminating fast food can lead to huge improvements in weight, health, mood, and budgets! It also opens up the opportunity to actually enjoy the cooking process. Many people say they “love to cook” but never have the time—until now.


Investigate what’s new – Improvements in cooking technologies are making home cooking quicker and easier. Energy-efficient induction burners speed up the cooking process, while combination pressure-cooker/slow cooker devices make it easy to add ingredients, program a meal, and serve it up with less effort and mess than traditional meals.


Cooking meals as a social event – Consider sharing cooking chores with a friend to assemble a week (or even a month!) of meals to freeze, while enjoying some social time. This may also be a great time to take a cooking class and meet new people while learning some new recipes.


Discover local resources – Enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables? Want higher quality eggs and meat? Discover and shop at your local farmer’s market, consider a “share” in a farm-based subscription service, or visit local farms that sell directly to the public. Try to find suppliers in your area.


Dig in the dirt – Perhaps you have always wanted to garden, but never had time. Even if your current home doesn’t offer a large yard, you can investigate container gardening, terraced gardening, or even a plot in a nearby community garden. Check out Outside of larger cities, local agriculture extension agents can help identify additional resources to share with clients on community garden options, local produce venues and individual farmers who offer meat, eggs, cheese, milk, fruit, and vegetables for sale to the public.


Music Magic

The health benefits of music are scientifically documented and dramatic—especially for older people and those suffering from heart, circulatory,stroke, memory and sleep issues. In addition to improving your quality of life by adding an enjoyable ambiance to your home, music has also been shown to:

• Ease pain (especially in geriatric care, intensive care and palliative care)

• Improve the quality of sleep

• Cause individuals to eat less

• Enhance circulation

• Reduce stress and anxiety

• Elevate mood and relieve depression

Listening to music also improves cognitive performance and the ability of dementia patients to interact (see, in addition to easing recovery in stroke, heart and cancer patients.


Keep Learning, Keep Moving

Have you always wanted to learn to paint? To write a novel? To do yoga? To ballroom dance? To take a music appreciation class or learn to play an instrument? Now is their opportunity. Local colleges and universities often provide lowcost or free classes to seniors. Who says maturity doesn’t have its benefits? Being a lifetime learner has been shown to help improve memory and can slow or even eliminate the onset of ailments like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Explore community education offerings and check with your local senior citizen center for educational and social options to share with your senior clients. Classes are also an opportunity to be social. What better way to meet interesting people than at an interesting event?


See More Places, Do More Things

Travel is one of the best ways to have new experiences. It offers a more active lifestyle than sitting at home, it’s more educational, and it helps to avoid the negative stress of loneliness that impacts many seniors. Plus, travel doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive.

Budget-friendly options – Take advantage of off-season prices at resorts, on cruise lines, and even at campgrounds with an RV. Seniors may also want to select a credit card that accumulates airline miles and travel points while buying groceries and other necessities. As long as credit cards are paid off each month, this can be a good economic move to help finance travel.

Group travel – Look into group travel options, especially those designed for older adventurers. Start by contacting local travel agencies, local senior citizens centers and resources offered through AARP. Also investigate offerings through the Road Scholar organization (originally Elderhostel), the leader in the lifelong learning movement. (

Save on meals – In addition to taking advantage of any senior discounts, go to the nicer restaurants for lunch, rather than more expensive evening meals. Visit local markets for fresh dinner options. Pack food for daily jaunts and have an impromptu picnic when a wonderful spot is discovered.


Online travel discounts – There are also many online resources for individuals willing to research lower prices. Consider,,,,, and similar sites. Smartphone apps like Google Trips, Hopper, and Airbnb arealso good options for spotting travel discounts.

Stay flexible – Many online reservation systems help travelers find cheaper flights if they aren’t locked into particular dates. Typically, flights on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are less expensive than weekend travel or Monday mornings. Also consider volunteering to be bumped for overbooked flights, which often results in free future tickets!

Plan in advance – Airline ticket prices usually climb as the date nears. Domestic flights are typically cheapest when booked 47 days in advance (except for travel over major holidays). Book much earlier for overseas trips—276 days in advance, if possible.

Eliminate expensive hotel bills – For several additional ideas for trimming costs for accommodations, give your clients a copy of thenew consumer one-sheet on the following page.


Closer to Home

Seeing new sights and enjoying new experiences shouldn’t be reserved for out-of-town trips. Find out when local entertainment venues offer discounts or “free days” for seniors, including the zoo, art galleries and museums, theatre productions, and matinee showings. Finally, don’t forget to schedule some “me time”to be alone and enjoy your own company, which can do as much for your outlook as travel and socializing. Consider meditation, journaling, reading, yoga, or even curling up with a blanket and a bowl of popcorn to watch a movie solo.




Life planning, like so many other things, is often harder to begin than to finish. Society shies away from discussing death and its impact on others. As a result, many things are often left undone until it’s too late.
In some cases, this just makes it harder on the person tasked with finding and pulling together all the necessary information. In today’s digital age, this can mean assets are lost forever.
STEP 1- Begin the Conversation
You can’t finish what you never start. Review these
online resources and choose an approach you find
most comfortable.
*The Talk of a Lifetime
offers a free workbook to get you started
*Deathwise (
download their “Wise Conversations Starter Kit”
*The Conversation Project
offers a free starter kit
STEP 2- Lead By Example
Don’t ask a parent or family member to do whatyou aren’t willing to do or haven’t yet done.By leading the way, you’re protecting your own familyfrom the frustrations of handling your affairs withoutguidance and access, should something unexpectedhappen to you.
Leading by example also helps you provide assistance to someone who is hesitant. With your newfound experience, it will be easier to show them how to pull their information together!
STEP 3- Use and Share Resources
– This online life planning service poses a series of questions to help customize plans, including “to do” lists, resources and forms based on your state. (The basic plan is free; $75/year for a premium plan with all options.)
– An unfortunate name, but an excellent resource for life planning. This site is the brainchild of Chanel Reynolds, who found
herself dealing with too many details while grieving the unexpected loss of her young husband. She urges everyone to plan ahead because, “It takes way more energy to worry about something than it does to be relieved.” (Free.)
– Offers both print and digital download versions of two planning products. (Priced from $15 to $95.)
NOTE:If you are a small business owner or own an online business, you have additional concerns. Discuss this with your real estate agent. They are small business owners too!

Choices to be Made

Should I stay or should I go?

Downsizing or upsizing a house is one of the big questions baby boomers and seniors need to grapple with.

Merrill Lynch provides some resources that will help you come to a decision that’s right for you.

Start by asking yourself 5 questions.

  1. Is maintaining the property wearing you down?
  2. Are you comfortable managing your daily routines?
  3. Can you get around to stores, restaurants, and social activities?
  4. How much support would you have in an emergency?
  5. Will loved ones worry about you and do your children need peace of mind that you’re safe?

Another Merrill Lynch report --“Home in Retirement: More Freedom, New Choices” -- conducted in partnership with Age Wave, explores the wide housing options available to downsizers, the advantages of downsizing, option for remodeling to ease aging in place, along with some considerations for late retirement.

Though the hard data apply to U.S. retirees, some of the advice is universal.

For instance, the report offers some topics to consider when you’re considering the future. They include:

1. When deciding where to live in retirement or whether to move, think of future life stages and priorities regarding things like affordability, climate, proximity to family and friends, recreational or cultural activities, and opportunities for continued work. Test-drive potential relocation areas by making long visits or doing short-term rentals.

2. Weigh the expenses associated with all of your options. Those include things like income, mortgage or rent payments, property taxes, relocation expenses, along with any renovations you’d like to make for aesthetics or for aging-in-place purposes.

3. Determine whether paying off your mortgage before retirement would be beneficial to your long-term plan.

4. Have a strategy for long-term care and determine the options that would let you receive care where you most prefer, whether that’s is at home or in assisted living.

5. Consider the home modifications – both physical ones, like installing ramp, and technological ones for, say, remote health monitoring – along with the services needed for you to remain in your own house should you face health challenges.

For more information, see:

Your Needs Long-Term

Preparing Well for Long-term Needs

How well are you preparing for your long-term care needs and who will catch you if you fall?

Those are a couple questions addressed in an August 2015 BMO Wealth Institute report, As you approach the age of wisdom, who will catch you if you fall?”

The report can be a good starting point for thinking about where and how you want to age and ways to finance your plan. It also makes the case for considering long-term care insurance policies and outlines some tax strategies that can offset some long-term care expenses.

“For Canadians, one of the greatest fears associated with aging is not being able to afford or have access to health care services and long-term support when these are required,” according to the report.

The survey asked Canadians to name their greatest health care-related retirement concern and it found that 40% of respondents most fear losing their

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ability to live independently, 17% of people worry about having enough money to pay for adequate health care, and 15% worry about being able to afford to live in their own homes throughout their lifetimes.

Yet, 19% haven’t prepared for the possibility of becoming unable to live independently.

The report also outlines the sometimes staggering costs of long-term care, whether it’s provided at home or in a facility.

Costs vary from province to province, but the most eye-popping figure comes from Ontario, where the cost of living in a retirement home could be as high as $132,000 per year.


Naturally, planning well factors into aging well. BMO lists some of the key reasons to incorporate long-term care costs into your overall financial plan.

They include:

 Avoiding being a burden to family members and friends

Burden of care

Yet another reason to plan wisely is to help the loved ones who will be taking care of you as you age. Though many children, nieces, and siblings are happy to help, caregiving exacts a mighty toll on caregivers.

Here are some caregiving statistics from a Ceridian study, Double Duty: The Caregiving Crisis in the Workplace.

  • Canadian respondents say they spend an average of 23.4 hours on caregiving activities in a typical week.
  • Most respondents say caregiving is a rewarding, but the most negative drawbacks are fatigue (69%), stress (69%) and sadness (59%).
  • Respondents also report having trouble getting their work done on time (44%), have had difficulty focusing at work (41%) or have had to miss work entirely (35%). Forty percent have experienced financial hardship or loss of income. And 21% report greater alcohol or drug use because of caregiving demands.

For more, see:




Seniors + Kids = Magic

When you’re vetting long-term living options, look beyond just the traditional measures of location, price, and amenities of a facility.

There’s a new item to add to your wish-list.


The presence of young children can transform the ambiance of senior living centers and improve residents’ lives.

The evidence can be found in “Present Perfect,” a documentary film ( that explores the lives of residents at Providence Mount St. Vincent, a Seattle retirement home. The home is situated in a building that also houses a child care program, the Intergenerational Learning Center (, and the arrangement brings seniors and kids together five days a week for schmoozing, dancing, doing artwork, and having lunch.

The filming has wrapped up and a Kickstarter campaign ( just raised over $100,000 that will allow the Seattle filmmaker, Evan Briggs, to edit the movie.

 Isolation to engagement

 Briggs’ film shows the magic when the two age groups mix it up. Kids romp among seniors in wheelchairs, and the two groups play, giggle, and work together.  

 Seniors become engaged, they laugh, and the kids treat them like they’re perfectly normal and not compromised by age, illness, and infirmity.

 One of the movie’s points is that such scenes shouldn’t be abnormal.

 “I wanted to explore aging and what’s not right -- and to present a hopeful solution -- and show that it’s feasible to address,” says Briggs.

And one thing that’s not right is the removal of seniors, both physically and emotionally, from the rhythms of society.

Present. Perfect.

Briggs says she observed a distinct difference in seniors’ behavior when kids were present and when they weren’t.

For one, she saw that seniors could be sitting side by side in utter silence. But the minute kids arrived, the majority of them perked up and started engaging.  “I wondered about what about the place stripped them of their will to interact,” she recalls.  “It seems that they derive joy just from interacting with the kids.”

In one clip, a little boy repeats his name over and over to a resident who can’t quite hear if his name is Max, Matt, Mack or Match. The little one never loses his patience, nor does he write the man off and slink away. How often does it happen that adults simply give up in such a situation and melt into the woodwork?

“Kids are totally willing to put themselves out there. They create a different dynamic,” Briggs comments.

And the title of the film is no accident. “Everything happens in one temporal space. Both groups have the ability to exist in the present better than most adults can,” Briggs says. “It’s something we could all learn from, and it felt nourishing to me to be living in the moment.”

Aging reimagined.

For kids, the experience brings immediate benefits as well as ones that may be realized decades into the future.

The children get the attention of a grandparent figure, they see aging as a normal process, and they gain a greater capacity to understand and accept differences, whether a person has hearing challenges or uses an oxygen tank or a wheelchair.

Who knows what the ripple effect of that early, positive exposure to seniors will be. Deeper compassion? A greater willingness to integrate older people in their lives? A desire to change the way society treats and views seniors?

 Future perfect?

The movie also provides an opportunity to reimagine how to care for seniors and in a way that can bring them greater joy, vitality, activity, and human connections.

And aging challenges aren’t exclusive to North America. Briggs and Providence Mount St. Vincent have received calls and media attention about the program from around the globe – Italy, Spain, and New Zealand, for instance. “There are few people who aren’t behind that idea,” says Briggs, who believes that changing how we treat seniors is possible.

For instance, why can’t the fancy nursing homes that are being built from the ground up incorporate a child care component? With all the mixed-use buildings being introduced in cities and suburbs, why not integrate senior care and public spaces where people of different ages can come together naturally?

So “Present Perfect” isn’t just a heartwarming story.  It can serve as a call for something more. Something better.

And who better to push for change in how society treats seniors and how they’re housed and cared for than the huge population of aging baby boomers?




If you’re looking at home renovations with an eye toward design and features that will appeal to the next generation of buyers – the millennials – take a look at “Five Design Attributes Guaranteed to Wow Gen Y.”

The Builder magazine story ( may give you some ideas on how to revamp your house and incorporate some of the features that will grab the attention of today’s buyer.

Among the amenities that wow include smart home technology (think Nest thermostats, for instance); green features that save on energy costs (think energy efficient windows); and open spaces and outdoor amenities like open kitchen and entertaining spaces inside and seating areas and fire pits outside.


The attitude toward the LGBT community in assisted living and long-term care venues also can present problems and even make some feel a need to return to the closet. But there are some ways to get a read about how welcoming a facility is to LGBT community members. “Diversity Our Strength,” a toolkit ( developed by Toronto Long-Term Care Homes and Services, offers some rules of thumb to follow when vetting a potential retirement facility.

Here are 7 things to watch for:

1.Valuing diversity is reflected in the home’s values statement, and diversity includes sexual orientation and sexual identity.

2.An anti-discrimination statement is visibly posted stating that equal care will be provided to all, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, physical ability or attributes, religion, sexual identity and gender identity

3.Policies, guidelines, and practices of the home don’t contain any barriers to LGBT inclusion.

Evidence of positive signs and symbols displayed throughout the home, such as written, graphic materials, images, artwork and

4.signage that indicate that it’s welcoming to LGBT people. Such signs could include the rainbow flag, images of same-sex couples, and posters, information, and magazines relevant to the local LGBT community.

5.Written materials offered to the public that clearly reflect non-discrimination policies and practices and reflect a welcoming environment to LGBT residents. This would include fact sheets, promotional material, and information provided to the public during facility tours.

6.Language in written forms and assessments that don’t assume heterosexuality as the norm and instead use terms like partner rather than husband/wife, for example. 

7.The environment gives a sense of being safe, affirming, and respectful to LGBT residents and their families and friends.

Despite the housing hurdles that face LGBT seniors, the bright side is that there’s now greater awareness and more resources you can tap to get help with LGBT-friendly senior housing for yourself or a loved one. 


Center Link ( Use the site’s map to locate LGBT Community Centers and member affiliates in the United States and around the world.

Fife House:

Fudger House:

Gen Silent ( The film relates stories of LGBT seniors and how they feel who feel compelled to return to the closet because of discrimination. It also addresses discrimination and bullying in retirement care settings.


though same-sex marriage has been legal across Canada since 2005, LGBT communities in the United States have celebrated the legalization of same-sex unions across the country only just last month.

Nonetheless, such rulings don’t instantly change hearts and remove all the barriers that LGBT seniors face, especially when they’re looking for housing.

For one, discrimination still lurks and many LGBT seniors both in Canada and the United States can face a tough time finding welcoming, accessible, and affordable housing. 

Still another challenge is finding assisted living and adult communities that are welcoming to the LGBT community.

Personal stories of LGBT seniors from both Canada and the U.S. share common themes, one of which is that LGBT seniors wish for housing options that allow them to live safely, comfortably and happily. For many,

that wish remains a challenge. Here are links to relevant news stories.



If you or a loved one likes media – newspapers and TV for example – but can’t enjoy them because of a disability, check out Accessible Media Inc. (AMI)’s two sites and not-for-profit makes it possible for those with hearing and visual challenges to still access an array of media.In described video, for example, professional narrators describe key visual elements of movies, TV shows, and documentaries for those with visual impairments.

Another service has narrators reading feature articles from Canadian and international magazines and excerpts from books. AMI also produces programs on various topics, including technology, current events and entertainment.


Maybe you read the heartbreaking story about the Chinese man who placed an advertisement in an attempt to find a family willing to adopt him.

The Daily Mail piece ( profiled the 75-year-old Huan Qi who spends his days lonely and miserable. He’s willing to turn over his monthly pension cheque in exchange for the warmth of family life.

The circumstances surrounding his loneliness are all too common around the globe. That downward spiral entails retirement, the death of spouse, busy children, and greater infirmity.

We can do better.

Loneliness doesn’t cause just psychological anguish. It also has health implications, such as high blood pressure and cognitive declines, for isolated seniors. 

If you have elderly friends, family or neighbors, commit to doing something on a regular basis to ease their isolation.

Pick up the phone, schedule visits, take them on outings, invite them to your house, or find local activities – senior or intergenerational groups and events, art classes, and cultural outings – to spark their interest.

You also can find volunteer opportunities to help seniors. See: 

More insight about loneliness:


Once again, MoneySense magazine has released its annual list of “Best Places to Retire.”

Its 2015 research ranked Canadian cities based on an array of qualities, including property taxes, weather, and access to healthcare.

The top 10 cities are:

  1. Ottawa, ON
  2. Toronto, ON
  3. Stratford, ON
  4. Victoria, BC
  5. Rimouski, QC
  6. Kingston, ON
  7. Gatineau, QC
  8. Quebec City, QC
  9. Joliette, QC
  10. Burlington, ON

See the story and detailed data on each city at


  • There are currently 820,000 seniors in BC (17% of the total population)
  • 56% (459,000) are age 65 - 74 years
  • 30% (246,000) are age 75 - 84 years
  • 14% (115,000) are 85 and over
  • Nearly 2/3 of seniors live in urban areas
  • The current median income is $24,600 per year
  • 55,000 of BC seniors earn $16,200 or less
  • 11% continue to be employed
  • 80% own their onw home while 20% rent
  • Less than 4% receive home support
  • Less than 3% of BC seniors live in some form of assisted living situation
  • The seniors' population is projected to increase to 1.1 million by 2023 (21% of the population)


Source: Office of the Seniors Advocate (Senior+Age 65 & above)


According to a CIBC survey, 58 per cent of respondents expect a tax refund this year.

No doubt, luxury goods – that stylish pair of Fluevog shoes or the Apple Watch – beckon.

But instead of spending your refund on fleeting pleasures, why not resist temptation and use the money to invest in your future self?

Three smarter ways to spend that refund:

  1. 1.     Home upgrades. Especially if you’re planning to sell your house, investing your tax refund on smart renovations and upgrades could help you make your home more appealing to prospective buyers. For example, green upgrades – improved insulation, new windows, and energy efficient appliances, for example – can help you cut your energy bills now and give your home a selling edge later.
  2. 2.     Emergency fund. No explanation needed.  Start or add to your emergency fund.
  3. 3.     Retirement accounts. Your future self will thank you if you plow your refund into your RRSP or TFSA.

Now also may be a good time to impart some financial wisdom to your kids and grandkids about saving and spending.

In its fifth annual tax study, BMO Nesbitt Burns found out how Millennials plan to spend their tax refunds.

Some – 16 percent – plan to use the money for travel or luxury items.

But others have wise plans, such as paying off outstanding bills or reducing debt (37 percent); saving it (33 percent); and paying down their mortgage (14 percent).

That said, the study also look at Millennials’ knowledge about strategies and investments that can reduce their tax hits.

Some stats:

  • ·        Only 48% seek out tax efficient investment options and a bulk of the group doesn’t understand strategies for reducing that tax liability. 
  • ·        Fifty-nine percent don’t fully understand how capital gains are taxed
  • ·        60 per cent aren’t sure how dividend income is treated from a tax perspective

Helping members of the younger generation understand the implications of their financial choices and getting them off to a good financial start will help them have a more secure future.

But it also benefits you.

Maybe they’ll be less likely to come knocking on your door for loans.


If you’ve been thinking about buying U.S.-based property in a retirement-friendly community for the months when you’re a snowbird, AARP just released a useful tool that can help you but narrow your options and find that ideal spot.

And it’s a cinch to use.

Plug in the zip code of your prospective retirement venues and the AARP Livability Index ( gives you a snapshot of the town or city based on seven categories -- housing, neighborhood, transportation, environment, health, engagement, and opportunity. 

AARP considered 60 factors in those categories when ranking communities, and it gives them scores ranging from 0 to 100. You also can create side-by-side comparisons of three zip codes at a time. In addition to using the tool, see its “Most Livable Places at 50+”     (  for a number of extra features, including the best cities for date night for the 50+ set and the best cities for staying healthy.

Another feature ranks the top 30 livable places around the country. You can quickly find the top 10 small, medium and large cities.

San Francisco, Boston and Seattle top the list of big cities and La Crosse, Wis, Fitchburg, Wis and Bismarck, ND land among the list of best small cities - those with populations of 25,000 - 100,000.


Actor Ethan Hawke turns his attention to Seymour Bernstein in a documentary, “Seymour: An Introduction” that introduces viewers to an 88-year-old New York pianist who gave up the spotlight as a concert pianist to devote his life to teaching.

The movie ( is sublime.

For one, there’s finally a depiction of a senior who has contributions to make, enduring insights to share, and someone with abundant talent who’s leading a rich, fulfilling life as he ages.

He’s not playing tennis, he’s not living in oh-so-perfect designer digs, and he’s not dining on precious spa salads.


Instead he lives in a messy one-room New York apartment where he works magic.


He teaches tomorrow’s musical superstars and passes on his genius and wisdom.


You see Bernstein giving master classes. You witness his pure joy when he finds the perfect Steinway piano for an upcoming performance.


But it’s not just the music that’s magic in the movie. His philosophy about life, competition, fear, mentoring, and the search for meaning are inspiring.


He says, “Life has conflicts, pleasures, harmony, and dissonance. The same thing occurs in music.”


Bernstein, it seems, has found the perfect way to age – engaged, busy, and steeped in his art. And he’s loved and respected.


Current and former musicians will relate to the bliss that making music brings. Bernstein notes that most people don’t tap the god within and talks about how music can allow us to become one with the stars.


Even if music isn’t your thing, you can find your own way to become one with the stars.



A combination of heartbreak, the unvarnished truth, and humor make Roz Chast’s graphic novel, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant, a compelling read for anyone facing the health decline of an aging loved one.


The New Yorker cartoonist uses her formidable skills to deliver an unflinching look at what that decline really looks like, along with the effect that it all has on the caretaker-child.


Cartoons, drawings, and text convey the guilt, exhaustion, chronic dread, heartbreak, and the hemorrhaging of money associated with caretaking and when adult kids become their parents’ parent.


Interspersed with the depictions of the indignities of extreme old age is a biting, dark humor.


Much of that stems from the chaos Chast faces in her parents’ overstuffed Brooklyn apartment.


There’s the “crazy closet.” It’s jammed with everything from tattered clothing and unusable record players, to ancient luggage and 40-year-old blankets.


Chast discovers a drawer full of old metal jar lids. She photographs what she names her dad’s Museum of old Schick shavers. 


And, like so many kids, Chast had neither the energy nor the desire to sift through the stuff.  Eventually, she turns to the building’s super and asks him to take care of – dump -- virtually everything. 


The book imparts numerous lessons. One critical takeaway: Don’t do this to your children.

Listen to an interview with Chast at


Turns out your millennial children don’t want your formal dining room set, your fine bone china, or the antiques you’ve been collecting. 

They’re also not too attached to mementos -- yours or their own childhood trophies, scrapbooks, and artwork.


Many millennials are living compact urban lives, they have their own aesthetic sensibility, and they’re cataloging their memories digitally.

Do your kids a favor. Let the purge begin.


Mike Fitzpatrick spends summers leading raft tours for Mad River Tours on Wyoming’s Snake River in Jackson Hole. It’s a seasonal gig that he’s been doing since 2011.

The work can be intense. Days sometimes last 10 to 12 hours, he’s lifting boats in and out of the water, and he’s responsible for the safety of passengers. During the winter he switches gears and works a ski instructor.

The 66-year-old has been living this life for about five years after a career as a civil engineer.

Plentiful work, sweet perks

Though college students once had a lock on the ski-bumming lifestyle, more plum jobs at national parks, golf courses, and resorts are being filled by retirees.

Seasonal work is plentiful, there’s a wide variety of job types, and employees enjoy unique perks.

The work ranges from physically demanding gigs, like Fitzpatrick’s, to tamer assignments as greeters, front desk employees, Segway guides, and shuttle drivers.

Depending on the venue, perks can include Tibetan yoga classes, ski passes, and access to award-winning golf courses. And those working in national parks spend their off hours in spectacular nature. Think Fundy, Banff, and the Gaspé Peninsula.

“I love being on the river. The feeling of floating down the river and the scenery and the wildlife are soothing,” says Fitzpatrick. “Plus, I like to turn people on to the love of the river and the importance of keeping rivers pristine.”

Summer camp for grown-ups

Seasonal workers’ motivations and financial situations vary too. Some are well-to-do corporate retirees, some are supplementing retirement income, and for others such jobs are a break on their RV route.

No one gets rich doing seasonal work, warns Kari Quaas, HR recruiting specialist and pied piper'ess of Cool Works, a niche job board for seasonal work that features an “Older and Bolder” page geared to those seeking encore careers. But many jobs include housing and food at a cost of about $15 per day and there’s a unique satisfaction that comes with the work.

“It’s a lot of fun, keeps life interesting, and it’s an adventure. Plus, it’s a unique bonding experience and you never know who you’ll meet,” she says. “People support one another and they share a bit of that dream mentality and the idea that tomorrow isn’t promised.”

For some, it’s a little like getting to go back to summer camp.

Employers’ expectations

That said, employers do expect employees to bring skills and a commitment to the job.

If you want to be a ski instructor, emphasize that you’ve been a lifelong skier, for example. Or if you’re applying at a ranch, employers will want to know that you’ve had experience working with horses.

“It’s key to communicate that you’re looking for new experiences and that you’re willing to try anything – something new,” says Quaas. “Those willing to jump in and give it a try will be well rewarded. There’s a large community of people who do this kind of work and everyone can find something interesting.”

And employers appreciate older workers. “There’s a maturity level that’s not there when you’re 19 years old. Having all kinds of people and people of different ages working together creates a good team and it brings a new dimension to our company,” observes Mary Bess, general manager of Mad River Tours ( “Young guides look up to Fitz (Mike Fitzgerald) as a mentor and he brings a sense of professionalism.”

Good for the soul

Such jobs also return a sense of adventure and excitement to people’s lives.

Bess points out that there are riches to be had beyond financial rewards. “As you age, your experiences become more valuable to you.”

She ticks off some side benefits she’s seen among mature workers, including the camaraderie of belonging to a team, finding a new peer group, and learning new skills.

“It keeps you young. Being retired doesn’t mean sitting at home stagnating. There can be a next phase and it can be anything that you want it to be. What do you want to do with your day? It’s an open door,” she says.

Fitzpatrick probably would agree.

“I used to get stressed out when I was working as an engineer. The river isn’t that way,” he says. “I’m satisfied with life and more at peace.”


If you’re game for an adventure, here some jobs sites where you can jumpstart your research. Also search favorite resorts and vacation venues and check the employment section of the sites.


Better end-of –life decisions


It’s a most unpleasant topic.

Everyone hopes for an easy exit. Few really want to ponder mortality.

But author and physician Atul Gawande does just that in his book, Being Mortal. He takes on end-of-life challenges and our obsession with chasing cures, and offers insight about making the last days better.

PBS’s “Frontline” also did a documentary based on that book. If you’re up for such reading and viewing, see: and

Women and Retirement

One of the biggest issues facing women around the globe is a shortfall in retirement savings. That’s according to a new study by TransamericaCenter for Retirement Studies® done in collaboration with Aegon.

According to The Changing Face of Retirement Women: Balancing Family, Career & Financial security ( looks at women’s retirement prospects across the globe and gauges how women feel about their retirement readiness.

Despite the fact that today’s women are more educated and have greater career options than previous generations did, they still face obstacles, including lower pay and time off for caregiving, that affect their ability to save for a comfortable retirement.

Gender gap

Women are still less prepared for retirement than men are. For example, only one-fifth (20%) of women overall feel they’re on track to achieve the income in retirement they anticipate they’ll need. Twice this amount (40%) simply don’t know whether they are on course or not.

 But in some parts of the world, women do feel confident about retirement, particularly those living in emerging economies, including China, India, and Brazil.

 Though some view their retirement preparedness positively, there’s also widespread angst about the topic. When asked what words they associate most with retirement, optimistic respondents used positive words most often, and those include “leisure” (45%) and “freedom” (39%).


 But nearly one-quarter (24%) of women associated retirement with “insecurity” and almost a fifth (18%) with “poverty”.


 In some countries -- Poland, Hungary and Japan -- negative associations with retirement were quite pronounced. The word “insecurity” was most frequently cited by women in Hungary, for example.


 Women who are most positive-minded are from China (84%), Canada (78%), and Sweden (77%).


Here are some highlights from the Transamerica study specific to Canadian respondents:
























 The study makes some recommendations both to women and to policymakers and employers about improving women’s retirement security.

To women, the report suggests, “Taking ownership of retirement through planning is one of the most important factors in improving confidence about achieving retirement goals. Half of women whose retirement plans are ‘very developed’ are confident they are on track to achieve their desired retirement income.”

Employers can implement automatic enrollment features in workplace retirement plans, give part-time workers access to retirement savings vehicles, provide help and information about caregiving services, and offer phased retirement plans to allow workers to remain in the workforce longer.
















Open Yourself to the Twitter Universe

If you’ve not explored Twitter, you’re missing out on a vast resource for information, expertise, studies, links, and entertainment.

It can be a starting point if you’re facing a crisis, such as needing immediate information on long-term care or assisted living options or you need to find a contractor to make your parents’ house friendlier for aging in place.

But it’s also a place to pursue your passions, boost your career, and learn something new.

Look to Twitter for career advice and job hunts; chase down information about your interests, whether that’s photography, interior design, “Downton Abbey,” birding or the environment; follow organizations, such as art museums, linguistic associations, or pro basketball teams; and stay up to date on celebrities and favorite writers.

Twitter also is terrific for vacation planning, since it’s rich with information on destinations, deals, and group tours.

If you’ve not already done so, head over to Twitter and open an account. Learn more about Twitter, common lingo, privacy, and how to use it at:

Here are some categories to get you started. Keep in mind that these are the full addresses for accessing the information, but normally you’ll see Twitter handles  referred to simply as @xyz or @abc.


Personal finance:

Housing, universal design:

Aging, caregiving, health:

Innovation and technology:

News, city-specific spots:




The Government of Canada recently revamped its site for seniors and now provides a single spot where you can access information on services and benefits, programs and initiatives, and taxes.

It also lets you to click on a map to find province-specific community, social, and government resources.

For more information, see

What is a Senior?


 A basic premise about ageing dates from the time of German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. The Chancellor, faced with the political crisis of destitute elderly living in the streets, arbitrarily picked an age of eligibility for government pensions. Old Otto arbitrarily picked 65 years because he thought, seriously, that hardly anyone lived beyond that age. Life expectancy was 45 years old. He felt that if people lived to 65, then they were entitled to some leisure time before they died. Perhaps back in Otto's day, 1889, few people did live to 'retirement' age; today, most do. 

  In the United States, the retirement age of 65 for Social Security was chosen at a time when the average life expectancy was 62 years. Again, social policy rather than functional ability was the basis on which the retirement age was chosen. 

  Almost as hard as it struck in Canada, the Great Depression caused havoc in the USA; and many senior citizens lost their savings and many of the few pension programmes that were in existence were wiped out. United States president Franklin Roosevelt proposed legislation designed to protect senior citizens from such hardships. The first Social Security cheque recipient, Ida Mae Fuller, generated a great deal of publicity when she received her $22.54 cheque. She had contributed $22 in premiums from her job as a law clerk. Ida Mae Fuller lived for another thirty-five years, far longer than the average life span for the era. Over the course of her life, she received $22,000.

 People who study aging talk about the “young-old,” roughly age 65 to 75, and the “old-old,” a group that tends to have more physical needs and functional impairments. The problem with terms like “the elderly” or “seniors” is that they lump these two groups together, and none of the young-old want to be identified with the old-old.

  Margaret Morganroth Gullette, 70, author of “Agewise: Fighting the New Ageism in America” and a resident scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University: “I prefer descriptions that imply movement to those that are static. Phrases like “aging past youth” or “aging into the middle years” or “aging toward old age” — I’d like to see those mainstreamed.”

 Thomas Cole, director of the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston: “We’ve tried “elder,” but people don’t like that because it reminds them of patriarchy and the church. We replaced “old age” with “aging,” which carried more of a sense of dynamism, but now that doesn’t work either because of the anti-aging movement.”

 “Longevity” is a more positive term, without all the negative associations other words have gathered, but you can’t call an older person a “longevitist.”

 We don’t call people “junior citizens,” so why do we call them “senior citizens”?

 Today’s senior citizens have survived a lifetime of change. They were here before the Pill, penicillin, plastic, and pantyhose, before television, Xerox, ball point pens. Before tape recorders, much less CD players, before the 40-hour week, co-ed dormitories, and computers.  Before pacemakers, non-stick frying pans, Velcro, fibre optics, teabags and the breathalyser, to name just a few.