Thursday, September 18, 2014

How To Pick a Home That's Practical for Your Future

The Globe and Mail

Lauren Mark is 26 years old and may have just bought her retirement home.

In many ways, her 1.5-bedroom, two-floor loft in Mississauga is as perfect for her life now as it will be 50 years from now. A mall is right across the street. The community is friendly; the security guards at the condo ask if she needs help carrying groceries. By the time she isn’t driving any more, Toronto might have finally extended the subway that far west. And on a summer day, it’s almost as good as Florida: “If I go on my balcony, I feel like I’m at a resort,” she says, describing her view of trees, pools and tanning chairs.

Thinking this far ahead isn’t the norm, but as the average life expectancy rises and a greater percentage of Canadians hit retirement age, it may just be the next big thing in design. An emerging initiative called New Aging is all about proactively planning the future you want rather than letting circumstances decide for you.

And if Matthias Hollwich, an architect and author of a New Aging manifesto of sorts that is slated for publication in 2015, has his way, homes and neighbourhoods would be designed to give us what we need at any age so we never have to enter a nursing home.

“Aging is a gift that we receive with life. If you don’t like aging then you are basically dead,” says Hollwich, co-founder of New York architecture firm Hollwich Kushner Architecture DPC. He speaks with the zeal of a revolutionary, a visionary who just wants everyone to live a happy life for as long as possible. To do this, he says we should accept aging early (he is 43 but declared himself old several years ago) and prepare for aging the same way that we would plan a vacation: You wouldn’t take a trip around the world without first considering how to get there, where to stay, who to bring and leave behind, and what you want to experience.

And he applies his theory in his own life: He rents an apartment in Manhattan, but plans to purchase a property with friends by the time he turns 50, a space complete with private studios, a large communal living area and an extra apartment for a caregiver.

A New Aging home adheres to the principles of universal design, which considers the needs of people of every age and ability. For example, entrances, pathways, bathrooms and kitchens should accommodate someone with a walker or in a wheelchair. The philosophy also involves thinking about how the space could transform to meet new requirements over time: Equal-sized (rather than hierarchical) bedrooms would allow a caretaker to stay after kids grow up and move out; a spacious living room could be converted to share space with a bed one day; a future elevator could be added to the blueprints of a new house.

Hollwich and his team have designed several New Aging community prototypes for locations in the Europe, Africa and North America, but these concepts have not been built. However, all of his work is infused with an awareness of aging, including the 1,840-unit apartment building that is under construction in New Jersey, which will feature details such as barrier-free travel, direct access to public transit, kitchen surfaces that are the right height for wheelchairs and fully accessible bathrooms.

Ronny Wiskin, who founded Reliable Independent Living Services in Toronto and specializes in renovations that allow homeowners to age in place, says that building a house for the future is a smart investment. “More and more people are aware nowadays because of this large aging demographic – where we’re looking down the road saying, ‘Holy smokes! Grey is becoming the new blond and how do we help them to live comfortably where they want to live?’” Wiskin says.

Mississauga’s Lauren Mark may not be able to age in place in her condo (it’s too small for raising a family), but she’s thinking she’d rent it out and then move back later in life. “All of the things that you require on an everyday basis are right there – so that was huge when I was looking into buying it,” she says.

Deborah Biondino, a 27-year-old social-media manager, and her husband, Michael Bernardi, bought a townhouse in Laval, a suburb of Montreal, last winter and Biondino has the intention of spending the rest of her life there.

The three-bedroom, 1.5 bathroom townhouse isn’t ideal for someone with limited mobility – but Biondino is already planning renovations. “I want to make the shower bigger and have a seat put in,” she says, adding that she wants to remove the dangerous step and transform the shower so it’s flush with the floor.

All the bedrooms are on the second floor, which might be difficult to access in the far future, but Biondino has already thought of a solution: “The house can definitely have a bedroom put on the first floor. We could put up walls between the dining room and the living room and split that into equal-size rooms,” she says.

Biondino liked the house because, although big enough to accommodate a family, it isn’t so big that it’s difficult to maintain. “I didn’t want too much of a yard space,” she says, “I’ve seen how my grandfather, who has a huge yard, has already started downsizing.”

While New Aging is more an idea than a movement at the moment, Hunter Tura, president and CEO of Bruce Mau Design in Toronto, says the universality of aging means it could become integral to popular design philosophy.

“Sustainability is a great analog to [New Aging],” says Tura, who is working with Hollwich on the New Aging book. “What was once a kind of niche thing now really is a kind of industry standard. … I’d like to see the same thing happen over time to consider the needs of aging people.”



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Encore Jobs a New Trend in Retirement

When Patricia Visser decided to retire after 30 years in publishing and promotions, she had no idea she would be asked for an encore.

The then 60-year-old Toronto mother of five didn’t plan to re-enter the workforce, having saved wisely, sharing household expenses with her youngest daughter and feeling that she was naturally approaching the end of her working life.

“Most of my work was by choice with smaller enterprises. I didn’t want a 30-year job at Bell or Ford,” says Visser, who published entertainment and trade magazines and did marketing for various firms over the years.

Visser didn’t have a company pension plan, but lived modestly in a co-op apartment and saved enough to retire a bit early.

“I thought after 30 years that I’d been working forever,” she recalls with a laugh.

Instead, now 78, Visser has been working since she retired, from health research to helping small publishing startups. She is part of the trend where those ready to retire take “encore jobs” — launching a second act in the workforce rather than taking conventional retirement.

In fact, there are more older workers than ever before. They are staying in the workforce longer — some because they need to, but also because they want to. Today, 3.6 million workers are age 55 and over, representing 20 per cent of Canada’s workforce, an increase of 1.2 million since 2006, according to Statistics Canada.

More than 650,000 people are 65 and over with paying jobs — more than twice the number as in 2006.

In Visser’s case, “that breather from my career didn’t last long — maybe a year or so — before someone called” to see if she’d be interested in doing research into cancer prevention for York University. That led to doing surveys across the country on a wide range of topics like melanoma and even on the recreational drug use of people in their 60s.

“That was a wild one, but it was interesting,” she says.

“I really like working on projects that I think are worthwhile,” notes Visser, who helped a small company publish a special series of books on Canadian prime ministers for elementary school students.

She says the beauty of her encore career is being able to choose her hours and days of work. The extra money — while less than her younger working days — also helps her enjoy other interests like the theatre and symphony.

“Retirement is evolving. You don’t want to sit in a corner playing with your fingers, and I don’t know how to knit. I wanted to stay home and read at first, but it’s a double-edged sword because you get rusty the less you do. So you want to be doing something, even part-time or on contract. It’s having the best of both worlds,” Visser says.

Life expectancy plays a big part in the encore job trend, so “it’s not surprising that this is happening,” says Gordon Betcherman, a University of Ottawa professor of social sciences with a focus on the labour market.

In 1970, the average life expectancy at birth in Canada was 69 years for men and 76 for women. By 2011, it had increased to 79.3 years for men and 83.6 for women.

“You’re likely going to be living longer so if you’re not physically spent and you can find work that is not physically demanding, why not try to keep on doing it,” Betcherman says.

“People are making the decision that they don’t want to sit around for 30 years” after traditional retirement at 65, he says. “And fewer people are able to count on pensions.”

Retirees who spend most of their lives in physical jobs tend to want to leave the workforce entirely, while those who do more knowledge-based work often like the content of their work but may not have liked the organization, Betcherman says, adding many will stay in similar fields or seek out other types of work in which they can draw on their experience.

“The big picture is that this is a good thing, because as the population ages we are going to be looking for workers.”

Statistics Canada followed a group of workers who were between 50 to 64 when they left their jobs. Ten years later, most had gone back to work. Just 32 per cent of men and 36 per cent of women did not.
Among those who left their careers in their early 60s, the agency found that 47 per cent of men and 41 per cent of women were re-employed during the next 10 years, and most did so within a year or two.

StatsCan also discovered that men and women who were separated or divorced were more likely than their never-married counterparts to be re-employed after leaving their long-term jobs. However, married men were more likely to be re-employed than never-married men, but married women were less likely to be re-employed.

Compared with Ontario residents, older workers living in Atlantic Canada were less likely to be re-employed after leaving their career, while those living in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Territories were more likely to be re-employed.

“I still want to be part of life and what’s happening,” says Visser. “Older people have a lot to offer.”

Today she works part-time in the Toronto offices of CARP (formerly the Canadian Association of Retired Persons) after a few years recruiting members to the group that advocates on behalf of older people.

Visser says her 60-year-old son — a self-employed web designer who is the same age she was when she supposedly retired — has no intention of leaving the working world anytime soon.
by Lisa Wright - Business Reporter - Toronto Star

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Health Care May Tarnish Golden Years, Baby Boomers Fear

Baby boomers are getting increasingly antsy about the availability and quality of health care as they age.

That is the message that emerges from a new poll, commissioned by the Canadian Medical Association. The survey of Canadians aged 45-plus shows that 78 per cent of them are worried that they will not be able to access necessary health services like homecare and long-term care in a timely fashion when they need them.

Eighty-one per cent of those polled also expressed worries about the quality of the care they will able to access.

In addition, the majority of older Canadians – 61 per cent – lack confidence that hospitals and long-term care facilities can handle the needs of Canada’s elderly population, or that there are enough services to help Canadian seniors live at home longer (60 per cent).

And, of course, money is an issue, with fully half of baby boomers worrying that they won’t be able to afford the health care they need in their golden years. This despite the fact that 68 per cent of those over the age of 65 have supplemental health insurance to help cover services that do not fall under the rubric of medicare.

Dr. Louis Francescutti, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said the survey results underscore the desperate need for a pan-Canadian seniors’ strategy to ensure medicare can meet the needs of the country’s aging population.

“Canada desperately needs a seniors’ strategy and politicians should pay attention during the next federal election,” he said. “This should be an issue one would ignore at their own political peril.”

He said the challenge an aging population poses cannot be understated. In 1971, seniors represented 8 per cent of the population; today they represent 15 per cent; and by the time all baby boomers have reached the age of 65, it will be 25 per cent of the population.

In the poll the CMA commissioned last year – part of what it calls its annual health care report card – 85 per cent of Canadians said they supported a seniors’ strategy. This year, the question was asked to those over the age of 45, and 95 per cent of them were in favour of having a plan.

In the background paper that accompanies the poll, the CMA says the purpose of a seniors’ strategy is to remodel the health system to better meet the needs of the baby boomer demographic. In particular, infrastructure planning would ensure the better use of healthcare dollars so medicare can remain affordable.

The CMA notes that hospital care costs about $1,000 a day, compared to $130 in a long-term care facility, and $55 for homecare. Yet far too many seniors end up in hospital by default because of shortages in other areas.

The physicians’ group estimates that getting elderly patients into the appropriate facility would save the system at least $2.3-billion annually.

The poll also shows that caregivers are increasingly feeling the burden of providing care to aging relatives and friends.

More than one in four Canadians currently provide health care to a loved one. In the survey, 71 per cent of them said this poses serious conflicts with personal and work responsibilities, and 64 per cent said the caregiving functions cause a high level of stress.

The Ipsos Reid poll was conducted by phone between July 17 and July 24 with 1,000 Canadians aged 45 years and older. The results are considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

AndrĂ© Picard  - and PUBLIC HEALTH REPORTER  OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Short, Intense Bursts of Exercise May Benefit Seniors’ Health, Fend Off Loss of Muscle

High-intensity training has become extremely popular among fitness enthusiasts in the past few years. There is increased interest in performing challenging workouts to enhance fitness and reap the benefits of short intense exercise. Traditionally, this type of training was reserved for athletes to enhance sports performance, but now it has become a common method of fitness training.

The benefits of this type of training are well documented in research. This short intense workout style can increase aerobic capacity faster then steady-state training, and increase fat utilization for energy causing bigger changes in body composition, just to name a few benefits. This has lead to questions about whether older adults can experience the same benefits in a safe way.

Having just returned from speaking at the annual American Council of Sports Medicine (ACSM) convention in Atlanta, Ga., these questions were addressed and discussed with some very enlightening information. Currently the ACSM Guidelines for Older Adults are based on general resistance training guiding principles for developing strength endurance. ACSM recommends a low-to-moderate intensity range of 65% to 75% of one-repetition maximum to boost strength and reduce the risk of injury.

The current guidelines provide an excellent starting point and will provide health benefits, but new research shows that older adults can train at higher-intensity exercise levels then once believed. Research with older adults in high-intensity exercise programs, specifically heavy resistance and powerlifting exercise, have shown excellent fitness gains and functional strength for many activities of daily living.

The aging process typically causes a decrease in muscle mass at a rate of approximately 5% per decade from the age of 40, with a rapid decrease after the age of 65. There has been much discussion as to whether this is the natural aging process or has it been accelerated due to an increased sedentary lifestyle after the age of 60.

A decrease in muscle mass and diminished neuromuscular efficiency causes a reduction in speed, agility, balance, co-ordination and power. The accumulation of these losses greatly affects overall skills, which significantly increases the risk of falls.

Fitness is lost without exercise, however, the good news is that it’s a renewable resource and can be re-gained with activity. Just as a sedentary lifestyle can threaten health, an exercise program with appropriate levels of strength and power training can provide numerous health benefits and stimulate muscle growth even in the later years.

Higher-intensity exercises not only do wonders for the muscular system, they stimulate hormone production. Research indicates seniors that performed power-training workouts with more explosive movement such as throwing a medicine ball or kettlebell swings, had an increased production of the hormones testosterone, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factors, which all lead to a muscle growth and more youthful appearance.
Strength represents the amount of force a muscle can generate, whereas power is the velocity of force being produced. This represents the speed at which a muscular system can be activated to produce the required movement. Strength training exercises are typically executed at a slow and rhythmic tempo, whereas power training requires speed with controlled movement. For people over the age of 60, age-related loss of muscle power can occur approximately twice as quickly as loss of muscle strength, suggesting that muscle power is a more critical variable in age-related functional decline.

As with any exercise program, current health and fitness is critical to the appropriateness of exercise selection. Medication, lifestyle, injuries, illness and health related concerns determine the starting place and progression of exercise. Older adults should consider working with a certified exercise specialist or participating in a group-exercise program that is specifically designed for them. Current movement function or loss of movement, mobility and strength are considerations in exercise choices. Always consult your physician prior to starting an exercise program.

The big message is that healthy active older adults can perform high intensity exercise with great health and fitness benefits. Grey hair and wrinkles are a natural process of aging, however, when it comes to muscles and physical training the body has a great capacity to adapt even as we age. In fact, some experts argue muscles do not know age.

—Helen Vanderburg is a World Champion synchronized swimmer, fitness trainer, and corporate wellness speaker.