To Retire Or Not To Retire?

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I’ve posted many times on this blog about redefining retirement. But still, people seem to have a difficult time in understanding retirees. I’ve concluded that there are three kinds of boomers each with their own perspectives towards retirement:

Happy To Retire

These are the privileged few who have planned early and are financially secure to retire at their desired age – whether it be 55 or 65. They are also boomers who have worked all their lives and want to pursue their own passions once they’ve retired. Lifetime savings or defined-benefit pensions might help them attain their ‘freedom’ goals more rapidly than the rest of the aging population. Because they are debt-free and do not have to support elderly parents or younger kids, they are free to enjoy life, pursue their passions in life, pick up a new hobby, spend quality time with friends and family, travel the world, give back to the community and check-off items on their bucket list.

Live To Work Forever

These are the boomers whose sole meaning in life is to work. Their lifestyle, home location and family must conform to the demands of their job. These are the boomers who would totally lose their identity if they are not working – no title or position, no perks or benefits, no friends (because their coworkers are their friends) and no interest in life. When they are working, they would keep saying that they have no time for anything or anybody else; when they are not working, they simply lose their purpose of existence. These people can and will never retire, whether they have the financial security to do so or not, because they are only happy when they get up to go to work everyday. If forced to retire, these are often the people who would wither away or die very soon.

Work To Live As Long As Possible

This probably describes the majority of baby boomers or trailing-edge seniors who do not have the financial means of retiring entirely, but would want to delay their retirement until they have enough savings or to continually work on a part-time basis. This group of people may change their careers in ‘Act II’ of their professional lives and embark on part-time projects that would either utilize their talents in a different way or capitalize on their experiences to mentor younger co-workers with the same employer. They might be motivated by financial reasons to supplement their living or support their stay-at-home kids or parents, or they might just want to kill time.

I’m obviously generalizing a bit by only categorizing would-be retirees into three categories. Maybe you’re a combination of these types or you might even be in a fourth category?

For those of you who are interested in exploring the concept of retirement, please listen to my radio interview with 105.9 Seaside FM sponsored by Boomerswork.com, a website specializing in matching experienced professionals with employers who are looking for talents on a part-time or term basis.

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Canada Needs Healthcare Innovation

Photo Courtesy: ctvnews.ca

Photo Courtesy: ctvnews.ca

Since the release of a new report on July 17 by the Advisory Panel on Healthcare Innovation, a lot of media and members of the medical community have been weighing in. The panel, led by David Naylor, a physician and former president of the University of Toronto, stressed that “Canada has no shortage of innovative healthcare thinkers, world-class researchers, capable executives, or dynamic entrepreneurs who see opportunity in the health sphere.”

Yet, according to the report, innovation is stifled by the structure and administration of the health system, and a lack of leadership. According to The Globe and Mail, Medicare is, in fact, not a system at all; it’s a collection of 14 federal, provincial and territorial programs that are neither integrated nor coordinated. Worse yet, within those programs, there is a near total absence of vision and goals.

The report warned that “absent federal action and investment, and absent political resolve on the part of provinces and territories, Canada’s healthcare systems are headed for continued slow decline in performance relative to peers.”

So, the panel recommended creating a Health Innovation Fund with a $1-billion yearly budget to invest in changes to the healthcare system in conjunction with willing provinces and healthcare institutions. But, of course, just before a federal election in October, the Harper government would want to balance the budget rather than consider adding $1 billion a year to spending.

This was further exacerbated by the recent fiscal sustainability report released by the Parliamentary Budget Office. Confirming what we boomers and, of course, seniors most fear was the report’s warning that health spending won’t meet needs of aging Canadians. While the federal government has been saying that provinces should be increasingly responsible for healthcare delivery and sustainability, provincial Premiers, who met earlier this month, called on the federal government to provide more money for health.

But it’s not just a matter of more money. Our healthcare system needs a major overhaul! According to the Naylor report, it has to begin with leadership, and it should come from Ottawa. Andre Picard of The Globe and Mail nipped it in the bud today by pointing out what the real problem is: it’s not more money the healthcare system needs, it’s culture change – a shift from perpetual pilot projects to embracing best practices. He said, “For decades, we have produced reports about the need to transform healthcare delivery and funding while, simultaneously, clinging to the same old ways of doing things. It’s a fundamental disconnect between evidence and action. If you don’t take risks, you will never innovate.”

Healthcare is probably the number-one priority for all boomers. Any political party candidates who can and will show some guts to take risks and innovate; to drastically overhaul our healthcare system to meet its current and future needs; and to show that they have listened to the people’s concerns will get the boomers’ vote in the upcoming elections! And it is not likely to be the Conservative Party!

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Stratford’s Accommodations Match Its Culinary Splendour

Photo Credit: Stratford Tourism Alliance

Photo Credit: Stratford Tourism Alliance

Stratford, Ontario, is a boomer town, if not a seniors town, since many seniors chose to retire there and visitors to The Stratford Festival are primarily over 50 years of age. With the Avon River and its beautiful white swans, Stratford is a perfect vacation destination during the summer months. When people ask me where I travel in the warmer months, I respond that summer in Toronto is paradise and I would usually drive back and forth to Stratford, Ontario, to see a play or to spend a few days with good friends. The Stratford Festival of Canada has always been our national treasure and, I believe, will continue to be so, as long as it keeps diversifying to appeal to younger audiences.

Apart from The Stratford Festival, I love the fine dining in this town as some of the best chefs in Ontario are cooking here – The Prune, Rundles, Pazzo and, most recently, the restaurant at the one-year-old The Bruce Hotel. The town is always famous for its Chefs School where some of Canada’s best chefs train. There are a lot of bed-and-breakfasts in Stratford that provide high quality, delicious breakfasts and quaint lodging in historic buildings. But there were hardly any luxury hotels. So I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon The Bruce, an elegant hotel set on six-and-a-half acres of lush grounds on the main thoroughfare – just off Ontario Street on Parkview Drive – as you’re driving into town. The hotel features only 25 rooms and suites, each with a different colour scheme and theme, but the building looks much bigger because of its facilities, including a big restaurant, a lounge with a huge patio, an indoor swimming pool and a gym.

People always say that when compared to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Stratford offers quality restaurants but lacks elegant, four- and five-star hotels such as The Prince of Wales in Niagara-on-the-Lake. With the opening of The Bruce in May 2014, Stratford finally has a hotel that offers both culinary wonders and luxury accommodation. I’ve dined at its restaurant and lounge several different times over three days in early July, and the food and service were exceptional. Executive Chef Arron Carley hailed from the world-renowned Noma in Copenhagen and Oliver & Bonacini’s Canoe in Toronto. Sunday brunch was as exquisite as a casual dinner in its main restaurant. On the hotel’s website, Carley described his vision for the menus as “forging a New Canadian Cuisine by looking into our past and understanding our roots as well as looking forward into the undiscovered wilderness of our nation.” I have not yet had the chance to try their $80 tasting menu, but was already quite impressed by Chef Carley’s offerings with my brief culinary experiences with the hotel’s food and beverage outlets. It’s no wonder that within such a short time, the restaurant has already garnered an AAA/CAA four-diamond award!

I took a brief tour of the rooms and suites offered by the hotel which are all extremely spacious averaging over 600 square feet. I will reserve my judgement of its accommodation until I have a chance to stay with the hotel next month.

Stratford’s B&B scene is also getting better and better. Last month, I stayed with three visiting friends at a local boutique B&B, Avery House, just a few blocks away from The Bruce on Ontario Street. This was my second stay at Avery House and my experience this year was even better than the first time from two years ago. The charming B&B is spotlessly clean, quiet and centrally located and breakfast was simply delicious on both visits. It is my opinion that the best hotel accommodations are those in a heritage building but furnished with contemporary rooms and bathrooms.

Avery House was built in 1874 and the historic home has been renovated, regularly updated and extremely well maintained. The Cocoa Beach Suite, on the main floor where I stayed, was renovated in 2013 and the bathroom was spacious, modern, well-lit and spotlessly clean. What impressed me most was owners John’s and Amanda’s meticulous attention to detail. They kept copious notes of our group’s dietary preferences from our previous stay two years ago and ensured that our experience with them this year was nothing but magnificent again! John was out of town, but was so responsive with all the email correspondences. Amanda’s hospitality was welcoming, warm and non-intrusive during our two days there.

The addition of a ‘bell boy’ to help us with our luggage was a nice additional touch. Two of my girlfriends stayed at the new Avery Inn Next Door (also owned by John and Amanda) which was absolutely gorgeous and spacious. John and Amanda were flexible enough that they welcomed my friends from Avery Inn to join us at Avery House for breakfast even though Inn residents are not supposed to have breakfast provided. My friends paid a small fee of $15 each to cover breakfast, but they were very happy campers!

Unlike most Canadians, I’m not a pet person and it’s always my concern that bed-and-breakfast owners allow dogs and cats to roam about their property. Although John and Amanda have two dogs, they are so well-behaved and kept far away from guests that one could hardly hear or see them.

Both John and Amanda are very knowledgeable about the Stratford Festival playbillI and offered advice and comments on which performances to see while we were there. I would highly recommend this B&B to anybody who is looking to have a short stay in Stratford to see a show and enjoy some tranquillity.

In addition to sterling performances, Stratford now offers a variety of world-class accommodations and culinary experiences as well!

 

 

 

 

 

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Journalists Indulge In Celebrity Narcissism

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Everywhere you turn, people are telling you that traditional TV news reports with anchors have been gradually fading away because nobody watches TV news anymore. In a highly digitized world, more and more people, particularly the millennials, have been cutting their cords and turning to the internet and social media as their sources of daily news. We boomers might be staunch supporters of TV news still, but even we have our doubts.

First and foremost, can we trust journalists anymore? I, for one, have begun to lose faith in them. Journalists are supposed to report the truth, analyse issues objectively and serve as watchdogs on government and businesses, enabling us to make informed decisions on the issues of our time.  But in the past 12 months, scandal after scandal has occurred in both the U.S. and Canadian news landscapes and we’ve suddenly come to realize that journalists have become celebrities in their own rights and, like celebrities, they have indulged in their own narcissism. In fact, they have become so narcissistic that they can no longer tell the difference between right and wrong, truth and falsehoods, and they no longer have the professional ethics to be the watchdogs on anything!

And these scandals evolved around journalists who were very successful in their own rights – NBC‘s Brian Williams, ABC‘s George Stephanopoulos, Fox News‘s Bill O’Reilly, CBC‘s Jian Ghomeshi, Amanda Lang, Evan Solomon and Global TV‘s Leslie Roberts. These were seven of the most successful and most trusted TV/radio broadcasters of our times who were fired or suspended and fell from the apex of their prime career to eternal shame and embarrassment, if not oblivion.

Let’s try not to further discuss Ghomeshi for now, because his criminal charges are now being played out in courts and we cannot assume that all journalists are potential sexual deviants like this one-time radio host.

Ten-year news veteran Brian Williams of NBC made a number of inaccurate statements about his own role and experiences while covering events in the field. Just before he fell from power as a result of his false embellishments of his role in covering an Irag war story, Williams was the most trusted nightly news anchor in America. After suspending him for six months, NBC has recently demoted him to cable by reassigning him to breaking news coverage at NBCUniversal‘s cable news outfit, MSNBC, beginning August.

Last month, ABC‘s Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos apologized to viewers for donating US$75,000 to the Clinton Foundation and failing to disclose it earlier. Even though ABC has not announced any plans to discipline him, both Stephanopoulos’s and ABC‘s credibility have been tarnished.

Similar to Brian Williams, Fox News‘s Bill O’Reilly has come under fire for allegedly fabricating a number of stories regarding his reporting in the Falklands War, El Salvador and Florida, surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Recently, O’Reilly has also made up a story about a trip to Northern Ireland in 1984, during which he said he witnessed terrorists bomb Irish citizens. Unlike Williams, O’Reilly never admitted that he was wrong and, instead, blamed these accusations as an attack by the liberal media. The fact that Fox News stood by their man indicated that Fox is only interested in representing the elderly whites who make up the majority of the viewers of The O’Reilly Factor. These angry white men are not interested in hearing the truth – they rejoice in seeing O’Reilly fighting, criticizing and being angry all the time.

When we look closer to home, all three disgraced Canadian journalists were in trouble because they apparently did not understand what conflict of interest means. Former Global TV News Anchor and Executive Editor Leslie Roberts was first suspended and later resigned from the network after a Toronto Star investigation found he is secretly the part owner of a small public relations firm BuzzPR whose clients – lawyers, small businesses and others – appeared on his show. According to The Toronto Star, Roberts helped clients with pitches and media training and has tweeted positive comments about some of the clients to his 20,000 followers on Twitter.

In January this year, CBC‘s TV host Amanda Lang was found to have tried to influence a story about RBC by convincing colleagues during a conference call that the RBC outsourcing story was not significant news and should be dropped. The media website Canadaland published a report revealing that Lang was in a “serious relationship” with an RBC board member at the time the story ran. On January 22, CBC announced that it has banned on-air talent from accepting paid speaking engagements. Later that day, Lang conceded in a piece in The Globe and Mail that she should have made on-air disclosures about her connection to RBC and stated that she agreed with the speaking engagement ban. Even though Lang is not fired or suspended, could we trust her on-air reports and analyses anymore?

But, to me, the biggest blow came with the recent firing of CBC‘s TV host Evan Solomon. Once again, it was a Toronto Star report which claimed that he took commissions from the art sales to people he knew through his television work, without disclosing to the buyers that he was being paid. Solomon entered a business arrangement with Bruce Bailey to arrange art sales and take a 10 percent commission. Two of the buyers included Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and former Chairman of Blackberry Jim Balsillie. Both Carney and Balsillie have previously appeared on Solomon’s TV show Power and Politics. Carney refused to comment while Balsillie said that he did not know Solomon was involved in the transactions.

Not only was Solomon one of the most respected younger TV journalists, but it was also widely conjectured that he would be replacing Peter Mansbridge as the chief correspondent for CBC News and anchor of The National.

As journalists or former journalists who clearly understood their roles as watchdogs for the public, how is it even possible that these professional news anchors violated the public trust by telling lies and succumbing to personal desires and greed? The only reason I can come up with is that news anchors and reporters have been indulging in too much celebrity culture. Their fame has led to their narcissism and these seven people all believed that they were above the law and were invincible. Some of them are still reporting; others might be able to make a comeback after an apology, a disciplinary action or a trial. But the problem still remains: can we trust them anymore or should we believe in resilience?

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Time to Introduce Universal Drugs Plan Is Now

Photo Credit: globeandmail.com

Photo Credit: globeandmail.com

I read with interest that several provincial and territorial health ministers said earlier this week that Canada should have a national pharmacare program to help people pay for prescription drugs, and that they would make this a key issue in this fall’s federal election.  These ministers include Ontario’s Minister of Health Eric Hoskins, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minister of Health Steve Kent, New Brunswick’s Health Minister Victor Bordeau and British Columbia’s Health Minister Terry Lake.

Unfortunately, the federal government did not accept an invitation to attend a roundtable meeting on June 8 with these provincial and territorial ministers, academics and other experts in pharmacare. According to The Globe and Mail, the federal government issued a statement saying it wants to work with the provinces and territories on bulk purchases of drugs before “spending more money” on a pharmacare plan. The spokesman for federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose, Michael Bolkenius, said that there are hundreds of millions of dollars that could be saved and hopefully improve access. The provincial and territorial ministers said they were examining studies that show it could save taxpayers $11 billion a year through bulk purchasing to reduce the price of medications.

As posted before on this blog, Canada is the only industrialized country with universal health insurance that does not offer universal prescription drug coverage, and statistics show that one in 10 Canadians cannot afford to pay for their medications. When people do not take the drugs they need, there is a cost to health and to medicare when our hospitals are already overwhelmed.

Ontario’s Health Minister Eric Hoskins has always been taking an initiative in leading a crusade to make universal pharmacare happen in Canada sooner rather than later. In an OpEd article published in The Globe and Mail on October 14 last year, he said, “Over the past several years, Ontario and the other provinces and territories have embarked on a successful joint initiative to improve access to drugs. Together, we’ve created a pan-Canadian cancer drug review process to ensure equitable access to new medications.” Hoskins pointed out that they have also made significant progress in getting better prices for new, life-saving drugs by negotiating as a bulk buyer with drug companies through the Pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance – an initiative that will now have a permanent office hosted in Ontario through his ministry.

Hoskins seems to be targeting Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017 as the most ideal date to launch a national pharmacare program. It’s heartening to see that Ontario has been taking a leading role in making this a reality and that the federal government seems to be interested in supporting this initiative. Canada’s universal healthcare system needs a major reform and incorporating a universal prescription drugs plan would be a clear priority in light of an aging population.

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