Immigrants Slow Aging Of Workforce

Photo Credit: McNeill Life

Photo Credit: McNeill Life

Amidst the turmoil and confusion created by Donald Trump’s travel ban of people entering the U.S.A. from seven Muslim-majority countries (the ban is now temporarily blocked), there are many who argue that immigration will actually help the U.S. economically and, therefore, make America greater!

According to The New York Times, the report on immigration, released last fall by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, concluded that immigration to the U.S. from 1990 to 2010, both legal and illegal, produced net benefits worth US$50 billion a year to the native population. Immigrants are, in general, younger and are, therefore, slowing the aging of the work force. Low-skilled immigrants may increase the labour supply of high-skilled natives, for example, by providing cheap child care and releasing mothers to work.

The National Academies report also indicated that 26 million foreigners in the American labour market added some US$2 trillion to the American economy last year. Some economists have also estimated that allowing free-border movement of labour could more than double the world’s gross domestic product. The New York Times further reported that it’s been estimated that the newcomers who arrived in the U.S. from 1990 to 2010 reduced the wages of American-born high school dropouts over the long term by 3.1 percent – or some US$900 a year.

Canada recognized the benefits of immigration a long time ago. A Statistics Canada study estimates that nearly half of the population will likely be immigrants or children of immigrants by 2036, up from 38.2 percent in 2011. Unlike our neighbour south of the border, Canada has maintained or increased its immigration levels throughout the years. In the year to last July, the nation received the highest number of newcomers since comparable record-keeping began. The Globe and Mail reported that newcomers have accounted for a growing share of Canada’s population since the 1990’s, and analysts predict that the only growth in the country’s labour force will be from immigration. Statscan said that the share of immigrants in the population in 2036 could be almost twice as high as in 1871.

More people will belong to a visible minority group. In the next two decades, the share of the working-age population (aged 15 to 64) who are members of a visible minority will reach up to 40 percent, from 19.6 percent in 2011. The report said that this share will grow in all parts of the country, with South Asians being the largest group followed by Chinese. In some cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg, visible minorities could become the majority. The total share of immigrants in Canada’s population is expected to reach up to 30 percent, which would be the highest share since 1871. Our country already has one of the highest shares of foreign-born people in the developed world.

The latest Census numbers released by Statscan earlier this week showed a total of 35,151,728 people living in Canada on the day of the Census, May 10, 2016. Over the five years since the previous Census, the population grew at a rate of one percent a year, or five percent over all since 2011. In spite of the oil patch’s economic downturn, the Prairie region and British Columbia are continuing to add people – mostly immigrants – faster than the rest of the country, while eastern regions are slipping behind.

Canada is the fastest-growing country in the G7 group of industrialized nations, as it has been for the past 15 years, a rate of annual growth of one percent, which exceeds the growth rates in the U.S. and Britain, among others. We rank eighth in the G20, behind countries such as Turkey, South Africa, Mexico and Australia. The main reason for our country’s steady growth is our commitment to relatively high levels of immigration. Statscan said that roughly two-thirds of Canada’s population increase is due to international migration, the amount by which the number of new immigrants exceeds the number of people who leave Canada. The other third stems from “natural growth,” the difference between the rates of deaths and births. Projections show that Canada could reach the point at which migration accounts for nearly all population growth some time after 2050. In other words, by then, the annual number of deaths would exceed births – just like what Germany, Italy and Japan are currently experiencing!

There are too many myths floating around in Canada about immigrants, ranging from them being low-skilled workers to them having difficulty integrating into the labour force. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s 2013 International Migration Outlook, these myths were all debunked. The OECD found that employment for foreign-born Canadian citizens had gone up since 2008, while it has stalled for native-born citizens. The employment rate for Canadian immigrants in 2012 was the third highest in the OECD. This shows that immigrants are quickly integrating into the labour force and contributing to the country’s economy.

More than 50 percent of Canadian immigrants are also highly educated, putting Canada at the top among OECD countries. Also, a significant number of the almost 100,000 foreign students visiting Canada each year decide to stay after getting a degree from one of our renowned universities. Many other immigrants are also drawn to Canada attracted by job prospects and the openness and inclusiveness for which this country is known.

According to Clement Gignac, Vice-Chairman of the World Economic Forum Council on Competitiveness, who wrote in The Globe and Mail, “Canada has gone to great lengths to liberalize its labour market, and it is paying off. Canada’s labour market now offers a great deal of mobility to its workers – it is quite easy to move from Montreal to Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver (and vice versa).”

He also noted that a large percentage of every province’s immigrants are in the 20-44 age group, meaning that the benefits of household formation are spread all across Canada. This also helps explain why the housing market in Canada has been so resilient during the past five years.

Immigration has been, and will continue to be, the key to Canada’s prosperity. Let’s hope President Trump can eventually learn a few lessons from us!

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Canada Should Adopt Toronto’s Seniors Safety Zones Nationwide

Photo Credit: AM640

Photo Credit: AM640

Mayor John Tory’s announcement of the creation of Seniors Safety Zones at 12 intersections in Toronto earlier this month was a laudable move. This plan was a response to statistics that showed an overwhelming majority of pedestrians killed on Toronto’s streets last year were older adults. According to police data released the first week of January, 37 of the 43 pedestrians killed last year were 55 or older. The Toronto Star reported that 2016 was the deadliest year for pedestrians more than a decade, and also the worst year for older pedestrian deaths over that time.

The Seniors Safety Zones created for the 12 earmarked intersections includes a reduction in the speed limit from 50 to 40 kilometres per hour and an extension of the amount of walking time given to pedestrians in the intersection. There will also be new Seniors Safety signs warning drivers to slow down and watch for seniors and updated paint on the pavement. Red light cameras are also being installed. The 12 spots were chosen because history has shown seniors to be at risk. Most of these locations are outside the city core – the only downtown location is where Dundas intersects with Spadina – and many are on high-speed suburban arterials that pose great risk to pedestrians. Among them is the intersection of Eglinton and Midland Avenues, where two pedestrians were killed in 2016. These spots will be redone within the first quarter of this year.

As well as the seniors zones, the city is planning to add 76 red-light cameras, roughly doubling the number currently in place. The Globe and Mail pointed out that the planned locations are a mix of downtown and suburban sites and include some spots notorious for cars blocking the intersection, endangering pedestrians and impeding vehicle traffic. The city says that serious collisions at spots that currently have these cameras are down 60 percent since they were put in place. According to Mr. Tory, he would be happy if the cameras generate no revenue, because it would indicate drivers are being more safe. City staff are aiming to have the cameras operational within the first three months of the year.

The city also announced the creation of a new website for the road safety plan, which will allow residents to track its progress and view data on traffic collisions. The road safety plan, which is the city’s first such strategy, will be executed over five years. Other safety measures include installing accessible pedestrian signals at 20 intersections, making geometric safety improvements at 13 locations, performing 14 road safety audits, speed reductions on 32 corridors, and expanding the “watch your speed” program.

Toronto’s innovation to ensure road safety originated from the Vision Zero Initiative of Sweden in 1997. The Swedish initiative can be summarized in one sentence: No loss of life is acceptable. The Vision Zero approach has been very successful and road deaths in Stockholm are now at low levels not seen since the 1950’s.

Edmonton was actually the first Canadian city which officially adopted Vision Zero in 2015. In 2006, there were 8,246 people injured and killed in collisions on Edmonton streets. The city responded by creating the first municipal Office of Traffic Safety in North America that year. According to the city’s website, “in spite of the population growth since then, in 2015, there were 3,837 people injured or killed, a decrease of 53.5 percent.” With Vision Zero, Edmonton plans to save lives and eliminate serious injuries through the application of a Safe System, evidence-based approach and the 5 E’s of traffic safety: engineering, education, enforcement, engagement and evaluation.

A year ago, 10 American cities have been chosen to model Vision Zero strategy in the U.S.: Austin, Boston, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, New York City, Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington. These cities brought together transportation, police and public health officials as well as representatives from mayors’ offices. This network of public officials shares best practices and develops common strategies for eliminating traffic deaths.

New York City, in particular, should be a role model for Toronto. Under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s leadership, New York has become one of the first North American cities to truly embrace Vision Zero. The centrepiece of the city’s program is a 10-year, US$1.2 billion capital plan to redesign the city’s streets with safety in mind. The city has lowered its default speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25 (40 km/h) in 2014, redesigned collision-prone intersections, added new speed cameras and made it a criminal offence for drivers to fail to yield to pedestrians. The results were immediate. The number of pedestrian deaths dropped from 180 in 2013 – a record high – to 139 in 2014 – a record low, according to city data. Pedestrian fatalities dropped to 134 in 2015, making it the safest year on New York City streets since record-keeping began in 1910.

New York City also has a Safe Streets for Seniors program which studies crash data, and then develops and implements mitigation measures to improve the safety of seniors and other pedestrians, as well as all road users in the city. Since launching the program in 2008, the city has addressed senior pedestrian safety issues in 25 Senior Pedestrian Focus Areas (SPFAs) in the five boroughs. The SPFAs were selected based on the density of senior pedestrian (aged 65+) crashes resulting in fatalities or severe injuries in a five-year period. Since the program began, annual senior pedestrian fatalities have decreased 10 percent citywide, from 58 senior fatalities in 2008 to 52 in 2015.

Since Vision Zero began in Sweden in 1997, the country now has the lowest rate of traffic fatalities in the world. More recently, Vision Zero has been adopted by Australia and England in addition to the U.S. cities mentioned above. In January last year, Canada adopted Vision Zero as a federal strategy in principle. With Edmonton and Toronto  now in full gear, more Canadian cities from coast to coast should join the initiative, particularly in ensuring the safety of senior pedestrians in light of the nation’s aging population.

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Top 10 Good News To Come

Photo Credit: Ottawa Citizen

Photo Credit: Ottawa Citizen

2016 was full of bad news, so let’s hope the new year is going to bring more good tidings, particularly for us boomers! Based on some of the developments last year, here are my anticipated top 10 good news for the new year:

  1. Canada Continues to Be The Shining Light Of the World: Canada graced the October 29 cover and feature story of The Economist magazine last year. The publication said that our nation is uniquely fortunate in many ways – but its liberalism and tolerance hold lessons for other Western countries and went on to explain why Canada is still at ease with openness. Under Justin Trudeau’s leadership, we might not be perfect, but Canada will continue to be a champion of immigration, open trade and the fight against climate change. For 2017, I have to quote retired Global TV journalist, Tom Clark, as he said farewell to his career on December 31, “For all of our troubles, all of our scandals and disagreements, we should try to keep things in perspective. In global terms, our problems are small. Our country works better than most, perhaps better than any other. We should always aim higher. But let’s remember how blessed we really are.”
  2. Canada officially kicked off our 150th Anniversary of the Confederation on December 31: In addition to a special commemorative 150th Anniversary coin series produced by the Royal Canadian Mint, there will be numerous special celebratory events and festivities in local communities and urban centres across the country throughout the year. Under the umbrella theme of “Diversity, Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, the Environment and Youth,” the Department of Canadian Heritage has budgeted $180 million for a variety of initiatives across the country and $20 million for special events such as the New Year’s Eve party on Parliament Hill.. According to a recent government-commissioned poll, nearly nine in 10 respondents expressed a lot of pride in being Canadian, and they felt strongly attached to their country. Nearly the same number said they would visit a national park in 2017 or attend a Canada 150 event. But, as of last summer, few had heard much about what the government was doing to celebrate. Looks like the government has a lot of marketing and promotion work to do on upcoming celebrations.
  3. From brain drain to brain gain for Canada in a Trump presidency: Canada’s tech firms are hoping Donald Trump will help keep Canadian graduates from skipping town for Silicon Valley and perhaps lure some of the talented expats who have gone south for work. According to CTV News, Canadian companies large and small have quietly bemoaned the exodus of talent for decades, and agencies like Communitech and the City of Toronto have been trying to woo them back. That’s why billboards have been placed on well-travelled Route 101 in Silicon Valley promoting “GoNorthCanada.ca,” a website extolling the values of tech jobs in Ontario. Communitech said that the site has seen spikes since Trump’s victory. “People are reaching out and letting us know they are ready to come home,” said Communitech’s vice-president Heather Galt. With the growth of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) industry and the important research role that Canada has been playing, the nation can further benefit from a brain gain. Last year, Google has announced that it is investing $4.5 million in the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms, the latest sign of Google’s growing interest in AI. As part of the deal, Google will open an AI research group in Montreal. The company believes the city has the potential to become a “super-cluster” of machine learning knowledge. Some large companies have also recently moved their AI divisions to Toronto, including Thomson Reuters and General Motors, with the intention of hiring hundreds of data scientists. According to The Globe and Mail, many of Canada’s largest companies have also stated a desire to hire thousands more data scientists in the coming years. Demand for talent already outstrips supply, and the gap will only grow. Now is the opportune time for Canadian AI companies to spread their recruitment net wider to include the U.S. so that we can benefit from a larger pool of AI research talents.
  4. The Paris climate change agreement was signed by 194 countries and ratified by 121 members, including the U.S. and China, by the end of last year: In spite of what Donald Trump said, it would not be easy for him to repeal this accord. With the enforcement of this agreement, nearly 200 governments will become obliged to meet emissions-cutting pledges made before the deal. The agreement would also commit the countries to aspire to keep temperatures below 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. The agreement went into effect on November 4, 2016, which means that 2017 will see a lot of countries starting to move in the direction of reducing greenhouse gases. In Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau and most of the premiers (except for Saskatchewan and Manitoba) signed a historic pan-Canadian framework last month to fight climate change and meet the country’s 2030 emissions reduction targets.
  5. Self-Driving cars from science fiction to science fact: after the first series of successful pilot-tests of self-driving vehicles in both the U.S. and Canada last year, these autonomous cars will hit the street in larger numbers in 2017. Last month, Alphabet, the owners of Google, spun off the research and development of self-driving technology into a separate company with the name of Waymo. The company has partnered with Chrysler to develop self-driving Pacific Hybrid minivans. Test units will hit the road over the next several months. According to technology news website Dice.com, expect Uber and Tesla to speed up with making their autonomous-driving offerings as advanced as possible in 2017. This development will drastically improve the quality of lives for aging populations across North America.
  6. On the health front, 2017 will be a breakthrough year for the fight against Ebola. An Ebola vaccine developed by Canadian researchers and considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be the first effective treatment against the virus has already started a new phase of clinical trials. The vaccine’s safety and effectiveness were tested on volunteers infected with HIV, starting in Ottawa and Montreal last November, and followed by trials in the new year in Senegal and Burkina Faso. According to the principal investigator Cecile Tremblay, “It is particularly important to study the effectiveness of this Ebola vaccine in vulnerable populations, such as those living with HIV. These populations can often be most at-risk during outbreaks, because of their compromised immune systems.” The Ebola vaccine, originally developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, provided blanket protection in a field trial in Guinea in 2015. Health Minister Jane Philpott said that the next phase of clinical trials in 2017 is an important milestone in the development of the world’s first proven, effective vaccine against the Ebola virus.
  7. A revolutionary blood test that can detect cancer can become part of an annual physical in five years. Liquid biopsies, as the blood tests are known, can give physicians a telltale sign of the presence of the disease in almost all types of cancer mutations. For cancer patients undergoing treatment, liquid biopsies could spare them some of the painful, expensive and risky tissue tumor biopsies and reduce reliance on CT scans, which must be limited because of the danger posed by overexposure to radiation. Medical experts say that the liquid biopsy has come a long way in the past year and a half. According to CNBC, doctors and medical researchers are excited by the prospect that liquid biopsies would be a way to help people already fighting the disease. The new year will bring even more research and development in cancer centres across the U.S. on how a non-invasive blood test could be appropriate in many cases to identify the DNA mutation driving cancer forward.
  8. New eye drops can dissolve cataracts with no need for surgery. We’ve all read about a new study that used eye drops to shrink cataracts in dogs may have made an important step in overcoming them. According to Professor Kang Zhang, from the University of California San Diego, whose research team developed the eye drops, this new drug could play an important role in the prevention of cataracts in those showing early signs. Although at this stage eye drops have the potential to overcome a number of limitations of surgery, they won’t be able to replace it yet. According to Dr. Manuel Datiles, a senior investigator and attending ophthalmologist at the U.S. National Eye Institute in the National Institutes of Health, eye drops will become key in treating cataracts, as surgery will not be able to cope with the growing needs of the world’s aging population. The new year will also bring more research and development to investigate whether there can be more medical breakthroughs in this area.
  9. On the arts and culture front, we could not have asked for a better year than 2017 when Canadian musicians took the Grammy nominations by storm and two Canuck male lead actors were nominated for the Golden Globe Awards. After a year of Canadian dominance on the international music scene, Drake, Justin Bieber and The Weeknd were nominated for many categories in the 2017 Grammy Awards. Drake leads with a whopping eight nominations while Bieber fares well with four. Other Canucks on the list include R&B singer Tory Lanez, Vancouver-formed and now Brooklyn-based duo Bob Moses, jazz musician and composer Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Toronto-based record producer Nineteen85, and the renowned classical music conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin in the Best Opera Recording category. We all look forward to awards night on February 12 when we will see how much hardware these artists will bring home! On the big screen, two Canucks will go head-to-head in the best actor category for a musical or comedy. Ryan Gosling, from London, Ontario, was nominated for his lead role in La La Land while Vancouver-native Ryan Reynolds is also up for his comedic performance in Deadpool. (Gosling eventually took home the Golden Globe and will, almost for sure, be nominated for a Best Actor Oscar!)
  10. Canada tops The New York Times‘s 52 Places To Go in 2017. On January 4, The New York Times put Canada number one on its annual list of places to go in the new year. According to the publication, Canada has it all – from cosmopolitan cities to barely explored natural wonders and everything in between. It also mentioned that all of the country’s more than 200 national parks and historic sites are offering free admission through our 150th Anniversary year, “from the turquoise lakes and mountain peaks of Banff in Alberta to the rolling dunes and red sandstone cliffs of Prince Edward Island along the Atlantic Coast to the newest reserve, the glacial-rounded Mealy Mountains in Labrador.” Looks like Tourism Canada did a better job in marketing our country as a travel destination to our neighbours down south than to fellow Canadians!

With all these good news, let’s move forward into the future with more positive thinking and cast away all the bad news of 2016. A new year is always a new beginning with new hope!

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Year Of Living Dangerously

Photo Credit: www.adweek.com

Photo Credit: www.adweek.com

I’m usually a very positive and optimistic person, but given the turn of events on the global stage in the past year and as we enter this season of contemplation and reflection, I have to conclude 2016 and usher in 2017 with some major concerns.

The biggest concern, of course, is the potential impact of erratic, impulsive decision-making, particularly in foreign policy, by U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump. His newly appointed cabinet consists of retired military generals and pro-oil corporate executives with little knowledge of and experience with diplomacy and government positions. Since his elections victory, Trump has provoked China with Taiwan; befriended Russia and continued with his showering of praise for Putin; denied the CIA’s and FBI’s conclusive intelligence and evidence that Russia has hacked and influenced the U.S. elections and facilitated Trump’s victory; and endangered peace in the Middle East by vowing to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. His protectionist rants – including his vow to rework or ditch NAFTA – are big concerns in Canada and Mexico. Trump’s tough immigration talks and alt-right supporters have already generated hate speeches and behaviours across North America since the election results.

In Europe, apart from the recent loss of the far-right Freedom Party in Austria’s presidential election on December 4, trouble seems to be looming everywhere else. Britain is still figuring out how to officially start the Brexit process after taking the whole world by surprise, including former Prime Minister David Cameron who resigned after the referendum loss. In Italy, former Prime Minister Mario Renzi dealt another major blow to the European political status quo having lost the referendum by a huge margin, with close to 60 percent of people voting “No” to his proposed constitutional referendum. As Bloomberg noted, the scale of the loss and how quickly it happened cast a huge shadow on the fate of the continent heading into the new year. “Italy is in for a period of high instability. The prospect of a prolonged, bitter electoral campaign won’t do any good to the country’s already anemic recovery. Not to mention its battered banks which may have to ask for public aid,” according to Bloomberg.

In the Netherlands, general elections are planned to be held on March 15, 2017. Geert Wilders, leader of the most popular far-right Dutch party, Party for Freedom, has said he wants to ban all Islamic symbols, mosques and the Koran from the country. The party has been leading the polls for several months following a string of Islamist terror attacks across Europe and a growing frustration in many countries about a perceived lacklustre response to extremism from mainstream politicians. When you hear Wilders talking about closing the borders of the European Union and giving all the billions they save back to the people, it feels like hearing Donald Trump all over again! Similarly, in France, all eyes are on whether former Prime Minister Francois Fillon would be able to stop the far-right Front National’s Marine Le Pen from becoming the next president in April 2017. Even if he won, Fillon still shares some of Le Pen’s anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim views.

The stalwart of democracy in Europe, Angela Merkel of Germany, will be seeking a fourth term as Chancellor in the October 2017 general election. The 62-year-old, who is regarded as the most powerful woman in the world, had presided over Europe’s strongest economy since 2005. Although still enjoying a popularity with close to 60 percent of favourability according to a recent poll, Merkel faces the challenges of a surge in far-right extremism, terrorism attacks and an influx of more than one million migrants. If Merkel falls, the EU would certainly be a lost cause.

The Middle East also continues to be a hotbed of unrest. With Basshar al-Assad’s total control of Aleppo now, Syria will be under autocratic rule for many more years to come. While Moscow insists its involvement in Syria is mainly humanitarian, Human Rights Watch alleges that the Syrian-Russian coalition has committed war crimes during a month-long bombing campaign in Aleppo during September and October. Even though thousands of civilians have fled Aleppo into Idlib, experts predict that the sieges and barrel bombs will follow them who were already living in desperate conditions in Aldana, Idlib.

Ever since the Arab Spring movement in Egypt, the country has been swept with deadly bombs and explosions one after another. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the December 11 explosion at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, killing 25 people and injuring dozens. This explosion came just two days after two bombs killed six police officers and a civilian in the district on the street leading to the city’s famed pyramids. Turkey is no better. Following a failed coup d’etat of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country has literally been transformed into an almost totalitarian state. In addition to numerous terrorist attacks either by ISIS or by the Kurds, the country is rampant with security fears. Today, the tension further escalated with the assassination of the Russian Ambassador by an off-duty police officer at an art gallery in the capital, Ankara.

2017 also promises to be a turbulent year in Asia. Hong Kong’s much-hated Chief Executive, C.Y. Leung, has just resigned and all eyes are now on who would take over from him to maintain the supremacy of China over its Special Administrative Region (SAR), as well as addressing the increasing concerns of Hong Kong citizens to maintain the one-country, two-systems policy promised by China upon Britain’s return of the territory to China in 1997. In South Korea, a key U.S. ally in Asia, a vote was passed 10 days ago to impeach President Park Geun-Hye. Her downfall throws both her country and American policy in the region into deep uncertainty, as North Korea’s nuclear program advances and the incoming administration of Donald Trump deliberates over whether to adjust Washington’s stance on how to best contain Kim Jong-Un’s aggression. In the Philippines, it has been estimated that over 6,000 people have been killed since President Duterte took office in June. The President has also been increasingly provoking and distancing himself from the U.S. and befriending China instead. Furthermore, he has been living up to his reputation as a lose cannon by admitting that he has been using fentanyl and encouraging civilians to participate in extra-judicial killings of drug addicts and dealers.

2017 will truly show whether democracy in the world is in danger. As The New York Times pointed out, no democracy as rich or as established as America’s has ever collapsed. But there are clear warning signs – all upholders of democracy around the world should be vigilant in the year ahead, particularly in turbulent times and geopolitical crises. Now is the time to even get more politically engaged and involved. Make your views known and express your opposition in writing and protest, if necessary, should you experience or witness discrimination, or should you feel that democracy might be compromised.

To end with a positive note, Canada will continue to be a breath of fresh air – our multiculturalism and public-private sponsorship of Syrian refugees have become a shining example for the world. When borders are closed elsewhere and other governments chant protectionist measures, Canada continues to fight for free trade and climate change. When the new U.S. Administration vows to repeal Obamacare and even Medicare, Canada’s universal healthcare system, in spite of its shortcomings, continues to be our national pride.

The new year also brings in many good tidings for the boomer and senior cohorts. The rise of autonomous driving will impact every corner of society, but particularly the aging population. Self-driving cars are already undergoing successful pilot tests in many North American cities including Canadian ones. It is almost certain that new technologies and improved modes of transport will change the way we live as we age. On the healthcare front, IBM’s Watson for Genomics is contributing to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s cancer moonshot initiative to find a cure for cancer and customize treatments for cancer patients. I may be labeling 2017 as The Year of Living Dangerously, but hopefully, it will not be entirely doom and gloom in the year ahead! Happy Holidays!

 

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Fifth Anniversary of Act II

5th-anniversary-golden-edition_1017-4045

This month marks the fifth anniversary of my retirement and I thought this would be a good milestone to take a pulse on how my second act in life has been evolving.

In my blog post titled “Practising What I Preach” on November 14, 2011, I’ve listed several retirement goals focusing on some of my greatest passions in life such as short-haul travel, theatre and blogging. A check mark against all three although I went on more long-haul trips than I liked – Milan, Paris, Rome, the Greek islands, Ephesus, Madrid, Istanbul, London, Prague and Vienna in addition to North American sojourns such as Quebec City, Montreal, San Francisco, New York, Chicago and, of course, Naples, Florida. In addition to being a continued staunch supporter of The Stratford Festival, I’ve also made it occasionally to a couple of plays produced by The Shaw Festival, Canadian Stage and Soulpepper. It also went without saying that all my trips to London and New York included a West End or Broadway performance respectively.

I could only claim half a check mark for blogging because I managed to continue with this blog regularly without fail, but could not find time to continue with my other two. Since 2007, I’ve been sharing my insights on marketing to baby boomers via boomerwatch.ca. Throughout the years, business associates and friends from my previous life have renewed their acquaintances with me after accidentally discovering my blog on the Internet. Whether they were compliments or criticisms, I’ve always enjoyed their feedback. Funny enough, I’ve also had a few chuckles whenever I received news releases from public relations firms touting their clients’ services and products. Now that I’m on the other side as part of the social media, I can see what information is relevant and which efforts are plain “marketing speak.” Mainstream media, too, continue to be intrigued by boomers and when they decide to dedicate a special report on this demographic, they very often come to me as a resource and I’ve enjoyed sharing my thoughts with them via telephone or email interviews.

Check marks also against my learning and snowbird goals. I didn’t end up studying “Love and Relationships in Shakespeare” because the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies eventually cancelled the course due to lacklustre response. Instead, I spent two years learning a new language – after attending classes at both The Spanish Centre and the University of Toronto, I now have an intermediate level of comprehension in Spanish.

Although I’ve spent every other January in Naples, Florida, my enthusiasm as a snowbird has been gradually waning. The impact of global warming has made Florida a less desirable place for winter vacation – last January, for instance, was the wettest winter month ever in South West Florida and we were hit by three tornadoes!

Apart from continuing as a Liturgical Minister at my local parish, I also took pride in helping two very dear American friends with their respective marketing and web projects. However, volunteering and giving back to the community are never enough and it is my intention to aim higher with my efforts in the coming years.

Upon retirement five years ago, I said that nothing would give me greater satisfaction than mentoring the younger generation. In addition to offering advice when sought by former colleagues, I’ve also conducted a number of career information sessions for a few millennials. It’s always rewarding to see many of my former proteges, many of whom continue to seek my advice, moving on and achieving great success. I believe that you are always remembered not by what you’ve accomplished, but by what you’re leaving behind.

The greatest joy that retirement brings is the boundless freedom to do anything I like – the freedom of time with preferably no more alarm clocks to set in the morning, setting the pace of each day to my own liking with no more time sheets to complete; the freedom of choice to embark on any activities and hang out with whomever I like without the necessity to network or “shoot the breeze” anymore; and the freedom to pursue personal passions such as travelling to overseas destinations in off-peak seasons and going to movie theatres on weekdays to beat the crowds. The challenge of having so much freedom all of a sudden is that I have to constantly ask myself to slow down. When every day could be treated as a weekend, I try to savor every moment I have to enjoy life – eat well, exercise regularly, appreciate the arts and enjoy the company of quality friends – and only focus on one thing at a time. No more multi-tasking, stress, deadlines and multiple appointments!

What surprises me most after five years of retirement is my continued hunger to learn. I’ve always been an avid reader throughout my life, but ever since retirement, I’ve read even more books than before. From classics to biographies to economic and foreign policy books, I’ve become a ferocious reader with my Kindle! If there is one goal that I’m adamant to keep throughout my retirement years is my determination not only to remain relevant but, as much as possible, to be ahead of time. So, not only do I read both The Globe and Mail and The New York Times (via my Kindle subscription) from cover to cover on a daily basis, but I also watch most of the newscasts from all major networks whenever possible. I prefer in-depth analyses and op-ed pieces to quick updates from web-based media such as The Huffington Post. I’m proud to say that there is hardly any new pop culture or business phenomenon that I’m not familiar with. Simply put, I’ve got the insatiable desire and curiosity to learn at middle age which is a typical characteristic of baby boomers.

So when fellow boomers ask me about how to happily retire, my response is usually short and simple: assuming that everybody has achieved financial independence when they retire, one should have a variety of friends and lots of personal interests in order to enjoy retirement life. It’s not about how to kill time, but rather how to make time work for you so that you can enjoy the most out of every single activity you embark on every day without stress and obligations. Just remember: retirement is not the end, but the beginning of a new chapter in life!

 

 

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