Old choices

As our population ages, living arrangements for the elderly are becoming more important issues.

This is something that inevitably most of the population will have to confront at some point.

Not long ago, we in Canada lived in three-generation households, including this columnist and his wife. Nowadays, that is an old choice. It is less feasible as usually both members of households work full time, so an older person would be alone most of the day.

Furthermore, many, if not most, people do not wish to have their parents living with them – they argue that it would unsettle their life. All but forgotten is the fact that children growing up disrupted the lifestyle of their parents!

We have become more selfish and do not want to undertake the obligation that such living arrangements would entail.

Some people express a willingness to move to a retirement home, but most dread that prospect. It should be noted that we alone in North America have a kind of retirement home. They are unknown in other parts of the globe, notably in the so-called less developed world. There the elderly remain with other members of their family and never are “put out to pasture.”

The Lorenz curve is a major factor to be considered in the housing situation. There, the age-earnings cycle starts with a low income group, builds gradually and then slowly curves down until it becomes zero. Clearly, this affects housing for the elderly and what they can afford.

Surveys reveal the great majority of Canadian baby boomers plan to remain in their home as they age, even if it would require someone to take care of them.

A recent poll published in RBC “Myths and Realities” revealed that more than 80 per cent of retired and semi-retired people over the age of 50 would stay where they are if it all possible, with the age-earnings cycle.  About one quarter of the respondents are committed to that course of action.

This has profound implications for the economy and for our family life. The effect will become apparent in the real estate market. There will be much less building as senior do not move. Who will be around to buy many of those condos?

As well, downsizing takes place as families no longer will have children living with them. If they become ill they reluctantly will have to move to a retirement home that provide assisted living care in the absence of family members.

Retailers’ sales will contract because of the curtailment of demand for furniture and major appliances.

The family traditions of yesteryear are disappearing; a sad commentary on human behaviour and “doing the right thing.”



Bruce Whitestone