Millennials, make the move to affordable intergenerational active communities in New Brunswick now. Affordable living in a the relaxed lifestyle mode where there are jobs waiting to be filled by "newbies" and business opportunities for budding entreprene
I’m a boomer. I followed the traditional route of many lads born and brought up in Saint John, New Brunswick and moved to Toronto, a bustling urban centre of four million, to embark on a professional career. It was the smart thing to do in that era. I became a college law professor. It was a tenured position in a unionized environment with a guaranteed cost of living adjustment, extended health care and a generous defined pension benefit plan. My wife and I bought a condominium at a very attractive price in the heart of downtown Toronto on the waterfront at historic St. Lawrence Market and “lived life to the fullest”.
That was way back then. Eleven years ago, the college offered me a very generous early retirement package with health benefits that was too good to refuse. It was also a very good deal for the college. My replacements were two lawyers hired on an hourly contract basis with no benefits or participation in a pension plan. It marked the beginning of the “now generation” for millennials entering into professional college teaching careers in an emergent “gig” economy.
We decided to sell our downtown condo. The deposit the couple put down for the condo purchase was as much as we had paid for full ownership back then. But this was now. However, their salaries hadn’t quadrupled and both them and us were aware that paying for a downtown lifestyle was going to be a financial stretch that little room for building a nest a savings nest egg for retirement.
We relocated to a 55+ active retirement community in Guelph, an attractive university town, on the edge of what is now the Greater Toronto Hamilton area (GTHA) with a population that was in the process of ballooning to seven million with congested multi-lane highways. We had a wonderful early active retirement life in our 55+ community. However, at age 70 we decided that it was time to “come home” and embrace intergenerational active community living in a small town. We put our condo up for sale at double the price we paid for it. Not surprisingly, in the frenzied property market in the GTHA, we were presented with an offer we couldn’t refuse on the first day.
However, the couple who purchased it were well beyond the 55+ gen x/ millennial age category. “Freedom 55” is dream wish in the increasingly congested GTHA for millennials and genx struggling to stay alive, never mind thrive, in the emergent “gig” economy.
They were boomers in 70+age category and representative of the cohort who had bought in at age 55 twenty years ago but were now actively aging as a new generation of 70+ active retirees. A high end 55+ active retirement community was beyond the price range of millennials. Buying in was now reserved for well healed people like us (PLUs). Like me, the husband had migrated to Toronto from an east coast town 50 years ago to get started on a stable long-term management career in an established company gravitating to a senior position that had a generous defined benefit pension program. That, along with the sale of a home they had purchased back then but sold now in a skyrocketing real estate market enabled them to embrace a quality active retirement lifestyle.
Both my wife and I had always been enthralled with historic Saint Andrews by the Sea on the Bay of Fundy. It’s an eclectic small town intergenerational active community. It’s a convenient drive into Saint John to visit family. We’ve decided to build a customized modular home with a stand- alone guest suite for visits by family and friends and stained -glass studio for my wife along with space for an activities/games room. Should we require personalized care in the future the guest suite can accommodate an in-house care giver. Compared to the cost of living in the GTHA it was all very affordable.
By the way, if we want to have an Ontario chat all we need to do is knock on the door of several of our neighbours. Like my wife and I they’ve come home after pursuing successful professional careers in Ontario to embrace that very special culture of active community living in a small town with its walkable main street hub and family operated businesses. And it’s very easy to do since only family owned businesses can operate in the town hub.
What I’ve just recounted is nothing new. You’re probably aware of this from clicking into social media sites. If you’re a genx/ millennial this is a dream that’s years down the road from being pursued, or so you hope. Moreover, if you live in congested urban centre the cost and stress of living in that environment is just not going to enable you to transition into active retirement living in an idyllic intergenerational small town down the road when the time comes if it ever does.
And you’re probably right which is why you should look at making the transition to affordable small-town active community living now. It can be done and is being done by an increasing number of millennials/genx. Here are two quick case studies.
Small town merchants invariably like to chat you up when you’re in their store. One day while in the liquor store a manager, a millennial, told me about how enjoyable life was since she had relocated to Saint Andrews from Vancouver. She had been transferred from the east coast to Vancouver by a national retailer to be a regional manager. It was a good job but the cost and pace of living made she and her spouse realize that congested urban living was the source of constant stress in their lives. They relocated to Saint Andrews where a stress-free job with less money went a much longer way in this small east coast town enabling them to buy an affordable family home and support a comfortable standard of living. She had got out in time to start “living life to the fullest”.
Small east coast towns have aging populations. Down the street a millennial husband and wife team who had migrated from an east coast small town to the oil patch in Alberta had scrapped together enough money to relocate to Saint Andrews to take over a family restaurant. This was a venture that would have required an investment of big money in a big city but was doable with a nest egg in a small town. It was dream come true time for them.
Then there’s the construction team that’s assembling our modular home. These are all, relatively speaking, young men with skilled trade qualifications who had for one reason of another decided to eschew the lure of big city life and earn good money and lead an active life in a small-town environment. The message here is that if you have a skilled trade or professional qualification there’s a market for your talent in small towns.
As I stroll along the main street hub I get a first -hand look at the number of millennials/genx, the next generation of retirees, getting a head start on intergenerational active community living by relocating to small east coast towns now. And their numbers are growing. Why not join those in the know?
Governmental and private sector policy and planning initially subscribed to and continues to blindly adhere to the architecture of the post- World War II industrial society three generation life cycle mode. Youth/education, career and retirement represents the three generations. Modernized education produced second generation of career ready adults by 20-22 years of age. Secure long- term careers in a stable socio- economic environment facilitated creation of a solid middle class with secure long- term jobs who were expected to become financially independent. At age 65 the career cycle ended. Breadwinners transitioned into a third generation of complacent retirees; the “aged”. The retirement cycle was looked at as being short term, 65 to 75 years of age, populated by physically and mentally aging inactive retirees, and accorded afterthought status in the generational policy and planning and process.
A paradigm shift has taken place. The Post World War II industrial society has undergone a massive transformation to a technology driven knowledge- based service economy that has rendered the status quo three generation life cycle model obsolete. Life expectancy is now projected to extend well beyond 75 years to 85-95 years. Health is the new wealth that is enabling people to live active lives for the duration.
Life is an aging process. Aging is now the best fit methodology to utilize as the architecture for governmental and private sector policy and planning. A three- stage aging life cycle model provides the flexibility to articulate an aging process that’s commensurate with a contemporary society in which adjustments and modifications to timelines that reflect what are recognized as an ongoing series of necessary shifts are now the new normal.
The first stage encompasses youth/maturation; the “YOM” age. It replaces what’s labeled as the “Z” cohort in obsolete generation cycle nomenclature. It’s the requisite starting point in a society and social order where the status quo has been replaced by constant change. This is necessitating the reinvention of education to integrate in person education with on line learning to acquire the electronic (E) competency to grapple with the Internet of things (IT) and artificial intelligence (AI) along with the socialization through the self-management of social media as an enabler. Embracing what is appreciated and applauded as success through a series and variations of first attempts at learning (FAIL) in an environment of constant change is the building block core to maturity. The new age “YOM” stage of youth starts at birth and can be expected to last until the maturation process reaches completion at 30 years of age.
The second stage encompasses the work and personal life being experienced by mature adults who are identified as generation (X) and generation (Y), the latter labeled as the “millennials”. These are the siblings of the “boomers”. Their fore-bearers haven’t bequeathed them comfortable careers with secure long- term jobs. They’ve inherited a sophisticated “GIG” economy and are confronting the end of work in a conventional career context. Generation (X) and millennials are aware that their work life will consist of an eclectic array of jobs and assignments that will require an ongoing upgrading of knowledge and skills. The combination of increased health and the need to self-manage their wealth to afford a comfortable long- term life may well necessitate participating in the labour market beyond the second stage an into the third stage. They’re endeavouring to replace the drive to succeed that dominated their boomer parents’ careers with a work-life balance. Moreover, they appreciate the urgency of adapting their professional and personal lives to be compatible with a sustainable environment. The second stage has a variable age that will encompass the 30-65-year period of the aging cycle.
The third stage is in the throes of having the terms of reference for the retirement generation being redefined as active retirement to replace the retirement generation by the “boomers”. The beginning of what will the bulk of boomers will turn 65 in 2020. They represent a new age of young/olds (YOLDS). For YOLDS active retirement is about pursuing an encore life in a reinvented lifestyle that encompasses “living life to the fullest”. It has two pathways, “encore careers” and “active retirement/adult community” living, neither of which is mutually exclusive.
They’re at the forefront of the nascent “passion economy” that’s opening the door for them to either augment their retirement income with an executive assignment or pursue their dream and contribute to society with an encore career in the bourgeoning social enterprise and non-profit sectors. Active retirement community living enables YOLDS to be vibrant participants in a community focused social network where health is wealth in a holistic context that embraces physical and mental well- being.
And what about those complacent retirees, the “aged”, who are in the 75+age category. They’re rejecting the negativity that’s associated with “ageism”. They’re gravitating to a mature elder (MELD) status in an evolving four generation society. They’re embracing third age learning. They’re positioning themselves to be the sages. They are new age grandparents and great-grandparents whose memories and recollections of having lived life to the fullest in through the lifelong aging process in the first and second ages can be utilized to mentor maturing youths and mature adults
That four- minute rebuke to world leaders by 15 year - old Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg stunned her audience and garnered international headlines. Mark Carney, former Bank of Canada and Bank of England Governor is among a growing chorus of the international governmental and financial elite who have decided to go beyond just “Talking the Talk” and “Walk the Talk” of making the planet sustainable for this future generation. He’s opted to forego seven-figure salary chair positions in global financial services for an “encore career” as U.N. special envoy on climate change and climate finance.
He was the featured host speaker at the prestigious BBC Reith Lectures (www.bbc.co.uk/reithlectures) for 2020. I’ve provided the web site link to what is a series of four one- hour lectures. Take a listen. He brings a fascinating lucidity to the debate of how we must reconcile the fundamental values of society in the marketplace for goods and services with the critical need to embrace social and environmental sustainability as the driving force in a market economy.
The fundamental problem according to Carney, and an increasing number of other economic and financial luminaries, is that we’ve become conditioned to believe that market driven financial metrics such as gross domestic product (GDP) are measures of the health and wealth in society. If the Dow Jones stock market index is on the rise that means an increase in dividends to shareholders and all is well. In short, we’ve shifted from market economy to a market driven society. What makes sense is what makes money. How that money is made is of secondary concern.
Roger Martin, former Dean and now Professor Emeritus at University of Toronto’s elite Rotman School of Management has written a much acclaimed and reader friendly authoritative book with the ominous title, When More is Not Better. He makes a convincing argument that the obsession with more growth and more profit in an unfettered market place for goods and services with a less government the better mantra isn’t contributing to long term sustainability. Nor is it making for a more affluent society as 90% of the wealth is now sequestered in 10% of the population, more often than not is offshore tax havens.
Neither Mark Carney nor Roger Martin and their contemporaries, among them Bill Gates, can be in any way labelled as bleeding heart socialists. They’re adherents to and proponents of market- based economies. The fundamental problem is that economics has supplanted the moral and social principals that are the bulwarks of a sustainable society. The misappropriation of the architecture of a sustainable society by marketplace driven economic principles and practices has created a crisis that is threatening the existence of a global civilization.
Does this sound histrionic? Not when you listen to what Mark Carney has to say in his four -part lecture series. The foundation for this renowned contemporary central banker’s source of knowledge is an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in economics, politics and philosophy. Yes, philosophy! The starting point for his study in economics was the writings of Adam Smith; a moral philosopher. Smith’s seminal The Wealth of Nations, the foundation for modern day economic theory, was intended to be a guide and not the driving force, for the application of the theory and principles of his substantive Theory of Moral Sentiments. An economic “Ides of March” is upon us. We need to undertake a dramatic shift from being a market driven society to being a morally focused society with sustainability of civilization as the driving force in a market - oriented economy.
 Roger L. Martin, When More is Not Better, Overcoming America’s Obsession with Economic Efficiency. Boston. Harvard University Press (2020).
It’s time for governments to let go of the industrial economy model as the architecture and operational framework for society. The COVID19 pandemic crisis has demonstrated the inadequacy of government policies and programs that adhere to an obsession with supporting large corporations and offshoring, low taxes, minimum wages, and shell public services that are woefully under resourced and understaffed. Health is the new wealth and smart government is the new model for the design and delivery of programs in what is a new age service economy.
The pandemic has exposed the flaws in relying on the off shoring for the production of health supplies, equipment and vaccines. Canada, is ranked as a developed country with the 9th largest global economy. However, it was relegated to an underdeveloped country status as it stood in line begging for everything from masks, medical equipment and vaccines from countries that had the foresight and smarts to create home- based health equipment, supplies and vaccines providers. Health must become recognized by governments as one of the fundamental pillars of strategic production and job creation in the country.
The Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN) fiasco exposed how a federal governmental agency with global expertise was diminished to name only status with a skeleton workforce in conformance with the conventional public policy mantra of cost containment. In a globally connected community in which rampant disease transmission (remember SARS) and pandemics are now embedded as normal health risks, governmental agencies such as GPHIN aren’t costs. They’re investments. A GPHIN with the enviable best practices pandemic early warning capability it once had would have resulted in tens of billions of dollars of savings in pandemic management costs along with lives saved.
The era of the rigid doctor nurse “closed shop” silo in the delivery of publicly funded health care and management is obsolete. Health is holistic. There are now 30 self-regulated health professions in Ontario. Health services are arguably the fastest growing sector in an aging economy.
“New age” health services are job creators. Smart government at both the provincial and federal levels must cease treating public health care as a cost where the driving force is containment and embrace it as an investment with an acknowledgement that a healthy society is a wealthy society. Citizens of all ages with divergent capabilities can make meaningful contributions with holistic health support from the mix of “new age” para-professionals and professionals looking for burgeoning career opportunities. Public health care must be integrated into universal health care.
But won’t universal health care bankrupt the government? Certainly not. COVID 19 has opened the door to the introduction of innovative approaches to health care access and services. Out of necessity people are becoming accustomed to using the phone and computerized intake forms as the initial point of online access to a health care practitioner or facility. This is the first step in what is labelled as “task encroachment” by high-tech. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has already developed nascent alternative health support systems (AHSP) that have the capability to accurately diagnose and prepare comprehensive holistic health care programs through direct online access by a prospective patient to the best qualified cost- effective practitioner. AI will eliminate first level costly inefficiencies, such as the mandatory visit to your doctor for what you and the doctor know will just be a referral, and enable health care para-professional and professionals to directly interface with patients cost effectively at the level where the most appropriate personalized expertise is needed.
Yes, taxes will go up in this emergent health is wealth era. Smart government does mean more government, albeit government of a different kind with a “best practices” orientation. But what has rigid adherence to an out of date low cost/low taxes industrial model with shell public service agencies cost us as a society?
John G. Kelly
Mentoring & Counselling