In COVID-19 Crisis, Older Canadians Are More Resilient than Younger Generations, Research Finds

Edward Jones, in partnership with Age Wave, released a landmark study on Aug. 4 that takes a comprehensive look at retirement in Canada, focusing specifically on four central pillars: health, family, purpose and finances.

The study examines trends affecting the rapid transformation of retirement in Canada as the country's aging population approaches this new stage of life. This includes the impact of COVID-19 which has accelerated many of the trends unearthed in this study.

Despite COVID-19's severe and disproportionate impact on the health of aging adults, older Canadians reported they are coping far better than younger ones. "The Four Pillars of the New Retirement" study of 1,000 Canadian respondents across five-generations revealed that 38 per cent of Gen Z and 36 per cent of millennials said they have suffered mental health declines since the pandemic began, while only 20 per cent of baby boomers and 7 per cent of silent generation respondents said the same. The majority of Canadian retirees (51 per cent) defined retirement as a whole new chapter filled with new choices, freedoms and challenges, and they do so in a more holistic way across four important areas of health, family, purpose and finance.

"We've certainly seen COVID-19's disruptive influence on finances, with the pandemic impacting retirement timing and financial confidence," said David Gunn, Country Leader, Edward Jones Canada. "However, the pandemic has brought families closer and renewed the focus on important discussions about planning earlier for retirement, saving more for emergencies and even talking through end-of-life plans and long-term care costs."

"COVID-19's impact forever changed the reality of many Canadians, yet we've observed a resilience among Canadian retirees in contrast to younger generations," said Ken Dychtwald, Ph.D., psychologist/gerontologist and founder and CEO of Age Wave. "Older Canadians recognize the value of a long-term view, and so as they think about their lives, longevity and legacy, they're able to pull from an array of experiences that help them weather current storms, feel gratitude about many aspects of their lives and still plan for the future."

The four pillars to living well in the "new retirement"

The study goes beyond the impacts of COVID-19 and outlines what makes today's retirement "new". Canada's retirement landscape is unique - increasing longevity and a groundswell of Boomers entering retirement make this one of the most significant societal shifts in history. The study found, changing attitudes and aspirations coupled with external forces (i.e. economic downturns, the pandemic, technology, etc.) have drastically changed the expectations of those approaching or entering retirement and will shape what retirement looks like for generations to come.

The study identified four key pillars for living well in the "new retirement":

Health

When it comes to living well in retirement, 97 per cent of retirees and 99 per cent of those age 75 and over, say that health is more important than wealth. 91 per cent of Canadian retirees say it's never too late to improve health, however, there is an intention/action gap as 51 per cent of Canadian retirees don't exercise regularly, and 33 per cent say they don't maintain a healthy diet. While physical health usually declines with age, for many Canadians mental health rises.

Family

A bright spot coming out of the pandemic is the deepening of family ties. Two-thirds of Gen Z define family as "anyone they love and care for, regardless of whether they are related by blood, marriage or adoption." They believe in "families of affinity" or families of choice. As we approach what is expected to be the largest generational wealth transfer in recent memory, retirees cite they worry about their children more (44 per cent) and are willing to do whatever it takes, personally and financially, to support family members in need, even if it means sacrificing their own financial security (63 per cent). The study also found, 47 per cent of Canadians overall and 30 per cent of Canadians age 65 and over have yet to begin discussing their end-of-life care preferences with their family or close friends.

Purpose

Retirees with a strong sense of purpose are happier, healthier and live longer, according to the study. This cohort reports they find their strongest sense of purpose from spending time with loved ones (72 per cent) and many (46 per cent) find purpose by being generous or helping others, particularly women (54 per cent). They are also looking for meaningful ways to carve out their free time. They don't just want to keep busy; they want to make useful and rewarding contributions to community and family. As the country's population continues to age, 89 per cent of Canadians agree that there should be more ways for retirees to help in their communities.

Finances

According to the study, a chief financial goal amongst retirees, is to have enough resources to provide security (48 per cent) and the freedom to live the lives they want (47 per cent). Retirees' greatest financial worry is not economic uncertainty like recessions, inflation or taxes, despite the disruption associated with COVID-19. Their greatest concerns are encountering unexpected expenses (54 per cent) and the cost of health care, including long-term care (47 per cent). Pre-retirees express even higher concerns about health and long-term care (59 per cent) with three quarters of those who plan to retire (74 per cent) stating they have no idea what their health and long-term care costs may be in retirement.

"Beyond finances, we can help our clients envision and truly realize a holistic and fulfilling retirement, which, we know includes decisions about their health, family and purpose," said Gunn. "Empathy and knowledge allow us to better serve as a trusted advisor to our clients in a human-centered way and work together to achieve what's most important to Canadians and their families."

While the above findings feature a selection of data regarding the new definition of retirement, further examination of the four pillars of health, family, purpose and finances reveal their highly intertwined nature and influence in shaping retirees' overall quality of life. For the complete study, please visit www.edwardjones.ca/newretirement

Edward Jones is a full-service investment dealer with more than 850 financial advisors in Canadian communities from coast-to-coast.

— Edward Jones Canada, www.edwardjones.ca

— Age Wave, www.agewave.com

— AB

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