The responsibility of aging

March 6, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Of the debates that can be on any nation’s table, one that is not so much contentious as it is dismissed is the argument for a minimum guaranteed income. This experiment was in hand here in Ontario, with a handful of recipients (4,000) in different towns, for a span of three years. The experiment was to ascertain whether a basic minimum income of $13,000 for a single person or $18,000 for a couple, more or less without strings, save to say that of any additional earned income, 50 cents on the dollar would be remitted back to the government.

The study was a year into its three year span, when Doug Ford won the election and cut the program, stating there were other, more efficient programs for assisting people. What those are was never revealed.

It has been pointed out that we are aging slower – quite good news for those of the population facing advancing but not so declining years. However, that welcomed improved health into a longer life has to be supported and the place for the elderly – or anyone! – is not in desperate and dirty hostels nor on the streets.

Economists have pointed out that the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP), initiated in 1965, was designed to care for people into their 60’s, 70’s even 80’s but the authors of that plan never considered how very many more people would successfully live – and be well – into their 90’s and even clicking over into their second centuries.

Not that long ago, companies took responsibility for the future of their, especially, long term employees. Together with those people, they invested, with every pay cheque, an appropriate sum into a company run pension fund, which provided the employees with an income addition to whatever else they had saved and their CPP. This was/is the law and it worked well for a long time until less ethical employers used those pension funds to invest in their business, which was not the purpose. Worse has been investors buying up a company, sinking it in favour of another business and losing the pension fund, robbing the people who had spent much of their working lives investing in it. Sears comes to mind. 

With the new way of working now, when jobs are so transitory, people getting involved, particularly in the tech business, with start-ups that last a year or two, are sold and the employees are laid off. Many jobs are based on contracts to avoid the burden of benefits and pensions. So many are part time.

Between 1998 and 2015, sources tell us that the percentage of companies offering pensions to vested employees (having worked for five years) went from 50% to 5%. Where does that put everyone else?

To fend, each for ourselves, on $15,000 a year government pension – or must society take care of its own?

My fellow columnist in this esteemed publication and dear friend, Doug Skeates was adamant: “It is the responsibility of society- that is responsibility for aging. There have to be funds in place to care for seniors and companies should have pension plans that both the company and the employee pay into. Companies should not be allowed to dodge their responsibilities to employees by only offering employment by contract.”

Indeed. How did the pursuit of profit come to outweigh all other human considerations?

As individuals, we do also have the responsibility to care for ourselves, each of us, to be less of a burden on our publicly funded (so, it’s our money too) health care. There are reasons for illnesses that are hard or impossible to avoid but there are basics that we can cling to sustain and maintain good health. You already know them: don’t smoke, like, at all. Get off fatty, sugar-loaded foods. Walk briskly in a green space with trees almost every day. Don’t abuse alcohol or drugs of food or sitting on your sofa forever.

Get off your wireless world regularly. Deal with stress calmly and learn to differentiate between real stress and imagined dangers. 

We know all this and it is generally a fact that living in a way of self defence, if we may call it that, leads to a longer, stronger life.

It’s all very well for financial gurus to talk about how to save and the need to save and I think the best way might be to have some sort of insurance policy with a cash value after a certain number of years that you will lose entirely if you don’t keep up the monthly instalments.

Yet and yet, lots of people wind up senior and broke because that’s how their lives went. Doesn’t mean they frittered their lives away. Each of us is many things to many people and no one can be guaranteed big bucks when our time of employment is done.

Back to a minimum guaranteed income. Several countries have such a program.

Ordinary houses sell for a million dollars; the new man is a billionaire; philanthropists can’t give their money away fast enough.

For a country of such incredible wealth, it is unbelievable that so many of this nation’s seniors to children live in penury.

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