Retirement: Families Planning Together

Posted by on Apr 3, 2013 in Planning |

 Originally published May 2011 on

Contribution by Mara Osis, eldercare consultant and speaker on LifeSpeak’s Calgary roster.

If one or both of your parents is talking about “retirement”, they are using a term that is being re-defined so quickly and drastically that the word might actually soon disappear.

For previous generations, mandatory retirement at 65 was not uncommon; nor was collecting a pension for 25 or more years of service. More recently, retirees were sold the “Freedom 55” concept – endless, carefree days of golf, travel and leisure.

Today, because we are expected to live longer than previous generations, retirement is largely uncharted territory. Some older workers are financially secure, and looking forward to leaving the workforce. For others, career and financial upheavals have walloped retirement savings and even pensions.

Still others are dreading retirement, fearing the loss of income, sense of purpose and social life that comes with the job. With more evidence that “inactive” retirement can lead to aggravation of health issues, those are real concerns.

Today, more people are “getting” the message that they need to plan ahead for the transition. Involving the whole family can help. Whether you are nearing retirement age and wondering what’s next, or watching your parents as they plan ahead (or don’t), here are things for both generations to consider and discuss together.

What will retirement look like?

Who is retiring – one or both parents or marriage partners? Are your visions and expectations of retirement in sync with each other? If not, how will the gaps be closed? Many marriages undergo a period of adjustment, whether one or both spouses retire.

Declining energy, mobility or health are behind some retirement decisions. Understanding the health issues and prognosis helps manage the present situation and plan for the future. If work is too demanding, health-wise, what activity or life focus will take its place?

Often, retirees who embark on a “life of leisure” soon find it less than satisfying. The purpose and meaning that came with their careers evaporates; they might feel they’ve stopped contributing. Part-time, contract or volunteer work can be the solution for some. For others, it can be learning and exploring entirely new interests.

Every retirement plan needs to answer the question: “How will this next chapter of my life be fulfilling, meaningful, and driven by my values?”

How is the family affected?

Retirement can change the family dynamic. For example, parents may want to retire to a warmer clime, thus affecting both regular and holiday family get-togethers. Some may want to move closer to adult children and/or take a more active role in grand-parenting. Others may actually crave fewer obligations, e.g., babysitting, and more time to pursue their own interests. How will each generation manage expectations and accept each others’ preferences and choices?

A retirement transition is a good opportunity for families to take care of practical matters and look to the family’s future well-being. Here are three things families can discuss together:

What kind of future support might the older adults need and even expect? Do your parents believe it’s a family’s obligation to care for its elders, or do they insist they won’t be a “burden” to their children? Whatever the attitudes, the reality is that people are living longer than ever; centenarians are a fast-growing cohort. What would you do today if you knew that your parents (or you) will live to be 100?

Legal Documents: 
Major life changes are opportunities for all adults in the family to review and update wills. Properly prepared wills save families time, trouble and money. Many common life events can have surprising consequences for wills, so professional advice is important.

However, a will doesn’t come into force until someone passes away. It won’t help someone who loses capacity through an accident, a stroke or other illness and is unable to make their own decisions.

That’s why all adults should have two other documents: Power of Attorney (for finances) and an Advance Healthcare Directive. Without them, you cannot automatically act on behalf of your loved one. Regulations vary by province; ensure the documents apply in both your parents’ province and yours.

Once in place, all family members should know where the documents are and who has been appointed executor, power of attorney, and representative.

Money is a sensitive topic in many families. However, the reality is that sometimes family members must depend on each other. Furthermore most Canadian provinces have legislation that allows a parent to apply for financial support from a grown child. That can be reason enough to start a conversation.

Here are five ways to make a healthy, satisfying retirement a family affair:

  • Discuss lifestyle options and future plans together
  • Encourage elders to stay active and engaged, and to pursue their dreams
  • Manage expectations and roles, and accept each others’ choices
  • Offer each other support during the adjustment period
  • Take care of practical matters before a crisis happens


(C) ElderWise Inc., 2011. 


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