Older Canadians forgoing retirement, working through golden years: census

  • Share:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Print
  • Email
  • Text Size

The three months of Bill VanGorder’s retirement were among the longest of his career.

Lured by the promise of relaxation and spare time, the Halifax resident thought he’d relish the opportunity to walk away from an executive position and enjoy the fruits of his labour. But restlessness and a desire to keep contributing drove him back to the job market within weeks, and he was ensconced in a different corporate office three months after relinquishing his old one.

In the four years that followed, a global economic crisis ate into VanGorder’s retirement savings, making the prospect of ongoing work both attractive and inevitable.

Eventually, he decided to go into business for himself, allowing the flexibility of both a stable work life and the perks of retirement — making VanGorder, 74, a prototype of the new brand of retiree.

The latest census data from Statistics Canada show more and more Canadians are choosing to eschew the traditional retirement age, whether for their health, their finances or just for the fun of it.

More than 53% of Canadian men aged 65 were working in some form in 2015, including 22.9% who worked full-time throughout the year, compared with 37.8 and 15.5%, respectively, in 1995, the census numbers show.

At the age of 70, nearly three in 10 men did some sort of work in 2015, twice the proportion of 20 years earlier. Full-time work was at 8.8%, up from 5.4% in 1995.

The shift is even more dramatic for women, a reflection of their escalating role in the workforce. Some 38.8% of senior women worked in 2015, twice the proportion of 1995, while the percentage of women working at 70 more than doubled over the same 20-year period.

The numbers show it’s high time for governments and businesses to re-evaluate the way they view Canada’s senior citizens, VanGorder said.

“One of the great problems we have … is the myth that because our population is older than the rest of the country, that’s a terrible thing and we’re a terrible draw on resources,” he said in an interview.

“What we have is a large group of seniors who are very productive, who want to contribute to the economy, who are able to offer mentorship and leadership to younger people.”

Experts agree that the large pool of baby boomers deferring retirement beyond the traditional age of 65 represent a formidable cohort for governments and employers to contend with.

Demographer David Foot said their impact is not as noticeable as it was when they first began to enter the workforce decades ago, since their ranks have slowly been thinned by health problems and even death. But mounting financial pressures and increasing life expectancy are forcing those that remain to work longer than previous generations.

Transcontinental Media G.P.