Positive Aging – Life Expectancy vs Healthy Life Expectancy

There are more than 8,000 centenarians living in Canada today – the fastest growing age group.  Longevity is a hot topic in the media these days. Financial planners are now projecting a life span of at least 95 years in their clients’ plans.  They are being conservative in calculating withdrawals so portfolios will last a long time.   

We’re getting dire warnings that we are in danger of outliving our savings unless we delay CPP payments to age 70 and use our nest eggs to purchase life annuities.

RELATED:  Why I Won’t be Deferring CPP to age 70

And yet, at the age of 65, Statistics Canada tells us that a male has, on average, 18.9 more years of life to go (to age 84), while a Canadian woman can expect 21.9 more years of life (to age 87).

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“I hope I die before I get old.” My Generation – The Who

Roger Daltrey (who’s now 75) notwithstanding, surely nobody wants to die at 65 or 70 – if for no other reason than you want to get back all that money you paid into CPP.

I think it’s fair to say that the greatest concern is not living to a great old age but living with poor health and age-related disabilities.

Of course, we may be genetically disposed to certain ailments and diseases. However, growing up on a steady diet of peanut butter and jelly on white Wonder Bread sandwiches, regularly smoking and toking since high school and consuming more alcohol than the Surgeon General recommends is bound to have taken its toll and left some lasting affects. 

I used to slather on baby oil to get a better tan and my fair skin often burned.  No one told me that was an invitation to future skin cancer.  (Thankfully, I seem to have dodged that bullet so far, but the damage has probably already been done.)

Modern medicine has lengthened our life expectancy, but that longevity has not always been accompanied by improved well-being and quality of life.

We don’t want our children and grandchildren to remember us as doddering old men and women with diminished physical and mental capabilities.  We also don’t want to subject them to any financial and care-giving burdens.

From RBC – Average life expectancy and health-adjusted life expectancy (HALE) suggests that the average Canadian lives 9 – 11 years past the time when they are healthy.
Positive aging

Quality of life – mental and physical capability – is an extremely important part of a long life. 

What can we do to help us achieve this goal?

  1. Approach life with a sense of curiosity and challenge.  Learn new skills.  See problems as a challenge to overcome rather than giving up.
  2. Stay active, but not just comfortably active.  High intensity exercise such as fast walking can have a positive impact on aging well.
  3. Stay connected to your community.  The more friends you have, the better your health will be.

Hard livin’ Mick Jagger (75) just recently had heart valve replacement surgery and leapt back on stage in no time to continue his tour.  Now that’s positive aging.

The bottom line

Boomers are expected to be one of the longest-lived generations of Canadians ever.

But our priority should not be to just scrimp and save to make sure we have money for our old age.  It’s to take care of ourselves so we live to a long and healthy old age.

I don’t know if I’ll live to be 90 or 100.  I know people who say they don’t want to.  They believe life in old age will be full of pain and loneliness, and they think they’ll ”be happy to die at age 80 or 85.”  (I’ll make sure to ask them if they still feel that way once they get to be 80). 

I invite you to share with me an important goal – to make the adjustments in our lives that will ensure we get to old age – relatively pain free and in good health.

RELATED:  Healthy Habits can Reduce Future Health-Care Costs

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2 Responses

  1. Vince P. Mayne says:

    Boomers in retirement do not need another column about money & finances. Agree we need more focus on living well and staying healthy in retirement.

    My goal this year is to cycle 5,000 kms. Almost made it last year!

    • Marie Engen says:

      I agree Vince. Quality of life – both physically and mentally – should be a priority in retirement. Having a lot of money can ensure you get good care but if you are disabled chances are enjoyment will be greatly diminished when you’re less likely to be able to work on your bucket list.

      I’m rooting for you to hit your 5,000 km goal this year. Good on ya!

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