My how time changes things!

Summer 2000 CSANews Issue 35  |  Posted date : Mar 05, 2007.Back to list

My how time changes things!Over the years, I've watched an evolution in our snowbird community. Three distinct groups of retirees have emerged, each as unique in outlook and approach to retirement living as the era in which they were raised. As retiree demographics shift, technology and the state of the economy will play integral roles in determining who can retire ­ and when.

The first group of retirees is my contemporaries ­ we are age 70 plus. We grew up in the shadow of the depression years and, as soon as we reached the age of 65, we eagerly accepted the golden handshake, a very modest pension, and many of us began spending the winter months in the sunny, warm states of the U.S. We bought RVs, mobile homes or condominiums and made a home away from home for ourselves. We belong in the communities of our choice ­ two homes, two lifestyles ­ simple, elegant and affordable.

The next group to surge forward is those who were raised throughout the war years - the post-war teenagers who are now between 55 and 70. They are well educated, ambitious and forward thinking. Not wanting to follow in the 'mundane' footsteps of their parents, these folks want to travel, see the world and live life to the fullest, while still enjoying sound health. With good incomes and social benefits, many in this group have taken early retirement and are enjoying the fruits of their labours while their bodies and minds are fully intact. This second group was the first to enjoy and embrace the new technologies that made day-to-day living somewhat easier.

There is no well defined break between this second group and the current post-war baby boomer demographic, youngsters under age 55. New technologies have opened up golden opportunities for these people that were never dreamed of, even a decade ago. Everyone, from the newly landed immigrant to the university graduate, is blessed with incredible opportunities. Whereas downsizing forced many into early retirement only a few years ago, our unexpectedly strong economy has created such a demand for goods and services, that many who planned to retire at a specific age have changed their time schedules. They are working well beyond their planned retirement because the pay is excellent and the call for expertise is at an all-time high. It is also becoming more common to see someone retire for a few years at a very young age and, then, totally start over in a new career ­ after their first retirement

One industry in particular has been surprised by new lifestyle patterns and the acceptance of the 'older worker.' Over the last decade, many Canadian retirement communities were developed, patterned after their southern counterparts. They blossomed across the country, hoping to attract those who were no longer in the workforce (whether by choice or otherwise), and who were looking to move into smaller, more manageable homes. There is nothing lacking in these communities ­ all amenities are carefully planned. What is missing, however, are the occupants. What the developers hadn't anticipated was that the downsizing of the older employee is, for the most part, a thing of the past, and "almost-ready" retirees aren't "almost ready" yet. It's simply a matter of supply and demand or, rather, supply exceeding demand. At some point, however, the economy and the massive number of babyboomers maturing will cause the tide to turn again.

The costs of travelling south have changed. The economic differential between our dollar and the U.S. dollar will force many to look to alternative retirement living. Rather than spending six months in the U.S. sunbelt, many of our Canadian communities offer comparable amenities combined with magnificent oceanfront or lakefront living. Although we cannot compete weather-wise, I predict that there will once again be a boom in this particular market.

Technology has truly changed the snowbird lifestyle and I fear that, within the next decade, the camaraderie that we've enjoyed so much will be a thing of the past. E-mail has replaced pen and paper, and web-casts (live coverage of events over the Internet) will soon replace the need to attend functions 'in person.' Just imagine seeing a Snowbird Extravaganza keynote speaker through your computer ­ while it's convenient, where's the enjoyment of meeting up with old friends and sitting together for a few hours?

As our snowbird demographic becomes younger, the predictable ­ and comfortable ­ ways of the past are quickly disappearing. Music that we grew up with, Lawrence Welk and Big Band music, will have to make way for the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. The world is certainly changing and it's actually exciting to watch the newer retirees getting involved in our wonderful lifestyle. I, and you, can look forward to many new friends and many new experiences, but we must get off our duffs and not wait for the world to come to us.