Be a pet parent in retirement


When I was a young girl we had a pet dog that became a most beloved member of our family. We called her “Tramp” because she followed my brother home one day in a snowstorm. A mutt by pedigree – a mix of beagle and hound – Tramp most certainly provided us with many years of wonderful companionship and unconditional love and we loved her in return.

In a previous blog post I talk about being childless in retirement and how to extend your family in untraditional ways. It occurred to me that another way to extend family in your golden years is to adopt a pet and become a pet parent.


My husband and I have been thinking about adopting a dog when we retire, giving an animal a much needed home and enjoying the companionship of “man’s best friend” in return. But where to begin? Where do you find your pet if it doesn’t follow you home one day like Tramp did years ago?

Perhaps the best place to start is the Toronto Humane Society or a similar organization in your local area that is dedicated to promoting the humane care and protection of all animals and to preventing animal cruelty and suffering. The Toronto Humane Society has a four-step adoption process that prospective pet parents must go through to ensure that the pet you adopt is a good match for you.  


One question you might have is what kind of animal would best suit you in retirement. This can be affected by a whole range of factors, including any physical limitations you might have in walking and caring for an animal. I like the article “Dog breeds for older people”, which discusses different categories of dogs for different needs, including:

  • pets that are less vigorous, have gentle temperaments and are easy to train;
  • smaller breeds for those who are weak or physically disabled; and
  • one-person dogs that form a strong bond with one owner.


Research has been done on the effects of having a pet and some evidence points to the positive effects of pet ownership on an elderly person’s physical and mental well-being. The Pets for the Elderly Foundation cites the benefits of pet ownership for the elderly including:

  • lowering a person’s blood pressure and pulse rate;
  • decreasing the number of visits to the doctor;
  • lessening depression;
  • enhancing social opportunities; and
  • combatting loneliness.

In fact, there are at least 30 pet-friendly assisted living and retirement homes in Toronto, cites So, if you are worried about adopting a pet and then having to give it up should your living arrangements change, that is not necessarily the case.


If you concerned about balancing your desire to travel in retirement with the obligations of caring for a pet, there are solutions to your pet predicament. “Pawshake”, an online service that was launched in Canada in June 2015, connects pet owners with “vetted and insured pet sitters, walkers and home boarding.” Yelp also provides a list of the “Best 10 pet boarding/pet sitting” services in Toronto.

Still not convinced that becoming a full-time pet parent is for you in retirement? Consider becoming a volunteer foster parent to an animal. The Toronto Humane Society is looking for foster parents to provide a temporary home to animals in need. You have to attend an orientation session and complete an application to be accepted for this worthwhile calling.



DINKS & a childless retirement


Call us selfish, self-absorbed or whatever you wish, my husband and I are “DINKS” – dual income with no kids. We happen to love children, but our paths in life just didn’t take us in that direction.

So now what do we do? Headed for the golden years of retirement being childfree is not the way it was meant to be, I suppose. Consider the benefits of having children as you get older. They can take care of you in your old age. They continue the family lineage and could make you a grandparent one day. They can be a source of joy and companionship (on the good days) and provide parents with a reason to live, make plans and care for somebody other than themselves.

That is a very simplistic view of having children. Most every parent I know has spent a lifetime loving, caring for and providing for their children without the thought of building children into their plans for retirement and old age.


There’s no denying that retiring and dying alone, unloved and unwanted with no one to care for you is a frightening thought. However, it is possible to build another untraditional type of extended family, without actually having your own children.

Some people advise that many seniors – particularly those who are single – should consider a shared living arrangement.

An article by CARP – Canadian Association of Retired Persons—talks about the virtues of alternate accommodation in “Retiring with roommates: The merits of shared living as you age”.


Shared living arrangements help cut down on expenses in retirement when most people are on fixed incomes. They also help to address the social isolation that many people feel in old age with no one around.

Another way of “extending family” and social contacts in retirement that I have been thinking about lately is volunteering my time. The Globe and Mail article “How do I volunteer my retirement years so I truly make a difference?” outlines that while seniors contribute the most average volunteer hours of any age group (more than 200 a year), only 36 per cent of seniors (based on 2007 data) volunteer, compared to almost 50 per cent of other Canadians. Not knowing how and where to contribute skills and experience may certainly be a factor. The article provides prospective volunteers with an idea of organizations that would like to hear from them.


Volunteering to help a younger person in need in particular is my focus. This can certainly be a mutually beneficial arrangement with the younger person benefitting from spending time with and gaining experience from an older person, while the senior fills his or her time with a purposeful, meaningful contact by making a difference in a child’s life. There are many opportunities to do this. You may want to consider:

Foster Parenting: The Children’s Aid Society of Toronto (CAS), for example, states that “There are children in the community who need you! You can be the difference for a child in need by opening your home as a foster family.” While the CAS strives to keep children with their own families, sometimes this is not possible because the parents are not able to provide adequate care for their children. Foster care is an alternative for these children. Information about the child is provided to the prospective foster care givers, as well as training before a child is ever brought into the home.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada: This organization offers volunteer based mentoring programs. The volunteer mentors serve as role models and teach by example the importance of staying in school and showing respect for family, peers and the community. What ensues is “a life-changing relationship built on friendship, trust and empowerment.”

Volunteer Grandparents: The organization based on the west coast “is dedicated to the fulfillment and well-being of individual lives with the facilitation of intergenerational connections.”


With National Volunteer Week 2016 running from April 10 to 16, it’s timely to begin thinking about how to contribute your skills, talents and enthusiasm in a volunteer effort that will benefit the community and, in turn, make your retirement years meaningful, enjoyable and less lonely.





Fraud prevention in retirement



Years ago my mother had an elderly cousin who continued to live in her own home well into her eighties. Over a period of time my mother noticed that her cousin had become fearful and upset for no apparent reason. After delving into the source of her cousin’s distress, my mom found her cousin complained of men coming to her door demanding money for roof repairs when no repairs were needed. My mom set up a “sting” and waited one day for the men to show up. When they did, she told them never to return and that the police had been informed of their shenanigans. They vanished.


I am sure all of us have stories or have heard of stories about schemes to defraud seniors. Very commonplace is the Grandparent scam– when a fraudster tricks a senior into believing that their grandchild is in trouble and in immediate need of money.

It certainly is worth being aware of the kinds of scams that target seniors. When you think of the possibility of it happening to you or someone you love, it becomes even more poignant and you need to know how to take action. We can all work to protect ourselves heading into our retirement years.

March 2016 marks the 12th anniversary of Fraud Prevention Month in Canada — the annual education and awareness campaign that began in 2004 by encouraging Canadians to recognize, reject and report fraud. There are many resources available to seniors and people planning to retire, for those interested in protecting themselves from fraud and scams.

  • The Competition Bureau provides information on the commons scams targeting seniors, such as identity theft, credit card/debit card fraud, online scams, as well as phone and door-to-door scams like the one I described at the beginning of this blog post. They also provide tips to help you protect yourself from fraud.
  • The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre provides a toolkit to support seniors regarding fraud prevention and awareness.
  • The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada provides information on identity theft and tips on how you can prevent it.
  • The Royale Canadian Mounted Police provides a “Seniors Guidebook to Safety and Security”, which covers a variety of topics including scams, as well as elder abuse, safety in the street and in a vehicle, programs and services, as well as links to useful and authoritative contacts and resources.

Wondering why seniors are the targets of scam artists? “The sad truth why seniors are prime targets for fraud” is an article outlining some of the reasons. While the article is written from an American perspective, the same rationale  applies in Canada too.

Education and awareness are key to protecting our financial and physical safety and security heading into our golden years.


Mixed-retirement couple


After running a small kitchenware store for more than 25 years, my husband Didier is being forced into retirement. His store and other shops along an entire block have been sold to a developer who plans to tear them down to build one of those retail/condo monoliths that are sprouting up everywhere.

Could my husband move his business to another location? I suppose, but he’s 62, so the prospect of closing shop and re-opening elsewhere at this stage of his life isn’t appealing to him.

That means that my husband and I will soon be a mixed-retirement couple. While I will continue working for many more years to come, in a few months Didier will be facing sudden retirement. This is causing us some stress, as we are beginning to realize that there are pitfalls to our situation. Why?

Ideally, like many other couples, we would like to synchronize our retirement. You know, enjoy spending more time together, travelling together, taking those ballroom dance classes together that we have always talked about. However, we are really not being given a choice in our situation, so there are many questions that we are asking, such as:

  • How will Didier fill his days while I am not around?
  • What will he do for social supports/networks?
  • Can we rely on one income?
  • Will he grow to resent me for not spending more time with him or for being the “breadwinner”? Will I resent him for being able to enjoy a leisurely coffee in the morning when I have to race out the door to work?
  • Will his feeling of self-worth be affected if he has a difficult time creating a new identity for himself beyond that of work?

Apparently, according to Statistics Canada, today only about half of the couples approaching retirement intend to retire at the same time. A growing disjointedness of spousal retirement is attributable to the declining proportions of husbands and wives retiring two to four years after their spouse and the increasing proportions retiring five or more years after each other. Furthermore, Statistics Canada found that most women retire after their husbands.

With so many women in the workforce, the decisions around retirement – both his and her retirement – are now becoming more complex. And, of course, there are many factors influencing spousal retirement, says Statistics Canada, such as the age of the spouses and the age difference between the spouses, health considerations, status of financial affairs/pensions and so on…

So Didier and I have set about working out our planning to overcome some anticipated problems. Here are some of the ways in which we are navigating the mixed-retirement waters:

  •  Talking is important: We frequently talk about the vision each of us has for how life will unfold once one of us is retired.
  • Money: It’s clear that I will be the remaining wage earner and I generally look after our future financial/retirement affairs. However, my husband is the expert in making every dollar stretch further – so each of us has an important role to play in ensuring that we can live off the one salary.
  • Household duties: This is not really an issue, since Didier already does the majority of cooking, considers me his “apprentice” in the kitchen and really takes pleasure in maintaining the home. A traditional role reversal? Well, I guess so, but it works for us.
  • Travel: We’ve decided on taking one to two trips a year until I take the retirement plunge and then we may be spending time as Snowbirds in Florida for about half the year.
  • Filling time: He will have so many options in retirement, but rather than dictate what I think my husband should do, I would prefer that he discover on his own what will make him most happy. Does he want to:
    • spend more time taking care of his elderly mother?
    • become more physically fit by starting up his exercise routine again?
    • get a part-time job that doesn’t eat into his evenings and weekends like his store did?

The world is his oyster.

Many people say that couples who retire together find that constant togetherness can be overwhelming. At least by staggering our retirement starts, we hope to transition into retirement life and learn from each other.


What I’ll miss about work


Leaving your job behind to retire?  Rather than wallowing in retirement regret when and if you do make the decision to leave the workplace, it’s better to be up front about the things you know you will miss most about your work.

Here’s what I’ll miss about work:

  1. My morning coffee
  2. Recognition for a job well done
  3. Taking a walk at lunch
  4. Pleasant clients
  5. Access to information that I wouldn’t have otherwise
  6. Friendly, supportive co-workers
  7. Contributing to something bigger and more important than the sum of the individual parts
  8. Constantly learning
  9. Having a purpose everyday
  10. Feeling like I belong somewhere

Would you miss something about your work if you retired? What would it be?

From boardroom to boredom


Did you see the 2015 movie “The Intern” featuring Robert De Niro? Well, if not, let me sum it up for you and I will get to my point.

Seventy-year-old widower Ben Whittaker (played by Robert De Niro), a retired executive from a phone directory company, applies to a senior citizen intern program after retirement has become too boring for him. The company in Brooklyn he applies to is a fast-growing e-commerce fashion startup, whose founder and CEO has agreed to a community outreach program through which seniors would be hired. Ben impresses everyone and is one of four hired.

So De Niro in the film went back to the corporate setting seeking fulfillment in his retirement years. Does that mean you should do the same? Not necessarily, although mandatory retirement in Ontario no longer exists. However, you may wish to set up office at home and start that business on the side that you never had the time to before.

In an earlier blog post I talked about my penchant for home renovation. Through my renovation projects I have developed an interest in pursuing a second career in home inspection.

Of course, to do this, will require a home office set up. Here are some things to consider if you want to set up a home office too:

  • Find a suitable space at home for the office—ideally this should be a dedicated space or room cut off from the noise of your household. However, if a separate room is not possible, consider a room divider that will at least allow a degree of separation and privacy.


  • Decide the needs of your business and your office. Consider the technology requirements (computer, printer, scanner, ergonomically correct chair, desk, filing cabinet…). Will you be meeting clients in your office? If so, that will require more space, seating and possibly another table.
  • Consider your home office budget. It may be more appropriate to lease office items than purchase them, or buy them second hand.
  • Decorate your office to suit your taste and reflect a professional, polished appearance. You may consider hanging your diplomas or degrees on the wall. Consider a bookcase for all the books and reference materials. Add some plants, an area rug and some art for flair.
  • Set up a storage system for your files. Scanning information will reduce your need for hard copies, but be sure to back up your system.
  • Let your family members know the rules of the office and when/when not to approach the space, cause noise or interrupt your office time.

If you work out of your home, you may be able to deduct a portion of your home office expenses. However, there are a number of rules, and the rules differ depending on whether you’re self-employed or an employee.





Getting your home retirement ready


If your home is your castle, just imagine how important it will be to you in retirement when you are spending a lot more time there. That’s the thought I had the other day when I took a good look around my humble abode and wondered whether it would suit me heading into my golden years.

Heaven knows I have spent a lot of time, energy and money fixing up my current home. Is it Casa Loma? Well no, but the closest thing I will probably come to a castle on my budget. At any rate, I haven’t really had much time to spend there thanks to my busy work schedule and other demands.

For the last 15 years I have tackled a variety of renovation projects making my 1950s circa house the perfect shelter from the storm. A place I could escape to — retreat from life for a brief while.

But did I do the right renovations that will properly see me into retirement?

Like most people, you don’t want to be hit with heavy duty renovations and expenses in your retirement. I am happy to share my “to do” list of home renovation considerations with you, so that you can tackle them now to ensure that you wind up with a comfortable, liveable and relatively worry-free nest into your retirement years.

Deborah’s retirement reno checklist:


  • Need a new roof? Notice any leaks or water damage to your home’s ceilings? Are your soffits, fascia and eavestroughs in working order? I know that’s my new project to tackle this spring.
  • Is the grading on your property sloped away from your house as it should be, or is it running towards your home? This is important because you don’t want a leaky basement.
  • Have you had a home energy assessment done? This is a professional evaluation of your home’s heating, hot water and ventilation systems, insulation and air leakage. Your home energy assessment report will highlight how your home can be improved to reduce energy costs and improve comfort.
  • Have you had your furnace “red-tagged” recently or do you want to avoid this headache by having it repaired or replaced?
  • Do you currently live in a house with many stairs and wonder how you will negotiate those stairs if you have arthritis? You may want to consider bungalow or condo living, with everything on one level.


  • Take a good look at your kitchen and bathroom. You may wish to consider assistive devices that will make it easier to function in the house and do things that you enjoy.
  • Or you may consider remodelling, like putting in a no-step or sit-in shower or creating a more open floor plan in case you need to move around in a wheelchair or walker.

Take stock of the common hazards around your home. It’s important to identify items that will lower your future costs and in turn promote your independence and wellbeing.




Peter Pan at heart


Okay, I admit it – I subscribe to the Peter Pan view of aging. That wonderful character conceived by Scottish novelist and playwright James Matthew Barrie, Peter Pan is a boy who refuses to grow up, spends his everlasting childhood in fictional Neverland, and teaches young Wendy and her brothers how to fly (escape).

In today’s pop psychology the notion of someone with “Peter Pan Syndrome” has a negative connotation — a person who is socially immature and who shuns responsibility.

Yet, who really wants to grow old or be perceived as old? Who doesn’t want to be carefree and without responsibility? Who wants to be at the age or stage when retirement is no longer a far-off notion, but a very imminent reality?

I still remember my grandparents who lived in California taking me to the beach there when I was a kid and goofing around on surfboards. Didn’t someone forget to tell them they were too old for that?

Yet the signs that age is catching up with me are everywhere.

The other day my husband and I went to the movie theatre and we were asked whether we are seniors entitled to the seniors’ discount. Perhaps I should have been happy at the prospect of saving a little money. Instead I felt a combination of indignation, shock and anger at being asked. Neither my husband nor I have reached that golden 65 years of age to officially be considered a senior. Do we look older? Have the ravages of time caught up with us?

Similarly, on the subway, I absolutely hate when someone offers me their seat. It’s happening with recurring frequency lately. I don’t need a seat! I am not frail!

And, of course, there are the newbies at work – you know the ones who remind you how old you are by complaining that they are having the milestone birthday — turning 30. LOL!

Does anyone really want to be part of the aging club and accept that time is catching up with them?

Turns out, I am not alone in my feelings. The article “How to Market to an Aging Boomer: Flattery, Subterfuge and Euphemism” describes how companies these days have changed the ways in which they market their products and services to the baby boomer consumer. Their approach begins with the premise never to remind boomers that they are getting older. This has had a significant effect on the way in which they market the likes of diapers, shower grab bars, medic-alert alarms, food and more…

Would being identified as an older person offend you? Do you have a story to share?




The bucket list


What are your goals and aspirations for your “golden years”? Personally speaking, I have been too busy working a full week and then taking care of my household and parents before they passed to really give it some serious thought. Until lately…

It should come as no surprise that we all have different views of what constitutes a happy retirement. What is concerning, however, is that people don’t seem to be talking to their spouses or partners about their retirement plans – what they want from their retirement lifestyles – to occupy the time that used to be filled up by their nine to five routines.

That is what a poll by RBC found, entitled “Silent Partners: Majority of Canadian boomers have not discussed retirement with their spouses or partners”.

It finds that more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of Canadians aged 50 and older who have not yet retired have not discussed their ideas with their spouses or partners. Canadians’ reluctance to talk about the subject is right up there with talking about how to manage if a partner encounters health issues or if a partner passes away prematurely.

Furthermore, men and women apparently have very different ideas of how they want to spend their post-career years, according to the poll. So, while we are good at having conversations about what we want to do for our vacations, planning for the longer term is not a discussion most of us have. Of course, that could lead to no end of discord, when you are finally spending many more hours with your mate in your later years.

I suppose talking about the retirement lifestyle that we want is a dilemma of riches. After all, many people in North America can’t afford to retire, let alone those in the undeveloped nations. Still others want to keep working to remain active, maintain their connections to others that they have in their work environments, and of course, maintain their sense of self-worth and identity.

But for those of us who are in the enviable position of being able to afford and who want to retire, what do we do for inspiration?

Do you have a bucket list – a list of things you want to do before you die?

Ask yourself some questions, such as:

  • What have you always wanted to do that you haven’t done before?
  • What are your personal goals and dreams?
  • Are there any countries you want to visit?
  • Are there any new skills you want to acquire?
  • What do you want to achieve? Consider your social/love life, family, health, financial goals, and (second) career.

Let me get you started by sharing with you my own personal bucket list – a work in progress.

Deborah’s bucket list:

  • Learn to speak another language.
  • Do a cross-Canada trip by rail.


  • Take a trip to Italy.
  • Become a foster parent or a Big Sister to help children in need.
  • Help my younger brother get back on his feet.
  • Find a place for two in Florida and become a snowbird with my husband.
  • Spend more time with friends.
  • Take out memberships at the museum and the art gallery.
  • Attend more cultural exhibits and functions (opera, ballet, theatre).
  • Become a Zumba regular to realize a healthier, fitter me!

What will make you happy and you give your life more meaning?

Share your own bucket list plans and inspire the rest of us.


Climbing the stairway to heaven


If you’re a baby boomer chances are you are probably thinking more and more about your plans for retirement for a variety of reasons, if you haven’t retired already. Maybe you have lost a loved one. In my case, I lost both parents recently. These life events remind us that we’re not eternal and make us yearn for something more in our own “golden years”.

At major life crossroads I believe it’s normal to feel some disillusionment with life as you’ve known it. You reach a stage and an age when you ask yourself “is that all there is?” — just like the title of that immortal song that Peggy Lee popularized in 1969 and that Bette Midler reprised.

The lyrics of the song talk about disillusionment with events in life that are supposed to be unique experiences. The first event is sung from the perspective of a child witnessing her family’s house on fire. The second event is the same young girl going to see the circus with her father, and the third event is her falling in love for the first time. She expresses her profound disappointment after each experience as she sings:

Is that all there is?

Is that all there is?

If that’s all there is my friends

Then let’s keep dancing

Let’s break out the booze and have a ball

If that’s all there is…

Similarly, the whole idea of traditional retirement – permanently leaving the workforce in old age and sailing off into the sunset – in of itself can be a disappointment and is not what many of us envision for ourselves anymore in this day and age.

So many of us talk about retirement, dream about it when we’ve had a bad day at work, and to varying degrees of success plan for our financial future – but when finally faced with the prospect of retiring have really no idea how to mentally/emotionally prepare for this new chapter in our lives.

Do the things that give us pleasure and purpose in our younger years really have to change that drastically?

What does it say that from the time I first started to work, my father – my role model — drilled into me the concept of planning for my retirement? He meant planning for my financial future, of course. Yet, in his own final years my father continued to work and carry on as if he hadn’t heard the five o’clock quitting whistle.

He never took the opportunity to explore life beyond the confines of his routines, his work and what was familiar to him. Never really retired. Did he shortchange himself or did he know something that the rest of us don’t?

In the coming weeks I look forward to sharing my thoughts, as well as information and tips about retirement planning and how to get emotionally ready. I am not an expert on the subject, but rather a person wondering and researching what lies in store for me and my husband  in the years to come. That’s where you come in…I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

How do you envision retirement? What are your plans?