Despite the coronavirus pandemic’s severe and disproportionate impact on the health of aging adults, older Canadians say they’re coping far better than younger demographics, according to a new study by Edward D. Jones & Co. in partnership with Age Wave, a U.S.-based think tank focused on issues relating to aging populations.

The study, which included an online survey of among more than 9,000 adults aged in Canada and the U.S., took a comprehensive look at retirement, focusing specifically on four central pillars: health, family, purpose and finances.

Among Canadian respondents, the study found 38 per cent of generation Z and 36 per cent of millennials said they’ve suffered mental-health declines since the beginning of the pandemic, while only 20 per cent of baby boomers and seven per cent of silent generation respondents said the same.

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As well, about half (51 per cent) of Canadian retirees defined retirement as a whole new chapter filled with new choices, freedoms and challenges. However, it also found changing attitudes and aspirations coupled with external forces, such as economic downturns, the pandemic and technology, have drastically changed the expectations of those approaching or entering retirement and will shape what retirement looks like for generations to come.

“We’ve certainly seen COVID-19’s disruptive influence on finances, with the pandemic impacting retirement timing and financial confidence,” said David Gunn, country leader for Edward Jones Canada, in a press release. “However, the pandemic has brought families closer and renewed the focus on important discussions about planning earlier for retirement, saving more for emergencies and even talking through end-of-life plans and long-term care costs.”

For example, when it comes to living well in retirement, 97 per cent of retirees and 99 per cent of those aged 75 and over said health is more important than wealth. Among Canadian respondents, 91 per cent said it’s never too late to improve health, however, 51 per cent of retirees said they don’t exercise regularly and 33 per cent said they don’t maintain a healthy diet.

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Approaching the largest generational wealth transfer in recent memory, retirees said they’re worried about their children more (44 per cent) and are willing to do whatever it takes, personally and financially, to support family members in need, even if it means sacrificing their own financial security (63 per cent). The study also found nearly half (47 per cent) of all Canadian respondents and 30 per cent of those aged 65 and over said they’ve yet to begin discussing their end-of-life care preferences with their family or close friends.

Among retirees, a main financial goal is to have enough resources to provide security (48 per cent) and the freedom to live the lives they want (47 per cent). These respondents cited their the greatest concerns as encountering unexpected expenses (54 per cent) and the cost of health care, including long-term care (47 per cent). Pre-retirees express even higher concerns about health and long-term care (59 per cent) with three-quarters (74 per cent) of those who plan to retire saying they have no idea what their health and long-term care costs may be in retirement.

“COVID-19’s impact forever changed the reality of many Canadians, yet we’ve observed a resilience among Canadian retirees in contrast to younger generations,” said Ken Dychtwald, a psychologist, gerontologist and founder and chief executive officer of Age Wave. “Older Canadians recognize the value of a long-term view and so as they think about their lives, longevity and legacy. They’re able to pull from an array of experiences that help them weather current storms, feel gratitude about many aspects of their lives and still plan for the future.”

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