BY OLIVIA DO
According to Canadian Statistics released in April 2018, the life expectancy of Canadian men is 79.8 years and that of women is 83.9 years. The life expectancy of Korean men is 79.3 years and that of women is 85.4 years, according to the Korean National Statistics 2016 data. As in Canada, the average life expectancy of Koreans has increased, compared to the average life expectancy in the 1960s (57.4 years old in Korea).
A report published by the Lancet Journal, which is based on a report by the World Health Organization, says that the life expectancy of Korean women who will be born in 2030 could be 90.82 years old. The report also says this could be the world’s highest average life expectancy for women. As well, Korean men could be the world’s number one at 84.07 years old.
It seems increasingly clear that reaching 100 will no longer be unusual. As life expectancy increases, we need to prepare carefully for later life. Aging experts say that many people do not know how aging happens, and how they can prepare to be financially stable during their later years.
One strategy to help determine this is to compare your income difference before and after retirement. Another strategy is to find sources other than your income from employment. This could include earning monthly rental income from property.
In Canada, there are basic income security programs such as Old Age Pension and Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors. Even though there is some fear the government may run out of funds for Old Age Security, older adults still rely on the program to keep their later lives stable. In particular, if they do not earn money after retiring, these pensions are the best option for older adults.
Another income security program, Canada Pension or Quebec Pension, is also good for workers and self-employed people because they can utilize their contributions after retiring. In addition, a good way to prepare is to join, as early as possible, a guaranteed old-age pension savings scheme that provides tax benefits.
According to Stephen Hick, almost everyone in Canada benefits from the government’s income security system. A Canadian Statistics 2006 report stated that 99 percent of the elderly in Canada benefited from this income security scheme in 2004.
On the other hand, in Korea, older adults’ lives are often unstable despite the fact that they receive the basic pension or national pension. Elderly people face many challenges because of the collapse of the family-centered system in modern Korean society. For example, children are not responsible for their elderly parents as they traditionally were, and the poverty cycle of elderly people deteriorates family relations.
Professor Stephen Hick predicts that by 2031, 20 percent of the Canadian population will be adults aged 65 or older. He examines social problems related to the elderly with the increase of the aging population.
He includes issues such as employment overlap between generations, discrimination against older adults in employment, a decrease in the number of young workers to support the increasing number of the older adults, increase in medical expenditures, and increase in the obligation of caregivers.
In Korea, it may not be difficult to see that older adults are not ready for retirement. For example, to earn pennies, even though they are very old, many work on the streets collecting newspapers and boxes, or delivering documents.
Many older adults struggle due to economic deprivation, deterioration of health, and alienation. This number of older adults will likely increase in the future as the aging population increases.
The problem we should consider, whether or not anyone wants to live to be 100 years old, is how people can live securely without begging their adult children for money. In conventional Korean society, adult children often help their parents. To prevent this awful circumstance, people should plan their later lives in advance. If seniors do not have a plan at present, it is still not too late to prepare for their later lives.
In particular, Korean immigrants should work hard every day because, compared to native Canadians who were born in Canada and had a long career here, immigrants may not get the full amount of old age pension due to the Canadian residency requirement.
There is no restriction on preparing for your later life. You should not say “What can I do? I am already 60 years old.” This thought does not help you in getting older. Working is not necessary for only young people to live – older adults need to work for their later lives even if they are already seniors.
It is necessary for them to prepare ahead of time, step by step, as if they are young people. Even if you are 60 years old today, you still have 40 years left before you are 100 years old. If you exert your efforts on preparing for later life, even for half of those 40 years, your later life can be stable. “It is better to do something late than to never do it at all.”
(■ Eun Kyeong Do: Social Worker, Master’s Degree from the Graduate Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba, 2017. Thesis: Filial Piety Obligations and the Lived Experience of Korean Female Caregivers of Aging Parents-in-Law in Canada. High5S Counseling Hub with immigrant families and seniors (Phone: 204- 807-0908). Has coordinated a government sponsored project operated by senior groups since 2014 with the publisher, Won Jae Song of the Diversity Times.)
*This article was originally published in the Korean language for 2018 October issue of the Diversity Times.