No need to rush into retirement

Pushing seniors out of jobs, especially out of a family oriented business like farming, is not considered good for anyone

Retiring is a big and often daunting decision for Canadian seniors.

Whether financially, socially or mentally, how do Canadian seniors, especially farmers, know when it is time to take that big step?

Farming is more than just a career, says Tyler Case, an assistant professor at the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan. It’s a way of life for farmers with farm life and farm work intertwined on many different levels.

Seniors are retiring later in life, many of whom are farmers who are continuing to be engaged in farming long into their 60s. Data shows a benefit to these long working seniors, says Case.

Working longer in a field you’re passionate about can extend life, as seen in areas where senior populations reach over 100 years old.

“Some of the research around aging suggests don’t retire,” he says, and if farmers are still enjoying farming, then why retire too soon?

Pushing seniors out of jobs, especially out of a family oriented industry like farming, will not be good overall for either the farmer, the family, or the continued success of the farm, says Case.

“There’s going to be resentment and Mom and Dad or Grandma and Grandpa aren’t going to be healthy with that. I see a lot of lack of communication or a lot of those historical family conflicts that don’t go away with time that influence the strategy of the business.”

Social gerontologist Suzanne Cook sees two main reasons why seniors continue to work: financial necessity and because they are passionate about it.

“When it’s by choice, people are finding the work that they’re doing rewarding or meaningful, they want to continue to contribute and be engaged in society. They feel like they’ve got skills and talents to offer.”

The most important thing in retirement is ensuring there is still purposeful work to be done, and finding and articulating that purpose to family is important to the retirement plan, says Case.

“If you have passions that you want to explore — volunteering with the church, travel more, babysit the grandkids — that’s great.”

For some seniors, retirement can just mean a change of scenery.

Much of Cook’s work has looked into redirection for seniors, a new career that they are investing time and energy into after their retirement.

Farming has also become an option for professionals from different business sectors as they return home to take over the family farm in retirement following a professional career, she says. Cook sees a lot of professional women looking for something meaningful turn to farming after they retire.

That is the key, says Cook. The meaningful and rewarding work seniors did in their career must be replaced with something else that is meaningful and rewarding.

Many seniors are at risk of mental health issues and depression if they don’t find something meaningful to fill their time, she says.

“They want to stay active and keep their minds sharp, they have to find something that will be mentally and cognitively stimulating for them. We have to think about holistic health and well-being in later life.”

While being financially stable is important, many farmers do not consider other consequences of retirement as part of their retirement plan.

Farming can be physically and mentally stimulating, says Cook. What are people going to do in their retirement to maintain that stimulation?

Whatever they plan, family members and retirement professionals have to be part of that conversation to put the plan in place and ensure they are financially able to live their retirement dream.

When should working farmers start this plan? Cook says it is never too soon or too late to start having that conversation.

For retiring farmers, farm life is a huge part of their identity, especially after decades of farm work building a family legacy. But there are always options to continue to be involved in farming after retirement, either as a mentor or as a part-time farmer who has stepped away from the farm’s decision making.

As a past member of a mentorship program in Ontario, Cook saw a lot of value in sharing that love of agriculture through that process. While it can keep farmers engaged after retirement, it can also benefit the industry by getting new farmers involved, says Cook.

“There are so many possibilities for later life and I think it can be really rewarding to mentor the next generation…. Maybe we can make change to view (retirement) as a positive. This is a positive conversation to be having and starting to think about.”

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