HISTORY OF CURAC/ARUCC
by Ken Rea (revised 21 January, 2007)
IV. The Halifax Conference and AGM
Dalhousie University May 26-27, 2003
The 2003 conference was held on May 26, 2003 at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Local arrangements were coordinated by Tarun Ghose and Alisdair Sinclair. Financial support was provided by Air Miles, the Bank of Montreal, CARP, the Dalhousie Faculty Association, Dalhousie University, the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation, Johnson Incorporated, Patterson Palmer (Lawyers and Advocates), Pharmasave Atlantic, Pink Breen Larkin (Lawyers and Advocates), Royal Investment Service, Shoppers Drug Mart, TD Canada Trust Quinpool Road, and Trimark. More than 50 registrants were in attendance. Eric Vengroff, representing CARP (Canadian Association of the Fifty-Plus) and William Dando, Distinguished Professor and Director, Senior Scholars Academy, Indiana State University and Board Member, Advancement, of AROHE (Association of Retirement Organizations in Higher Education) were also present.
Most of the morning session was devoted to formalizing the arrangements made by the steering committee appointed at the 2002 conference in Toronto to bring CURAC into being as a new national association of post-secondary retiree associations in Canada.
Approval of the Constitution and Motion to Incorporate (Peter Russell)
Peter Russell presented a draft of a proposed constitution which he had developed in collaboration with Marvin Stark (SFU) and which had been extensively discussed at meetings of the Steering Committee during the past year. Several successive drafts had been widely circulated by email and many modifications had been made in response to suggestions received as recently as the preceding evening. Copies of the proposed constitution had been distributed and it was moved and seconded that it be approved.
In opening the debate on the motion Peter Russell, a political scientist by training and an internationally-recognized constitutional authority, emphasized that the document before the delegates reflected his experience with constitutional practice and was deliberately lacking in specifics. He recognized that it could and undoubtedly would be improved, but believed that in its present form it would provide a sound basis upon which CURAC could be brought into effective existence. He also noted that his colleague Marvin Stark, a legal authority on such matters, had helped frame the document in such a way that it could easily be adapted to satisfy the legal requirements of an incorporated organization if, as he would be recommending, CURAC should seek incorporation under federal legislation. He also noted that he was an advocate of ”constitutional minimalism” as was consistent with his bias in favour of the traditions of parliamentary democracy and his belief in the efficacy of ”constructive ambiguity” in constitutional design.
In the course of a lively, but good-natured, discussion several amendments were advanced and incorporated in the text of the proposed constitutional document:
Section 2(c), under “Purposes”, the original statement, “to promote the exchange of ideas among college and university retirees on new and evolving models of retirement and best practices in the treatment of retirees by colleges and universities” was modified by the addition of ”and other organizations”.
Section 2(h) which originally read, “to ensure that the interest and perspectives of retirees are taken into account by the Canadian Association of University Teachers and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada,” was amended to add “Canadian trade unions and labour organizations.”
Section 2(k) was replaced by “to liaise with other national and international organizations that deal with matters of interest to retirees” and the original Section 2(k) was made a new Section 2(l).
Section 7(b) was altered to provide that four rather than three members of the Executive would initially serve one year terms.
Section 7(f) was changed to increase the quorum for a meeting of the Executive from four to five members.
Section 9(b) was changed to provide that the regular business of CURAC would “normally” be conducted in English.
Section 9(c) which originally provided that CURAC may change its Constitution or Bylaws by a Special Resolution of two-thirds of its delegates was changed to add “normally at the Annual General Meeting” after “Bylaws”.
With these friendly amendments accepted the question was put and the delegates unanimously approved the constitution as proposed.
In concluding this part of the meeting Peter Russell assured the delegates that the Executive would be mindful of concerns expressed in the course of the discussion and that further modifications to the constitution would likely have to be considered at the next annual meeting.
Proposal to Seek Incorporation (Peter Russell)
Peter Russell reported that the co-author of the proposed constitution, Marvin Stark, had convinced him of the desirability of having CURAC register as a corporation under federal law. He read an extract from a legal text summarizing the advantages and disadvantages of incorporation:
“The unincorporated association. The members are governed by a contractual arrangement setting out the purpose of the organization and its operations, but the organization has no separate legal status. This means that it cannot enter into contracts or own property. The greatest advantage of the unincorporated association is that it is easy and inexpensive to set up. It thus appeals mainly to small voluntary groups which may be of short duration. The biggest drawback is that its members are not entitled to limited legal liability, making them personally liable for the actions and financial failures of the organization.” [From: Helping Canadian Improve Governance and Accountability in the Public Sector.]
Peter moved, and his motion was seconded, that the Executive be authorized to seek incorporation under federal legislation.
During discussion of this motion some delegates expressed concern about the costs of incorporation and the possible impact on member fees. Peter Russell informed the delegates that his information was that such costs would not be significant, although if they should turn out to be excessive the Executive would seek advice from the members before proceeding.
The question was put and the motion to have CURAC incorporated was passed with none dissenting.
Report of the Nominating Committee and Election of 2003-04 Executive Committee (Albert Tucker)
Albert Tucker prefaced his presentation of the nominating committee’s report by noting that from his experience as a member of the Steering Committee over the past two years, all those involved had expressed their belief that CURAC should not be a “Toronto centered” organization and that its executive should be made up of members representative of all the regions of Canada. The nominating committee had been selected accordingly with Howard Fink from Quebec, Bill Weber from British Columbia, Ralph Winter from Nova Scotia and himself from Toronto. In the course of their deliberations, however, it became clear they all placed a high priority on maintaining continuity between the new Executive and the Steering Committee which had preceded it. They were therefore proposing Peter Russell (Toronto) as President, John Dirks (Toronto) as Past President and Ken Rea (Toronto) as Secretary. For the position of Vice President they proposed Howard Fink (Concordia), for Treasurer Kath Beaven (Guelph), and as Chair of the Local Organizing Committee for the 2004 meeting John Mundie (Manitoba). The nominees for the three members at large envisioned in the draft constitution would be Don Russell (UBC), Roch Meynard (Montreal), and Tarun Ghose (Dalhousie).
It had also become clear to the committee, however, that the resulting slate, while providing continuity and a reasonable degree of geographic representation, was defective in terms of other types of representation, notably with respect to gender and types of postsecondary institutions. They had therefore proposed the constitutional amendments already enacted enlarging the Executive Committee from a maximum of 9 to a maximum of 12 members in total. Germaine Warkentin (Toronto) and Alison Scott-Prelorentzos (Alberta) were consequently nominated to fill two additional members-at-large positions. A third remained unfilled but with the expectation the Executive would find a suitable representative of the college sector to fill the position by appointment as provided for in the constitution.
It was also proposed that the Executive be left to determine which members would serve one-year rather than two-year appointments as required by the constitution (Section 7b).
Regional Reports (Chair: Alasdair Sinclair)
Atlantic Region (Ralph Winter)
Ralph Winter reported that most of the post-secondary retiree groups in the Atlantic region he was in touch with seemed to be mainly concerned with pension and benefit issues of one kind of another. His own group at Acadia had been working to get clarification as to what their benefit entitlements actually were. They had made some progress in this despite having a confrontational administration to deal with. They had also succeeded in obtaining ID cards and were seeking improved access to library and computer facilities. He also noted that social activities were important to the Acadia group and that their luncheon meetings with speakers had been particularly successful. He pointed out important differences between the retiree situation in small and larger institutions in the region: because larger universities like Dalhousie, UNB, Moncton and Memorial had professional faculties the mix of retirees was different than in small schools like Acadia which did not; the smaller institutions also tended to be located in rural areas and many retiring faculty chose to leave for larger centres or BC on retirement. He called upon several representatives of Atlantic region retiree groups in the audience to comment on their own situations.
Orville Scott of UNB reported that they were currently in critical negotiations with their administration concerning the continuation of health benefits, notably drugs and dental care, after retirement at age 65. He appealed to those present to send him any information they could about their own experience and situations in this regard.
Don Steele of Memorial reported that until recently the retiree group there, which included all those retired from the university, had been primarily social and had no fees. They had now become incorporated and were in the process of implementing fees and a formal structure. As at several other Atlantic region institutions the retiree group was involved in negotiating their relationship with their faculty association.
Quebec (Roch Meynard)
Roch Meynard, President of the Féderation des retraités de l’université du Québec, provided an expertly prepared PowerPoint presentation outlining the structure of the university system in Quebec, the organization of university retiree associations there, the types of pension plans in effect, and a number of current concerns of Quebec university retirees.
He explained that Quebec has two groups of universities, those operating under private charters (five French language and 3 English) and the state-chartered universities comprising the University of Quebec network (10 institutions in total, all French-speaking). The retiree associations affiliated with the latter have become federated in FRUQ (Féderation des retraités de l’université du Québec). The members of FRUQ with five other Quebec university groups outside the université du Québec system belong to another federated body, Associations de retraités universités québécoises (ARUQ) which was formed in 2002. A variety of pension plans exist in Quebec: defined benefit, defined contribution and hybrid plans. Major concerns of retirees in Quebec include upgrading pension plans to full indexing, surplus distribution in the case of those having defined benefit plans, obtaining effective representation on pension plan decision-making bodies, and having health care benefits made available to those over 65. In the latter respect it was noted that such benefits in Quebec universities are terminated when employees reach 65 whether they have retired or not.
Ontario (Germaine Warkentin)
Two questions provided a framework for Germaine Warkentin’s review of the situation facing academic retirees in Ontario: (1) do retirees have adequate resources to care for themselves as they age and (2) what kind of representation can retirees claim within the university communities they have spent their lives in?
On the matter of resources she noted great variation in the adequacy of both pensions and benefits from one university to another in Ontario. While retirees from some institutions were quite satisfied with their pensions (Queen’s, York, Ryerson) others were not, especially in cases involving elderly surviving spouses (Laurentian, Toronto, Trent). But no one is satisfied with their benefits situation. Only 12 of the 18 Ontario universities offer any benefits to their retirees, while those that do often offer very limited coverage which the retiree is required to pay for at what are often full market rates.
There is much unease about the status of retiree organizations in Ontario with respect to both university administrations and the faculty unions upon which they must often to rely to negotiate on their behalf. Even at her own university, Toronto, despite its long history and size retirees quite simply “weren’t on the screen” and despite some recent improvements the situation remains much the same. One area in which retirees might make their presence felt, she suggested, was in getting administrators used to the idea that interested retirees had a role to play in teaching and research.
Prairies (John Mundie)
John Mundie’s report showed that work remains to be done getting retiree groups in the Prairie provinces organized and involved with the national community. In preparing his report he had encountered difficulty getting information from some organized groups (University of Calgary, University of Saskatchewan) and had been unable to find retiree organizations, if they exist, at the University of Lethbridge or the Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface. However, well-established groups existed at the Universities of Alberta, Regina, Manitoba, and Winnipeg all of whom had become founding members of CURAC. An informal group at Brandon University was considering establishing a more formal organization. The University of Manitoba group had recently been officially recognized by the university as the body authorized to represent all retirees there. Members of the groups at both the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg were willing to serve on the local organizing committee for CURAC’s annual meeting which will be held in Winnipeg next May.
British Columbia (Marvin Wideen)
Executive members of the retiree organizations at the three largest British Columbia organizations contacted by Marvin Wideen had expressed strong support for the establishment of a national retirees organization. Both the UBC and Simon Fraser groups had become founding members of CURAC and the group at the University of Victoria was expected to join shortly. It was not known if retiree organizations existed at any of the 8 university colleges and three other post-secondary institutions in the province but there were some indications such activity was beginning. Most of the groups consulted indicated they had many of the same problems already described by the previous regional representatives. Several indicated they hoped a national organization would help in getting such issues resolved. In this respect the Simon Fraser group in particular, believed CURAC’s main role should be in helping local groups achieve their objectives by circulating information about what could be done, how it could be done, and by adding some collective “clout” to reinforce their efforts. It was also hoped by those on the West Coast, however, that the national organization they strongly supported would not be too centered in the “East” (which Marvin pointed out was not necessarily associated only with Toronto in the minds of western Canadians) and that the CURAC annual general meetings would migrate steadily westward!
Report on AROHE: “Enhancing the Retiree Connection” (William Dando)
William Dando, Distinguished Professor and Director, Senior Scholars Academy Indiana State University, reported to the conference on the founding of a national association of academic retiree organizations in the United States. After some 15 years of preparatory activity, AROHE (Association of Retirement Organizations in Higher Education) was founded at a conference held at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana in October 2002. Its objective: “to provide a forum for the development and sharing of ideas, resulting in the implementation of new models of retirement in higher education. Specifically AROHA is designed for its members to “learn about creative developments in higher education retirement organizations and campus programs; to share ideas about organizing, developing and working with such organizations; and be energized by colleagues who are actively engaged in new retirement ventures. The membership includes emeriti/retired faculty members and staff representing campus associations or centers, campus administrators concerned with emeriti/retiree relations, individuals interested in organizing campus retirement organizations, and active faculty and staff considering retirement.
Commenting on the current meeting William Dando emphasized the opportunities available for retirees in Canada to use their skills and abilities not just to advance their own interests but to make ongoing contributions to their universities, local communities, the country, and the world at large. He warned that in attempting to make these further contributions there would be opposition: opposition from junior faculty who would be concerned about competition from the “grey-haired” old-timers for teaching opportunities and grants, from administrators who might fear having people around who carried in their heads the administrative history of the institution, and from members of the public who continued to think that retired academics are no longer of any use and should just go fishing. But such opposition could be overcome. The segment of the population over 60 was now a potentially powerful political force which could be harnessed to do good, locally and beyond.
Luncheon Address (Peter Waite)
During the lunch break participants enjoyed a talk by the distinguished Dalhousie historian Peter Waite in which he sketched “Dalhousie’s Struggle for Light and Air”. In his talk Professor Waite provided a succinct and entertaining account of the political processes which shaped the development of the many church-affiliated post-secondary institutions in Nova Scotia and the seldom successful attempts to federate them.
The first portion of the afternoon session was chaired by Tarun Ghose. The first presentation was by Tom Traves, President of Dalhousie University. This was followed by a panel on the topic, “Health Care for Seniors” chaired by Dr. Richard Goldbloom, Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics and Chancellor of Dalhousie University. The three panelists were Dr. Ken Rockwood, Dr. Jeff Dayton Johnson, and Prof. Howard Fink.
The second panel of the afternoon session, “The Aging Society: 2003 and Beyond” was chaired by Dr. John Dirks. Two presentations were made, the first by Dr. William Dando, the second by Dr. Janice Keefe.
The Challenge Facing Higher Education
Dr. Tom Traves, President Dalhousie University
Acknowledging that academics remain interested in university affairs even after retirement, Dr. Traves proposed to present an update on the current state of Canadian universities under three main headings: enrolment, faculty complement, and research agenda, concluding with some implications of these developments for infrastructure renewal and expansion.
With respect to enrolment trends he noted that the steady increase in university enrolment over the past twenty years had been accompanied by reductions rather than increases in government funding support of the kind which had marked the period of rapid expansion in the 1960′s and ’70′s. One result of this was that nationally, student/faculty ratios had increased from 24 students per faculty member to 36. Over the coming decade it appeared likely that the combined effect of an increase in the size of the 18 to 21 year-old population cohort and an increase in the participation rate would bring a further 20 to 30 percent increase in enrolment from 650,000 to perhaps as many 850,000 students. Because of political pressure it is unlikely universities will respond by restricting access, which means that unless there are very large increases in funding to permit large increases in faculty hiring and infrastructure development, the quality of university education in Canada will deteriorate. Large classes, fewer written assignments, and a further increase in the student/faculty ratio to as much as 48 students per faculty member appears likely.
With more than one-third of university faculty in Canada now 55 years of age or older, if 65 remains the normal retirement age at least 20,000 or as many as 40,000 new faculty will have to be hired over the course of the next decade. With Canadian graduate schools producing only some 3000 Ph.D’s annually, of whom only half are likely to pursue university teaching careers, it will be necessary to attempt to recruit large numbers of new faculty from outside Canada. Unfortunately, unlike the 1960â€™s, the countries from which foreign-trained Ph.D’s were traditionally recruited by Canadian universities are experiencing similar growth in demand and are now also highly competitive in the academic labour market.
The impact of these developments on universities will be far-reaching and a number of potential issues, including questions about the normal retirement age, rights and entitlements of retired professors may have to be faced.
The demand for research output by universities in Canada is also expected to increase dramatically in coming years. One-third of all research in Canada is done in the university sector, unlike the US where the private research sector is relatively much larger and better developed. The federal government’s new “productivity agenda” calls for large increases in research and development to counter the decline in productivity and living standards in Canada relative to other industrial countries. This has already resulted in large increases in government funding for university research after years of constraint and if stated objectives are to be met the flow of such funds must be expanded even more dramatically in coming years. The return of federal funding to granting agencies, the broadened base for funding through the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (now funding more “social science” research than the HSSRC), targeted research programs such as Genome Canada and environment-related atmospheric research, funding of university indirect costs of supporting research, funding for infrastructure through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Canada Research Chairs project, and graduate student support, all reflect this trend.
Coping with such expansion presents many challenges, not least of which is the need to renew and expand the physical infrastructure of Canadian universities. Decades of under-funding resulted in postponement of needed maintenance as funds were diverted to meeting teaching requirements. Large new government investments were now needed to remedy the situation. As usual in Canada, however, federal-provincial conflicts complicate the matter. Changes in the Canada Health and Social Transfer arrangements have had the effect of separating university funding from health-care spending. But the public policy agenda remains very crowded: health care, Kyoto, early childhood, aboriginal issues, municipalities, national security — to take just a few regularly in the headlines — all compete for attention. There is no certainty higher education will win out and “sweep the field” in this competition. Nevertheless, Dr. Traves ended on a note of optimism about our ability to rise to the challenges of this new period of growth. He concluded by drawing attention to the fact that unlike 50 years ago, the university sector in Canada was no longer a small enterprise, but a part of a mass education system, a new reality we have to get our heads around.
Dr. Ken Rockwood, Professor of Geriatric Medicine at Dalhousie University, then spoke on “Special Aspects and Problems of Health Care for Seniors”.
Noting that most of those present were members of the “well old” population, who held little interest for specialists in geriatric medicine, Dr. Rockwood focused attention on the problem of the “frail old”, those suffering multiple illnesses. He displayed charts showing the broad trend in sickness as people pass the threshold of their early 70s when each year tends to bring on another health problem.
The existing health care system, he asserted, copes well with older patients who present with one or even as many as three medical problems. But there is well-documented evidence that the system does not handle well the more complex problems of the frail, who through no fault of their own, put great stress on the system, not only because they are responsible for so large a part of emergency health care demand but because the system’s inability to cope with their problems results in frustration and demoralization on the part of health-care workers and others involved. One consequence is that the frail elderly end up being blamed for the problem.
Little progress has been made over the past twenty years in changing such attitudes. The frail elderly, especially if they show signs of confusion, tend to be seen by physicians as having other than medical problems. In fact, he suggested, most elderly patients who become confused do so because they do have a medical problem.
What is needed at the social level, Dr. Rockwood urged, was for groups outside the medical community to advocate change in the way we think about health care for the frail elderly. For those in the system, patient centered-care must become more than a slogan.
On an individual basis he advised that anyone at risk of becoming classified as frail should regard hospitals as dangerous places and attempt to have the services of a personal advocate available. To avoid becoming frail there was now good evidence that three things were beneficial: exercise; engagement with other people; and equanimity (not to the point of apathy, but attaining a certain level of acceptance of the way things are).
“Socio-Economic Aspects of Health Care for Seniors” was the subject of the next presentation by Jeff Dayton Johnson, Professor of Economics, Dalhousie University.
Professor Dayton Johnson identified four features of the retiree economy which could be thought of as “perverse” with respect to the standard text-book market model: (1) a larger proportion of the income received by retirees is from non-earned sources which makes the level of consumption enjoyed by retirees more a function of public policy than market forces; (2) a larger part of the consumption of those over 65 is in the form of publicly-provided services such as health care and so is also greatly influenced by public policy; (3) a more important part of the exchange of services in the retiree economy is on a voluntary as distinguished from â€œfor payâ€ basis; (4) and social relationships appear to be a relatively more important source of wellbeing than in the rest of the economy.
With respect to (1) Professor Johnson noted that the amount of leveling of incomes for seniors had increased greatly since the reforms of the 1960s. Before 1967 the incidence of low incomes for Canadians over 65 was three times the national average; since then this has fallen to 0.5. The supply of publicly-provided services referred to in (2) was not only not price rationed but included items, notably health care, which had been subject to large price increases without being reduced in quantity available. The volunteer services in (3) included as much as 5 hours a week of care-giving for older persons by some seven percent of the working population. While a smaller proportion of those over 65 provided volunteer services themselves, those who did provided more than twice the number of hours of those in younger age groups. Statistics available relating to (4) showed that married men in particular benefited greatly from being married, having a 40 per cent lower death rate than those not married.
While differing in degree from the characteristics of the market model, Professor Johnson concluded that in fact since elements of these four “perversities” were also present to some extent in the rest of the economy, studying the retiree economy might provide some insight into why well-performing capitalist systems worked as well as they do.
Howard Fink, Distinguished Emeritus Professor of English, Concordia University, delivered a paper titled, “The Rising Cost of Prescription Drugs: An Exemplary Lesson” in which he discussed some of the special problems of retirees relating to the escalating costs for the delivery of prescription drugs, going on to generalize some conclusions concerning the delivery of health care generally in the context of proposed new Medicare arrangements. Noting that over the last decade, in its attempt to balance budgets and reduce the national debt, the federal government cut back significantly on its annual grants to provinces for Medicare while costs have held steady. The provinces have consequently seen their share of these costs rising steeply and have sought to restrict the delivery of services and to require individual patients to pay for such things as vaccinations, injections, and various tests, previously provided without cost or with a minimum contribution. Of particular concern to retirees is the rising burden of drug costs. He illustrated this by providing a detailed review of the experience in Quebec where the annual cost of drugs for a couple over the age 65 had risen from a maximum of $200 in 1996 to a potential $2800, a 14 times increase. Ironically, he observed, even the university faculty unions in Canada, reputedly the smartest in the country, seem unaware of how these developments are likely to affect them both while they are active and certainly after they retire. While they fight for better pensions, they neglect to seek guarantees that their incomes will not be eaten up by costs, especially health costs. He concluded by noting that, “There are several general lessons in the above. One, that we must be eternally vigilant concerning the growing number of negative changes to government policies affecting us, particularly after retirement — and most particularly now when the terms of Medicare and health care generally are being studied and transformed Another, that we retirees must be the bell-wethers of problems for active faculty in the universities from which we have retired, and therefore we must keep open the lines of communication, warn them of these problems, and urge them to co-operate to prevent these problems from negatively affecting their post-65 lives. Finally, together we must communicate our concerns to the governments involved — who more than we have the rhetoric to make convincing arguments, and the reputations to ensure a sympathetic hearing.”
The second panel of the afternoon session, “The Aging Society: 2003 and Beyond” was chaired by Dr. John Dirks. Two presentations were made, the first by Dr. William Dando who spoke on “The Senior Scholars Academy Concept”, the second by Dr. Janice Keefe who reported on her research under the title, “Recognizing the Contributions of Retired Persons to Canadian Society”.
Dr. Dando recounted the early history of the program he has developed at Indiana State University. He explained that his own background and experience enabled him, after extensive research led him to reject alternative solutions, to develop a highly innovative, indeed unique, approach designed to better meet the needs of retired faculty while at the same time benefiting the five institutions of post-secondary education in Terre Haute, stimulating economic activity in the larger surrounding region then sinking into economic depression, and enhancing a broad range of social and cultural opportunities in Terra Haute and west-central Indiana.
Concerned by the large number of faculty retiring, their demoralization when stripped of their offices and labs, the tendency for many to leave the community on retirement, the economic and social impact of these losses on the community — he was able to use his influence as a distinguished scholar, renowned “grantsman”, and well-known member of the Indiana State faculty to win the support of the University administration in implementing on a three-year trial basis a multi-disciplinary program to provide funding and other types of assistance to retired faculty and staff, pre-retirement faculty and staff, and non-academic artists and others having talents and skills which they were willing to make available to educational, government, business and non-profit organizations in the region.
A survey of four hundred retirees revealed that while some 50 per cent were mainly interested in enhanced social activities, 41 per cent wanted to continue their professional activities by doing research, consulting, teaching, writing, performance art. The Senior Scholars Academy has prepared a database of the skills and services available. With initial funding from Indiana State University supplemented by a vigorous pursuit of grants it has been possible to provide retirees who can produce a viable proposal supported by an adequate curriculum vitae with seed money, travel grants, office space, secretarial help, assistance in proposal writing and student help. In addition to funding, participants in the program receive recognition. Luncheons, awards and publicity are used to strengthen and promote the work of the senior scholars.
What makes the Senior Scholars Academy unique apart from its multidisciplinary approach is the “seamless” transition it provides for those approaching retirement to move into retirement. While the focus is mainly on making it possible for individual retirees to continue their professional lives after retirement, the importance of social bonds and involvement in the broader life of the community are also recognized and provided for.
In summarizing their accomplishments to date Dr. Dando listed: enhancing the academic environment in Terra Haute, increasing the level of scholarly activity, expanding service to the university and the community, magnifying external funding, enriching social and cultural activities, strengthening the perceived worth of retired faculty, and elevating the self-image of retired faculty. He concluded by suggesting that these achievements during the three year trial period for the program meant it would be possible to move on to expanding it into what would become a College of Senior Scholars.
Janice Keefe, Canada Research Chair of Aging and Care Giving Policies, Mount St. Vincent University spoke on, “Recognizing the Contributions of Retired Persons to Canadian Society”.
Dr. Keefe began by noting that while population aging is typically discussed within the context of concern over the costs an aging population will impose on society, particularly in connection with health care, the research she would be reporting on seeks to develop a framework within which it would be possible to understand the contributions older adults can make. She would also provide some specific evidence with respect to such contributions.
While older adults have specific health issues, there is now available a decade of both theoretical and empirical research which makes it possible to present a better understanding of the role of persons typically characterized as being “dependent”. The thrust of the new research initiatives in the field was in attempting to juxtapose the provision of care to older persons with their contributions to society.
She demonstrated how this approach could be supported by secondary evidence from data sets obtained from the Canadian General Social Survey Cycle 11. These make it possible to examine the characteristics of older adults who provide assistance, such as housekeeping, outside work, shopping, banking to others. As expected, men are shown as being more likely to be involved in reciprocal helping relationships than women and older persons are more likely to be only recipients of assistance.
Several issues of growing importance relating to care-giving which can be foreseen have to do with decreasing family size, increased geographic mobility, and the growing complexity in family relationships.
Dr. Keefe explained how research into these issues would be continued as part of the new international research initiative, “Hidden Costs and Invisible Contributions: The Marginalization of Dependent adults” funded through the Major Collaborative Research Initiative of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council. Four broad themes to be explored in this project are (1) costs, making explicit the hidden costs of care, (2) contributions, analyzing the contributions of “dependent” adults, (3) policy, public policies and the costs and contributions of “dependent” adults, and (4) integration, costs and contributions in social, political, historic and cultural context.
After introducing those members of the new Executive Committee who were present, Peter Russell concluded the conference with a brief, but rousing talk organized around five “M’s”:
(1) Membership: with 22 members already signed up and a 23rd almost certain he urged those present to go home and do a good job communicating the CURAC/ARUCC message to their local associations and to other retiree groups in their regions. He noted that from his own experience local issues always dominated retiree concerns and that it was essential to demonstrate how belonging to a national organization could help local groups deliver value added to their members.
(2) Medical benefits stood out as the key issue for most retirees from what had been heard at the conference and a major initiative of CURAC/ARUCC could be in helping establish national standards for the provision of adequate medical benefits to retirees generally and not just retirees from academic institutions, although this would remain a focus of the new national organization’s efforts.
(3) Movement: with the over 65 age group now comprising the most rapidly growing part of the population there is a movement to rethink how we approach the challenges and opportunities of the last two or three decades of our lives. Moving beyond issues of pensions and benefits, important as they are, to explore possibilities for greater personal fulfillment and service to the community, lifting our sights as it were, will be part of the challenge facing CURAC/ARUCC and similar organizations.
(4) Manitoba: next year’s annual general meeting of CURAC/ARUCC will be held in Winnipeg. John Mundie is already at work planning the 2004 conference and Peter assured him that the executive and others could be expected to pitch in and help him and his local organizers make next year’s meeting another great success like the one just concluding.
(5) Peter concluded with a fifth “M”, “Merci”, thanking all those present for the support they had given the steering committee in its work and for their participation in the day’s activities.
For summaries of subsequent Conferences, please see the “Conferences” section of this Web.