Welcome to the second "blog" issue of the CURAC/ARUCC Newsletter/Bulletin.
Brief Table of Contents - individual articles, or Sections may be accessed by clicking one of the short titles below.
IN THIS ISSUE: An American in Ottawa reflects on cross-border commonalities at CURAC/ARUCC 2017 * CURAC/ARUCC at 15, Carleton at 75, and Canada at 150: a conference greater than the sum of its anniversaries * La conférence annuelle de CURAC/ARUCC 2017: un événement mémorable * Learning around the tables * Reports of presentations by invited speakers
An American in Ottawa reflects on
cross-border commonalities at CURAC/ARUCC 2017
By Caroline Kane
Spending the first day in a postcard perfect Ottawa with tulips abundant, this American was delighted by the sights and eats and ability to walk everywhere. And she looked forward eagerly to meeting her Canadian counterparts at the opening reception for the 2017 CURAC/ARUCC meeting at Carleton University. At the reception, everyone was so welcoming; no surprise there, and it made discussing commonalities and differences comfortable and enlightening.
The issues highlighted by retirement organizations and retirees themselves (faculty and staff) overlaid those articulated by AROHE members. Health issues during aging (health insurance itself is mentioned below with the differences between Canada and stateside), concerns over financial health of retirement systems when a pension is the promise (and thus a concern for the next generations of employees in higher education), and the changes in higher education itself and how they impact the interests of retirees in continued contributions all resonate across the border. AROHE and CURAC/ARUCC together have much to share with our respective members (some of AROHE’s members are Canadian organizations as well), and we have more strength on a policy forum with our combined voices.
Areas of differences and commonalities from which we can learn and help each other?
It appears that CURAC/ARUCC and its members are very comfortable with advocacy and policy recommendations. Some AROHE members are reluctant advocates, though they will do informal advocacy. Perhaps this reluctance is because many organizations’ financial livelihood, as small in resources as that may be, are dependent upon the institution’s largesse. In some cases, American retirement organizations are “support groups” for their colleges and universities, and this “formal” arrangement may not encourage critiques of policy changes, critiques that would be useful for administrative decision makers as changing policies might impact the ability to hire and retain both faculty and staff. CURAC/ARUCC members, through union activities, provide feedback through the active employees. Clearly, some of the retirement organizations themselves provide such important feedback not only to institutions but also to governmental agencies. There is plenty of feedback in the United States as well, especially from actively employed faculty and staff, unionized or not. However, the historical wisdom of the retirees is something that AROHE might more effectively transmit to inform potential policy changes.
The creativity of encouraging membership in retirement organizations in Canada provides practices that might benefit AROHE members. In particular, when active faculty (or staff) organizations through the unions fund retirement organizations and retiree member benefits, it not only raises visibility of retirees, it also encourages retirees to continue to be active participants during and after the transition to “retirement.” There is a debate among AROHE members about having dues required to join an organization or simply having all retirees become members of an organization, with voluntary contributions. The latter works well for some organizations. Those in AROHE transitioning to “universal membership” are still in the experimental stage as to whether or not this approach provides better access to retirees’ communication avenues or encourages more engagement with other retirees, especially at the leadership level. CURAC/ARUCC members also voiced concerns about membership and engaging leadership. Communications about examples that are successful in both areas (membership and leadership) will strengthen each organization.
Health insurance, health care and health issues during aging are shared concerns. Loud and clear is the encouragement to EXERCISE, whatever that means for any individual in terms of methods and exertion. Keep moving. Motion is lotion. Genetics, lifestyle, life’s circumstances all contribute to our health in aging in BOTH countries. Canada’s single-payer system, even with waits for non-critical procedures, remains a fantasy for many in the United States. Medicare for those aged 65 and older in the United States is indeed single payer; many retirees from higher education also purchase Medicare supplemental plans to cover non-hospital admission visits and procedures. Some institutions assist in paying for the insurance for this supplemental care (that can be $1,000 per month per couple, or more), and some do not. Medicare supplemental insurance is a big business in the United States. Health care costs are big business in the United States, both pre- and post-Medicare. The current upheaval in American politics only leads to more concern among both retirees and active employees about what to budget at home to cover potentially debilitating costs with just one accident or serious illness. Here is an issue for advocacy from which AROHE does not shrink, and “aging friendly” communities are increasingly common in planning for local governments. The CURAC/ARUCC commitment to ensuring engagement with “elders” in the community is a strong model and support south of the border.
Having a meeting venue overlooking the Rideau River was superb, and the 2018 meeting in Halifax at Dalhousie University is sure to be another of Canada’s beautiful venues. The speakers will likely be just as provocative, engendering positive discussion about retirees’ continued involvement in both social and advocacy action. In the meantime, exercise, exercise, exercise as appropriate to your condition so that all of us can chat together in Halifax in May 2018.
Caroline Kane is President, Association of Retirement Organizations in Higher Education, U.S.A.
return to beginning
CURAC/ARUCC at 15, Carleton at 75, and Canada at 150:
a conference greater than the sum of its anniversaries
By Ken Craig
The conference truly was a celebratory occasion: 150 years of Canada in a wonderful land of much more ancient provenance, the 75th anniversary of Carleton, one of the exemplary universities that have contributed so much to the success of Canada, and the 15th year of CURAC/ARUCC conferences, marking the continuing growth and achievements of our national organization. CURAC/ARUCC has evolved in keeping with its founder’s expectations of a cohesive organization that promotes communication among member organizations, shares information about best practices, and assists all of us in speaking publicly about matters of importance to college and university retirees across Canada. This vision was fully evident at the conference.
It all began on a beautiful late Spring afternoon with a succession of festive occasions. The Carleton University Academic Vice-president and Provost, Peter Ricketts, honored members of the Carleton University Retiree Association and CURAC/ARUCC delegates with a reception in the atrium of Richcraft Hall overlooking falls on the historic Rideau River and the evening continued with our opening conference reception. We were welcomed by representatives of the City of Ottawa and Carleton University, enjoyed delicious food and drinks, were splendidly entertained by a harpist, and had a great time greeting old friends and making new ones. There clearly was lots to share.
The following morning built on this networking with round table discussions of best practices at our member associations across Canada. Sharing these ideas has typically been the most rewarding event for me at our annual convention. One gets to talk about the best of one’s home organization while being inspired by the successes colleagues are enjoying. One learns about the advocacy value of data demonstrating continuing scholarship and contributions to colleges and universities, tips for building and maintaining membership, how to recruit executive and board members, the pleasure of developing and supporting student scholarships and the value of promoting additional benefits, for example, addressing hearing and vision issues. For details, please see the following conference report that provides summaries of these discussions. Perhaps others will be encouraged to explore new possibilities. This is a great learning experience for all of us, particularly new board members of our member associations.
This was followed by additional round table discussions on major conference themes “The Economy and You,” “Health” and “Higher Education,” themes to which we can all resonate. The discussions allowed us to personally and jointly reflect upon issues that were the themes of subsequent talks by knowledgeable and interesting speakers. The following summarizes but three of the excellent talks. I heartily recommend consulting the CURAC/ARUCC website for copies of the presentation materials for these and other speakers—they provoke some hard thinking.
The economic analysis by Carleton’s Sprott School of Business professor, Ian Lee, was anything by dry as it reviewed data and addressed implications for Canada of the recent election south of the border and provoked realization that DJT had identified serious economic problems in the U.S., proposed solutions that would be difficult to deliver, and Canada could expect considerable pressure to reform certain practices, for example, in the dairy industry and with softwood lumber. Jeff Turnbull, chief of staff at the Ottawa Hospital and a former Canadian Medical Association president discussed our expensive (“unsustainable”) health care system, providing a particularly hard hitting and compassionate perspective on income inequality and the needs of homeless and impoverished people. The case for the importance of innovation, greater attention to social determinants of health and community engagement couldn’t have been stated better. Bill Dalziel, professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Ottawa, described the health benefits of what you, the professional, and the health care system can do to successful aging. To cut to the chase, of the possibilities under personal control (and you should consult the slides for details), are get moving, or “go play outside!” And here’s a tip: if you keep forgetting your password, try “incorrect”—your computer will provide the reminder. Our colleges and universities are bastions of education and research; no wonder our conferences are so successful in providing such witty, informed and informative speakers.
The conference banquet is always a highlight, this year featuring great food, splendid keyboard and fiddle entertainment, a fascinating talk on how we became a nation of beer drinkers and the pleasure of honouring distinguished members and associations (John Meyer, Francoise Arbuckle, Maurice Gibbons, Ginette Lamontagne, John Mundie and Datta Pillay, and the Carleton University Retiree Association), the details of which are provided elsewhere. A great evening was had by all.
Our annual general meeting went well. Among other business, I was pleased to report that the Association’s finances are good shape, we have revitalized the website, the newsletter is moving to a more timely and informative electronic format and we have done well in extending member benefits to include insurance programs for travel and trip interruption as well as extended health benefits. The meeting ended my two-year term of office as president and I would like to take this opportunity to say what a pleasure and honour it was to serve the membership and to express appreciation to a wonderful group of board members and other volunteers to whom the credit should go for the successes CURAC/ARUCC enjoyed during this two years. I look forward to continuing to serve on the board, with David Swayne as the incoming president.
And I’m sure everybody enjoyed their personal moments. I enjoyed a couple of hours in a Carleton pub with friends, a great walk down Laurier, watching the fans seeing the NHL Senators win a Stanley Cup playoff game, dining in the colourful restaurants along this street, a stroll past the Parliament Buildings, and the late spring pleasures of tulips in our nation’s capital city.
This year whets my appetite for next year’s conference hosted by the Dalhousie University Retirees and Pensioners, May 23-25, 2018. In addition to another impressive conference we will also participate in the celebration of Dalhousie University’s 200th anniversary. See you in Halifax.
Ken Craig OC is Past President of CURAC.
La conférence annuelle de CURAC/ARUCC 2017:
un événement mémorable
Par Michel Tousignant
C’est l’université Carleton qui était l’hôte cette année de la conférence annuelle CURAC/ARUCC du 24 au 26 mai. Le contexte était une double célébration, celui de Carleton qui fêtait son 75ième anniversaire de fondation et celui de la confédération canadienne qui compte 150 ans. Le comité organisateur, sous la direction de David Holmes et de Bob Morrison, a composé un programme très riche qui a vite fait oublier le temps maussade de ce printemps historique de 2017. La qualité des conférenciers et conférencières a également maintenu l’intérêt jusqu’au vendredi après-midi. Les deux jours et demi ont passé très vite et transmettront une réserve d’énergies positives à la conférence de 2018.
Un cocktail dinatoire a donné le coup d’envoi le mercredi soir au Richter Hall qui a abrité nos activités durant toute la semaine. La salle de réception donne directement sur la rivière Rideau qui bouillonne d’eaux blanches au niveau du pavillon, de quoi faire le bonheur des professeurs à qui prendraient l’envie de taquiner le poisson à la mouche entre deux cours. Le menu composé essentiellement de grillades de viandes, de crevettes et d’aliments végétariens a rapidement calé la fatigue du voyage. Le buffet se concluait autour d’une fontaine de chocolat liquéfié et on pouvait tremper dans son bassin morceaux de fruits frais et autres gâteries. Le mot de bienvenue a été prononcé par un représentant de la ville d’Ottawa.
La conférence a été officiellement inaugurée le jeudi matin par Ken Craig, le président sortant, après un petit déjeuner collectif. Il a rappelé que CURAC/ARUCC intègre environ la moitié de la centaine d’universités et de collèges (plusieurs de ces derniers regroupés en réseaux) à travers le pays. Nombre des institutions absentes de notre liste sont encore jeunes et ne possèdent que très peu de retraités.
L’idée de présenter des tables rondes de discussion sur les problèmes rencontrés par les associations locales a bien rempli son objectif de mettre en contact les participants et participantes dès la levée du rideau. Une dizaine de groupes de sept à huit personnes ont discuté de thèmes d’intérêt commun tels la préparation à la retraite, l’administration du patrimoine financier, les questions de santé et les défis d’organisation des associations locales de retraités. Une synthèse sera rédigée à partir des rapports des secrétaires et sera ultérieurement rendue disponible sur le site internet de l’association (www.curac.ca). Les questions soulevées sont partagées par toutes les associations. Ainsi, comment se construire une identité auprès de l’administration ? Comment recruter et conserver les membres ? Quelles sont les activités sociales qui soulèvent l’enthousiasme des membres ? Mon impression est que l’idée de discuter tôt est géniale et que le taux de productivité est plus satisfaisant qu’à l’époque où ces groupes se tenaient en après-midi du vendredi. On a pu intégrer aussi les gens qui en étaient à leur première conférence. Nous avons eu également l’unique opportunité de compter dans l’assemblée, Dr. Caroline Kane, la représentante de notre pendant américain, the Association of Retirement Organisations in Higher Education (AROHE).
Comme le programme de conférences sera traité ailleurs dans la Newsletter, nous noterons au passage que le risque de présenter des conférenciers de marque et de leur donner plus de temps a porté fruit. L’auditoire a eu droit à un traitement en profondeur de chacun des thèmes et la période de questions a permis aux conférencières et conférenciers d’approfondir leurs réflexions.
L’une des raisons d’être de la conférence est de procéder à l’assemblée générale. Celle-ci a donné lieu à l’élection des nouveaux membres du conseil d’administration, de son président, David Swayne, de son vice-président, Michel Tousignant, de son secrétaire qui joue aussi le rôle de mémoire collective et d’épine dorsale, Ed Williams, et de son trésorier. Tim Boyd.
La visite du campus a été restreinte à la bibliothèque universitaire. La pluie incessante a obligé à emprunter le réseau complexe de corridors souterrains, enjolivés en certains endroits de murales commandées et reliant autant les salles de cours que les restos fast-food dont je tairai pudiquement les noms. La vocation fondatrice de l’université a été l’éducation du personnel militaire qui revenait des champs de batailles à partir de 1942. Il faudra attendre à 1976 environ, tels que l’attestent les photos aériennes du campus, avant de voir Carleton prendre sa vitesse de croisière. Aujourd’hui, environ 28,000 étudiants plein temps fréquentent l’université, la plupart habitant la grande région de la capitale nationale. Le système de transports urbain dessert très bien le campus avec plusieurs lignes de bus qui en font leur terminus. Une ligne de train léger nord=sud s’arrête au centre du campus et se connectera à la ligne est-ouest qui reliera Kanata à Orleans.
Comme bien d’autres, je fréquente de moins en moins ma bibliothèque universitaire depuis que j’ai accès depuis ma résidence et partout ailleurs à son contenu numérisé. Cela m’a permis de me rendre compte que ma vision de la bibliothèque universitaire n’était plus du tout à jour. Première révolution à Carleton, on abat les murs obsolètes autrefois munis de petites lucarnes afin de favoriser le regard intérieur et favoriser l’esprit d’ascèse pour les remplacer par d’immenses murs vitrines qui donnent sur la cité et les champs de la ferme expérimentale. Le loft penthouse a remplacé la cellule de moine. Et vous ne le croirez pas sans l’avoir vu, vous pourrez vous délecter de la dernière parution sur une chaise longue de couleur vive tout en admirant la tempête de neige du sixième étage. Deuxième révolution, la bibliothèque se conçoit comme un échange de savoir, et cela veut dire autant l’oral que l’imprimé. On a donc recyclé les grands espaces de plus en plus désertés des grandes salles de lecture par des locaux pour séminaires informels. Troisième révolution, la transformation du livre et des revues. Commençons par les plus vieux manuels, ceux que nous lisions dans les années cinquante ou soixante. À moins d’être devenus des classiques, ces livres seront archivés mais toujours accessibles avec un peu plus de patience. Pour les plus récents, procurez-vous une liseuse. La bibliothèque comprend 800,000 volumes en format numérisé. Plus de 80 % du budget d’achat est actuellement affecté à l’édition électronique, certains achats se faisant collectivement par un consortium d’institutions locales. J’ai appris aussi que les maisons d’édition restreignent l’accès aux revues aux membres du personnel et aux étudiants, et ne se soucient guère des retraités encore actifs.
Le clou de la conférence a toujours été et sera toujours le banquet du jeudi soir. Les conjoints et conjointes se joignent aux membres pour participer aux libations. Un vin ontarien de bonne tenue a arrosé le repas. Le banquet est aussi l’occasion d’attribuer les prix annuels. Pas moins de sept prix ont été distribués cette année pour honorer celles et ceux qui ont marqué la vie de leur association locale.
Rendez-vous à Halifax en 2018 où l’hôte sera l’Université de Dalhousie.
Michel Tousignant est vice-président de CURAC.
Learning around the tables
The first morning of the 2017 CURAC/ARUCC conference opened with two round table sessions. The conference organizers thought that opening the conference with the round table discussions would achieve two things: First, it would “break the ice” among those present and, second, the roundtable would get delegates talking to each other. This was achieved.
The following are summaries of the round table sessions:
Round table: Learning from each other – best practices in retiree associations
All agreed that recruiting members to become active members of a retiree association (RA) is not always easy. Many retired university employees move away from their former employer to seek out a warmer climate, be nearer to grandchildren, or for some other reason (such as opting out of the pension plan). For those who do stay in the area, privacy legislation often prevents the RA from obtaining contact information from the institution. Institutional contact lists also tend to be inaccurate and dispersed between departments. Retirees sometimes lose the right to retain a university email address when they leave. People frequently move, change their email address, or maintain multiple addresses. Staying in touch by traditional mail is prohibitively expensive unless the institution picks up the cost. RAs must also set up a mechanism to keep track of new retirees and to delete from the database those who have passed away.
There was general agreement that associations should try to get retirees to join at the point of retirement. Communication with new retirees would be facilitated if institutions would (1) provide their retiree associations with the names and contact information for retirees and (2) permit retirees to retain their college or university email addresses (or, alternatively, provide university-sponsored email addresses some other way). Recruitment would be facilitated if associations met with privacy officer to see how far the rules can be stretched; or persuade human resource departments to ask new retirees to sign off on transferring their contact information to the RA; attended pre-retirement seminars to promote the RA; including information on the RA in general mailings to all retirees (such as annual pension statements).
As RAs generally need some funds to operate, there is the problem of collecting an annual membership fee from members. Most RAs collect an annual fee in the order of $30/year from active members. Some associations offer an automatic membership so that all retirees become members and the RA is then financially supported by the institution or by dues from active members. It was suggested that RAs seek to persuade bargaining units to deduct a small amount from their pay to guarantee future membership for their members (McMaster) and/or to persuade the employer to deduct RA dues from pension payments – with members’ permission (several universities). Recruitment might also benefit from offering an initial joining incentive, e.g. one-year free and 12 free parking passes (York), a free lunch (Carleton) or an annual party (several).
The bottom line is that the RA has to provide a “value proposition” to prospective members. Different people will be attracted for different reasons, so a variety of activities and benefits should be considered. Unfortunately, the most effective recruitment incentive appears occurs when there is a threat from the employer or government to change pensions and benefits.
Most institutions have a single RA encompassing all categories of retiree, although some larger universities (e.g. Toronto) maintain separate associations for faculty and others. Those RAs with a diverse membership need to work hard at developing programs that are attractive to all.
On membership benefits
It seems important for RAs to offer some benefits to their members that are over and above those offered to all retirees. At the same time, they should strive to act in the interests of all retirees. Some benefits that are offered include reduced rates or free access to recreational facilities (usually on campus); university-sponsored email account; free (e.g. McMaster) or reduced (e.g. Guelph) parking on campus; discounts on travel or car/house insurance (through CURAC); access to supplemental health and travel insurance (e.g. RTO and MEDOC programs); group discounts for local cultural activities, such as theatre and concerts (Carleton); retired faculty access to research funds and travel grants for conferences. Regular social activities are deemed to be particularly important to maintain a sense of community.
An important service offered by many associations is sharing of information on pensions and benefits (sometimes through an annual seminar) as well as through sessions on home care, retirement and care homes, power of attorney, et.
As noted, the social side of RAs is also important. Not surprisingly, the discussions revealed a wide range of RA activities across the country. These included not only social activities, such as lunches, dinners, local outings, longer trips, cultural events, etc., but also on-campus and community lectures, fundraising for undergraduate scholarships/bursaries (e.g. Guelph RA gives $1,500 scholarship to child or grandchild of retiree), tours of new buildings on campus, and on-going educational activities (including seniors’ college organizations and “learning in retirement” opportunities. Some associations have involved members in mentoring students and younger faculty, and other on-campus volunteer work. Other activities that involved members include compiling institutional histories and anniversary publications (SFU, WLU), offering condolences families of deceased (McMaster), and visiting sick and shut-in members or driving older members to RA events. Many associations publish a newsletter (e.g. Dalhousie publishes quarterly of 30 pages) Newsletters can be distributed electronically or in printed form where funds permit and offer up-to-date views on a website. Some have members’ forums for information sharing and discussion.
On support from the institution
Getting and maintaining the support of the university administration is vital to the success of a RA. Some of the “best practices” mentioned included entering into a formal memorandum of understanting with the university codifying the relationship (York, Carleton and others); persuading the university to provide office space and phone line (some universities) and some administrative support (rare), as well as free meeting space for RA activities (some do not). St. Mary’s holds meeting on Sundays to get space. Other ideas involved trying to persuade institutions to support and fund an annual event, such as a Christmas party and provide university resources to host and support a website.
To encourage support for RA activities, it was suggested that associations hold regular (once or twice annually) meetings with senior administration to discuss items of mutual concern and keep new incumbents informed of retiree issues; invite senior administrators to RA events when appropriate; maintain good relations with the institution’s fund-raising department, perhaps by inviting them to talk on estate planning, etc. and by assisting in fund-raising. In general, it is important to ensure that senior administration is aware of the contributions made by retired employees (research, teaching, mentoring, convocation, graduate student support, community involvement, donations/bequests, recruitment, etc.). A regular survey to collect this information is a good idea.
On relations with unions
This is a tricky area, as bargaining might pit the interests of active employees against those of retirees. It is important to remind current employees that they all retire at some point. It was suggested that RAs hold regular meetings with unions to represent retiree perspectives and encourage unions to involve retirees in pension committees
On giving back
Retired and semi-retired faculty and staff can contribute to their institutions in many ways. They can help with staff training, recruitment of students, supervision of graduate students, mentoring faculty and students, community involvement, assisting at convocations, helping with homecoming events, fund-raising (many contribute to scholarship funds), and offering an attentive critical audience for graduate students (e.g. Manitoba and the Three-Minute Thesis presentations at a retiree event). In this respect, building bridges with student organizations at all levels might be mutually beneficial.
A few other topics were raised. There is an opportunity for greater cooperation between retiree organizations in larger centres. For example, in the Ottawa area there are four universities and several colleges. There is also a well-developed federal retirees’ association. There is little contact between these organizations. For smaller institutions, cooperation between retiree associations is essential because of the small numbers of people involved.
Social media offer a new way of communicating with association members. Facebook, Twitter etc. are ubiquitous and easy to use. For those who are not familiar with these tools, there is an obvious opportunity for RAs to educate their members in these new technologies while also using them to connect their members.
Prepared by David Holmes and Fred Fletcher, with the assistance of the round table chairs.
Round table: higher education
One discussion began with the notion that higher education is a creative and intergenerational dynamic that is reflected in the complementarity between what is new (the contemporary sense of the creation of “new knowledge” and “knowledge generation”) and the legacy of what has been passed on from the past and continually renewed through new perspectives. This dynamic is also influenced by the modern, instrumental aspects of the ownership of knowledge through patents, the concept of intellectual property, and the growing role of technology in the evolution of higher learning.
In our local contexts, higher education is more than ever influenced by the role of government and concomitant government research priorities as reflected in directed funding, the growing boundary-blur between the roles of colleges and universities, the expectations of students in terms of career trajectories, the decline of humanities-based enrolments and priorities, and the “client”-oriented attitude toward students. As the employment market become tighter and tighter, there are understandable concerns about the present-day preoccupation on the part of students and post-secondary institutions with the connection linking the “usefulness” of higher education to careers after graduation. The issue of the “relevance” of a post-secondary education is, as a consequence, of great concern to students, their institutions, and the working world.
There is a role within the processes of colleges and universities, and of governments for the longer-view perspective on higher education that is possessed by university retirees. Retirees have the potential to provide an important consultative role in the assessment of the present state of higher education and in policy deliberations about it. Many retirees want to remain engaged in the university. Some continue in their research and scholarship and often they are looking for institutional financial support to do so. As an educational continuum, “life-long learning” has renewed relevance. For those in early or mid-career, the concept is often applied to the changing skills and focus that we are told will be constantly required from the active work force. For retirees, life-long learning keeps the mind young and has positive psychological benefits. It is also important to our lives after the cessation of active paid employment. This is where the notion of higher education as cultural knowledge and of the continuing quest for knowledge and critical understanding finds renewal at the senior level of the life cycle.
In light of ubiquitous social media and the intensified promulgation of “alternative facts,” higher education’s emphasis on critical understanding is perhaps more crucial than ever to the whole notion of “knowledge,” to individual and communal freedom, and, one could argue, to the health of democracy itself.
Prepared by John Lennox
Roundtable: Finance and economy
Two tables addressed this topic, and both the tables decided that the discussion should center around the financial security of the members of CURAC/ARUCC, which is evidently dependent on economy. After this initial agreement on this idea, the two tables diverged entirely on their discussion material.
At one table the members mainly expressed their concern about the viability of the pension funds to continue to meet their obligation of payments. The discussion at that table revolved around this theme. In particular, the concern was whether there are enough governmental controls to make sure of the payments.
At the second table, the discussion centered around the financial security of the individual members. Two distinct cases were discussed. The first one in which the member is given an annuity by the employer. In view of the fact that often the annuity is not indexed to cost of living (or the index is capped), there is a continuous erosion of the value of the pension received. In the long run it could be substantial, even if inflation is less than 2%,. On the other hand, for employees who take their accumulated pension to establish a LIF (or RRIF), unless the person has substantial sum, the economy (as reflect in return on investment) is of great concern. Also of considerable importance is the issue of proper financial manager so that the value of the account is at least maintained after regular (mandated) withdrawals.
Prepared by Kohur (Gowri) Gowrisankaran
Tables rondes sur la santé
Les quatre tables rondes sur la santé ont abordé plusieurs questions se rapportant aux besoins des retraités, entre autres:
- La nécessité d'une stratégie nationale de soins pharmaceutiques
- Le besoin d'aide pour se reconnaître dans les multiples plans de soins de santé
- L'aide médicale à mourir ou les soins prolongés: quelle est la meilleure option?
- L'utilité des CLSC (Québec) et des CCAC (Ontario) pour les retraités
- L'utilité des ateliers de pré-retraite et la participation des retraités à ces rencontres
- L'accent trop souvent négligé des aspects sociologiques et psychologiques de la retraite dans les ateliers de préparation à la retraite
- La nécessité de se prendre en main: exercices, nutrition, vie sociale etc.
Il a aussi été question du travail accompli par l'ARUCC au cours de la dernière année en vue d'obtenir une gamme d'assurances médicales et de voyage collectives. Les membres sont invités à prendre connaissance de ces plans en consultant le site de l'ARUCC à www.curac.ca. Parmi les plans offerts, on a souligné les mérites du plan RTO/ERO dont les frais annuels d'adhésion sont fixes et ne varient pas avec l'âge de la personne assurée. On recommande aussi de contacter un courtier désigné qui a un bureau à Montréal et à Toronto, SECURIGLOBE à 1-888-211-4444. Celui-ci s'efforcera de trouver des régimes qui correspondent aux besoins particuliers des clients.
On a plusieurs fois mentionné que l'ARUCC pourrait servir d'intermédiaire entre les associations de retraités et les ministères de la santé pour faire valoir leurs besoins. La présidente du comité des politiques en matière de santé, Linda Kealy, a fait remarquer que l'ARUCC joue déjà ce rôle et a soumis par le passé des interventions ciblées sous forme d'énoncés de politique, notamment sur les soins palliatifs et de fin de vie, la nécessité d'un plan national de soins pharmaceutiques et la réforme des transferts de santé aux provinces. Elle encourage les membres de se servir de ces documents pour appuyer leurs revendications auprès des instances gouvernementales.
Ces tables rondes sur la santé ont permis des échanges avantageux et informatifs aux membres tout en démontant l'utilité de la formule des tables rondes pour l'ARUCC.
Préparé par André Lapierre
Roundtable: Health care
Overall the roundtable focused on the “crisis of care” in Canada, including costs and limited coverage, problems with access to the system and the need for new ways of doing things. In general, it is important to have community support for healthy living.
The table discussed some examples of problems with costs and coverage: the lack of financial support in an Ontario case for a retired person under 60 with no benefits facing the loss of their house to pay for care givers. Uncertainties with placements of caregivers raise issues of safety which need to be addressed more effectively. Would co-payments help to reduce costs? Can we find better means of delivery? We need to be our own advocates.
Dementia care and palliative care also a concern with aging populations such as in Atlantic Canada. Social isolation and loss of autonomy are also concerns. This is where we need to look at community supports that will address loss of autonomy and social isolation. Intergenerational supports and programs could help here.
How to navigate the health care system and find out what is covered and what is not? As people age, vision and hearing problems occur and there is not enough coverage. Too many people lack the information they need and are “outside of care.”
The primary take away from this session: those now working in colleges and universities need to be made aware of the limits of post-retirement benefit plans and make sure they negotiate adequate and sustainable provisions for future retirements.
Prepared by Linda Kealey
return to beginning
Reports on presentations by invited speakers
Brief speaker notes and links to the slides of their talks are available by clicking here. As an option for the reader, this page can be opened in a separate browser window which allows the bios and links to be retained while reading the reports. We recommend the first option when browsing from a smart phone.
List of Speaker Reports: What is the cost to Canada for access to the U.S. marketplace - Dr. Ian Lee * Iconic Canadian beers a product of the temperance movement - Dr. Matthew J. Bellamy * Collective responsibility to provide health care for all, especially those who need it most - Dr. Jeff Turnbull * If we are all living longer, let’s make it a healthy experience - Drs. William Dalziel and Yoni Freedhoff * Two campuses collaborate to create a uniquely relevant high-tech degree - Dr Rebecca Trueman * Baristas can do better with a baccalaureate: longitudinal study shows how a degree pays off - Dr. Ross Finnie * An active mind is as important as an active body - Dr. Tim Pychyl
What is the cost to Canada
for access to the U.S. marketplace?
The surprising election of Donald Trump could have a considerable impact on the Canadian economy. Threats have been made and we await Trump’s moves with trepidation. Ian Lee, an associate professor in Carleton’s Sprott School of Business, teaching strategic management and international business strategy after a career in banking, brought well-documented insights on how our economy could be affected. Besides extensive data on the U.S. and Canadian economies Dr. Lee’s insights came from his travels to 43 states during over 400 visits to the U.S.
Much of what Trump may propose arises from the economic conditions facing those who supported him. Trump blamed the “unfair” actions of foreign countries, including Canada, and the “bad deals” made by the U.S. government for his supporters’ woes: American incomes stagnated and jobs were lost. Dr. Lee presented data showing the real median income for the U.S. to be no higher in 2015 than it was 1997, the rate of wage growth per person dropping, a falling labour participation rate, manufacturing employment shrinking, and the share of wealth held by the middle class falling.
Trump’s victory was narrow. Thin majorities in the rust belt states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin carried him to the presidency. Compared to Clinton’s supporters Trump voters were older, poorer, less well educated, male, blue collar, and from rust belt states. Trump promised to act on their behalf.
Trade and America’s “bad deals” were the centre pieces of Trump’s campaign. He promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, (now started), withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (now announced), end trade abuses, lift restriction on the use of energy reserves (including “clean coal”), allow energy infrastructure projects such as the Keystone Pipeline to proceed, cancel payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America's water and environmental infrastructure. Taxes on the middle class and business will be reduced. Ian sees Trump’s promises focusing on trade, taxation and deregulation with no mention of social issues. Trump frequently mentioned Mexico and China as the target, not Canada. But Canada will be affected due to the tight integration of the two economies and certainly with a renegotiation of NAFTA.
A U.S. trade representative has identified several Canadian barriers to trade, all likely to end up on the negotiating table. Our agricultural supply management system, restrictions on importing U.S. grain, high taxes on alcoholic beverages, government support for our aerospace industry, government procurement, protection of intellectual property rights, telecommunication restrictions, Canadian content in broadcasting, and barriers to foreign investment are all issues for American negotiators. Our supply management system, particularly in dairy products, could be a major issue. Most states have dairy industries; access to the Canadian market is a goal. We now have only 12,000 dairy farms; how far should we go in protecting them?
There are other threats as Trump advances his domestic agenda, providing advantages to American firms competing with Canadian firms: Lower U.S. corporate taxes, favourable tax treatment of profits earned abroad, and massive deregulation. At the same time, the cost of doing business in Canada is rising, with increases in the minimum wage, the imposition of carbon taxes, CPP premium increases, and electricity cost increases. The net impact may be firms, capital, and talent moving to the U.S.
Canada will have to make choices in the months ahead. Trump’s core narrative is unfair trade. Negotiations will occur: how much protectionism are we willing to give up for access to the U.S. market?
by Frank Millerd (Wilfrid Laurier University)
Iconic Canadian beers a product of the temperance movement
Those who attended the CURAC/ARUCC conference annual banquet on May 25 learned not only about the many benefits of the association and the marvelous contributions of the annual award winners (who are profiled on our website) but also how Labatt and its allies brewed up a nation of beer drinkers. This analysis was presented by Prof. Matthew Bellamy in a talk entitled “Under the Influence.”
While the group sipped wine (mostly) or indeed beer, Prof. Bellamy traced the transition of Canada from a nation of (mostly male) imbibers of spirits to a country of beer drinkers (male and female), many of whom identify with Molson Canadian or Labatts 50. (More effete libations, such as wine and cocktails, came later and have not attained the iconic status of the major beer brands.)
Prohibition and the temperance movement undermined the appeal of spirits while enhancing the income of drug store sales of medicinal spirits and as well as the incomes of other illicit suppliers of spirits. In the post-prohibition era, brewers marketed their product as “a moderate drink for a moderate people,” an early example of marketing based on an important element of Canadian identity. Spirits returned but beer became part of Canada’s self-image. Canadians came to compare American beers unfavourably to Canadian brands.
Although those in attendance remained quite sober, the music, the grace of the award recipients, and Prof. Bellamy’s talk left us all in a mood of warmth and good cheer.
-- by Fred Fletcher (York University)
Collective responsibility to provide
health care for all, especially those who need it most
The main point of Dr. Jeff Turnbull’s address is that we must pay attention to our most vulnerable populations in terms of providing health care equity. It is our collective responsibility to make sure there is quality of care for all. Because the current system is not sustainable partly because of costs, we cannot afford not to reform how health care is delivered. In addition, this is a matter of human rights. (Dr. Turnbull is a former president of the Canadian Medical Association and is currently chief of staff, Ottawa Hospital.)
First, Dr. Turnbull provided the numbers on health care expenditures and made the point that financially health care is expensive: 43 per cent of net public expenditures go to health care. Among OECD countries we are sixth highest in expenditures for health care. Our system is 70 per cent publicly funded with the remaining 30 per cent coming from insurance or directly from the user. Our system does not pay for dental, vision and most drugs, which distinguishes Canada from many others around the world. The health care system faces pressures from an aging population, more chronic disease, higher utilization of the system, classic federalism, rising costs and increasing inequality. The educated white population gets good health care, but other population groups are not served well or at all. The number of medications prescribed for seniors has increased and it is common for some older adults to have up to 20 medications. Turnbull said too many drugs are prescribed raising issues of possible drug interactions and the prospect of prescriptions continued unnecessarily. Some chronic diseases occur because of lifestyle issues yet the usual response is to prescribe drugs.
Second, Dr. Turnbull outlined how income inequity leads to social inequity. While the wealthy saw their income rise by 40 per cent, the poorest experienced losses of 150 per cent. As we balance budgets and yet try to maintain health care, cuts are made to social services, housing, education, etc. People in the lower 20 per cent of the population suffer most because these disadvantaged individuals are exposed to risk factors such as poverty, isolation, lower levels of education and lack of access to services that result in lower life expectancy, addictions, disability, etc. Homeless people, indigenous people, and the frail elderly have more severe health care needs with higher costs. For example, health care costs for the average homeless person amount to between $170,000 – 225,000 per year. It is necessary that we see health care from the perspective of these groups. We need to have a long-term perspective that engages communities in solutions that deal with social factors, assessing barriers to better health care and that measure success from the community’s vantage point.
-- by Linda Kealey (University of New Brunswick)
If we are all living longer,
let’s make it a healthy experience
Friday morning, May 26, concluded with two presentations on healthy aging that were as informative as they were entertaining. The first speaker was Dr. William Dalziel: Successful aging: a shared responsibility. Dr Dalziel is a specialist in dementia and frailty who is with the Regional Geriatric Program of Eastern Ontario and associate professor at the University of Ottawa. The second presentation was by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff: How to stop worrying and love healthy living. Dr. Freedhof is medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa.
Dr. Dalziel described healthy aging as a “shared responsibility” of individuals, medical personnel and institutions, and governments. He asserted there had been government dereliction in elder care. Healthy aging, he pointed out, is normally defined in terms of freedom from chronic disease, disability or dependency; good cognition; and abundant quantity and quality of life. However, recognizing some variance in exposure to disease and disability, he offered a broader definition: dealing optimally with the hand you are dealt.
Increasing life expectancy and increasing numbers of centenarians makes it necessary for us to re-think health care for seniors. If people are living longer, he said, let’s make it healthier. Some 70 per cent of 80 year-olds are functionally independent, so we know healthy aging is possible. Seniors who visited hospital last year had one or fewer previous visits in the past 10 years. On the other hand, we know there are some with serious problems: 10 per cent of the most complex needs patients use 60 per cent of total health care costs. Health care providers must therefore recognize the heterogeneity of the senior population they serve.
About a third of the symptoms presented by aging patients, Dr. Dalziel suggested, could be attributed to deconditioning. Health promotion to maintain good condition should therefore be a priority. He pointed to tobacco cessation, good nutrition, proper levels of calcium for bone health, sun exposure (or supplements of 1,000-2,000 IU) for vitamin D, exercise, and vaccinations for herpes, pneumonia, and tetanus as elements of attention to staying in good condition. With regard to exercise, he pointed out that one hour of walking per week had been found to reduce dementia risk by 30 per cent.
With some 15 per cent of seniors deemed “frail” using 30 per cent of health care dollars, he argued for opportunities to “unfrail” by better primary care, primary prevention of illness and better attention to geriatric complaints. He urged people to expect their primary care physicians, in conducting an examination, to listen to the patient’s presentation of their chief complaint, to take a comprehensive medical history that includes an inventory of all medications the patient is taking. Thus could begin a focus on preventive care and maintaining conditions for healthy aging.
Dr. Freedhoff continued the focus on means to preserve health and good physical condition in aging with particular attention to nutrition, good quality sleep, exercise and social connections. In regard to nutrition, he observed that good information was hard to come by. Headlines tend to focus on single foods, rather than a full diet, and actual outcomes are not well reported. In particular, dietary supplements are not well regulated, and assertions of their efficacy are not always supported by evidence. Chronic non-communicable disease and obesity are on the rise, and excessive weight is not primarily a matter of will power, he suggested, but largely a result of poor information and changing ideas of what constitutes “normal” food.
What can be done to address these impediments to healthy aging? Like Dr. Dalziel, Dr. Freedhoff began with tobacco cessation and exercise, but he added moderation in alcohol intake to the list: “indulge only enough to make you happy.” He also cited the benefits of regular sleep – facilitated by a cool, dark room, avoidance of electronic devices that emit blue light before sleeping, and no noise (except perhaps “white” non-distracting noise). He pointed to the warning symptoms of sleep apnea – Snoring, tiredness, partner-observed interruptions of breathing and high blood pressure. He suggested that anyone with more than three of the following risk factors for sleep apnea should seek sleep testing: body mass index greater than 35, age greater than 50, neck circumference over 40 cm., and being male. With regard to nutrition, he urged people to learn to cook, lessening their dependence on prepared foods. He also cited friendship and regular socializing as important to maintain a healthy disposition.
Dr. Freedhoff then turned to the responsibility of health care providers to attend more effectively to the needs of an aging population. The first step, he suggested, is to identify problems – such as, dementia, depression, chronic pain, falls, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and incontinence – and to provide an effective response. Such a response means mobilizing resources in hospitals, identifying the potential for rehabilitation, optimizing the patient’s environment and providing support for caregivers.
Dementia, he observed, is becoming the disease of the 21st Century. The risk of dementia before age 65 is roughly two per cent of the population, but the risk doubles every five years thereafter, so that at age 85, the risk is nearly one third and by age 90 is over 60 per cent. What should we do to avoid dementia? He urged treatment of vascular issues, exercise, continued learning and social activity. He warned against head injury (“wear a helmet”) and tobacco use, and he asserted the value of a successful marriage, a Mediterranean diet, and a positive attitude.
As far as the medical system is concerned, he argued the need for a focus on the aged as major clients, better community services, better coordination of treatment and better integration of patient information. Finally, he recommended training for health care providers to have everyone make geriatrics their business.
-- by Robert Drummond (York University)
Two campuses collaborate to create
a uniquely relevant high-tech degree
For those interested in the future of post-secondary education, the most important themes from the presentation by Dr. Rebecca Trueman were the importance of adapting academic programs to rapid changes in society and the potential of effective collaboration between universities and colleges. (Dr. Trueman is chair of applied science and environmental technology at Algonquin College, Ottawa.
The talk began with a powerful outline of the seismic nature of the global information and communication explosion and the rapid expansion of global connectivity. These developments form the context in which the joint Algonquin College-Carleton University Bachelor of Information Technology (BIT) Program was developed. The contours of this global environment are clearly set in the slide presentation, which is posted on the CURAC/ARUCC website. The Canadian environment and the Ottawa location also influenced the development of the program. The growing use of devices and the importance of interconnectivity and the infrastructure to support it are a vital concern for Canada.
The BIT program is intended to respond to this need and to changing student interests. Graduates who understand this new environment and can work within it are in demand. The goal of the program is to graduate students who are ready for the work force and to date the employment rate for graduates is 100 per cent. However, despite the increased number of secondary school graduates who have grown up with electronic gaming and are comfortable with coding, the program could admit more students.
As shown in the slides, the BIT program is fluid, student backgrounds are diverse, study is demanding. The program has formed strong ties with relevant employers – in a wide range of industries – and aims to meet the needs of employers who will not have to provide full in-house training. On the other hand, the program reflects an understanding that the pace of technological change increases everywhere and that graduates who have a deep awareness of the underlying forces will be best suited to adapt to these changes.
Of course, as those of us who have worked in joint programs are well aware, collaboration means challenges as well as potential gains. Dr. Trueman noted that the benefits of sharing responsibility for educational quality also means working to meet the learning objectives and academic standards of both institutions. Course scheduling can also be a practical problem but this is handled by having students spend three days a week at Carleton and two days each week at Algonquin. The outcome is a robust program, offering both a diploma and a degree, with strong industry ties and productive collaboration.
-- by David Swayne (University of Guelph) and Fred Fletcher (York University)
Baristas can do better with a baccalaureate:
longitudinal study shows how a degree pays off
The presentation by Dr. Ross Finnie, University of Ottawa, was a myth-busting exercise which concluded that, in fact, graduates in all disciplines have over the past two decades earned more than baristas. Latte-swillers can rest easy.
Dr. Finnie is a long-time researcher on postsecondary issues. He and his colleagues completed a study (details at http://www.epri.ca/uottawa-tax-linkage-project) that used income tax records to track the before-tax earnings of graduates from the University of Ottawa from 1999 to 2011, the last year for which tax data were available, and how has a dataset of 82,000 students.
Comparisons were done on the salary progression of graduates in the following five degree fields: business, engineering, health, mathematics/science, social science, and humanities.
Obtaining the necessary data on the students, and having it matched with Canada Revenue Agency earnings data, while maintaining confidentiality, was itself a daunting task, apart from analysis to reach any conclusions.
Dr. Finnie then displayed and reviewed several graphs which illustrated the findings. These graphs are displayed in the slide presentation, which are posted on the CURAC/ARUCC website.
There were some interesting and perhaps unexpected trends in the data. Salary increases for the 1998 cohort revealed that while those in health-related programs had beginning salaries comparable with other disciplines, their progression was much less. Engineering, business, mathematics/science, and even humanities showed an upward trend for the most part.
The effect of the 2001 tech bubble, and of the 2008/2009 Great Recession were also evident. The comforting conclusion was that all disciplines showed earnings above those of a barista.
-- by Randy Barkhouse (Dalhousie University)
An active mind is as important
as an active body
Education is as important for maintaining healthy minds as exercise is for maintaining healthy bodies of adults over age 55 (“older adults”) and universities should be supporting it, said Dr. Tim Pychyl in the final presentation at the 2017 CURAC/ARUCC annual conference. Research studies have shown that education programs for older adults benefit them as individuals by keeping them more active and engaged. Having healthier, engaged older adults also benefits the communities in which they live. (Dr. Pychyl is director of the Centre for Initiatives in Education, Carleton University.)
By 2036 older adults are projected to comprise almost 25 per cent of the Canadian population, almost double the percentage in 2005. Many of these older adults look for educational opportunities to support their transition from work to retirement or to new careers. These adults want to develop new skills or to learn about subjects not covered in their earlier education.
What are Canadian universities doing to meet this new demand? Dr. Pychyl reported on a survey of older adult education at Canadian universities by Prof. Bill Kops of the University of Manitoba. The survey found that 93 per cent of surveyed universities supported older adult education (OAE) to some degree, providing classroom space, technical support, marketing support, registration services and office space, often through existing “continuing education” programs. The survey also showed that being able to use the university’s name was important to the success of these programs. However, many programs face challenges in raising the money necessary to support and expand their offerings.
Dr Pychyl concluded by describing the “learning in retirement” program at Carleton, administered since 2003 by its Centre for Initiatives in Education. It offers six-week lecture series and “one-off” lectures, with no prerequisites, no exams, and no grades. From three offerings with 63 participants in 2000, their program has grown to 73 programs with 2,882 participants (with an average age of 69) in 2016. Participants attend for personal satisfaction and to join a community of life-long learners with similar interests. Many of the offerings are led by older adults with expertise in the subject.
OAE faces significant challenges. Many Continuing Education programs were not designed for the needs of today’s seniors. Designing new offerings to take advantage of the internet and social media requires new resources. Running OAE programs as “full cost recovery” operations is always challenging. Dr Pychyl would like to see universities fully support OAE as part of their essential mandate, providing “clear benefits for all.”
-- by George Brandie (Queen’s University)