History of CURAC/ARUCC
Background: The CAERA YearsThe feasibility of organizing a national association of academic retirees’ associations in Canada was first explored at a meeting held during what were then called the “Learneds” at the University of Calgary in 1994. A task force was established which contacted the presidents of universities and colleges across Canada, asking them to distribute a questionnaire to any known retirees’ groups. The response was apparently encouraging. Although no formal organization was subsequently established, a small secretariat located at the University of Regina was set up to channel information of interest to Canadian retirees’ associations to the CAUT, which offered to publish such information in its Bulletin and which also established a web site for the new “virtual organization” CAERA (Canadian Association of Emeriti and Retired Academics). The understanding was that retirees’ associations affiliated with CAERA would send material to the secretariat in Regina which would pass it through a small editorial committee to CAUT which would then publish it online.
Although subsequent meetings to discuss CAERA were held in conjunction with the “Learneds” (since 1998 “Congress”) at Université du Québec à Montréal, Brock, Memorial and Ottawa universities, it appears that CAERA remained “virtual”, existing in name only. The CAERA website continued to be maintained by CAUT, but was inactive as no postings were made to it.
The University of Alberta Association of Professors Emeriti sponsored another meeting to discuss CAERA in conjunction with Congress 2000 in Edmonton. Following that meeting the Alberta group established an ad hoc committee to consider, among other things, the possibility of establishing a more substantial national association. The committee contacted some seventy Canadian faculty associations, requesting information about retirees’ organizations. It received, one way or another, information about twenty-four such groups which were then contacted directly early in 2001. About ten responses were obtained and the information was combined with that obtained from an earlier survey carried out by Professor Winter (Acadia). Alison Scott-Prelorentzos distributed a report summarizing the data in August, 2001. One proposal emerging from that report was that CAERA should be “reorganized in some tangible way”. It was also suggested that the name might be changed to make it more inclusive, perhaps something like “Canadian Association of University Retirees’ Associations”. Other proposals were that each local association should name a representative to such a body and that a regularly-updated list of such associations and their representatives be posted on a national website.
The Toronto Conference University of Toronto May 31, 2002Such a reorganization and revitalization of the national body was initiated at a conference held at the University of Toronto on May 31, 2002. Local arrangements for the conference were made by a committee chaired by Germaine Warkentin. Some 85 persons from 20 different university retiree groups registered. Financial support for the conference was provided by the Association of Retired Faculty at York University, Cassels Brock and Blackwell, Eckler Partners, the Office of the Provost University of Toronto, RALUT (Retired Academics and Librarians of the University of Toronto), Ryerson University, Victoria University, the York University Retirees Association, and the University of Toronto Alumni Association. Dr. John Dirks of the University of Toronto chaired the conference. In his opening remarks he emphasized that the key objective of the conference was to determine whether there was indeed a need for a national retirement organization and, if there was, to set in motion a process which would lead to a revitalization, possible renaming, and restructuring of the existing virtual organization, CAERA. He then introduced Professor Peter Russell who proceeded to chair a panel discussion devoted to this key topic, “The Need for a National Retirement Organization”. The members of the panel were Tarun Ghose (Dalhousie University), John Mundie (University of Manitoba), and Don Russell (University of British Columbia).
Professor Russell introduced the members of the panel. He also thanked those who had organized the conference and those who had come to participate in what he predicted would prove to be “a very memorable day”. By way of background, he read from a letter he had just received from one of the founders of CAERA, Professor Bramwell (University of Calgary) who had chaired the initial meeting of CAERA in Calgary in 1994 and who had attended subsequent annual meetings of that organization at the Universities of Quebec, Ottawa, Carleton, Brock, Memorial, and, most recently, at the University of Alberta in 2000. In his letter Professor Bramwell expressed regret that he was unable to attend the present gathering but sent his enthusiastic support for what it was attempting to achieve. The “one thing that is absolutely clear”, he wrote, is that you need , “not just a virtual presence in cyberspace, but a real organization to generate and implement the programs and policies of academic retiree groups nationally.”
At the outset of the panel discussion, Professor Russell acknowledged that the panel was “biased” since all those participating shared his belief that such an organization was needed. However, he assured those present that as in any good academic forum expressions of alternative views, of which he knew there were some, would be welcomed. Academics, he noted, were very good at articulating negative views, at saying what should not be done, not spending a lot of money, not having a lot of meetings, and so on. However, he urged, it was also important to get some positive views as well and he hoped that by the end of the day these would prevail in respect of the matters at hand. He also acknowledged that members of most retirees groups, including the one he headed at the University of Toronto, were and would continue to be primarily concerned with local issues and that some members would question the value of being associated with a national body, and certainly with an international organization such as the Association of Retirement Organizations in Higher Education (AROHE) which will hold its founding convention at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, next October.
Even so, he remained convinced, as a long-time federalist, that broader associations yielded benefits, often of a rather intangible nature and often only over a period of time and he believed that many retirees, especially in leadership positions in local organizations, would recognize the benefits for their own members of reaching out and being in touch with other groups of people who are trying to accomplish similar objectives.
Dr. Tarun Ghose, president of the Dalhousie retirees organization, then outlined briefly the nature of the local association at Dalhousie. Its membership, he emphasized, was broadly inclusive comprising both academic and other retirees. He then set out his views as to why he supported the development of an effective national association of college and university retirees organizations.
- Facilitating communication for keeping in touch with sister organizations, learning from one another’s experience, creating and maintaining a central depository of information;
- Assuming a “watch-dog” role for maintaining “best practices”, informing constituent associations when and where “best practices” are ignored and supporting groups in their efforts institute “best practices”;
- Research and discussion for identifying issues which concern college and university retirees nationally, providing a forum for discussing such issues, and supporting research to study such issues;
- Interaction with other retirees’ or senior citizens’ organizations locally and nationally to identify issues which deserve our support by joint actions such as petitioning, lobbying, etc.;
- Augmentation of fringe benefits by exploring and negotiating advantageous insurance plans for travel health insurance, dental care, extended prescription drug coverage, etc., noting that the size of our membership may facilitate such negotiations, negotiate the availability of reasonable accommodation for our members by accommodation exchange or through colleges or universities, negotiate access to college or university clubs and physical activity facilities at reasonable fees, negotiate the principles and general terms of post-retirement employment of retirees.
Dr. Ghose noted that while the two primary concerns of retirees from academic institutions relate to pensions and benefits and that institutional arrangements affecting such issues vary from province to province, even from institution to institution, there are nevertheless some common themes which appear to recur, such as setting up standards of “best practices” and obtaining extended coverage for prescription drugs, travel insurance and the like. Furthermore, while problems may differ, the best approach to solving them may be the same. He suggested that a national organization could act as a resource of information and could provide other types of help to local groups, for example by drawing the public’s attention to such problems and informing other college or university associations about developing situations.
In the course of his presentation Dr. Ghose emphasized that a national organization had to be an association of associations, that its structure should be “real” rather than “virtual”, and that it should have a small central committee acting for a larger national council of some kind as provided for by a formal constitution.
John Mundie then spoke, explaining that he had come to establish and lead what was still a largely informal retiree organization at the University of Manitoba in the course of raising support from retirees for the United Appeal campaign there. In tracing the subsequent development of the group he emphasized the importance of integrating all members of the university – faculty and staff alike – into the organization in order to get things done. He demonstrated how in their own case it was by drawing upon people, especially those about to retire, from the administration, the library, the athletic, computing, and other divisions of the university that they had been able to acquire access to the facilities and benefits useful to their members. As for a national organization, Professor Mundie said he thought it was critical to have such a body and he used the example of their own efforts to find a carrier for travel (mainly travel health) insurance for their members. He also thought it important to know what is going on in different institutions so that in discussions with the local administration it would be possible to use such information in efforts to improve local arrangements. A national body, he suggested could also be helpful to groups such as his own in developing a formal structure which they at present lacked and possibly in helping build bridges among retirees who had relocated. In this respect he noted that many retirees from the University of Manitoba now lived in places like Victoria and the Okanogan Valley and he suggested that arrangements might be made for them to have contact with local retiree organizations. Another possibility was that reciprocal relationships, such as those enjoyed by members of faculty clubs, might be facilitated through a national organization of retirees.
Don Russell of the University of British Columbia spoke of the growth of their organization and its close ties with the alumni association there. In this and other respects, such as their lack of involvement in local advocacy activities, the UBC group appeared to differ from most others, reinforcing the point made by other speakers about the diversity of retiree groups nationally. Nevertheless, one important role for a national organization, he suggested, would be in establishing a system of communications through which local groups such as his could keep abreast of developments elsewhere.
During the ensuing discussion a variety of issues were raised by speakers, some relating to particular local problems, such as obtaining information from university administrations. Peter Russell pointed out that this showed how a national organization could be useful in helping local groups deal with such problems. There were some expressions of concern about various difficulties a national body would face due to differences in interest, inclusiveness, degree of activism, differing relations with local faculty associations, and so on, among local retiree groups. Plurality and inclusiveness, however, Peter Russell reminded the gathering, would be necessary principles without which it would be impossible to even imagine creating a national association. As for defining terms such as “college” which would be critical in determining eligibility for membership in such a body it was understood that this was beyond what was possible during a one-day conference and would have to be undertaken at a later stage in the organizing process.
Following a busy mid-morning coffee break at which much vigorous discussion among participants continued, John Dirks reconvened the meeting by asking University of Toronto Vice-President (Human Resources) Angela Hildyard to introduce Dr. Paul Davenport, President of the University of Western Ontario, who spoke on “Retiree-University Relationships at Canadian Universities: A President’s Perspective”.
Dr. Davenport focused his presentation on the role retirees could play as a resource upon which universities could draw as they attempted to cope with the growing demands being made on them, particularly in the case of Ontario where such difficulties are particularly severe due to higher than average national rates of under-funding, especially in relation to universities in the US, and the enrolment pressures being generated by the “double cohort”, the simultaneous arrival at university of two graduating classes of high-school students due to the phasing out of Grade 13 in the Ontario secondary school system. However, he also noted that there were trade-offs involved in utilizing retirees, what he referred to as the “balancing act ” needed to both retain the asset of productive faculty while at the same time making room for a new generation and achieving an efficient allocation of scarce space and other resources. He noted a number of ways retired faculty could continue to work on behalf of the university by mentoring new faculty members, counselling students, working with international or exchange students, volunteering as ambassadors to the community and providing fund-raising and financial support.
The formation of retiree groups across the country, often in response to pension and benefit issues, provided opportunities for academic retirees to preserve social and intellectual links which could also serve to support collegiality and continuing intellectual stimulation. They could also help promote the development of innovative programs such as computer education for seniors, the conduct of surveys to collect information on pension plan issues, and the creation of Web and other communications networks involving retiree groups and other organizations. He went on to provide some examples of personal contributions by some outstanding retired academics at Western Ontario to support his view that Canada’s retired academics did constitute a valuable resource for their universities. He concluded by summarizing the ways other retirees could play an important role in the future development of all Canadian universities and could have a significant effect, through the development of national advocacy links on national policy toward higher education in this country.
Following Dr. Davenport’s presentation Professor Michael Creal, a retiree from York University in Toronto, provided a lively and incisive commentary on Paul Davenport’s presidential perspective by way of opening up a general discussion of the state of university-retiree relationships in Canada. Noting that his own post-retirement experience had been a very happy one due to the various benefits and amenities provided retirees at York University and his success in maintaining extensive collegial relationships there, he nevertheless had several points of concern to draw attention to: the many instances which had come to his attention of retirees feeling that once they became retired, they “dropped off the university radar screen,” and were no longer regarded as being real members of the university community; that while the “official rhetoric was filled with warm phrases” the response by university administrations to retiree needs on practical issues was often at best “evasive”. He also instanced some alarming examples of specific proposed changes in benefits and pension arrangements made by administrators at his own university which, if they had not been vigorously opposed, could have been seriously damaging to retiree interests. He concluded his remarks by observing that the relationship between retirees and their university really had to be a two-way street, asserting that, “what retirees can do for the university is evident, what universities are obligated to do for retired members of their own communities is an issue that cannot be avoided”.
Angela Hildyard spoke briefly noting that since taking office last year she had been seeking ways to integrate retirees more fully into the active life of the university, for example by participating in a series of open forums on the pension plan initiated in response to RALUT’s representations to the Business Board concerning the university’s past failure to talk about the pension plan in general terms with the university community. She also noted that while the concerns of many non-faculty groups seemed to focus on fringe benefits and early retirement plans, apparently because they “wanted out of here”, the concerns of faculty members tended to be different, since many wanted to continue their ongoing relationship with the university, as she herself expected to do when she reached retirement age. Recognizing this, she believed that university administrations like hers were getting the message and trying to find new, more effective ways to work with faculty retiree groups, even while acknowledging the existence of great tensions and difficulties involved in meeting sometimes conflicting objectives and the needs of different groups.
In the lively thirty minutes of open discussion following participants provided a number of examples of bad treatment afforded retirees by university administrations, many involving pension and benefit issues, to which Paul Davenport and Angela Hildyard responded collegially and with good humour, maintaining an atmosphere which prevailed throughout the day.
While many of the issues raised related to situations at specific universities, it became clear that there was a general concern with finding ways to clarify and assert retiree rights and thereby effect necessary and desirable changes in those situations. In this connection Peter Russell explained how one of the first actions taken by the newly-formed retiree group at Toronto, RALUT, had been to obtain (at considerable expense) a legal opinion clarifying the rights of pensioners with respect to the resolution of certain pension and pension surplus issues. On the strength of this, he asserted, retirees should not assume that they are “right-less” and that the sharing of such valuable information would be one of the benefits of having a national retirees organization.
During the lunch break participants assembled in the venerable Alumni Hall of Victoria College enjoyed a witty, sensitively-crafted talk by John Fraser, well-known journalist and Master of Massey College at the University of Toronto, who spoke on the topic, “The Value of Older Blood”. In his talk he explained the rationale underlying Massey College’s inclusion of a number of very senior retired academics in the college’s daily life and illustrated their role by referring to a number of outstanding examples of their continuing contribution to its intellectual and social activities.
Following lunch John Dirks reconvened the conference and introduced the first of three panels charged with examining specific retirement issues. Professor Ralph Winter of Acadia University chaired a panel discussion on pensions featuring a presentation by Professor Les Robb who outlined the steps through which, over a period of more than four years, a distribution of the pension surplus at McMaster University had been successfully negotiated. He was followed by Professor W. E. Glassman who commented on the McMaster experience, noting how, while it was in many respects unique, it also reflected more universal issues common to situations in which defined benefit plans and surplus distribution conflicts were involved. He went on to review other experiences including that of his own university, Ryerson, where retirees had been successfully included in a surplus distribution scheme. His recommendation to retirees based on such experience was to become actively involved in advocacy efforts along with other employee groups such as faculty associations which were more likely than retirees themselves to have a place at the bargaining table, rather than pursue the alternative course of legal action to accomplish improvements in their pension arrangements although in certain circumstances the latter, he conceded, while costly might be the preferred alternative.
During the discussion which followed, attention was given to the proposed changes in the pension distribution legislation in Ontario which RALUT and other retiree groups had been forced to respond to hurriedly last summer and which now, perhaps in part because of such responses, were apparently being reconsidered by the provincial government. Again it was suggested that such occurrences demonstrated the need for vigilance on the part of retirees and the benefits from organization and communication among retiree organizations.
One speaker pointed out that while such issues were often if not usually of local interest in substance, the approaches to dealing with them were of more general interest – which again pointed up the beneficial role that could be played by a national retirees organization in disseminating such information.
The second panel discussion of the afternoon, chaired by Alison Scott-Prelorentzos of the University of Alberta, focused on benefits issues, the importance of which she emphasized by referring to the situation at her own university where continuing benefits for retirees were largely non-existent and where provincial government policies were promoting the erosion of general health care and other public benefits.
Professor Howard Fink of Concordia University provided a broad overview of the kind of issues which arise in connection with institutional benefit schemes: major benefits such as pension benefits and health benefits and minor benefits such as access to library, recreational and internet facilities, parking, etc. Professor Fink emphasized the extent to which the former have been strongly affected by recent changes in federal and provincial government policies and he warned of the threat such changes pose for already retired faculty whose ability to protect themselves from their effects is so limited, as he illustrated by referring to recent experience in Quebec. He also noted that the widely-used consultant William Mercer provides universities with much information about benefits which, he pointed out, could usefully be shared among retirees organizations linked by a national organization.
John Hastings, chair of the benefits committee of RALUT, the retirees organization at the University of Toronto and a well-known authority on community health and health administration, then made a presentation in which he explored four areas of particular importance to retired people: money (pension) issues, with respect to which he emphasized the importance of retirees working with other groups to ensure that there is no further erosion of our existing publicly-funded programs upon which many rely for significant income support; medical benefits which as is the case at Toronto, are generally good but primarily designed to meet the needs of active rather than retired employees. He noted, for example, that the U of T plan does not cover chronic care provision in nursing homes nor the supplies associated with such care, hearing aids or eye glasses; preservation of existing statutory social support benefit programs (particularly housing which is a primary source of concern to older people); and voluntary support systems to help especially older retirees to deal with the problems of isolation, loss of opportunities for social interaction, difficulties performing the routine activities of daily life and so on. With respect to all four of these areas Professor Hastings emphasized the need for collective action, the importance of forming coalitions of advocacy groups, and the important role which could be played by a revived national retirees’ organization, especially during a period in which a lot of “restructuring” of social policy is going on. He also proposed that a future project for a national retirees’ association could be the development of a model plan for retiree benefits.
The third panel of the afternoon, chaired by Germaine Warkentin of the University of Toronto, explored the possibilities of defining certain “best practices” through which university-retiree relationships might be structured. In her introduction Professor Warkentin commented on the parallel between being in the first years of retirement and the first years of an academic career, both being periods of often stressful transition. With respect to the transition from active to retired status she read F.R. Scott’s poem, “On Saying Goodbye to My Room in Chancellor Day Hall”, which concludes with the poet accepting the loss of the accumulated reminders of his past academic life, choosing to see it instead as stripping “for more climbing” as he moves on to another stage in his life. For many academic retirees, Professor Warkentin reminded the meeting, their work of producing and transmitting knowledge does not end when they turn sixty-five, which led her to propose the question, “How can an organization like ours develop a policy that assists faculty retirees to remain active intellectual contributors to our universities?” Would it be possible, she asked, to develop a code of best practices with respect to university-retiree relations which our universities would be ashamed not to adopt?
Professor Warkentin then briefly commented on the kind of relationships observed at the University of Toronto, a large, research-oriented institution with a long history, noting how the practices there varied greatly from one department or college to another, having evolved haphazardly over a long period of time. This situation, she suggested, was often less than satisfactory and called for an effort to try to find ways of defining a more uniform set of standards which would apply to the way such institutions provided for the continuing needs of still active retirees.
She then introduced Eileen Goltz, a retired librarian from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, who provided a frank assessment of the kind of university-retiree practices she had experienced at quite a different kind of institution, a relatively new medium-sized university in a smaller urban center. The defining feature of such a situation, she suggested, was intimacy arising from the close personal relationships which evolved naturally in such an environment. Despite some important disadvantages, which she illustrated with colorful anecdotes, overall it appeared that being on a first-name basis with one another had proven to be beneficial for university-retiree relations there.
The final hour of the conference was taken up with the critical task of determining what the future of CAERA would be. Led by Peter Russell, the discussion returned to the key questions of the opening morning session: Do we need a Canada-wide organization of university and college retiree association? What purpose and function could such a national organization serve? The first of these questions was answered strongly in the affirmative following a brief discussion and review of the day’s proceedings. It was agreed that a national organization was needed and that it should have a much more substantial structure than CAERA’s, which had relied upon a virtual structure which had proved ineffective. With respect to defining the purpose and function of such a body, Peter Russell noted that a consensus document posted on the Web had already been extensively discussed and that a good deal of agreement had begun to emerge with respect to the basic structure of a new national organization. Because of this it appeared feasible to try to establish its broad features in the limited time available. The following points were then briefly discussed and agreed:
- Membership: It was agreed that the revived national organization should be an “association of associations”, with membership open to college and university retiree groups whose own membership is limited to retired faculty, as well as those whose membership included retired non-academic staff and to those affiliated with unions or some other associations, such as alumni organizations. Further definition of terms such as “college” which could affect the scope of membership would be a responsibility of the steering committee, although it was agreed that membership would be restricted to groups associated with post-secondary institutions. It was noted that a number of university retiree associations in Quebec were in the process of forming a confederation of their own and that while individual groups in Quebec would be welcome to join the new national body, there was also a strong desire to maintain a cordial relationship with whatever new Quebec organization came into being. It was also suggested that the new national body should attempt to be as bilingual as possible with membership open to retiree associations from French language and bilingual institutions anywhere in Canada.
- Name: It was agreed after some discussion and a straw vote that the name of the revived national organization would be College and University Retiree Associations of Canada, CURAC, so as to reflect the inclusiveness of the new body.
- Purposes: It was agreed that establishing a national communications network would be of primary immediate importance. Advocacy, consensus-building, and research were also discussed as possible purposes to be incorporated into the new organization’s constitution.
- Executive: Rather than attempt to set up a formal executive at this time it was agreed to establish a steering committee made up of volunteers who would undertake such tasks as chairing a planning committee for next year’s meeting, maintaining the membership network and the web-site, designing a constitution, serving as treasurer, building regional networks, conducting a national survey of university retiree associations, liaising with other organizations (such as CAUT, the Quebec retirees association currently being formed, seniors’ organizations), soliciting news or think items for the web-site, developing a policy position on a matter of local or national concern, etc. John Dirks had agreed to be interim chair of the steering committee, with Peter Russell serving in his place during absences if necessary. A preliminary meeting of those willing to serve on the steering committee was scheduled for the following morning at 9am at Massey College.
- Governing Body: It was agreed that the nature of the council or other general body to which the CURAC executive would be responsible was a matter to be determined in the course of designing the constitution.
- Secretariat: It was agreed that some administrative assistance would be required to support the work of the executive and that funds would be required to make this possible. It had been suggested that a membership fee of $50 or $100 per association might provide sufficient funds for these purposes. Margaret Knittl of York offered to draft a suggestion paper on the subject in which she would consider the possibility of a fee arrangement which would take into account the number of members in an organization among other options.
- Annual Meeting: It was agreed that the next annual meeting of CURAC would be held in conjunction with Congress 2003 in Halifax, but that subsequent meetings would not necessarily be associated with the Congress. Dr. Ghose, President of the Dalhousie Pensioners Association and Professor Alisdair Sinclair agreed to head a conference organizing committee for the 2003 meeting and indicated they would work to involve other Atlantic region retiree associations in its planning.
- Communication: It was agreed that in the absence of a central administration the steering committee would send draft material for consideration by local organizations or other information by e-mail to a designated person associated with each organization who would be responsible for distributing it as hard copy or by whatever means were most suitable to the local membership.
- Constitution: It was agreed that drafting a constitution would be function of the steering committee and that it would be presented for ratification at next year’s meeting. It was also agreed that the matter of incorporation should be looked into.
After a brief summary of the day’s accomplishments John Dirks adjourned the meeting and participants proceeded to a lively and well-attended reception at Massey College.
The CURAC Steering Committee (June 1, 2002 to May 25, 2003)John Dirks presided at the initial meeting of the steering committee held June 1, 2002 at Massey College in Toronto. The members of the committee who volunteered their services were:
- Albert Tucker (York)
- Alison Scott-Prelorentzos (Alberta)
- Allan Currie (Ryerson)
- Bob Gwilliam (Ryerson and OCRA)
- Bob Liptrap (Guelph)
- David Nowlan (Toronto)
- Douglas Creelman (Toronto)
- Germaine Warkentin (Toronto)
- Howard Fink (Concordia)
- John Mundie (Manitoba)
- John Walkley (Simon Fraser)
- Kath Beaven (Guelph)
- Ken Rea (Toronto)
- Peter Russell (Toronto)
- Reg Wallace (Ryerson)
It was agreed that the Main tasks of the Committee were to:
- Establish a temporary organizational structure for the committee itself (officers pro-tem, finances ) and make arrangements to establish a regional network of contacts with local post-secondary retiree organizations
- Set up a local organizing committee and assist in planning the program for the Dalhousie founding conference for May 26, 2003
- Draft a constitutional framework for presentation to the founding conference at Dalhousie
- Establish a communications system (website, email list, teleconferencing)
- Explore possible arrangements with CARP, Johnson Inc. for provision of value-added member benefits which might be provided through CURAC
- Explore liaison possibilities with other retiree organizations (AROHE, community colleges, Ontario Retired Teachers, etc.)
- Give preliminary consideration to some policy issues such as health care in which CURAC could become involved
- Conduct a national survey of retiree organizations in Canada
The committee decided to hold the first annual meeting of the new national organization at Dalhousie University in Halifax in conjunction with the Congress 2002 meetings. Tarun Ghose and Alasdair Sinclair of Dalhousie were asked to Co-Chair a local organizing committee. They subsequently maintained regular communications with the Chair and Steering Committee in developing the program over the course of the next several months.
Peter Russell assumed the responsibility for developing a constitution. He was assisted by Marvin Stark of SFU who strongly urged that the new organization become incorporated under federal legislation. After considerable discussion this recommendation was endorsed by the Steering Committee. Once a draft constitution had been developed and approved by the committee for presentation at the first annual conference Francoise Arbuckle of Laurentian University translated the document into French.
A nominating committee was formed with Albert Tucker (York) as Chair and Tarun Ghose (Dalhousie), Howard Fink (Concordia), John Mundie (Manitoba) and William Webber (UBC) as members. This committee was charged with presenting a slate of officers and executive committee members for approval by the membership following adoption of the constitution at the founding conference in Halifax.
Recognizing that some initial funding was necessary to supplement the voluntary support provided by members of the steering committee themselves, an effort was launched to get as many member organizations as possible to enroll as Founding Members. The Steering Committee established a membership fee of $0.50 per retiree association member with a minimum of $50 and a maximum of $300. For those retirees not members of a university/college staff retiree association, an individual membership category was established at $10.00/. By May 21st, 2003, eighteen organizations had enrolled and submitted their initial fee payments.
Ken Rea took on the task of establishing and managing communications for the new organization. He subsequently secured the domain name, contracted with Bell Canada to establish a hosted website, and designed web pages which went online in June, 2002 at. He and Dave Nowlan investigated possible alternative modes of electronic communication for use by the steering committee and subsequent executive committees and determined that conventional telephone-based teleconferencing was the most cost-effective option. Arrangements were subsequently made with Bell Canada to provide reservationless teleconferencing to CURAC at a very favourable rate.
Through the new CURAC website and email contacts the steering committee regularly communicated with a growing network of regional associations. Tarun Ghose and Ralph Winter were active in developing contacts with retiree groups at universities in the Atlantic region; Roch Meynard and Howard Fink were key contacts for the groups in Quebec; Kath Beaven and Germaine Warkentin were responsible for the Ontario groups; in western Canada and British Columbia John Mundie, Alison Scott-Prelorentzos, Bill Webber, and Bill Yule played major roles.
David Nowlan initially chaired the steering committeeâ€™s sub-committee on finance and after his departure for Australia was succeeded by Doug Creelman. Finance Committee members also included Germaine Warkentin, Tarun Ghose and Cathy Ng of York who served as Treasurer.
In all, the steering committee held eight meetings in Toronto (September 26, October 29, December 3, 2002 and January 21, Feb 25, March 25 and April 29. It held its final meeting May 25, 2003 in Halifax).
Special Presentations were made to the Steering Committee by Bob Pando, President of the Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Retirees (OCRA); Terry Lynch, President and CEO of the Retired Teachers of Ontario (RTO), Catherine Jay, Mylene Doma, Bonnie Maxwell and Brent Fraser of Johnson Incorporated; Eric Vengroff , President and CEO of the Canadian Association for the Fifty Plus and Michael Brattman, Vice President of the McLennan Group. Contact was also established with the United States-based, Association of Retirement Organizations in Higher Education (AROHE). Peter Russell attended their October 15-17, 2002 meeting and was appointed a member of their Board of Directors.
The Halifax Conference and AGM Dalhousie University May 26-27, 2003The 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.
Afternoon SessionsThe 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 EducationDr. 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.
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