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Canadians live in the midst of a first-time-in-history demographic revolution that's redefining many things they've come to take for granted: home, work, family, old age, retirement, seniors housing ... and the list goes on. Ingrained stereotypes, misconceptions, values and beliefs -- carry-overs from the last two centuries -- may lessen awareness of individual opportunities triggered by this unique time. As we move into the twenty-first century, too many may be unconsciously restricting their choices and limiting future success because their thinking and decision making is stuck in the past.

Canada's Age Wave -- a collective term for the population bulge of almost 10 million Canadian Baby Boomers -- continues to wash over society's norms and traditions, transforming or obliterating them as it passes and leaving something new in place. Significant changes to many aspects of life have been driven by a combination of the sheer numbers of Boomers and by their learned determination to have life their way. This has happened for everything from education to the stock market and now retirement is under revision.

The first waves of Boomers (Canadians born between 1947 and 1966) stand on the edge of what retirement was and they now want to redefine retirement on their terms. Their preview of the future involves helping parents and grandparents achieve more and stoping them settle for less, especially when it comes to housing. They're learning from their parents' successes and mistakes that's there's more to life after 65 than there has ever been before.

Boomers can't take all the credit for retirement's transformation. Their parents and grandparents have stubbornly made inroads in health, finance and industries that define our lives. The pioneers of this new retirement are raising the bar for their children and grandchildren. This process will accelerate as more and more of the Boomer Wave hits retirement. Among the most significant changes and improvements will concern where we live as we age and the role real estate plays in our lives.

Retirement was never considered fun, in fact it has been the hated and feared end to productive adult life. Typically, no one wanted to think about retirement, never mind plan for it. In fact, after retirement, people averaged a quiet handful of years on the edge of society. Although we have moved into the twenty-first century, that antiquated view of the future persists. Ask people who live with that definition, if they want to retire and they'll probably say, as one successful 65+ businessman did: “I'm afraid of doing nothing, so I don't want to retire, I'd like to just keep doing what I enjoy.”

What he and others don't realize is that this is how the new retirement is different. Instead of getting out of the way and fading into the background, for the first time people now demand and expect to enjoy living the second half of life, perhaps more than the first half.

But this new extension of life is something that some don't know what to do with. Others are unsure if they are following the rules or achieving what's expected of them. Since this is history's first time through with so many relatively healthy, well-educated, financially-settled Canadians, there are no rules or traditions to follow. Each of us is now rule-maker for our own life.

With 25, 30 or more active, involved years ahead of us at 65, there's time to accomplish almost anything. In this column, we've shared legislation changes, technological trends, emerging social patterns and community evolutions to help you decide where you'll live and what role real estate will play in your life, today and into the future. We'll continue to do so, with your feedback, so we can all—together and individually—succeeded in shedding stereotypes and misconceptions and move forward in this century.

One resource for those interested in accelerating their mental transition is the October 22 Toronto consumer event, “Retirement 101," produced as a joint venture between Premier Consumer Shows and Forever Young Newsmagazine, respectively, a division and a property of Metroland Printing, Publishing and Distributing Ltd. For C$15, participants will join a day-long celebration of the new retirement that breaks through stereotypes and offers inspiration on many levels -- health, housing, finance and travel.

“The "mature" attendee has been demanding so much more than what we could deliver at a typical consumer show,” said Cathryn Oliver, Premier's General Manager. “Today's older consumer is an active, savvy consumer and they want information on every aspect of their retirement life. The concept of an educational symposium which provides valuable information is much more in line with what they are interested in.”

( Full Disclosure: The “Retirement 101" program was designed by PJ Wade, who will also deliver the Keynote, present on housing and MC the day-long event. Since 1989, PJ has written a monthly column for “Forever Young” called “The Housing Hotline.” )

If no one's ever done it before, there are no rules. If no one's ever experienced it before, there's no one to follow. Keep these truths in mind when you hear the word “retirement” and you'll find the freedom and resourcefulness to create your own uniquely satisfying future.

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