General

Pandemic created a wave of migration to smaller towns and other provinces – will it continue?

November 4, 2021

Many people young and old made a big change in their living arrangements during the pandemic.

Younger people – liberated from having to go to the office each day – sought more affordable housing in other cities or provinces. City dwellers generally, including retirees, wondered if it would be safer during times of COVID to move to places with lower infection rates.

Save with SPP took a look around the Interweb to see how this is playing out now that the pandemic is (hopefully) starting to turn the final corner towards “over.”

Better Dwelling magazine reports on how people have left Ontario to live in Atlantic Canada. In the second quarter of 2021, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick attracted 4,678 and 2,145 interprovincial newcomers. Ontario saw an outflow of 11,857 people in the same quarter, the magazine reports.

What’s the attraction?

“Lower COVID spread in the Maritimes probably amplified the region’s appeal. But relatively affordable housing was likely an even bigger draw, especially as home prices skyrocketed in already-expensive parts of the country and more Canadians were able to work remotely,” states RBC economist Carrie Freestone in the article. 

“With housing affordability worsening in major urban markets in Central Canada, this may mark the beginning of a trend: young talent moving east for an improved quality of life,” she tells Better Dwelling.

But it’s not just Ontario that is seeing people move. Closer to home, Alberta is also seeing people pack up to start over elsewhere, reports the CBC via Yahoo! News.

Why are they leaving?

The article says high COVID case counts may be one reason, but quotes Mount Royal Professor David Finch as saying “”Young people are leaving the province for a variety of reasons — some tied to employment, some tied to economics or education.”

A recent study, the 2020 Calgary Attitudes and Outlook Survey, found that a startling 27 per cent of Calgarians aged 18 to 24 planned to leave the city in the next five years, the CBC reports.

“In Alberta, there is a perception that there is a lack of diverse career pathways, leading people to look at other parts of Canada or beyond for opportunities in education or employment that may be closer aligned to their career objectives and social values,” Finch states in the article.

Retirees thinking of relocating to cheaper places need to think the idea through carefully, suggests the Boomer & Echo blog.

Most seniors making such moves do so for better weather, as well as “proximity to family, affordable housing costs, the availability of healthcare facilities, and things to do,” the blog notes.

A lower housing budget will give you more money for travel (when travelling is more common), the blog adds. The blog advises that you try visiting your intended destination for a long stay before committing to the move, and go in both summer and winter. Check differences in provincial tax rates, and find out about transferring your provincial healthcare.

The grass may appear greener down the highway, but you may expect some higher costs and fewer services if you move from a city to a smaller centre, warns the Globe and Mail.

The article cites the example of Ian Cable and Amy Stewart, who decided to move from Toronto to Owen Sound, a small city on the shores of Lake Huron. They found that the cost of a house in Owen Sound “was a fraction (of the cost) of a similar property in Toronto.”

But in Toronto, with a vast public transit system, they only needed one vehicle; in Owen Sound they have two. Isaiah Chan of the Credit Counselling Society tells the Globe that smaller town residents usually have to drive more often, and farther – instead of a half hour drive for your kids’ hockey you might now be looking at two to three hours, Chan says.

The article flags other possible problems – are you on a water and sewer system, or septic tanks and wells? If you need to return to the office from the country, can you afford the commute, the article asks.

The article concludes by suggesting anyone moving to a smaller place to save money must do thorough research on what the full costs of living there will be.

The key takeaways here seem to be that you need to get as much intel as possible about the place you are thinking of moving to before you make the jump. Save with SPP once travelled two hours by car – each way – to work from about 10 years. The cost of keeping the car going tended to wipe out any advantage from the lower cost of living.

In a way, retirement is like a destination – a place where you are going to go one day. The intel you need to know now is whether or not you have sufficient retirement income. If you are in a retirement plan at work, great; if not, consider joining it. If there isn’t a plan, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has everything you need to set up your own individual or employer-based one. Wherever you end up in retirement, things will go more smoothly if you can unpack some retirement income when you get there, so check out SPP – celebrating 35 years of building retirement futures – today.

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Introducing SPP’s new Executive Director, Shannan Corey

July 8, 2021

To say that the Saskatchewan Pension Plan’s new Executive Director has deep roots in pensions is certainly no understatement.

Shannan Corey, who grew up in rural Saskatchewan, is the daughter of an actuary, one whose clients included not only pension plans, but chicken farmers. “They used to call my dad the chicken actuary,” she says with a smile.

That prairie upbringing is reflected in her values today. “My parents instilled the importance of community, and establishing roots, from a young age,” she tells Save with SPP. And while still a student, she worked with her dad’s actuarial firm, Alexander and Alexander, now part of the Aon group. She completed a Mathematics degree from the University of Saskatchewan.

Her father did some work on the SPP file many years ago, and she got to meet SPP’s outgoing Executive Director Kathy Strutt way back when. “So I have a very early connection with the plan,” she says.

Over the course of her career as an associate actuary she has consulted “for a broad range of clients of all sizes and types,” has helped shape some of Saskatchewan’s pension laws and regulations, and worked on client communications, retirement planning, and more.

Her more recent roles included broader consulting with Koenig & Associates, where she earned a Chartered Professionals in Human Resources (CPHR) designation, and Federated Co-operatives Limited, where she further developed “my passion for member services.” She has also served as a Board member for the CSS Pension Plan– a plan that is, like SPP, a defined contribution plan – and is now looking forward to her new role at SPP.

Corey says that while we have of late been living through the “challenging time” of the pandemic, SPP members can feel secure – and can rely on – their SPP pensions.

She says she expects a positive future for SPP, thanks “the collective experience of the team, and their human touch.”

The group at SPP has been successful in building a solid foundation for the organization, and “the ability to continue to evolve and grow.” Services for members will no doubt continue to grow and expand as SPP moves forward, she says.

The fact that SPP is a voluntary plan – one that members choose to join – is part of the reason it is so unique, she explains. SPP is a plan for the “everyday” people, and a non-profit organization as well. Its features, such as the use of pooling contributions to keep investment costs down, and the new Variable Benefit, show the plan continues to be an innovator.

She praises the SPP team’s “collective experiences,” and say it will be leveraging that talent that will “help the organization grow and thrive.” SPP has a warm feel to its organization, and Corey says she feels “like I’m coming home.”

The organization not only concerns itself with the retirement security of its members, but with their general knowledge about money, she notes. Building financial literacy, she says, not only provides an opportunity to help people, “it also aligns with me personally, and my community and my values.”

We join the entire SPP team in welcoming Shannan Corey to her new role.

When SPP was founded 35 years ago, it was intended to provide the possibility of a pension to farm wives and homemakers who didn’t otherwise have access to retirement benefits. Since then the SPP has opened its doors to anyone who wants to augment their retirement savings via a voluntary defined contribution pension plan. Find out how SPP can help secure your retirement future!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


SPP appoints new Executive Director

June 1, 2021

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP) Board of Trustees is pleased to announce the appointment of Shannan Corey as Executive Director of the Plan effective June 1, 2021.

Coming to us with 30 years’ experience, Shannan spent many years in the actuarial pension industry managing complex pension challenges for a broad range of clients, accumulating deep expertise working with legislation and pension administration operational needs. After obtaining
her professional HR designation, she enhanced her experience over the last 10 years through broader consulting and private industry sector roles. This enabled her to pursue her passion of providing innovative and relevant services to members by taking on key roles with other pension-focused member service organizations in Saskatchewan.

Shannan’s formal training includes a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics from the University of Saskatchewan, and Associate Actuary and CPHR designations.

This appointment is as a result of the retirement of Katherine Strutt on July 31, 2021. Ms. Strutt led the organization for more than 30 years, guiding the Plan through several eras of change and enhancement.

The Board looks forward to continued success of the Plan under Ms. Corey’s leadership and thanks Ms. Strutt for her service and dedication to SPP.

SPP is a voluntary defined contribution pension plan established by the Government of Saskatchewan. It offers an alternative for small businesses that do not offer their own pension plans, provides cost-effective professional investment management of retirement savings, and allows employees full portability of pension savings between employers.

Bonnie Meier
Director of Client Service
bmeier@saskpension.com
306-463-5419


Pandemic has meant many adult children returning to the nest

May 13, 2021
Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

With an end to the pandemic in sight, we are all hopeful that things are about to start returning to normal.

One trend that’s been happening since last year, reports Global News, is “young adults (being) forced to move back in with their parents.”

Factors like campus closures or lack of employment are reasons why the kids may return to the nest. Another factor might be the fact that housing is so unaffordable these days.

What should parents do to make the best of such a situation?

Noted financial author and commentator Kelley Keehn recommends setting “some ground rules” before the kids move back in.

“Are they paying rent? If they’re unemployed are they looking for work? When they do get back on their feet do they need to pay back the bank of mom and dad?” she states in the article. If these details aren’t clear right off the top, “resentment can set in,” the article warns.

The trend of kids returning home is big south of the border as well, reports the Huffington Post. Numbers of Americans aged 18 to 34 returning home are rising, and parents – who might have been thinking of downsizing – are now thinking about going bigger on their homes to make room for the kids.

A total of 26 per cent of millennials live with their parents in the U.S., up from 22 per cent before the recession of 2007, the article notes.

But there’s good news – the kids moving home are taking advantage of the situation to boost their education, and ideally snare a better job, the article concludes.

The PsychCentral blog says there can be a lot of positives for the relations between parents and kids when they move home, but parents need to stay calm about the unexpected change.

“Don’t freak out,” the publication advises, and blame the kids for not trying hard enough to be independent. Have conversations about “what is OK and what isn’t OK” in your house, and remember your kids aren’t teenagers and will be expecting more freedom than in the past. Try to make sure the kids are contributing, even in some small way, towards the costs of living, and set up a timetable for their stay, the article adds.

WebMD expands on that point, advising us not to “fall back into mommy mode” and realize that the now adult kids have “different attitudes, needs, and eating, sleeping or partying habits than they did when they were younger.”

Save with SPP can add this important thought for parents – the kids are almost certainly doing this move as a last resort. Few adult children truly want to move home. So, if you do get a second chance to live with your kids, make the most of it – you’re helping them to get ahead in life by doing so.

Do your kids have a pension plan at work? If not, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be a smart option for them. A truly end-to-end retirement program, SPP takes your contributed dollars, invests them professionally and at a low cost, and then can convert those invested savings into a lifelong pension when you reach the golden handshake. SPP has been securing retirement futures for 35 years now – check them out today.

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


How we’re passing the time as the pandemic rolls along

April 15, 2021
Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

For more than a year now, Canadians have had to deal with restrictions – sometimes fairly light, other times more of the “stay at home” variety – on what we can and cannot do.

Save with SPP took a look around to see what sort of things people are doing to keep busy at a time when so many of our usual activities are temporarily closed down or otherwise restricted.

A report from CTV News suggests that today’s situation is somewhat akin to the Great Depression of 90 years ago – so many people were out of work, or working reduced hours, that there was a huge growth in hobbies. “Stamp collecting, music making, woodworking and birdwatching” all grew in popularity in the 1920s, the article notes.

“In this time of uncertainty and instability, and a world and existence we no longer recognize, people need an anchor to familiarity and what once brought them comfort, stability, safety, and happiness,” clinical psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere tells CTV.

Today’s pandemic hobbies include things like “tie-dying clothes, attending PowerPoint parties and partaking in TikTok challenges,” the article notes. These join more traditional activities such as walking and cooking, CTV reports.

Physical activity is of critical importance, even during the pandemic, reports CBC International.

Citing a report from the World Health Organization, CBC reports that “regular physical activity is said to be key to preventing and helping manage heart disease, diabetes and cancer and reducing depression and anxiety, cognitive decline and boosting brain health.”

The article suggests 150 to 300 minutes per week of “moderate to vigorous aerobic activity for all adults.” This can include walking, cycling, dance, play, and even “household activities like cleaning or working on your lawn and garden,” the article says.

“Every move counts, especially now as we manage the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus states in the article. “We must all move every day – safely and creatively.” 

Country Living magazine agrees that creative approaches to keeping active are being used – and some things that were more popular in the past have made a comeback.

The article lists such things as home gyms, handheld gaming consoles, jigsaw puzzles, swimming pools, and trampolines as ways you can do more without leaving home.

The Reviewed.com site adds a few more. TV choices, thanks to the many streaming services out there, are more numerous than ever before. Reading, arts and crafts, yoga, DIY home improvement projects and meditation are among the ideas listed.

Putting it all together, finding something to do will keep you feeling more positive – and more optimistic that we are starting to near the end of this bizarre, unhappy and eerily quiet crisis.

One activity that you might want to revisit during the pandemic is dusting off your retirement savings plan – if you have one. If your savings efforts haven’t started, are stalled, or if you want to add on to what you’re doing now, consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, currently celebrating its 35th year of operations. Your pension savings, small or large, are expertly invested at a low cost, and grown for that future date when you walk away from the office for the last time. With an average rate of return of 8 per cent in the balanced fund since inception, SPP is an option you should take some time to check out!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Are there some new ideas on how to keep us all safe from COVID?

February 18, 2021

We’ve all been told, repeatedly, about the various public health and safety measures we can follow to try and reduce the risk of catching COVID-19. Up to now, it has been physical distancing – staying two metres apart – plus masks, hand sanitizing, and staying at home as often as possible.

Some folks say these steps are causing other problems, particularly the idea of isolation.

Writing in the Toronto Sun, columnist Sue-Ann Levy asks “if Ontario residents are distressed and frustrated by the latest lockdown, think of what a living hell it must be for seniors confined to their rooms in long-term care and retirement homes for now what is going into our 11th month of pandemic restrictions.”

The article notes that isolation is particularly harmful for the mental health of seniors. It’s not great for the rest of us, warns an article in the Sarnia-Lambton (Ontario) Journal. Public health officials in the Southwestern Ontario city say they are seeing a rise in domestic abuse there.

“Social isolation, financial instability and reduced access to friends and family has increased both the level of violence and its intensity,” the article reports, quoting Ange Marks, executive director of the Women’s Interval Home in the area.

Similarly, an opinion article in the Chicago Sun-Times warns that remote learning also has downsides for the kids.

“Evidence from the first year of the pandemic in the United States suggests that the social isolation created by school closures has exacerbated an ongoing childhood mental health crisis,” warn five doctors from the Chicago area.

Even the masks themselves are getting into the headlines. Is one sufficient, a report in the National Post, or should we wear two?

“If you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective,” states Dr. Anthony Fauci in the Post article.

That’s a lot to take in. Are there other approaches we can take that might be a little easier to handle?

Well, yes, people are hard at work on new approaches.

In Malaysia, reports Bernama, researchers are working on a new method to detect the virus using DNA and fibre optic sensors.

In Nova Scotia, reports Global News contract tracing will soon be much easier thanks to a new app that tracks restaurant patrons all over the province.

Up to now, the work of contract tracing has been done with dozens of different methods, but mostly pen and paper. “It is our hope that contact tracing will assist in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and help get us one step closer to a pandemic-free future,” states Gordon Stewart of the province’s Restaurant Association in the Global article.

Other research is being carried out on whether air purifiers might have a role to play in lessening the risk of COVID-19 infections, according to a second Global News report. The kinks of this approach are still being worked out, but it is believed that an air purifier with a HEPA filter, if correctly positioned, can help “remove viruses and germs from the atmosphere.”

We’ve all read about the various (and numerous) vaccines that are being rolled out, and administered across Canada.

Putting all this together, yes, the distancing and masking and isolation are tough medicine. But humans are an innovative bunch, and the same innovation that led to the rapid development of new vaccines is helping with new treatment approaches. That allows all of us to take a moment, now and then, to think of life after the pandemic.

The post-pandemic world, for many of us, will represent the run-up to retirement. If you don’t have a plan for retirement, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan could be a plan for you. Once you’ve joined up, you can contribute at any rate you choose, up to $6,600 per year (subject to available RRSP room). The SPP will invest that money (they’ve averaged an annual return of eight per cent since the plan’s inception 35 years ago) and, when work is done, can turn your invested cash into a lifetime income stream. Why not check them out today!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


What are people going to do once the pandemic is over?

January 21, 2021

We all know what we’re not doing thanks to the pandemic – but what sorts of things will we all be doing once that first blessed day of COVID-free living begins?

According to the New York Times, the very first thing for many will be getting back in touch with family and friends.

“Oh, to be able to shake hands again. We have lost the simple way we show respect for one another, to say thank you, to signal agreement. Our elbows will never be up to the job,” Audrey Jessen of Florida tells the Times. In the same vein, the newspaper reports, hugging grandma, hugging your brother, going out on date and kissing, and the joy of hanging out in groups are all atop people’s post-COVID to-do lists.

Ditto for “getting out of the house,” the Times adds.

At The Conversation blog, there’s optimism that the pre-COVID decline in cooking at home will continue to be reversed after the pandemic.

“Our survey showed a rise in home cooking from scratch during lockdown. Both home cooking and confidence in cooking have been linked to better diet quality, and practising cooking increases confidence,” the blog says. The folks at The Conversation believe this COVID-induced trend won’t fade away when the pandemic does.

Neither, reports Forbes , will “virtual collaboration” in the workplace, a.k.a. teamwork via the Interweb. It should also continue to be a way to stay in touch with people post-pandemic, the magazine contends.

“Millions of Americans stayed home for Thanksgiving, and their virtual parties weren’t terrible,” says online collaboration expert Adam Riggs in the Forbes piece. “With millions of remote workers connecting virtually, Americans have seen how video conferencing technology has improved over time, which has also impacted how we virtually network,” he states in the article.

Riggs predicts that since the pandemic will continue for quite a while, the use of videoconferencing and networking apps will continue and will ultimately remain a tool in the communications arsenal when the COVID all-clear signal is finally given.

Many are counting the days until outdoor events, like musical festivals or sporting events, will again be able to be held in front of massive crowds.

The Independent quotes U.K. festival organizer Sacha Lord as saying “if we have another year like 2020, we’ve got serious problems.” The music festival industry had its worst year ever last year, the article notes.

Let’s see if we can hear the common theme in all of this. Yes, we want to go back to how things were, but also, some of the new ways we were forced to do things may survive into the When It’s Over era. For instance, it’s said that thanks to more handwashing, sanitizer use, and mask-wearing than ever before, our flu season was one of the mildest on record.

So let’s conclude that the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel will be a brighter, different one than the dark days of the current winter. Better days ahead, as they say.

Many of us have little bits of retirement savings here and there, scattered in different pockets from our time at different jobs. If you’re a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, did you know that you can often transfer your benefits from other registered or unlocked plans to SPP? Up to $10,000 a year can currently be moved into your SPP account from other plans – that way, you can have all your retirement income coming from one source! Check out this and other SPP features in the SPP Membership Guide.

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Will some COVID-related practices live on after the pandemic ends?

December 17, 2020

If there’s one word that sums up the soon to be departed 2020, it’s “pandemic,” which according to a CityNews, is not unsurprisingly the “word of the year” from the folks at Merriam-Webster, the dictionary people.

Save with SPP decided to find out what other trappings and trimmings of the pandemic may live on in 2021, and the years following it.

Let’s start with masks – hard to find in February and March, everywhere today. Will we still wear masks when the pandemic is over? Quoted in a Yahoo! Life article, Dr. Amesh Adalja of John Hopkins university in the U.S. thinks it is quite possible.

“A COVID-19 vaccine is likely not going to provide sterilizing immunity the way the measles vaccine does,” he tells Yahoo! Life. “We’re going to still need to take protective measures for some time period, potentially until a second-generation vaccine is developed.”

Research shows that mask wearing in winter helps prevent flu, the article says – so maybe we’ll think about masking up even after the pandemic is completely over.

Next, what about working from home – could it be here to stay?

Writing in Canadian Facility Management & Design magazine Annie Bergeron suggests that “as a result of COVID-19, the workplace will be forever changed.”

She predicts a “hybrid” future, where people will be able to spend “extended time working from home.” She cites a recent Gensler survey in the U.S. which found that while many workers want to return to the office, they “also want a future in which they have more choice and agency that they did before the pandemic.”

Bergeron doesn’t think everyone will work from home forever, though. “There are many indicators that work-from-home arrangements are not sustainable for culture, innovation and talent development,” she writes.

HRMorning says productivity isn’t as good in a work-from-home environment. “Just half of employees who’ve worked from home since the pandemic started are as least 80 per cent as efficient as they were on site,” the article notes, citing research from Stanford.

Another feature of the pandemic has been online videoconference via Zoom, GoToMeeting, Teams, and other applications. Will in-person meetings go the way of the dodo bird?

Perhaps not. Zoom’s share price has fallen exponentially as vaccine progress rises, reports CNBC. Other “stay at home” stocks like Netflix and Amazon are also declining, suggesting the need for these services may dwindle once people start going back to the office again.

There are plenty of other changes on the way. Office towers will eventually bustle with people, benefitting the many struggling businesses that serve them. We’ll pack hockey rinks and football stadiums once again. There will be concerts, parades, and big family gatherings. Let’s hope, as 2021 starts, that this better future is not too far away.

While online meetings and tapping away for work from your kitchen may soon be memories, there’s still important work you can do for your future from the comfort of home. Saskatchewan Pension Plan members should check out MySPP. This online resource isn’t about work, but your life AFTER work. You can keep track of your account, watching it grow, and can get your various tax slips and statements. You can even use SPP’s website to contribute to your pension. Check it out – and if you’re not a member, take a look and consider joining today!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


What activities are folks planning for a pandemic winter?

November 12, 2020

Many of us have long had problems dealing with the cold and darkness of a Canadian winter. But this year, we will be adding in the problems of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Save with SPP took a look around to see how folks are planning to spend their first full winter of the pandemic.

Since one strategy to surviving the pandemic is to be outdoors, sporting goods businesses are reporting very brisk business in winter recreation equipment, reports CTV News.

“It’s been quite a marked change from the normal August and early September sales,” Paul Zirk, general manager of The Destination Slope and Surf Outfitters in North Vancouver, tells CTV. “It’s been really up and it’s been really focused on winter sports. This year, our track as far back as mid-July was ski-focused and winter-focused and at some weeks triple what we expected.”

Hot sellers include skis and snowboards, snowshoes, and heavier winter clothing, the article notes.

The Real Simple blog rhymes off 49 different winter activities that you can try this year.

Sledding, hiking, skating, snowball fights, and stargazing are on the list, as well as things like enjoying a family night in front of “a roaring fire,” enjoying winter favourites like hot cocoa and mulled wine, and cozying up with a bowl of homemade soup. The article also lists crafty ideas, like making a birdfeeder or knitting a scarf.

Global News reports that it is important, during the upcoming colder months, to avoid isolation. Psychologist Dr. Ganz Ferrence tells the broadcaster that people “should be planning now for what they’ll do to stay busy and safe once the temperature dips below zero.”

Ideas include skiing – downhill or cross-country — snowshoeing, skating and tobogganing. If you’re too old or not well enough for outdoor activities, at least get outside, urges Dr. Ferrence.

“Just to get that fresh air, that sunshine, whatever it is, seeing that the rest of the world still exists is much better than just giving in to being shut-in,” the doctor says.

Be sure to stay in touch with friends and family during the winter, when visiting is limited by poor travel conditions. Using online tools like Zoom to meet loved ones is a great idea, Dr. Ferrence says. “The best is face to face — being able to touch and feel and everything — the next level though, is this. Being able to see somebody and look in their eyes, see their facial expressions, their tone of voice,” he tells Global News. “Underneath that is phone.”

One group of Canadians that has long chosen against toughing out our winters – Snowbirds – may find this to be a tough season, reports the Globe and Mail.

With border restrictions in place, and COVID-19 outbreaks at high levels in popular winter vacation states like Florida, many Snowbirds may have to give up their travel plans this year, the article reports.

Renee Huart-Field and her husband live in P.E.I. and normally vacation in Florida’s Gulf Coast. Because their dogs usually come to Florida too, they aren’t keen on flying, and the border crossings by vehicle are severely limited, the article notes. So they must decide whether to winter on the Island, or travel elsewhere in Canada.

“People sort of think well, gee, must be nice to have that dilemma. But it’s not,” Huart-Field tells the Globe and Mail. “As you get older, the winters become harder… It’s a health thing.’”

If you’re a retiree and hope to do a little travelling, and have some fun in the winter sun, a little retirement income goes a long way to helping you reach those goals. If you’re still a long way from retirement, there’s plenty of time to start saving – and a wonderful option could be the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. The SPP is quite unique, in that it not only offers you a savings program for your working years, it helps you convert those dollars – grown through SPP’s professional investing team – into an income stream once you’re done with the workforce and ready for the leisureforce. Why not check them out today!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


How we’re getting creative – and using tech – to stay in touch

October 22, 2020

Back in the 1960s when this writer was young, there were only a few channels available for staying in touch with the grandparents.

We’d pile into the car and drive down to Montreal to see dad’s parents, and Saint John to see mom’s parents, at least once or twice a year. During any holiday we’d line up around the family landline while mom placed a rare long-distance call so we could hear their voices. And we’d send cards and write letters.

These days, it’s not always easy or possible to visit. So what are people doing to stay in touch with family and distant friends during the pandemic?

At the Stream MD blog , a list of creative ways to keep in touch are presented. Video-streaming is now easily available from your phone and computer, and using Zoom or Teams or Facetime is an excellent and safe way to see family and friends, the article notes.

If you have Netflix or Prime Video, you can hold a “virtual watch party” and see a movie with your family and friends online, the blog advises. Other ideas from Stream MD include having shared music playlists and taking online courses together.

The Which? blog in the UK talks about holding virtual birthday parties for friends using Zoom.

“I went to a surprise party the other night: about 30 of us gathered to sing happy birthday to a friend and give him the birthday present we’d all clubbed together to buy him – some new DJ decks,” writes blogger Kate Bevan.

“But don’t worry – even though he only lives over the river from me in Clapham, I wasn’t actually there. And neither was anyone else, except for his flatmate,” all thanks to the use of Zoom, she reports.

In addition to Zoom, the article mentions the Google Duo phone app and Facebook Portal; the latter is “so simple to use that it’s worth considering if you have a family member who is unsure with tech.”

Tech is great, but there are other ways to achieve success, reports the Healthy Vix blog.

Get the kids to make “a handmade card” for the older folks, the article advises. “The children, especially, love to make a handmade card to send to their Nana or other family members. It’s really exciting for them to make a card and walk to the local letterbox to post it,” the blog explains.

Also, if the grandparents aren’t going to be able to figure out technology, or have no one to help them with it, go old-school, Healthy Vix advises. “There’s no need for elderly relatives to get their head around social media or confusing technology when a good old phone call will suffice. Keep things simple and call your loved ones for a good old chinwag when you can. Just hearing each other’s voices can help you feel in touch and connected, even when apart,” the blog suggests.

It’s been a strange year for visiting family who are in seniors’ apartments or nursing homes. At one visit we were greeted by a fully-PPE-protected (and friendly) staffer who took our temperatures and logged our contact details before we could have a one-hour, heavily sanitizer-ized visit with the wife’s mom. Our cousin had to visit her mom from behind a barrier, waving across a parking lot. Our neighbour talked to his elderly dad in London by driving down there and lying on the grass outside his nursing home window so he could yell hello through the window.

Whatever works should be given a try.

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Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.