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A peace corps of voluntourists could be generated, if there were tax breaks

May, 2011

With the elections capturing a great deal of our attention, I’ve come up with one innovative idea that retirees should urge their representatives to support. This idea applies to active retirees who want to devote their life skills to export the philanthropic spirit of Canada abroad through voluntourism.

These are the active retirees who want to connect with people elsewhere in the world and provide them with a helping hand. You may know the type of senior I’m addressing, people who—at their own expense—gather medical supplies, laptops, eyeglasses and other items, and schlep them in overweight suitcases to another part of the world, where they spend their entire “vacation” serving the local community.

A 2007 Canadian government study profiling seniors reported that as baby boomers turn 65, there will be almost 8 million of us—close to 21 per cent of the Canadian population. Stats are showing that seniors are computer savvy, financially better off, more educated than at any time in the past and, most importantly, more active.

That’s a big workforce to tap into for overseas voluntourism. More and more active retirees want to travel to other parts of the world to act as goodwill ambassadors … a kind of Canadian peace corps of seniors.

There is no dearth of volunteer programs anywhere in the world. A quick Web search reveals such programs as helping to protect the environment in the rain forest or combatting poverty in Africa.

Other retirees, like teachers, nutritionists, engineers, doctors, nurses and mechanics can share their skills in a great many places.

But we need a tax break to do it.

A place to stay is the smallest part of the cost; getting there the largest. This where our newly elected government can help us out. Tax credits for seniors should be instituted to help defray the cost of voluntourism and be made available for projects approved by External Affairs.

Let’s face it, Canada’s record in the international community has been suffering. We once had the kind of reputation that made us proud, made us feel safe to festoon our knapsacks and carry on with our bright red Canadian Maple Leaf. Now senior travelers think twice.

A tax break would not only add purpose to our retirement years, it would shore up Canada’s lagging status abroad. We would act like mobile billboards, proudly heralding that “Canada cares.”

We would wear durable uniforms for hot or cold weather. We would emblazon Canadian flags on the back of our jackets, just like the Red Cross workers, so that our peaceful intentions would be visible to all.

And, with pride, we would attach a crest of arms (perhaps a crisscross of a pen and spade) onto the breast pocket with the initials CSSA: Canadian Seniors Serving Abroad.

I suspected that an advanced Google search would unveil programs for retirees, enabling us to deduct a portion of our expenses from our income taxes. My first landing site was Seniors Canada, but it only carried such information about traveling abroad as border services and tax laws for retirees.

I continued my search at the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA, and turned up some worthwhile programs, but none involving seniors.

That discovery led me to this thought: CIDA and Seniors Canada should get together for a chat, since a number of CIDA programs evoke a potentially strong synergy between volunteering and retirees. One engaging project, for example, twins Canadian students in grades 6 through 8 with their counterparts in some needy country, but allows for no senior contribution potential.

In the years to come, our politicians will have to realize that seniors are more of a natural resource and less of a public liability than they believe. Our contribution can be substantial.



At May 1, 2011 at 8:58 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article! As the leading provider of luxury voluntourism experiences for seniors, the company I founded, Hands Up Holidays, wholeheartedly supports tax breaks that can induce more Canadian seniors to use their skills and experience to leave a legacy with those less fortunate in developing countries.
Good luck!

At June 10, 2011 at 10:21 AM , Blogger david li said...

Dear Mr. Medicoff:
My name is David, I have read your article from Page 26 of the "Senior Times" of May 2011 edition recently, I totally agree with your opinion and I am very interested to talk or meet with you directly if possible. Let me give you a little bit of my background here, I am an immigrant from China. I have been living here for 3 years. I have an engineering background, I obtained my M. Sc in Stockholm university of Sweden in 1995, and I worked for a USA company for 6 years. I am studying in JFK business center right now. I want to do something interesting in my life. I am self confident. If you want to call me, you can reach me at 514-677-3838 (cell phone) or you can send me an e-mail to discuss further more. I hope we can do something together in the near future. Thank you,

Best Regards,




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