Episode 86 – Living a Good Life (Interview with Billy Pratt)

Want to live an expansive life in retirement?

There are so many ways you can have a great life in retirement—the kind of retirement you dream of.

Some of them do require some forethought and planning, while others do not.

To find out what those pieces are and how to put them in place, tune into the latest podcast episode where Billy Pratt and I dive into all things mindset, positivity, finding meaning, and retirement.

Listen to the episode here.

Show Notes:

Hey there. Welcome back to the Heart of Your Money. This week I have a guest, and I’m pretty sure that at the end of today’s conversation I’m gonna be all jazzed up and motivated to be better, think better, age better, give more. You name it. 

Billy Pratt is with me, and he is an inspirational and transformational charity leader with a drive for excellence and inclusion that engages others in the pursuit of being better for the world. This I can attest. 

His Pan-Canadian leadership experience has evolved from working with organizations as a professional in the areas of international development, homelessness, community corrections, health and social services. He’s been an active volunteer with many organizations and that’s actually how we met and connected. 

He is Vice Chair of the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada, board member for Kids’ Brain Health Network and Kids’ Brain Health Foundation, and serves on the public advisory Committee for the Health Data Research Network of Canada. 

What don’t you do, Billy? And as a professional, he is the CEO for Eden Care Communities, holds a Master’s in Leadership and is a certified fundraising executive. Thanks for joining me today. 

Billy (B): Hi, Zena. Thank you so much for having me. This is a real treat to be a guest on your show. I’m excited about this and certainly I appreciate your kind words you said about me, so thank you very much for that. 

Zena (Z): Yeah, you’re welcome. So you, you do a lot, you have a lot of energy. You’re one of the most positive, enthusiastic people I know. You have a positive outlook on life. Where do you think you got that from?

B: Gosh, that’s that, that’s a real mystery. I shouldn’t say it’s a mystery. That’s not true. You know, I got lucky as a kid and I happened to have some good teachers in the early years and some good coaches, and of course my parents, you know. So when something good would happen I think it got reinforced. 

I learned good things are possible and that a positive outlook is appreciated because we certainly see the opposite of that as well. And you know, if negative behaviors are reinforced by other negative support, you can become very down on the things around you and have a bleary outlook on life. And I happen to get lucky, I guess. 

And once you start feeding that and understanding…and I guess probably as a teenager, I started to learn, wait: I like this. I think this is who I am. And so then you just keep feeding that information in, keep reading, keep hanging out with people who are—somebody once told me it’s good to be around people who are good for your soul. 

And I think that’s something that I didn’t know that I was doing, but I think that’s what’s been happening. And you don’t get it right every day. But you know what, as a whole, and it feels good.

Z: Yeah, And I think it’s contagious, and that’s the effect that I do get whenever we do talk. Like I said, I’m pretty jazzed up after and ready to take on the world. And so I think it’s a great outlet to have. Because of your experience and your education you might know this better, but I just read an article that if we complain a lot and we dwell on a negative outlook, it actually changes the picture of our brain. 

They can actually see that, with too much complaining, and so that positivity approach can actually rewire our brain. And so I think it’s a great thing. 

B: Yeah, you know what? That’s quite possible. T makes perfect sense. Right? And just to be clear, you know, we know that every moment of every day is not, you know, sunshine, lollipops, and, and rainbows. However, with the positive outlook, it’s actually more of a future orientation, and it’s based on hope, you know that tomorrow will be better than today. 

Z: Yeah, I like that. So tell me about carrying that, because that probably goes into your day job carrying that as well, that positive outlook. Tell me about Eden Care communities. Now I know this charity provides seniors housing, daycare group home support. It’s in Regina, Moose Jaw, and Saskatoon. 

But share with me what you think I don’t know. And I know that’s a lot. I wanna hear about your experience and thoughts around housing and aging. What have you learned? 

B: Wow, so many—so many—platforms to jump off there. I think what’s really unique about what we get to see at Eden Care community is we, you know, our mission is we want to provide the space for people to experience a good life and whatever good life is, that’s determined by you as whether you’re a resident, a three-year-old in the childcare, or somebody who maybe is non-verbal and lives in a group home and you’ve spent. perhaps the first 50 years of your life in an institution and now you’re living in a community. 

So how do we help support having a good life? And what we get to see, and I hear from my team all the time is that the transformations, it’s what I’d say the little wins. You know, that seems so maybe insignificant to some people. So, for example, an individual who has, is nonverbal, so that means they don’t speak. They’ve been living with their parents for multiple years and now have moved into a group home with us and they’re still in high school, so they’re still going to school. 

So this individual seems to be flourishing at school right now. And the teacher sent a note to our staff at our home saying this is the first time in a long time that this particular person has not fallen asleep at school. They’ve been engaged and part of the process. And you think: Didn’t fall asleep? Well, why would you fall asleep as well? 

If you think about that person who’s non-verbal has been living, you know, a different life than maybe you and I live. That is huge. And that’s because of the support that goes in the housing around them and really creating that environment for someone to have a good life. 

Z: And shelter being the important piece of having a good life.

B: You bet. If you can have a roof over your head and have people around you that take an interest in you, awesome. If they care for you or at the very least, if they take an interest in you, there’s ways that your life can pick up a whole new level of meaning.

And just, another quick example, I think of an individual in one of our locations. We have what we call volunteer fire marshals. So residents, each one person, will be the fire marshal in their location of the building. This one person used to be very involved in firefighting at a very high level, and now is, I think, well into their 80s getting closer to 90 and started helping out at the meeting with the fire marshals. 

And it was kind of like, well, would you like to play a more active role? And this person is awesome. It’s just when you can do a thing like that, when you get into your eighties, all of a sudden things have a different meaning, right? 

Because you know, having meaning in what you do as we age in life is so important because around us things are disappearing. You know? Our friends disappearing, our health can be disappearing or declining. We can lose our driver’s license. We have to move outta the home we lived in for 60 years. Everything’s disappearing and getting smaller. 

And then if you watch TV and you watch the news, and you know what’s going on. I think, my gosh, what’s the point? There is no meaning left. However, finding ways within the homes, wherever you’re living in whatever organization or you’re renting, you’re living by having people around you that take an interest in you and allow you to be you. It’s amazing what can happen. 

Z: Have you seen the experience with intergeneration? So what I mean is, you know, different ages all coming together. Because when you talk about community and staying positive… I’m not quite in my eighties, Billy, but I am starting to see that I miss having the children. I miss the vibrance of youth. And so do you see that, you know, in your experience with work, are you seeing the energy that can come from mixing ages?

B: Oh, we see it multiple times and unfortunately we didn’t get to see a lot during COVID because of some restrictions. We’re starting to see it again now, and what I’ve learned is that for an older person, nothing will make them smile bigger than a young person or an animal. Those two things will light up. 

So we had someone recently, they would come in and do a concert. It’s maybe an eight year old or 10 year old who’s got this great little voice and can sing and you can see the smiles in the older persons and the interactions and I don’t know—I don’t know why that is. I haven’t done any research and like you, I’m not in my eighties, so I can’t think like an 80 year old. So I can only assume that there’s something about the this, this hopefulness, this vibrancy of everything’s possible when you’re eight or 10 or 12, and there’s just this innocence that you just smile and things are funny and you’re not worried about all the things that we might worry about as an older person, right? Or as an adult. 

So when the two mix together, It’s magic. It’s just I mean not everybody, but I mean, I would say vast, vast majority of older persons. And vice versa. We need to understand that the impact that has on the young person who might be three years old, four years old, it’s enormous. We see situations where because somebody is new to Canada, they don’t have grandparents. So the people living in the long-term care home become their honorary grandparents, if you will. 

It also normalizes aging. It normalizes wheelchairs. It normalizes walkers. You know, nothing shocks you because as a kid you just take it all in and it’s like, oh, somebody’s got a walker, whatever. You know? And if you never see that, it’s just “that’s how things are”. So it goes both ways. 

Z: I hadn’t even thought about that. Exposure. Exposure to seeing all the different ages. It also takes out the fear of aging, and the fear of the unknown. Good insight. Share with me the tips of community and staying vibrant. In my world as a financial planner, one of the things we’re always talking about in retirement planning is home. 

So what have you seen with the need for home, shelter, as we age? Are you seeing that it’s becoming unaffordable? Are you seeing that there’s a higher demand and need for affordable housing? P utting together and thinking about the long term and retirement planning, one of the things we focus on is the mortgage paid off. 

Not right away, but it needs to match in retirement so that you have that safety net of roof over your head. Are you seeing that there’s a higher demand? Are we not taking care of this in retirement planning? 

B: Yeah, it’s real… I won’t say it’s a complex issue. There’s a whole lot of things involved. I don’t know what the stats say about how much people are saving for their retirement. I think what we’ve seen is that if we go back in time, maybe 20 years, the people that were turning 65 in that 65ish range thought they would probably be living to 80, maybe 85 with the wind kind of thing. 

And so you plan for it. Well, these folks are now living into their nineties, late nineties, you know, like we’re living longer. So whatever we thought was happening maybe is not playing out that way. What we see in the community is there’s a—and I’ll see if I can answer your question—If I don’t, just redirect me—is definitely there’s a gap in our community for what I would call affordable housing for seniors. 

And what that means is maybe if your total pensions range between a thousand and $2,000 or whatever, wherever your money comes from, right? If your total income is in that range, it’s hard to find a nice place that is good because it gets to a point where you can’t stay in your own home. We hope that everyone stays in their home as long as possible because that’s a good place to be. 

Because people don’t like change, they don’t like to move. And it’s good if you, if you can, if your children or whoever and if you can afford to bring in care, stay in your home as long as you can. However, it gets to a point where it’s just too big and you don’t wanna do it. 

So you have to move out. And there’s a real gap for that thousand to $2,000 income in a month for someone to find a place to live. And that’s unfortunate because what happens then if you can’t do that, your health continues to deteriorate and it just gets worse. And then you might end up in long-term care. 

And there’s nothing wrong with going to long-term care. We shouldn’t be afraid to go into long-term care. The challenge is that there’s some really great places to go for long-term care. And that’s really when, essentially, when you can’t look after yourself anymore, you pretty much need 24/ 7 care.

There are some places that are not that great. We shouldn’t be afraid to go to long-term care. We should get to the point where it’s like, oh, okay. I can go to long-term care. I’ll be well taken care of. If I’m a family member, okay, mom or dad or my brother or sister or my friend, they’re gonna be okay. I shouldn’t need to worry about them. And unfortunately we worry about them because of some of the more sensational slash horrific stories we hear about what happens in long-term care. I don’t know if I got your answer there well or not. 

Z: Yeah. What I think and what we’re agreeing upon is that it’s also about the conversation before the time happens. And so part of that whole planning piece is sitting across and talking about long-term care options. That’s exactly what we do in our office. And so while we’re doing the retirement planning, it’s: Okay when the time comes, here’s what bucket we can start drawing from. Here’s where your savings are, but we’re talking about it years and years before it happens.

So it’s not this shock. And then you can actually plan for it and have some control over it because you’re exactly right. It’s going to happen. Long-term care is going to happen. We can’t ignore it. And so as a family or friends or whoever’s in your community, we need to sit down and talk about it and kind of plan for it so it doesn’t come up as a surprise because there is a shortage when it does come.

And if you haven’t planned for it, that’s where I think you’re probably seeing on your end the demand. And being a charitable organization. I mean, we’re both kind of charitable. That’s how we met and through volunteering on a board. That’s sort of a passion for both of us. And so this is also a plug out to listeners that if they’re wanting to donate Eden Care and housing and shelter and programs, you guys do take donations. 

So now there’s something you said before our podcast you had shared with me and it really resonated. And you had said “your world does not have to shrink as you age”. I loved it because I immediately smiled and thought of all my retired clients and how fulfilling their life became because of the intention put into the world after paid employment from volunteering, traveling, enjoying more community, generosity of spirit, mind, kindness, time. 

What did you mean by the statement? Your world does not have to shrink as you age. And I’m gonna write that down because I need to keep that. I love it. 

B: So the corollary or the opposite of that is that your world should expand as you age. And the way we can do that—because the physical, as I said, the physical things around you are gonna shrink and diminish, and if we’re lucky, our health kind of cooperates, even if it’s not a hundred percent. 

But if our mind stays, there’s still things we can do. And there’s so many ways to be a contributor to our communities. And it’s about growing our mindset. Be open to learning. And I know people throughout their whole life, you know, regardless of their age, sometimes people have trouble learning because they don’t want to change. However, you know, there’s free university courses if you’re over a certain age you can audit university classes.

You can do all kinds of things, and it’s just when you can see the world through whatever lens you choose to see. It’s amazing the joy you can find. Because you can find a whole lot of lousy things in the world. Right? 

It’s our perception, right? But when you surround yourself with the people that are good for your soul and these opportunities, whether you volunteer, you force yourself to get out. You force your mind to expand. You change your reading patterns. If you’ve always just read, watched a certain news channel, well watch a different news channel. You know, don’t get upset with what they say just watch…

Z: Turn off the news.

B: Turn off—that’s even a better plan. And you know, there’s aquasizes, water exercises, there’s walking, there’s all kinds of things. And I think when you sort of take charge of what comes into your mind and how you respond to what comes in, it’s amazing what can happen. 

Because we’ve all met people who you think, my gosh, how do they even stay alive? You know, some of the physical challenges they’re facing or whatever may be happening. You think, and yet they’re so lovely to be around and they have just this energy or this aura that you think they’re just really nice because they have figured out what matters to them and how to see the world in a way. 

Of course, they’re gonna have down times, but at the same time, they recognize they’re here to contribute. And that’s the thing. All of us have something to contribute and it has nothing to do with our pedigree or education, nothing. Each and every one of us can lighten up a room just by walking in and smiling. Just learn to smile, you know? That is one way you can make your world not so small because when you smile, it’s amazing what comes back to you. Somebody else will smile and next thing you know, you might chat, you may not, but it’s the warmth. 

We talk about the warmth from a smile and it sounds like a bumper sticker, but it’s amazing what it can do. And I have no data to back this up, but I would say that I meet a lot of older persons and I think they’ve forgotten to smile. And it just breaks my heart because when they do smile or they laugh, it literally changes everything. And so if nothing else, if your listeners from today take away anything and the only thing they take away is maybe smile an extra time today. See what happens. 

Z: Oh, wow. Okay. We need to talk a lot more Billy. Because I feel like, you know, you could be like the morning sunshine, sunrise. Let’s get some inspirational words from Billy every day because this is what happens after. 

Every time we talk I get inspired and so I’m gonna leave it with this today and I’m gonna let you share with our listeners where they can go if they want to do a donation. Because charitable giving, you know, especially in that we’re going into tax time. So pre-plan it, I mean, for next year, for 2023 tax deduction. Tell us where to find your association online. What’s the website?

B: You can go to Edencare.ca that will get you, and if you would rather phone us, just give us a call at (306) 206-0260. Either way will find us and we’ll see how we can help you out. 

Z: So I’m gonna have you back, Billy, because next time I want you to share an experiment you had with $5. Okay? So again, it plays on that same theme, generosity and giving, and just smiling. Thank you so much for joining today. 

Don’t forget listeners, if you need, you can check out our website, astrafinancial.ca for show notes or send me a note with any questions or comments. Thanks for listening.