Quarantine Questions – an Update from BCRTA President Gerry Tiede

April 2020

COVID 19 has brought change to all our lives. As seniors, we are in the most vulnerable group and will need to avoid direct contact with other people for some time. I want you to know that BCRTA will continue to serve our members in the months ahead.

Here is some information for our members:

BCRTA Office

Our office continues to operate as usual with our BCRTA staff working remotely. Your phone calls are directed to our staff who are working their regular hours, have access to all our computer systems and are ready to help you. All BCRTA member services continue to be active, except of course we can’t accept visitors to our office.

BCRTA Meetings

All BCRTA meetings have been canceled or postponed indefinitely. That includes our Board meetings, committee meetings, zone meetings and pension education workshops. We have also encouraged our branches to cancel all their meetings.

Our Board and Branch Executives have responsibilities that are laid out in our Bylaws and policies. During this time we will focus on the most important ones and deal with them through email or on-line meetings. We accept that some decisions may be delayed as our leaders make choices that are in the best interest of our members.  For example, your branch may ordinarily hold an Annual General Meeting in May which will need to be rescheduled for some time in the fall. Your branch leaders will keep you posted on what they are doing.

When the ‘physical distancing’ orders are removed across BC we will all make decisions to get BCRTA business meetings back on schedule.

Teachers’ Pension Plan

With the hit to the economy of the world, the health of our pension plan is on our minds. Certainly there will be short-term losses in some of our investments, but we need to remember that our plan began this year in a surplus position with significant reserves. Our investments have benefited from 11 straight years of good returns and a downturn of some type was expected. The TPP’s investment managers were able to diversify to other types of investments to reduce the effect of losses in the stock markets.

Also, our pension is a defined benefit plan.  That means that our pension is not dependant on the day-to-day performance of the investment market.

Updated information is available at https://tpp.pensionsbc.ca/

One note about service levels at the TPP: Many of the Pension Corporation staff are currently working remotely. While everything is in place to handle any pension business or questions, you may experience some minor delays in getting a response.

Here is the most important thing: Our pension payments are secure and will continue to be deposited into our bank accounts right on time.

We are also fortunate to live in a stable and prosperous Canada, so our OAS and CPP payments are also secure.

Johnson Insurance

We have been in regular contact with our Johnson Insurance partners. They, too, have closed their office to visitors but continue to provide services.  Johnson has worked to help our traveling members return to Canada; their insurance coverage continues for those who have been unable to return to Canada.  Johnson has devoted their staff time to reimbursing our members for their trip interruption and trip cancellation claims. We expect that the cost of all these travel claims will likely dwarf the normal medical costs that they pay this year.

The events of these past weeks emphasize the value of our insurance plans to our members.  The reason we have travel insurance is not only for protection from the cost of individual accidents and sickness but also from the costs of disasters or pandemics like the one we are currently experiencing.

The traveling behavior of all Canadians has changed and that will likely continue for awhile. I would encourage you to take some time before making decisions about your own future travel and insurance needs. Our insurance policies with Johnson are all one-year contracts which end on September 30th each year.  BCRTA will continue to work with Johnson insurance to be sure our plans meet our members’ needs.

It is also important to remember that when Johnson advises us that certain travel costs will not be covered by insurance during this time it is not because they have changed their policies. What has happened is that world events have activated conditions in the insurance contracts, such as limits on coverage for travel to a location that is covered by a government of Canada advisory. What is unique about this situation is that it is not one or two locations that are the advisory “hotspots” but the entire world.

BCRTA will continue to work for the best interests of our members when it comes to securing both EHC and travel insurance coverage and understanding the coverage available.

For current updates from Johnson visit https://www.johnson.ca/coronavirus

COVID 19 Scams

The COVID 19 disaster has brought out the best is most people, but it has also brought out the worst in others. There are a lot of scams in play as those without a conscience try to take advantage of our curiosity and anxiety. Be sure you access reputable sources for information – BC Center for Disease Control http://covid-19.bccdc.ca/ or Canada Health Services https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html

Do not open unsolicited emails about COVID 19 and above all, do not open attachments or links in those emails.  To do so invites another kind of virus into your computer which may steal your personal and credit card information.  See the Canadian Anti-fraud Center – https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/features-vedette/2020/covid-19-eng.htm

The Little Black Book of Scams provides general information about protecting yourself and is available from the Competition Bureau of Canada. https://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/vwapj/CB-lBBS2-EN.pdf/$file/CB-lBBS2-EN.pdf

Physical Distancing – not Social Distancing!

Now is a good time for us all to pick up the phone or message a friend, neighbour or family member.  It’s a bit lonely for some of us to stay physically isolated for such a long time but we need to make that extra effort to keep up our social connections!

We Can All Do Something

We know from our recent survey that BCRTA members provide over $50 million worth of unpaid volunteer efforts to their communities each year. It is part of who we are. We want to help, to contribute, to work for a better world. Right now it may feel that all that goodwill is being bottled up at home. How frustrating!

But even if we can’t get out and about like we want to, there is one activity that is guaranteed to do good: Reach out! Pick up the phone and reach out to your isolated neighbours. Send a note by email to someone you know who is working hard at a medical facility or serving in a grocery store. Chat with the sibling that you meant to call but could never find the time. Play Scrabble online with your grandchildren.

If You Need Help

The Office of the Seniors’ Advocate has a phone line and a website to provide personal supports for seniors.  Call 211 or http://www.bc211.ca/ to access their services.

And Finally: Getting stir crazy?

Here is a list of things you can do:

·  Email and video calls to family and friends

·  Volunteering in the community – community kitchen; meals on wheels, etc.

·  Getting outside each day for a walk

·  Going through closets to put together give-away items

·  Reviewing photo albums, rearranging, re-organizing and reminding of better times

·  Puzzles, board games, crokinole,

·  Shredding documents that are no longer needed

·  Netflix, Crave, Apple TV – binge watching

·  Cooking – creating and trying new recipes

·  Home improvement projects

·  Reading

·  Eldercare

·  Spring Cleaning

·  Listening to music

·  Yoga

·  Dance – Line Dance, “Dancing as no one is watching” – because no one is!

·  U Tube videos

·  Write, draw, paint, photography

·  Play an instrument, sing, dance, act

·  Take a shower or a bath

·  Go for a drive

·  Watch cute kitten videos on YouTube

·  Play a game

·  Write a note to someone you care about

·  Care for or play with a pet

·  Make a list of inspirational quotes

·  Make a gratitude list

·  Write a list of goals

·  Take a class or webinar

·  Write a list of strengths

·  Exercise

·  Laugh at least once per day

·  Get enough sleep

·  Eat healthy foods

·  Create a good routine

·  Eat a little chocolate

·  Limit caffeine

·  Practice deep/slow breathing

·  Pray or meditate

·  Enjoy nature via video, movies or magazines

·  Prioritize important tasks