The Canadian Initiative for Elder Planning Studies, based in Hamilton, is launching a new program aimed at professionals who work with seniors. The Elder Planning Counselor course will be the first of its kind offered in Canada, with courses scheduled to begin in Toronto and Vancouver this fall.

Many advisors may groan at thought of having to earn yet another professional designation. But Jim Ruta, chairman of the CIEPS advisory council, says the program couldn’t have come at a better time.

With an estimated one in three Canadians poised to join the 55-plus age bracket by 2012, professionals will be faced with the unique needs that come hand in hand with an aging population — and they’ll need the practical skills to do it, says Ruta. “There’s more than enough examples of seniors being taken advantage of, and this course is really aimed at helping people understand what their lives are like and what their concerns are,” he says. “This is an ethics program to a large degree.”

Ruta recognizes the abundance of designations facing those in the financial services industry and maintains that the EPC is intended to enhance, not simply add to, the others. “We see the EPC as helping advisors of all descriptions use their other credentials more effectively,” he says. “You may be a CLU or a CFP, but if you can’t do seminars properly with seniors, it’s not going to do you any good.”

In working with seniors, Ruta says, the difference is in the details. Everything from the type size on business cards to accessible power point presentations plays a role in effective communication. “These are small issues, but seniors won’t call you if they can’t find your phone number on your card,” Ruta says. The three-day live course includes sessions on long-term care, nutrition and retirement planning. Candidates will become designated upon successful completion of a three-hour exam; annual review programs will be offered to continue membership.

While primarily aimed at financial advisors, Ruta says the designation is appropriate for any number of professionals dealing with the elderly, including doctors, accountants and real estate agents.

Registration for the course has been steady so far, with limited spots remaining in both Toronto and Vancouver’s inaugural classes. Additional cities will be added as needed.

For more information on the EPC designation, visit the CIEPS website at