Canadian seniors may soon outnumber kids: StatsCan (Expanded)

Originally published in the Vancouver Sun on May 26th, 2010. A redacted version of the article was also published in the Ottawa Citizen May 27th 2010. To go to the Vancouver Sun Website please click here

OTTAWA — Senior citizens may soon outnumber children in Canada, according to a Statistics Canada projection, which could have a ripple effect through the Canadian health-care system, the Canadian Medical Association says.

The projection, released Wednesday, says the Canadian population will reach more than 43.8 million in 2036 — up from 33.7 million in 2009 — if the population continues a medium-growth trend, which is based on consistent fertility, mortality and immigration trends. A high-growth scenario projected by the federal agency, which would see higher trends in all three categories, suggests Canada’s population could jump to nearly 47.7 million.

For the first time ever, the senior population is expected to outnumber that of children under the age of 15 at some point between 2015 and 2021. The actual date depends on Canada’s type of growth scenario.

Dr. Anne Doig, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said Wednesday that the projections represent a fairly common knowledge of the aging population, but may provide a shot in the arm to take action to prepare for future health needs.

“This really is a wave of older people unlike anything we’ve ever seen before and it’s something that has been predicted over time, but I think now that it’s getting closer, people are beginning to wake up and realize it has some implications,” Doig said.

“The ratio of providers to people needing care will be the reverse of what it is now and the taxation base on which health care has been funded is going to change.

“We’re imposing increasing demands on people and expecting a relatively smaller proportion of younger people to carry a relatively larger burden of a load. We’ve already got data to suggest they can’t meet that.”

The federal agency expects the number of seniors to reach between 9.9 million and 10.9 million in 2036, representing a drastic spike from 2009 numbers, which reported 4.7 million seniors in Canada. By contrast, the population of children under the age of 15 is projected to register between 5.7 million and 8.2 million in 2036. There were 5.6 million children in that demographic in 2009.

Patrice Dion, a demographic analyst with Statistics Canada, said the figures are a direct result of the baby-boom generation.

“Aging is already there in the age structure of the population,” Dion said. “There was a baby boom with a lot of people born and that’s a large core of the population, and they are getting older. By 2011, the first ones will reach 65 and by 2031, all of the baby boomers will be 65 or older.

Dion said that while the population of children will also increase, the rate at which it jumps will not keep up with Canada’s older residents.

The median age is expected to be between 42 and 45 years, up from the current median of 39.5 years.