Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen on May 27th, 2010. To go to the Ottawa Citizen Website please click here
Senior citizens will soon outnumber children in Canada, according to a Statistics Canada projection, which could have a ripple effect through the health-care system, the Canadian Medical Association says.
The projection, released Wednesday, says the 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 suggests Canada’s population could jump to nearly 47.7 million.
For the first time, 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 the projections should provide a shot in the arm for the country 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,” she 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.”
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.
In addition to a large jump in those aged 65 and over, the number of Canadians over 80 and centenarians are also expected to see sharp increases within the next 26 years.
Projections for 2036 see about 3.3 million people aged 80 and over, up from 1.3 million in 2009. There were roughly 6,000 centenarians in Canada in 2009, but that demographic is projected to triple — or possibly quadruple — based on the Statistics Canada projections.
CARP, a national advocacy group for older Canadians, believes the latest projection should provide motivation for governments at all levels to help seniors better adapt in their daily lives.
“These are raw facts, but the challenge is for politicians to do something with this information,” said Susan Eng, the group’s vice-president of advocacy.
Eng said CARP largely dismisses the belief that an aging population will wreak havoc on the health-care system, but admits that anything the baby-boom generation does will impact everything in Canada, from the overall economy to the state of health care.