On June 16, 2010, Diane Ablonczy, Minister of State for Seniors, introduced a bill in the House of Commons entitled “Celebrating Canada’s Seniors Act.” This bill supports the creation of a National Seniors Day to recognize the significant and continuing contributions seniors make to their families, communities, workplaces, and society.
Celebrating the contributions of Canada’s older citizens may be long overdue, but given recent reports on the ‘grey tsunami’ now is as good a time as any to remind the country just how valuable older citizens have been and will continue to be as our population ages.
While older Canadians may not need to be reminded of their contributions to family and society, it is occasionally important to reflect just how valuable our growing contingent is. For starters, the popular misconception about older Canadians is that they require untold amounts of care. In 2007, there were 1 million Canadian caregivers over 65.
Seniors also contribute to the ongoing financial well-being of their younger family members through great amounts of wealth transfer. The aggregate net worth of Canadian family units who are age 55 plus, is over one trillion dollars. Only families who have someone age 55 or above experienced “an increase in average net worth between 1984-1999”. What happens to this wealth? Scholars from the University of Alberta say that “much of this wealth will be inherited by the children and grandchildren of these seniors.”
Older Canadians are increasingly becoming invaluable as grandparents as well. Up to 35% of grandparents who share their homes with either their children or their children and their grandchildren are financial providers NOT financial drains. One in ten grandparents live in homes without a middle generation, where they are the primary caretakers of their grandchildren, homes that are sometimes called “skip-generation homes.” The 2001 Census tells us that 57,000 grandparents parented their grandkids, an increase of 20% over the last decade.
Even as independent individuals, seniors contribute to the economic and social well of Canada. In 2000, seniors in Canada contributed an astounding 179 million hours to volunteer agencies, an amount of time that is not only beneficial socially, but economically as well. According to Statistics Canada, in 1998, 42% of Canadians aged 55-64 and 44 percent of Canadians over 65 spent an average of 2.2 hours a day as volunteers. The economic value to our communities is thought to be $60.2 billion each year.
Of course, all of this is in addition to decades of paying sales and income taxes. Its also happening at a time when seniors in Canada are living longer, happier, and more productive lives. Its too easy to depict seniors as drains on the health care system and drags on family resources, but the truth is that seniors in Canada contribute more than their fair share to Canada’s wealth and well-being. Canadians should be reminded of these contributions, even if it is only once a year.