The latest data from the 2021 census shows that Canada’s seniors over 85 are among the fastest growing age groups in the country, marking another milestone on the slow path to what experts warn will become an aged care crisis. people in the country.
Between 2016 and 2021, the number of people aged 85 and over grew by 12 percent, more than double Canada’s overall population growth of 5.2 percent.
The number of people over 85 has more than doubled since the 2001 census and is expected to triple by 2046.
The rate of aging is expected to accelerate with each new candle added to the boomer generation birthday cake each year.
Last year, the oldest members of the Baby Boomer generation turned 76 and are likely to live independently, says Bonnie-Jeann McDonald, director of financial security research at the National Institute on Aging at Ryerson University.
“They have not yet reached the critical age that is usually associated with the need for care and support,” McDonald said. “But that’s really what’s on the horizon very clearly right now.”
By 2050, the population aged 85 and over could reach more than 2.7 million, the census shows, as the last cohort of baby boomers turns 85.
The question is who will take care of this generation and where will they live?
“One of the biggest impacts of population aging is the health care system and the need for long-term care,” said Environics chief demographer Doug Norris.
The census shows that more than one in four older people in this age group currently live in a “collective dwelling” such as a nursing home, nursing home, nursing home or hospital.
The proportion of older people living in such conditions only increases with age, as more than half of centenarians are cared for in one of these homes.
Waiting lists for long-term care beds can stretch for years, leaving people stuck in hospitals because they have nowhere else to go or families struggling to care for their loved ones at home.
“This will affect the country in terms of the distribution of medical resources. This will certainly require more of our tax budget to be devoted to elderly care. But I think that it will affect everyone personally the most,” she said.
This is especially true because Canada’s seniors don’t have as many children as previous generations.
This means fewer caregivers for the growing number of people who will not have access to long-term care facilities.
“Baby boomers are not only the largest generation, but also the first generation to have relatively few children. Thus, they will not have the support of the family, which has existed since almost time immemorial,” MacDonald said.
With one in five people in Canada aged 65 and over, avoiding the problem will be costly, she said.
This is a problem that the researcher personally struggled with. When her childless aunt stopped eating at her nursing home, McDonald and other members of her family had to take turns dropping in to feed her.
People are also living longer, and while this is good news, it also means that the healthcare system will have to change to accommodate an older population.
“The healthcare system in Canada was designed when the median age of the population was about 28,” said Parminder Raina, scientific director of the McMaster Institute for Aging Research.
“Emergency hospitals are not designed for an aging population.”
Many of the effects of the gray wave in Canada will not be felt for about five to ten years, when a significant increase in the number of people over 85 can be expected in Canada.
But the country has already missed the moment with major new investments, as people in need of help will not pay income tax to solve the problem.
This means Canada will have to be creative in caring for older people in the coming decades.
“We need to build not just better systems, but smarter systems,” McDonald said.
— Laura Osman, The Canadian Press.