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Aging Population

The proportion of Canada's population that is 65 and older is the highest it has ever been. This number will not only continue to grow, but will also spike upward as the baby boom generation (those born between 1946 and 1965) begins to reach age 65 in 2011.

Alberta's Seniors
Mr. Idwal JonesIn 2000, there were an estimated 3.8 million seniors in Canada (1.1 million in the West), which is up 58 percent from 2.4 million in 1981. The exception in these statistics is Alberta, which has significantly fewer seniors than the other western provinces and the rest of Canada. This does not, however, exempt Alberta from having to address the effects of population aging.

An aging population has important social, economic and political ramifications. These include increased demand for health care, a smaller labour market, a diminished tax base, a growing number of Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security recipients, an expanding market for products and services used by seniors and greater public policy interest in the needs and concerns of the elderly.

The pattern for all four western provinces is clear: with the exception of infants (and to a lesser extent, toddlers), there is a positive relationship between age and per capita health expenditures (see table below). As the West's population ages, therefore, health expenditures will increase. All provinces will need to address the public policy ramifications this creates, including possible limitations on public health care and the search for greater efficiency in health care delivery.

It must be stressed that an aging population is not a "problem" to be solved, but rather a demographic trend that will bring both challenges and opportunities. The task at hand is to plan strategically to ensure these challenges do not become difficulties. 
Excerpts reprinted from Robert Roach and Loleen Berdahl, State of the West: Western Canadian Demographic and Economic Trends (Calgary: Canada West Foundation: 2001), with permission from the Canada West Foundation.

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