Age Waves: Managing the Transition to an Older Society

Predictions that seniors will break the health care and pension banks are myths. However, if we don’t prepare for the aging population now, these myths will become realities.

We are living in unprecedented times. The whole world is on the cusp of a demographic revolution that has been called at the United Nations an “age quake.” CARP refers to the phenomenon as “age waves.” Whatever it’s called, it’s expected to have as great an impact on society as did the industrial revolution. Whether this impact is positive or negative is up to us.

CARP commissioned the Canadian Council on Social Development (CCSD) to identify the key challenges and issues associated with this population shift and to find out if the change in the population will really cause a crisis in areas such as health care and pensions. The study found that it will, and it won’t.

Seniors will not become a burden or a drain on the public purse, if action is taken now. In fact, we need a holistic system that integrates the social determinants of health, pensions and health care, while there are still economic surpluses and significant time for planning and implementation.

The demographic shift mu be embraced by design now, rather than default later, in order to avoid crisis management in the future.


The aging of Canada’s population means that the fabric of our nation will dramatically change by 2025. There will be approximately 8 million seniors up from 4 million in 2001. In other words, more than 1 in 5 people will be over 65. Furthermore, those aged 50 and over will make up 41.5% of the Canadian population.

The under 50 group will decline from 72% of the population in 2001 to 59% by 2026 and will decline in absolute numbers from 22 million to 21.2 million.

The face of Canada is changing dramatically which cannot be ignored. Demographic changes will bring social, financial and cultural consequences and these need to be addressed and coordinated into a national aging plan.

The effects that the aging population will have on society as examined by the CCSD Study will be shared in this column in the following issues of CARP Action.