The graying of the population

Baby boomers are turning Canada gray. The oldest of the post-war generation, born from 1946-1965, are approaching retirement age and swelling the ranks of the country’s aging population, according to the 2006 census numbers.

Nearly one of every three Canadians is a boomer, with the oldest of them more than 60 and the youngest no longer in their thirties. The country’s fastest growing demographic is the 55 – 64 age group. This represents 3.7 million people – a 28 per cent rise from five years ago.

Another indication that the population is graying: the census reports a record 4.3 million seniors – or 1 out of 7 Canadians.

In contrast, the under-15 demographic shrunk to just 17.7 per cent of the population, down from 18.8 per cent five years earlier.

Within a decade, seniors could actually outnumber children younger than 15, Statistics Canada said.

We’re living longer
The life expectancy of Canadians increased during the 20th century and now stands at 82.5 years for women and 77.7 years for men.

In fact, the number of people aged 80 years and over passed the 1-million mark for the first time between 2001 and 2006, and Statistics Canada reports that the number of centenarians also rose sharply. The number of people over 80 increased 25 per cent from 2001, with more than two-thirds of them women.

The number of centenarians, or people over 100, was up about 22 per cent from 2001 and 50 per cent from 1996. There are currently about 4,635 people over the age of 100 in the country, the report stated.

Dwindling work force
The country’s increased life expectancy combined with a declining birth rate, means that the work force is aging so quickly that there are barely enough young people to replace workers about to retire. And in 10 years, retirees are likely to outnumber newcomers to the work force, Statistics Canada has warned.

“This presents considerable challenges for Canadian employers and for society in general,” the report said.

Yet this comes at a time when one-third of seniors and baby boomers are worried they’ll outlive their bank accounts, according to a recent poll by Decima Research. Further, half the workers over 60 say they’re working because they need the money.

“The Boomers need to stay working – and businesses need them to stay competitive,” says David Cravit, Senior Vice President, Marketing, for the 50Plus Group, Canada’s dominant Internet portal for Boomers and seniors (and owners of this web site).

“Businesses are starting to pay more attention to the tremendous loss of knowledge and experience that they suffer when an older work retires,” he adds. “It isn’t just a matter of finding a qualified replacement – there could be years of lost productivity, because the younger worker just doesn’t have the same amount of knowledge and judgment. Companies are waking up to the need to retain older workers – whether on a full-time or more flexible basis. And this coincides with the needs of Boomers to keep earning.”

Swelling senior population
Saskatchewan had the highest proportion of seniors among all Canadian provinces and territories, with those 65+ accounting for 15.4 per cent of the population. The breakdown for other provinces and territories is as follows: Nova Scotia (15.1); Prince Edward Island (14.9); New Brunswick (14.7); British Columbia (14.6); Quebec (14.3); Manitoba (14.1); Newfoundland and Labrador (13.9); Ontario (13.6); Alberta (10.7); Yukon Territory (7.5); Northwest Territories (4.8); Nunavut (2.7).

Despite its aging population, Canada is the second youngest country in the G8 group of industrialized nations. It has, however, the oldest population in the Americas.

For more: Portrait of the Canadian Population in 2006, by Age and Sex, 2006 Census.