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The proportion of the senior population (aged 65 and older) has been increasing steadily over the past 40 years. From 1971 to 2010, the proportion of seniors in the population grew from 8% to 14%.
According to demographic projections, the proportion of seniors is expected to increase rapidly until 2031, when all the baby boomers will have reached 65. Seniors could represent between 23% and 25% of the total population in 2036.
On July 1, 2010, Canada's senior population stood at 4.8 million. Of this total, 1.3 million individuals were aged 80 and older, while 6,500 individuals were aged 100 and older.
An aging population
From 2015 to 2021, the number of seniors is projected to exceed the number of children aged 14 and younger for the first time ever. By 2036, the number of seniors could reach between 9.9 and 10.9 million people.
The number of people aged 80 and older is expected to more than double to 3.3 million by 2036, according to a medium-growth scenario. The population aged 100 and older could triple to more than 20,000.
In 2010, compared with other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the proportion of seniors in Canada (14.1%) was below the proportions in Japan (23.1%), Germany (20.4%), France (16.7%), the United Kingdom (16.5%) and Australia (14.3%), but slightly above that in the United States (13.0%).
Given the size of the baby-boomer generation in Canada, the share of the senior population could surpass that of other nations in the coming years.
Seniors and health
In 2009, 56% of individuals aged 65 and older reported being in good health.
The World Health Organization defines good health as not merely an absence of illness or infirmity, but a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.
The prevalence of good health falls with age, but even up to age 85 at least half the population was in good health in 2009. Senior men were more likely than senior women to have good health, a difference that was not evident in the younger age group. Higher levels of education were positively associated with good health, as was some form of shared living arrangement.
Individuals aged 65 and older were more likely to have one or more chronic health conditions such as hypertension (53%), arthritis (43%) and back problems (29%) than those aged 45 to 64 (24%, 20% and 25%, respectively).
As health problems rise with age, seniors are more likely to report chronic conditions and accompanying poor health. In 2009, 25% of seniors reported at least four chronic conditions, compared with 6% of adults aged 45 to 64.
Several factors over which individuals have some control are associated with good health: refraining from smoking, managing weight, exercising regularly, eating fruits and vegetables, sleeping well, maintaining good oral health, keeping stress at low levels, and participating in activities with family and friends. Generally, each additional factor increases the likelihood of being in good health. In 2009, 91% of seniors reported positively for at least four of these factors.
Seniors still on the job
After declining during the 1980s and early 1990s, the employment rate for seniors has increased. From 2000 to 2010, senior employment increased from 9% to 15% for senior men and from 3% to 7% for senior women.
According to census data from 1981 to 2006, employed seniors work primarily in the consumer services industries, and their professional profile is less diversified than that of younger workers. In those censuses, the most common occupation among senior men was farming, whereas senior women were more likely to work as a retail salesperson or sales clerk.
Seniors are more likely to work if they have a higher level of education, few activity limitations and a mortgage. This is true even after accounting for income from other sources.
Senior men and women at the highest and lowest levels of the family income ladder are more likely to be employed than those in the middle. However, those in the lowest income group are not only more likely to work, but also to work more intensively. Seniors in the highest income group are significantly less likely to work full time for the whole year than those in the lowest income group.