Canadians over 65 to be double the number of kids under 15

By KRYSTLE CHOW
Published on the CanWest News Service wire, in the Calgary Herald (pg. A13), the Montreal Gazette (pg. A19), the Nanaimo Daily News (pg. A9), the National Post (pg. A12, all but Ottawa, Toronto & Vancouver), the Ottawa Citizen (pg. A8), the Saskatoon Star Phoenix (pg. B8), the Vancouver Sun (pg. A3), and the Windsor Star (pg. D10).
Dec. 16 2005

OTTAWA – In 25 years, Canada’s population of seniors 65 and older could be more than double the number of children under 15, a Statistics Canada report says.

Although the country’s population is expected to swell to nearly 40 million by 2031, so will the proportion of seniors, who are projected to make up about 23 to 25 per cent of the total population in 2031.

The report says the number of people 65 and older could be between 8.9 million and 9.4 million in the 2030s, compared to about 4.8 million to 6.6 million children below the age of 15.

“The impact of the baby boom and the rapid decline in fertility rates in the 1960s and ’70s has been felt more deeply here than elsewhere (among the G8 countries),” says Alain Belanger, a Statistics Canada analyst.

The current birth rate in Canada is about 1.5 children per woman.

Belanger says it will be difficult to increase fertility levels in Canada with the changes in cultural values and with people tending to spend more time in school during their early child-bearing years.

Worries about the increasing burden on the tax system and the working-age population could be compounded by the fact that the percentage of people aged 15 to 64 is expected to decline steadily in the next few decades.

The report estimates that the working-age population could decline to about 62 per cent of the total population in the 2030s, from the current proportion of 70 per cent.

“A woman who gives birth today will spend longer taking care of her parents than her child,” says Terrence Morgan, executive vice-president of Caregiver Omnimedia, which publishes The Family Caregiver magazine.

Morgan says statistics have shown that a person spends 18 years taking care of his or her parents, compared to about 17 years for a child.

He adds that about one in four adults in Canada are currently acting as caregivers for a loved one.

However, the older population argues that the growing proportion of seniors isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“Just because there’s a lot of older people doesn’t mean they’ll all be a drain,” says Judy Cutler, director of government and media relations of Canada’s Association for the Fifty-Plus.“They don’t all get sick when they turn 65.”

Cutler, 64, says seniors can contribute to the tax burden too, and adds that the government should make it easier for them to do so by getting rid of mandatory retirement.

The Statistics Canada report used population estimates from July of this year as a starting point, with low, medium and high scenarios for population growth.

The medium growth scenario assumed a continuation of current numbers in fertility, mortality and immigration.

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