Statistics Canada predicts that, by 2036, nearly 25 percent of the Canadian population will be aged 65 or older. In 2016, the number of seniors surpassed the number of children in Canada for the very first time in history.
The Baby Boomers, the largest demographic in Canadian history, are all entering their golden years. People are also living longer than ever before. These two factors are driving the growth of the senior population in Canada.
This new reality presents unique challenges for Canada over the coming decades. One key challenge will be meeting the housing needs of senior citizens.
Health and Aging
As people grow older, their health tends to decline. The longer you live, the greater your chances of developing some kind of health condition. Some people are relatively lucky and develop minor, manageable conditions. Conditions such as blindness or limited vision, deafness, and arthritis are all relatively minor. They still affect people’s quality of life and independence in a major way.
Others will develop major, chronic illnesses or terminal disease. These people will require more intensive care and support.
The overall picture, however, suggests older people need more health care supports. Most will come to rely more heavily on other people to assist them in day-to-day tasks.
Some seniors will need to move to long-term care facilities. Commonly known as “homes,” long-term care provides for those who can no longer live independently. There are different levels of long-term care, depending upon the person’s needs.
Some long-term care facilities allow residents relative freedom. Security features and medical staff, such as nurses who assist with medication, are the only things that mark these living arrangements as different from apartment living. Residents often have a good degree of independence and can still perform many day-to-day tasks.
Other facilities are meant for those people who need more intensive care. These patients may be suffering from conditions or illnesses which markedly limit their independence. Patients in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s disease and stroke and heart attack patients may fall into this category.
Long-term care facilities are in high demand. A chronic shortage of beds already plagues most provinces. The number of beds needs to increase dramatically, or the situation will only get worse as the senior population in Canada continues to grow.
Staying at Home
Given the chronic lack of long-term care beds available, some seniors may need to stay in their own homes if at all possible. For those who don’t find this possible, they may need to be moved to a short-term care facility or stay with relatives who can provide care.
Many seniors are still very independent and can perform day-to-day tasks without much trouble. However, if they live alone, there may be concerns about slips and falls or things such as forgetting to take medication.
Providing support to seniors still living on their own is becoming more common. In some cases, family and friends offer as much assistance as they can. In other cases, a professional may be hired to provide care and assistance to the senior.
For some seniors who want to stay home, housing may need to be modified. A bathtub may need to be replaced or a wheelchair ramp may need to be installed. Some home renovations designed to facilitate senior’s independence can be extensive and costly.
As the senior population in Canada continues to grow, there are calls for not only increasing the number of long-term beds available, but also for increasing the types of care available. Senior citizens should have plenty of options to meet their care and housing needs.