Canada is experiencing a change in its demographics as the proportion of the aging population continues to increase. This trend is expected to continue as people live longer, especially if birth rates remain comparatively low in Canada.

In this article, we explore the aging population statistics in Canada, including the numbers of those over 65s and over 85s and how Canada compares with other countries. We will also look at the impact on healthcare and pensions in Canada.

The Aging Population Statistics for Canadians

  • Baby Boomers, the largest generation in Canada, represent almost a quarter of the population.
  • The population sizes of the Greatest and Interwar Generations decreased by 67.2% and 20.8% between 2016 and 2021.
  • Over 39% of the population in Newfoundland and Labrador was born in 1965 or earlier.
  • Baby Boomers represent almost 30% of the population outside urban centers.
  • There were 861,000 Canadians aged 85 or older, representing 2.3% of the population in 2021.
  • There are almost twice as many women than men in the 85+ age group in Canada.
  • Healthcare spending on the Canadian senior population is expected to more than double between 2011 and 2036.
  • Financial experts advise Canadians to save between 10% and 15% of their annual salary towards retirement.

Generation Definitions

While there are different meanings to the term generation, in this article it is used to refer to people who have grown up at a specific time with a political, economic, and social context that shapes their worldview. A person’s year of birth is used to determine the cohort they belong to. Here are the current generations:

Generation

Age

Year of Birth

Percentage

Generation Alpha

8 or younger

2013-2021

8.6%

Generation Z

9 – 24

1997 – 2012

18.2%

Generation Y (Millennials)

25 – 40

1981 – 1996

21.4%

Generation X

41 – 55

1966 – 1980

19.1%

Baby Boomers

56 – 75

1946 – 1965

24.9%

Interwar Generation

76 – 93

1928 – 1945

7.3%

Greatest Generation

94+

Before 1928

0.4%

Canada’s Aging Population

According to  Statistics Canada, the percentage of the Canadian population aged 65 and over was approximately 18.8% in July 2022. This translates to over 7.3 million citizens 65 years and older living in Canada. The proportion of seniors in the Canadian population is expected to increase over the next few decades due to factors such as longer life expectancies and aging Baby Boomers.

Baby Boomers are The Largest Generation in Canada

The largest generation in Canada is the Baby Boomer generation. According to the 2021 Census, there were 9,212,60 Baby Boomers living in Canada at the time of the survey. However, this was the first Census where they represented less than a quarter of the total Canadian population.

Based on the 2021 Census, the Baby Boomers represented 24.9% of the population. In comparison, at the end of the baby boom period in 1966, 41.7% of the population belonged to this generation. Between the 2016 and 2021 Census, the number of Baby Boomers fell by 3.1%, largely due to mortality, although some moved outside of Canada.

The fact that this large generation is now at a more advanced ages, will gradually put more pressure on the Canadian health care system, pension plans, and home care system. Although many Baby Boomers are choosing to work longer, by 2031 the oldest members of this generation will reach 85 years of age, often seen as an age when loss of autonomy and activity limitations become more common.

Other Generations

The fastest-growing generation in Canada is the Millennials whose number has increased by 8.6% since the last Census compared to a 5.2% increase of the overall population. This is because of the higher immigration rates among Millennials. In 2021, there were 7,926,575 Millennials living in Canada.

The number of members of Generation X was up by 2.3% since the 2016 Census and numbered 7,069,355 in 2021. There were 6.7 million Canadians from Generation Z in 2021, their numbers having increased by 6.4%.

The number of Canadians from the Greatest and Interwar generations has decreased between the two censuses. The main reason is mortality since there is no significant immigration in these age groups. The population size of the Greatest Generation decreased by 67.2% to 135,560 and the Interwar Generation by 20.8% to 2,716,910.

The youngest generation, called Generation Alpha, which includes Canadians aged eight or younger, is the only generation where growth is driven by fertility. There were 3,194,415 Generation Alpha Canadians in 2021.

Older Populations Across Canada

While Baby Boomers represent 24.9% of the total population, the picture is slightly different in different parts of Canada. For example, in Newfoundland and Labrador, over 31.1% of the population are Baby Boomers. It has the largest percentage of Baby Boomers out of all provinces and territories.

Newfoundland and Labrador also has the oldest population in the country. In addition to the over 30% of Baby Boomers, over 8% of the province’s population comes from the Greatest and Interwar generations.

The province with the highest percentage of Interwar and Greatest generation members is New Brunswick where 8.8% of the population comes from these age groups. In contrast, Nunavut has the highest share of people from Alpha and Z Generations at 48%.

Baby Boomers Are the Biggest Generation in Urban Centers With Less Than One Million Residents

The number of Millennials has overtaken the number of Baby Boomers for the first time in the six biggest urban centers in Canada: Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa–Gatineau. The Baby Boomers represent 22.3% of the population in the largest urban centers compared to 23.3% of Millennials.

However, in urban centers with less than one million residents, Baby Boomers still outnumber Millennials by 24.7% to 21.5%. Outside urban centers, Baby Boomers make up 29.7% of the population compared to 17.9% of Millennials and 17.6% of Generation X.

The Over 85 Population in Canada

The number of Canadians who are aged 85 or over has doubled since 2001 and between the 2016 and 2021 Census, their number has grown by 12%. This is more than twice the growth of Canada’s overall population, which grew by 5.2% between the two Census. However, the growth was lower than between the 2011 and 2016 Census when the over 85-year-old population size grew by 19%.

In 2021, there were 861,000 Canadians aged 85 or older, which represented 2.3% of the population. The number of centenarians, people aged one hundred and older, was 9,500 in the same year, representing 0.03% of the Canadian population. While this is only a small fraction of the total population, the population size of centenarians grew by 16%, over three times faster than the general population growth.

While the over 85s are currently from the Greatest and Interwar generations, large numbers of Baby Boomers will reach this age starting from 2031. Because of this, the number of Canadians aged 85 and over could reach over 2.7 million people by 2050. Eventually, it will also lead to a rapid increase in the number of centenarians between 2046 and 2065, and in 2065, there could be 87,500 centenarians in Canada.

Women Outnumber Men Among the Over 85s

The majority of Canadians who are aged 85 or older are women. However, the number of men in that age group increased faster than the number of women. In 2016, there were 1.9 females for every male among the 85+ age group. By 2021, this had changed to 1.7 females for every male. This is because the life expectancy for men is catching up with women.

This change is even more evident among the centenarians. In 2016, the were over five women for every man aged one hundred and older. By 2021, there were just over four women for every man.  

Over a Quarter of Canadians Over 85 Live in Collective Dwellings

As many people’s activity limitations increase and abilities decrease with age, many elderly people will have to move to collective dwellings, for example, residences for seniors, long-term care facilities, and nursing care facilities. In 2021, 28% of Canadians aged 85 and older lived in collective dwellings. Almost 75% of the residents who are 85 or over are women. Their percentage increases to 85% among centenarian residents.

As the Canadian population grows older, there will be more facilities needed for those elderly Canadians who are no longer able to live on their own. This will have financial implications for the country as there is a shortage of affordable and accessible housing options for seniors, especially those on lower incomes.

Impact on Healthcare

As the Canadian population ages, it will impact the Canadian healthcare system in various ways. For example, there will be an increased demand for services, including long-term care, home care, and palliative care. Healthcare costs will rise with more people likely to need ongoing treatment and management and long-term medication and specialist care.

To accommodate the needs of an aging population, the delivery of healthcare may need to shift from hospital-based to community-based care. This could mean, for example, providing more home care services and expanding the role of primary care providers.

There may also need to be an even greater emphasis on prevention and early intervention to reduce the demand for healthcare services and costs. Preventative measures could include, for example, the promotion of healthy aging, prevention of chronic diseases, and encouraging the elderly to stay active.

As a result of the growing number of elderly in Canada, the healthcare spending on the senior population is expected to more than double between 2011 and 2036 from $29 billion to $62 billion. This could put pressure on government budgets and result in higher taxes or reduced spending in other areas.

Pensions And Retirement Savings

The aging population will also have an impact on the pension services in Canada. There will be an increased demand for pension benefits, such as the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security. Like the increased demand for health services, this could mean higher contributions from workers and employers in the form of taxes or pension contributions. It may also lead to changes in pension programs, including adjustments to retirement age and benefit levels.

The amount Canadians should save for their retirement varies on various factors, such as their retirement goals, expected expenses, the area they want to retire in, and other lifestyle choices. However, as a general rule, financial experts recommend saving between 10% and 15% of your yearly income towards retirement.

Canada’s Aging Population Compared With Other Countries

Japan has the oldest population in the world with over 28% of the population aged 65 or over. The second oldest population is in Italy, where 23% of the population is over 65. The other countries in the top five for the aging population are Greece, Portugal, and Finland, with 22.5%, 22.2%, and 21.8%, respectively. The United States has a senior population of 16%.

Conclusion

As Canada’s population ages, it will pose both economic and social challenges to the government and Canadians. However, the Canadian government is aiming to address the changes in the country’s demographics with new policies and programs to ensure the needs of elderly Canadians, as well as the population on the whole, are met now and in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

The aging population in Canada refers to individuals who are aged 65 and older. According to the 2021 Census, 18.9% of the Canadian population is aged 65 and older.

The aging population in Canada is increasing due to various factors such as increased life expectancy, lower birth rates, and members of the Baby Boomer Generation, the largest age group in Canada, getting older.

While Canada’s aging population is high at 18.9%, it is still lower than in Japan and several European countries. In Japan, 28% of the population are aged 65 and over.

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