Caring for an Aging Society
Canada’s aging population is heavily reliant on family members and friends for elder care. Statistics Canada tracks this information, and a review of the numbers reveals some fascinating demographic information, including:
• Nearly 70% of the care required by seniors, age 65 or older, is provided by a close relative age 45 or older.
• Mothers are the greatest recipients of this care,with 37% of caregivers focusing on meeting the needs of their aging mother, while 12% of caregivers are focused on caring for an aging father.
• Thirteen percent of caregivers are caring for an aging parent-in-law.
However, care is not strictly a family affair; in fact, 30% of care to Canadian seniors is being provided by friends, extended family and neighbours.
The statistics suggest there is likely overlap where family and friends work together to meet elder care needs because today’s modern lifestyles include families whose work responsibilities limit the time they have to devote to family needs. While it is difficult to identify specifically why, the involvement of friends and neighbours may also result from a decrease in the number of children per family over time and increased mobility, where adult children follow careers that can create geographic separation.
These statistics are based on unpaid care and assistance provided to seniors with a long-term health condition or physical limitation. They do not reflect paid care. The types of unpaid care can take many forms. Examples of services reflected in these statistics include meal preparation, laundry, household cleaning, transportation for groceries or banking, medical care and assistance with personal care. While the types of services can vary widely, of great significance is the proportion of Canadians who report providing care to someone age 65 or older.
It is expected that by 2017 the proportion of individuals age 65 and older will outpace the number of children under age 14 in Canadian society, and that the differential will continue to expand throughout the subsequent years. It is anticipated that by 2036 seniors will represent one in every four Canadians — an anticipated outcome from Canada’s aging population and declining birth rate. In addition, it is expected that the number of individuals age 80 and over will double by 2036 and sit at approximately 3.3 million Canadians.
The shifting age structure means Canadian society will rely more and more on seniors to take care of seniors, and it is likely that there will be increased reliance on friends and extended family for assistance in offering care. In 2009, 56% of Canada’s seniors reported being in good health, which means not only free of illness but in a state of physical, mental and social well-being. As we would expect, the incidence of health problems tends to rise with age. Yet, in 2009, half of Canadians over age 85 reported being in good health. Even so, as the population ages, the rise in the sheer number of individuals who will be reliant on others for assistance places new challenges on Canadian society in meeting the basic needs of daily assistance in order for seniors to remain reasonably independent. Older men tend to report fewer health issues than older women, which may partially account for the significant percentage of caregivers focused on caring for an aging mother.
While there is no indication of the number of seniors who are relying on family and friends because of financial restrictions, it is likely that finances have some degree of influence. Given Canada’s aging population, it would be wise for individuals to consciously prepare for the financial implications associated with new needs as one ages.
E.O. & E.
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Contributors to this edition:
James W. Kraft, cpa, ca, mtax, tep, cfp, clu, ch.f.c.
Deborah Kraft, mtax, tep, cfp, clu, ch.f.c.