The graying of Canada

Posted on November 10, 2008 in Governance Debates, Health Debates – Opinion/editorial – The graying of Canada
November 10, 2008

In a little over a decade there will be 6.7 million Canadians aged 65 and older; yet there are only some 200 doctors who specialize in clinical care of the elderly. And many of those geriatricians are close to retirement themselves.

The crisis facing Canada as our population bulge of baby boomers turns into seniors – many requiring expensive care – is told compellingly by this year’s Atkinson Fellowship winner Judy Steed. Her eight-day series, which began over the weekend, is dubbed: Boomer Tsunami.

By 2050, a quarter of the population will be aged 65 or older. Steed asks: “What on earth will we do with all the elders? … Cut them loose on melting ice floes?” One hopes governments have a better answer to the enormous challenge of ensuring high-quality care for a growing pool of people with a shrinking number of working taxpayers to support it all.

Ontario is focusing on support services to keep seniors in the community and out of unpleasant and more expensive institutional settings. While there are questions about whether it is doing enough, the province is clearly aware of the need to act.

However, Steed reports that there is no such assurance that Ottawa is paying sufficient attention. Ian McDowell led a federally funded study of aging that found that by the age of 85 one in three of us will have dementia. He says Ottawa is “deaf” to this coming crisis.

This must change. Aging isn’t a temporary crisis politicians can ignore and ride out until the next distraction comes along. Like death and taxes, it is most definitely assured.

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