The View From Here – That seniors now outnumber children in Canada should not be seen as a looming dystopian reality

Tom Henihan
The federal census of 2016 shows that Canada’s population is aging with seniors now outnumbering children under the age of 15, for the first time since Confederation.

Canadians aged sixty-five and older constitute 16.9 percent of the population while those under 15 make up 16.6 percent.

Over the past 5 years, those in the working-age demographic, between 16 and 65, decreased to 66.5 from 68.5 percent.

Alberta is the exception to the rule having the youngest population in the country.

However, according to Statistics Canada, the recent development of seniors outnumbering children is just the beginning of a trend that will gain momentum and continue into the 2030s.

Due to a greater awareness regarding a healthy lifestyle, more people are staying active longer and continuing with their regular routines of working, participating in sports, travel and so on.

However, most of the reporting on the spectre of an aging population expressed such alarm one might think that not just Canada but also most of its citizens were turning 150 this year.

Most responses to seniors outnumbering children cited a doomsday scenario of providing health care, pensions, housing, transportation and other services, all in the face of shrinking tax base.

There is a need to deal with these practical matters of course, but in spite of hand ringing apprehension, people are going to age regardless, so there is also a call for some constructive, creative thinking.

Because more people are living longer and maintaining active lives, the old benchmarks of assessing age need revising, such as the arbitrary retirement age of 65.

Taking into account an older, healthier population pushes back the implications of a larger seniors demographic as it doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing it did thirty years ago.

Another probable outcome is that with a greater number of people aging, relatively speaking getting old may not feel so old and besides, the needs of an aging population will be a primary focus rather than something peripheral.

Also, for younger people, with a greater burden maybe society will place in them greater value, rather than the present state of affairs where so many are sold a phony bill of goods at colleges and universities only to graduate with enormous debt to discover they can’t find work in their field.

Realistically, a country where the aging population outnumbers children is not an ideal situation and being healthy and staying active is not the same as being young.

No matter how robust people might be as they age, unless we they are oblivious to the dictates of life they are going to feel a sense of existential reckoning, a realization that the universe has tilted and is now more retrospective than prospective.

As one ages, mortality is no longer an abstract construct that will happen years from now to someone you have yet to become; it is an inevitability that must be wrestled with by the person you are now.

This is a rite of passage as profound and interesting as any other in life. To try to stay healthy is positive; pretending to be young when you are not is an abdication, a missed opportunity.

In response to the pundits painting a dark vestige of a future without adequate services one need only think of one’s grandparents and their generation who lived useful lives into ripe old age without being lavished with services or expecting as much.

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