The growing number of baby boomers entering the ranks of senior citizens has brought about a fundamental shift in Canada’s demographic makeup, Statistics Canada said Tuesday.
The agency said the number of Canadians aged 65 or older edge out the number of children under the age of 14, according to the most recent population figures.
StatsCan said seniors made up 16.1 per cent of Canada’s population as of July 1, 2015, compared to 16.0 per cent for children between the ages of 0 and 14.
The shift was driven by a trend that took root in 2011 and has continued to accelerate — the aging of the baby boomers, or Canadians born between 1946 and 1965.
StatsCan said the population growth rate for Canadians over the age of 65 was 3.5 per cent, nearly quadrupling the national average of 0.9 per cent.
Baby boomers now account for 18 per cent of the senior demographic, the agency said.
Demographer David Foot said the latest figures still represent the early days of a trend that is likely to persist for at least a decade. StatsCan seems to agree, projecting that Canadians over the age of 65 will make up a fifth of the national population by 2024.
Foot said the most serious implication of this shift, namely an increased toll on Canada’s health care system, won’t be felt for some time.
“They’re still fairly young seniors. They’re in their late 60s,” Foot said of the boomers. “Many of them are still working and paying taxes.”
The aging of the Canadian population has also begun to make itself felt in provincial figures in recent years, with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador all reporting that deaths have begun to outpace births.
This aligns with StatsCan’s latest figures, which found that Atlantic Canada had a higher proportion of Canadians over the age of 65. Seniors comprised 19 per cent of New Brunswick’s population, making it the most aged province in the country. The most youthful region was Nunavut where just 3.7 per cent of the population are currently senior citizens.
While Canada’s year-over-year population growth was the highest among G7 countries, StatsCan said the 0.9-per-cent increase was the smallest of its kind since 1998-99.
The slower pace was caused primarily by a drop in international migration growth, which slipped from 0.7 per cent in 2013-14 to 0.5 per cent this year.
The agency said 86 per cent of Canada’s 35,851,800 residents were located in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.
Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press