Canada’s aging population has changed, new report finds

Supports for the elderly are geared towards a homogeneous, pre-war era population

A happy, senior woman standing outside.

Mount Royal University supports initiatives that are laying the foundation for change to how older adults are cared for.

A recent report by the Institute for Community Prosperity found that the aging population is far more diverse than it ever was, in every way imaginable. Yet, Canada continues to design programs and institutions based on the needs of a homogeneous population born between the First and Second World Wars.

Aging & Thriving in the 21st Century: A Scan and Selective Systems Analysis of Issues, Trends, and Innovations Vital to Older Adults in Canada explores the issues, trends, system dynamics and innovations related to this important group.

“We are an emphatically aging society,” says James Stauch, director of the Institute.

“Many of our approaches even date back to the industrial revolution, where warehousing the aged and indigent was the default for all but the most privileged.”

Stauch points out that Canada is also burdened with rampant and systemic ageism, manifested in collective denial, chronic underinvestment and the inability to imagine alternatives. There is also a failure to connect aging to the cultural, social and economic fabric and heart of vibrant communities.

“To date, aging is largely seen as a cost to society and is framed primarily as a concern for the health sector,” Stauch says.

“We have over-medicalized, over-hospitalized and over-institutionalized at huge expense and — in too many respects — with dismal outcomes.”

The report was initiated and commissioned by the ATCO Transformation Team. Andrea Klaiber-Langen is the vice-president, Transformation, Commercial and Legal at ATCO Group. She says that the Institute for Community Prosperity’s past work motivated her team to explore ways of collaborating.

“After meeting James and finding out about the Institute’s genesis and work, we were keen to explore ways of working together to apply systems thinking to the complex and rich subject of aging and thriving in Canada,” Klaiber-Langen says.

Klaiber-Langen is very proud of the report, describing it as an excellent, in-depth scan of current issues related to aging in Canada. She believes that shifting our perception of the world around us can lead to a deeper understanding and to solutions that address real needs.

“In alignment with ATCO’s vision — to deliver inspired solutions for a better world — we are so pleased that the Institute’s work is available for use by ATCO and by the many practitioners, academics and industries that work with these issues, trends, dynamics and innovations.”

Stauch agrees, and hopes that the solutions outlined in the report will address the needs that exist.

“There is so much exciting potential ground to explore, experiment with, and scale, for example around approaches that combine intergenerational living, lifelong learning, tech-enabled universal and inclusive design, and active living,” he says.

Mount Royal University supports initiatives that are laying the foundation for change to how older adults are cared for. Additional University initiatives that are providing the groundwork for a better future include:

  • Mount Royal and partners focusing on aging LGBTQ+ population. This study will help inform online training modules for service providers, assisting them in becoming more sensitive and aware of what LGBTQ+ seniors might need as they make their way through the system.
  • Funding directed towards enhancing technology in seniors care. MRU’s nursing program has also established four-year Seniors Health Teaching Chair with expertise in seniors care.
  • The Faculty of Continuing Education supports family caregivers and non-health-care professionals who want to gain skills and grow their knowledge of dementia. The three courses in the Dementia Care Certificate of Completion introduce the disease as a progressive process that is experienced uniquely by individuals and families.
  • MRU also offers an Advanced Topics in Dementia Care Extension Certificate for health-care professionals encountering the disease across the care continuum. The certificate provides up-to-date knowledge for health-care professionals working with older adults living with dementia and their families — from early identification to end-of-life care — and best-practices education for dementia care applications.

The Institute for Community Prosperity is committed to advancing social innovation through inspiring changemaking. Find out more.

Dec. 6, 2021 — Rob Petrollini

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