65-plus cohort is taking over

Forget granny glasses and rocking chairs.

Think working, active and internet surfing.

That’s the face of Canadian seniors we can expect to see during the next 20 years, according to a report released in February by Statistics Canada.

“Really what we’re looking at is the implication of the baby boom generation continuing to move through the life course,” says Grant Schellenberg, co-author of the report.

These new “young” seniors 65 to 74 have already started to emerge. They have more money, stay at work longer and live longer than ever before. And their numbers will nearly double to 4.5-million in the next two decades.

This is a generation that is better educated and was instrumental in getting women into the workplace. Those values and skills are now carrying over into retirement.

Some of the study’s findings are:

  • Seniors are living longer. Near the beginning of the 20th century, the average 65-year-old Canadian could expect to live another 13.3 years. In 2003, this individual could expect to live another 19.2 years. Even in the short span between 1991 and 2003, life expectancy at the age of 65 in Canada increased by 1.2 years.

  • Between 1981 and 2005, the number of seniors in Canada increased from 2.4 million to 4.2 million. Their share of the total population jumped from 9.6% to 13.1%. (New information on the seniors population from the 2006 Census will be released in The Daily on July 17, 2007.)

  • The aging of the population will accelerate over the next two decades, particularly as baby boomers begin turning 65. Between 2006 and 2026, the number of seniors is projected to increase from 4.3-million to 9.8-million. Their share of the population is expected to increase from 13.2 per cent to 21.2 per cent.

  • Just under 320,000 Canadians aged 65 and older participated in the labour force in 2005. The vast majority, about 308,000, were employed, while another 11,000 were actively looking for work. Altogether, this group accounted for 1.8 per cent of the total labour force.

  • In 1997, only 3.4 per cent of households headed by a senior had internet access; by 2004, this had jumped seven-fold to almost 23 per cent. Between 2000 and 2003, the share of individuals aged 65 to 74 using the internet more than doubled from 11 per cent to 28 per cent.