Canadian society is aging. Greater longevity, lower fertility and the movement of the baby boom generation into their retirement years is reshaping Canadian society. The proportion of Canadians aged 65 and over is expected to grow from 14 percent in 2011 to 21 percent in 2026 and 26 percent in 2051. The dependency ratio -- the number of elderly and youth for every 100 people of working age – is expected to rise from 58 today to over 80 by mid-century. Moreover, members of the generation about to retire have more demanding expectations about their golden years than earlier generations.
This demographic transition will impact virtually every dimension of Canadian life. Attention normally focuses on the most immediate implications, such as changes in the labour force or pressures on social programs such as pensions and health care. But the effects of population aging will ripple through society more broadly. The housing and transportation sectors and urban planning more generally will feel the impact. In addition, we need to pay attention to who is going to care for a larger elderly population. We need to develop and support a new generation of caregivers, at all skill levels, to meet the rising demand.
Population aging will precipitate active debates on many fronts. We will debate the appropriate roles of the family, community, private sector, the non-profit sector and the public sector in meeting the needs of elderly Canadians. We will debate issues of financing, political sustainability and intergenerational equity. We will debate how to serve an increasingly diverse elderly population, bridging our multicultural differences and the urban/rural divide.
QIISP 2011 will open these debates, examining the multiple challenges posed by population aging. International specialists will focus on the experience of other countries already grappling with the effects of population aging, including Asian countries such as Japan and many European countries. Researchers will drill down into specific areas of Canadian life where the pressures will be greatest. Service providers from the private, nonprofit and public sectors will track developments and anticipate gaps that may remain.