‘Ottawa’ Ottawa-Gatineau’s Population is Getting old, new Census data Shows
Statistics Canada’s latest census results show age is catching up to the Ottawa-Gatineau region.
The results released Wednesday are focused on age, sex and dwelling types, and show that the 65-and-over population grew by 20 per cent nationally in 2016. Meanwhile, Ottawa’s senior population jumped to make up 15 per cent of the region’s population, compared to 12.7 per cent in 2011.
Julien Bérard-Chagnon, a demographer with StatCan, said the rise in Ottawa’s aging population comes down to two factors.
“First, life expectancy is increasing, meaning that people are living longer,” said Bérard-Chagnon. “And then the fertility levels are decreasing, so we have fewer babies than in the past. So that means smaller cohorts replace bigger cohorts.”
He said the effects this has on the city is considerable because the needs of seniors are obviously different than those of children.
“We can think about pressures on pensions plans, on health care, even on infrastructure,” he said. “The working age population, they need transportation during rush hour, and seniors need transportation outside of working hours.”
Bérard-Chagnon said it’s important to keep in mind that Ottawa remains younger than Canada as a whole. The Ottawa-Gatineau region has 15 per cent of the population 65 and over compared to the national average of 19.9 per cent, and 16.9 per cent in Ontario.
“Essentially these are the baby boomer cohorts that are crossing the 65 threshold, so that means that in Ottawa-Gatineau, there are proportionally more of these cohorts crossing that threshold, but still Ottawa-Gatineau remains younger than Canada.”
When comparing Ottawa’s 15 per cent to other major cities, seniors in Montreal make up 14.6 per cent of the population. They make up 15.7 per cent in Vancouver; 14.5 in Toronto; 10.9 per cent in Calgary; and 19.2 per cent in Quebec City.
Ottawa’s youth (0 to 14) make up 17 per cent of the population, which hasn’t changed since 2011. As for the remaining age categories, 68 per cent of Ottawa citizens are 15 to 64 years old, and 1.9 per cent are 85 years and over.
Linda Duxbury, a professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, said the aging population will have “huge” ramifications for the city — not just on infrastructure and the seniors themselves but for those who will have to care for them if the proper support is not in place. She said it’s up to all levels of government to ensure tax dollars are allocated to build up senior care programs outside hospitals.
“Not only are (seniors) using the health care system, but some of them start to get chronic illnesses, and chronic illnesses don’t require hospitalization as much as they require intensive support in the community,” she said.
“We are really short in Eastern Ontario and Ottawa in particular in terms of being able to support people in their homes. This is going to get vastly worse as we move forward.”