Policy innovations for an aging society
Population aging is one of the most significant demographic trends affecting Canada and the world. The 2016 Census found that the population of people aged 65 and older in Canada is experiencing its fastest growth since Confederation, with seniors outnumbering children. And on a global scale, the number of seniors is expected to double in the next 25 years.
Conventional narratives around an aging society depict this change as a looming threat to national resources. An aging population is typically described as a “silver tsunami,” leading to higher health care costs as well as a strain on services.
The reality, however, is that seniors are not an undifferentiated group, but rather distinct groups of people with different needs, interests, and limitations. Many continue to work past the traditional retirement age of 65 and are active participants in their communities. To create truly age-friendly societies, policy initiatives need to be more creative, community-based, coordinated, and responsive than those currently on offer, many of which focus on the mere provision of care at home.
In this report, Sherri Torjman argues for a paradigm shift in the current narrative on aging and its associated policy responses. Aging, Sherri argues, should be viewed as creating unique opportunities for economic, social, and cultural development. She examines a range of policies and programs from Canada and around the world that are optimistic and holistic in their approach to aging, enabling older citizens to participate meaningfully in their communities while receiving adequate care. In conclusion, she recommends changes to current models of data collection, funding, and governance that can secure a strong foundation for these new initiatives.
Examples of policy innovations discussed in this report include:
- Building age-friendly societies that anticipate and accommodate needs arising from functional limitations;
- Restructuring health care to provide collaborative/interdisciplinary care for complex, ongoing health issues;
- Exploring innovative models for the provision of ongoing care at home and in the community;
- Increasing recognition and support for caregivers, including financial support, flexible working hours, and paid leave;
- Creating alternative living arrangements through co-housing models and caring villages; and
- Engaging technology to support prevention and treatment, independent living, and at-home assistance.