Aging Population and Its Potential Impact
What’s the Issue?
Canada’s population is aging and per capita healthcare costs increase with age. Many political commentators have put these facts together to predict the aging population threatens the sustainability of Canada’s healthcare system. But what if some other facts are thrown into the mix?
- The aged are only a small part of the population. An increase in the aged population is still only a small percentage of a small percentage.
- Too many Canadians are being persuaded to use more expensive treatments including brand-name drugs for which there are cheaper alternatives. That is, for many brand name drugs there are cheaper generic versions which are biologically equivalent. This isn’t just a problem for the elderly.
- There are examples out there for how to do things more efficiently which will save money.
Most Canadians might also be surprised to know that an aging population is nothing new. Canada’s population has been aging for the past 40 years now. This means that there’s already lots of data on how an aging population really affects healthcare. And a lot of concrete ideas on how to manage it without breaking the bank.
- Who cares? Aging boomers and caregiving policy in Canada. This video is a presentation from the Big Thinking Lecture Series on Parliament Hill, where Dr. Janice M. Keefe explores what we can do to support family and caregivers in our society.
- When a Nursing Home Is Home: How Do Canadian Nursing Homes Measure Up on Quality? This report and accompanying Quick Stats establish a baseline for assessing the quality of care provided to nursing home residents, using risk-adjusted indicators. The report also highlights several nursing homes that have improved performance over time
- Our in-house expert, Dr. Kimberlyn McGrail: Higher utilization, not aging, is driving up healthcare spending. Check out the video on the EvidenceNetwork.ca – You Tube channel!
- From healthydebate.ca: Will the Aging Population Bankrupt our Health Care System? Many believe that aging of the population is the main cause of increased health care costs. If this is true, this paints an exceptionally worrying picture about the sustainability of health care in the future. However, somewhat surprisingly, the majority of researchers don’t believe that aging plays a major role in increasing health care costs. What’s the story? This story features videos from Stephen Duckett, former CEO of Alberta Health Services, and Samir Sinha, Director of Geriatrics at Mt Sinai and University Health Network Hospitals. View the story here.
- A plethora of research indicates population aging does not threaten the financial sustainability of Canada’s healthcare systems, and in fact is only expected to increase healthcare spending by about 1% annually from 2010-2036. Every year the increased number of elderly will be small in comparison to Canada’s overall population, and consequently their impact on the delivery of healthcare in Canada will also be small.
- Seniors healthcare is more costly than healthcare for younger people, for a variety of reasons. The evidence still supports only a 1% annual increase in healthcare costs due to population aging.
- Aging of the population typically accounts for only a small fraction of inflation-adjusted health cost increases. Health cost increases are driven by changes in the quantity and types of healthcare received by Canadians of all ages, not by demographic changes. That is, an aging population provides opportunities for all sorts of interventions without good evidence of increased health or quality of life, but this is an issue for all Canadians, not just the elderly.
- The accuracy of the projected financial impact of population aging on healthcare expenditures depends on several factors, including the economy, and the accuracy with which fertility, immigration, and mortality rates and their impact have been estimated.
- An aging population does not necessarily threaten the sustainability of Canada’s healthcare system, but it does create a need to ensure we are able to provide seniors with the right care, in the right place, at the right time.
- In this 2011 paper, researchers show there are significant opportunities for cost savings in how care is delivered to the elderly. Rather than current systems where home care and nursing homes may be in separate organizations, the authors call for an integrated system to provide lower cost, seamless care for seniors across a wide range of services such as meals on wheels, home care, supportive housing, long term care and specialized geriatric assessment and treatment units in hospitals. Such a system makes it possible to substitute lower cost home care for higher cost nursing home care while maintaining choice for clients and family members, and comparable, or better, quality of care.
- The Institute for Research in Public Policy (IRPP) has produced three reports reviewing how the aging of Canada’s population will present a host of complex and evolving social and economic policy challenges for governments at all levels over the next few decades. The research focuses on a wide range of fundamental issues, including labour market changes, the adequacy and security of retirement income, funding and delivery of healthcare and care-giving services, regional effects, federal-provincial dynamics, and end-of-life questions. They have commissioned several reports.
- Recommended Reading On Aging Population.
Canada has mixed wait time results in healthcare
Wait times have long been a source of concern for Canadians, and in some jurisdictions, remain a significant problem. Recently the Canadian Institutes of Health Information (CIHI) released their report for 2015. There is both encouraging news and areas in need of attention.
Putting healthcare on the federal election agenda
A federal election could be called any time in the next few months, judging by the media coverage and the ramping up of political activity. Many issues have been crowding into the media headlines in anticipation of the election — but with a notable absence of any consideration of healthcare by our political parties.
Dying badly in Canada
A few days after the Supreme Court of Canada overturned the prohibition against medical aid in dying, I received a note from a wonderful colleague of mine saying that her closest friend’s 53 year old son had just died of spinal cancer.
The Canadian baby boom years are different
from the U.S.
As a retired demographer, I do indeed tire of the endless articles in the Canadian press that either just quote U.S.-based stories about the baby boom or make the incorrect assumption that the Canadian baby boom mirrored that south of the border.