N.B. is turning grey

Proportion of N.B.'s population over 65 years of age is growing, says StatsCan's 2011 Census



New Brunswick is one of the oldest provinces in Canada. It also has one of the lowest populations of children.

According to age and gender

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Census finds that N.B.'s population is turning grey

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information from the 2011 Census released yesterday by Statistics Canada, the proportion of seniors in New Brunswick increased by 15 per cent over the past five years, while the number of children decreased by four per cent.

Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada with a higher proportion of seniors than New Brunswick.

In 2011, there were 123,630 people aged 65 and older living in the province. The number of 0 to 14-year-olds dropped from 118,255 in 2006 to 113,575 in 2011.

Those aged 15 to 64 were the largest group of people in New Brunswick. Their numbers increased by two per cent from 504,105 to 513,960 people since 2006.

'We know there is a lower fertility rate in New Brunswick compared to the rest of Canada. We don't have the detailed information on the effect of migration on the age structure, though,' said Vincent Dale, assistant director in the demography division at Statistics Canada.

About 30 per cent of NBers are baby boomers. The baby boom generation consists of people born between 1946 and 1965. It is the country's largest generation.

The first of them started turning 65 in 2011. This means the senior population will grow further in the coming years.

Dale said that the City of Moncton differs from the rest of the province in having a larger working age population. Compared to the national average, however, it differs little from the rest of Canada.

The national percentage of people 65 and over is 14.8 per cent, with Moncton at 14.6 per cent.

The working age population is 69.9 per cent for Moncton and 68.5 per cent for Canada.

Children aged 0 to 14 make up 15.5 per cent of Moncton's population with a national average of 16.8.

Riverview's population 65 and older is 15.9 per cent. And Dieppe's senior population is 11.5 per cent.

The village of Dorchester has the lowest population of seniors at 8.6 per cent.

In comparison, Salisbury has the highest proportion of seniors at 17.9 per cent compared to the provincial average.

Salisbury Mayor Terry Keating is little concerned about a rise in the senior population. The village has a population of more than 2,200 people. There are a number of homes and condos set up to accommodate seniors, and many of them still live on their own.

Keating said most families stay in the area and look after their elders.

'We've got it set up pretty good for the seniors and they love it here in the village. We look after our own and if they have to go to the doctor their children look after them,' he said. 'I would say it's because it's a great little village to live in and the seniors have condos and their places are close to the main part of the village. Some of them have vehicles and are in walking distance.' But others are concerned about the rising senior population.

Barb Vessey, a volunteer with CARP, a society committed to enhancing the quality of life of seniors, said her main concern for Moncton is seniors living in poverty. Many seniors in the city are unable to afford insurance, housing, and heating with their pensions - on top of medical costs. Others receive no pension at all, and lack savings.

'We have a considerable number of below-poverty-type individuals in our senior community. If you look at the difference between prisoners and those receiving a pension, the prisoners are better off. They get three meals a day and a room with heating and water,' Vessey said.

C├ęcile Cassista, executive director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Homes Residents Rights, said the province needs to provide more affordable housing for seniors to live adequately.

'We do have seniors that live in poverty and it's sad. When the stats came out I met with a lot of seniors and I was surprised to learn that seniors have to go to the food bank before the end of the month. That's very disheartening,' she said.

Many seniors now move from their country homes to caregiving facilities in the cities. And nursing homes are limited.

As of April, there were about 717 individuals on a provincial nursing home waiting list. Approximately 452 of these people are currently in hospitals.

Moncton and Saint John have the highest numbers of seniors waiting for a spot in the province, with about 195 individuals in Moncton and 214 in Saint John.

There are also many seniors who return to the workforce to make ends meet. New technology, long hours and the inability to work physical labour make it hard to keep up with younger workers, though.

Vessey said transportation in Metro Moncton adds to the list of problems.

'People don't use it, parking is becoming expensive and the buses are not regular enough to count on for your transportation because of unreliable time schedules. You have to live in a major city to really rely on public transportation.' Sue Stultz, New Brunswick's minister of Social Development responsible for Seniors, Housing and Community Non-Profit Organizations, said the government expected the senior population to increase across New Brunswick and Canada.

'Caring for seniors is a priority for our government. We realize that seniors want to live with dignity and respect in their own homes. We want to make sure they have the tools to maintain a healthy lifestyle.' There are about 123,000 seniors in New Brunswick. Stultz said 85 per cent of them still live independently without receiving support services.

In response to the lack of nursing beds, Stultz said the government, in partnership with the special-care sector, created 704 new specialized care beds and 354 new nursing home beds in 2011.

Cassista said the specialized bedding is a step in the right direction. She hopes the government will also provide qualified people and lessen the fees for nursing homes. 'We are on the bottom of the list when we look at nursing home fees. The fees will increase by 20 per cent as of July.

From $99 to $101 and then it will go up another $7 in April. And in July of the following year it will be up to $113. That's a substantial cost,' she said.

In 2011, New Brunswick's total population consisted of 751,170 people.

The proportion of seniors in Canada remained among the lowest in the G8 countries, except for Russia. And most of the baby-boom generation is still part of the working-age group.

As the baby-boom generation grows older, the numbers of seniors could someday exceed those of children. Seniors over the age of 100 years old are already the second fastest-growing age group after those aged 60 to 64. In 2011, Moncton had 35 people over the age of 100.

Overall, the number of seniors 65 and over is catching up with the number of children 14 and under. Three of the Atlantic provinces already have more seniors than children (the exception is P.E.I.).

In 2011, seniors accounted for a record high of 14.8 per cent of the population in Canada in 2011, up from 13.7 per cent five years earlier.

At the same time, the country saw an 11 per cent increase in newborns (0 to 4 years old), the largest increase since the 1956 to 1961 period of the baby boom.