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Older Canadians look forward to family time but worry over finances and health, survey finds

As cost of living rise and provinces work to solve Canada's ongoing health-care crisis, many older Canadians raise concerns for growing older.
“This kind of research is essential to helping us as a society to move beyond the casual stereotypes about seniors and ‘old people.’

Growing older has its benefits and disadvantages. But during a time of financial precarity, health-care and housing crisis, many older Canadians have their share of concerns about their futures, a new survey has found.

The poll, conducted by Environics on behalf of The National Institute of Ageing, surveyed 5,885 Canadians 50 and older during summer 2022. The results were released Tuesday in a new annual report meant to gauge the perspectives of older Canadians as one-quarter of the country's population marches toward age 65 or older in the next decade.

“This survey fills an important gap in our understanding of how older Canadians think about and experience ageing today, and how this may be similar or different depending on one’s age, socio-economic status and level of health,” said senior associate at the Environics Institute Keith Neuman in a written statement.

“This kind of research is essential to helping us as a society to move beyond the casual stereotypes about seniors and ‘old people.’”

A vast majority of surveyed Canadians reported that they feel financially stable, and confident to continue living in their own homes until the foreseeable future. 

Canadians aged 80 and older reported feeling the best about growing older, holding more positive outlooks than those in their 50 to 70s. Those over 80 also reported higher levels of financial well-being, with 89 per cent saying their income was adequate and 78 per cent saying they could weather a potential financial shock. 

The level of financial security dropped among respondents aged 50 to 64 — 63 per cent said their income was adequate and 56 per cent said they could handle a financial shock.

Canadians 80 and older also fared better in their social life, despite findings that four in 10 Canadians over 50 were considered to be "socially isolated."

"Compared to their younger counterparts aged 50-79 years, Canadians aged 80 years and older reported having the strongest social networks, and were also more engaged in terms of frequent social participation," noted the report. 

Struggles as Canadians grow older

Just under a third of respondents 50 and older said they had experienced ageism, or discrimination based on their age. Of those, 31 per cent those who experienced ageism said it happened at work, whereas roughly 20 per cent said they experienced such discrimination on the street or stores and restaurants. For those over 80, hospitals were the most common setting for older Canadians to experience ageism, the poll found.

Those born outside the country are at particular risk of becoming a target of ageism, noted the report. 

More than half of Canadians over 50 said they were able to access health care "most of the time" in the last year, while another 28 per cent said they have "struggled."

“There are still challenges to ageing in Canada, and certain segments of Canada’s older population are especially vulnerable,” said the report's co-author Natalie Iciaszczyk, policy analyst at the National Institute on Ageing.

“Conducting this survey annually will allow us to more quickly identify areas of growing concern and respond to them before they get worse.”