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Aging population to put pressure on long-term care facilities says B.C. industry

Canada’s long-term care sector is ill-prepared to handle a rapidly aging population, according to the BC Care Providers Association, as the federal government releases the latest census data.

The population is growing older and is expected to keep aging rapidly in the years to come, according to 2021 census data from Statistics Canada. The number of people over the age of 85 has more than doubled since the 2001 census and is expected to triple over the next 25 years. One in five Canadians is over the age of 65, up from 16.9 per cent in the 2016 census.

Terry Lake with the association says he does not feel governments are prepared to handle the number of Canadians who will require home care, assisted living, or long-term care.

“We are simply not building enough capacity in the system,” he said. “The issue is a lot like climate change in that we all know it’s coming, but we keep putting action on it off until it’s right in our faces.”

He says the pandemic exposed some of the cracks in the system, including infectious disease preparedness and labour shortages, and has led to some changes in the sector, but says B.C. alone needs at least 5,000 care beds in the next five years to meet demand.

He credits B.C. for increasing funding and training opportunities within the sector but says bed space is still lacking.

Environics chief demographer Doug Norris says as the population ages, that will put additional pressure on Canada’s health care system as well.

Related: Canada faces rapidly aging population, record retirements: 2021 census

As care facilities reach capacity, Lake predicts, if nothing is done to increase supply, many British Columbians will be forced to leave their jobs to look after loved ones.

This would only add to the problem as more Canadians prepare to retire. The working age group is outlined as individuals between 15 and 64 and the data shows a growing number of that group is nearing retirement. More than 20 per cent of the working age population is now between the age of 55 and 64.

“So it’s not just an impact on the individual that needs care. It’s an impact on the family, and it’s an impact on the workforce and the economy,” Lake said.

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