Aging in Alberta: Rhetoric and Reality


117 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 1-55059-049-9
DDC 305.26'097123




Reviewed by Jeffrey Moon

Jeffrey Moon is Documents Reference/Data Centre Librarian at Queen’s


Aging in Alberta is a thorough yet focused study of the political,
economic, social, and attitudinal problems facing Alberta’s seniors.

At the core of Northcott’s thesis is the recognition that the
“aging problem” facing Albertans—and all Canadians—may be more
rhetoric than reality. For example, many jurisdictions, including
Alberta, have used the rhetoric of the aging problem to justify blaming
seniors for current fiscal problems and cutting programs for seniors.
Current research does not fully support this argument, however, giving
rise to the call for a redefinition of the aging situation in Alberta.
The danger of a more positive view, ironically, is that it may be used
to define seniors as not being in need, thereby justifying program cuts.
These and other dilemmas are dealt with effectively, and with clear
reference to supporting documentation.

One of the strengths of this work is the chapter entitled “Issues in
Population Aging,” which reviews a wide variety of scenarios in
political, economic, social, and attitudinal contexts. The fact that all
of these scenarios can be applied to other jurisdictions extends the
relevance of this work beyond Alberta’s borders.

The author makes effective use of summaries to draw together the ideas
and conclusions presented in each chapter, and to link chapters
together. The author relies heavily on federal, provincial, and
international sources, with an obvious focus on Alberta. A thorough
review of relevant surveys is provided, covering the early 1950s through
to the late 1980s. Results from the 1985 General Social Survey on Health
and Social Support (Statistics Canada, 1987) are discussed, but the 1991
follow-up survey was apparently not available in time to be included.

In conclusion, this well-written investigation, though founded largely
on statistics and studies from Alberta, contains information pertinent
to all Canadians grappling with this important issue.


Northcott, Herbert C., “Aging in Alberta: Rhetoric and Reality,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024,