The Elderly in Canada


Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-660-51271-8




Reviewed by Ashley Thomson

Ashley Thomson is a full librarian at Laurentian University and co-editor or co-author of nine books, most recently Margaret Atwood: A Reference Guide, 1988-2005.


This short volume (23 pages of English text bound with 23 pages of French text) is part of a popular series based on the results of the 1981 census. While not everyone would agree that one is elderly once one has hit 64, it is that conventional age which Statistics Canada has taken as its benchmark.

In the text, the elderly of Canada are discussed under nine headings: size of elderly population, sex, marital status, type of dwelling, place of residence, education, period of immigration and place of birth, ethnicity, participation in labour force, and income.

Some of the book’s findings are well known: that, for example, ours is an aging population, that there are more women over 65 than men, that proportionately more elderly live in Victoria than in Calgary, and that the elderly are getting progressively better educated.

Other findings are less well known — that, for example, most elderly live in private dwellings rather than in institutions.

It is a major strength of the book that the charts and graphs that one would expect to find here are supplemented by clear, readable, and interesting analysis. It projects, for example, that by 2031, when the tail-end of the baby-boom generation reaches 65, the elderly which in 1981 made up 9.7 per cent of the total population will constitute 21 per cent. It suggests, however, that in the future, the current dependence of the elderly upon government transfer payments might fall off, given a positive relationship between education and income, the participation of more women in the labour force, and the imminent elimination of compulsory retirement at age 65.

The book deserves to reach a wide audience, which should include not only government planners (who, of course, will have access to far more sophisticated data), but businessmen interested in an increasingly important segment of the market, students, and members of the general public who will want to know what lies ahead.


Statistics Canada, “The Elderly in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 28, 2024,