HALIFAX — A new report says Canada's health-care system is struggling to find the resources to provide adequate long-term care for people who can no longer live in their homes — and the challenge has already reached the crisis stage in Nova Scotia.
The report, prepared for the Nova Scotia Nurses Union, says the province's antiquated system is plagued by understaffing, excessive workloads, demoralized workers, unsafe work environments and workplace violence.
These problems can be found in other provinces, but they are particularly acute in Nova Scotia because the province's unusually large proportion of seniors is growing at a rapid rate.
The report says seniors already account for 18.9 per cent of the population — one of the highest in Canada — and that number is expected grow to just over 30 per cent in the next 22 years.
As well, the residents in Nova Scotia's long-term care facilities are by far the oldest in Canada with an average age of 88.
The report includes 15 recommendations for improvement, including a call to update legislation that hasn't been changed in 38 years, hiring more long-term care nurses and nurse practitioners, improving monitoring and launching an independent inquiry.ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
In 1970, Canada old-age dependency ratio was around 13, meaning that every 100 people of working age had to support about 13 retirees. That ratio grew to more than 19 by 2008, and every 100 workers has to support nearly 20 retirees. This trend is expected to continue in the coming decades.
According to Health Canada, the growth of the over-65 crowd will account for nearly half of Canada's population growth between now and 2041. As the baby boomers age, the population of seniors is projected to hit 6.7 million in 2021, before seeing a massive spike in the following two decades, bringing the senior population to 9.2 million by 2041.
In 1971, the median age in Canada was 26.6, meaning half the population was above that age, and half below. By 2010, the median age had grown to 39.7. And according to Statistics Canada's projections, that number could grow to as high as 46 by 2061. That would make Canada's population heavily weighted towards the elderly.
In the 1960s, the average retirement age for a male was 64.5 years, while life expectancy hovered around 70 years. That meant the average Canadian male spent about half a decade in retirement, collecting benefits from the government. But since that time, life expectancy has grown -- and the retirement age has come down. Men now retire on average at 61, and their life expectancy is 78. That means the average male now spends 17 years in retirement. For women, the increase in retirement time is even more pronounced, but because of the large influx of women into the workforce over the past 50 years, women are spending more time in the workforce than they used to.
According to this chart from David Foot, author of Boom, Bust and Echo, Women aged 85 or over will form the single largest demographic group in Canada by 2051. By this point, Canada's traditional "population pyramid" -- with young people making up the largest group, and each aging group making up a successively smaller portion of the population -- will have evened out, with roughly equal proportions of the population in each group. This chart shows that nearly one quarter of the population will be over 65 by 2051, placing an enormous burden on younger, working-age people.