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The Needs of Seniors Living Alone

Retirement housing demand is driven by need and takes two forms, not mutually exclusive, but more of a continuum, since needs change as we age - independent and assisted living.  The need for more independent choices is influenced by a number of factors, the most pressing being the need for social interaction to ward off loneliness and its devastating effects on health, followed by nutrition and then by some housekeeping supports.  

The need for independent living results from differing life expectancies between males and females, as well as other factors. The following chart demonstrates the imbalance between sexes:


Another way to look at this is by using living arrangement data from the 2011 Census. This shows that an ever increasing number of older adults are in fact without a spouse or significant other to provide support.

While only 20% of those between 65 and 74 are living alone, which when combined with the estimated 20% who are frail can account for 4% to 5% of residents in retirement homes, a relatively small percentage. A number in the age segment who are well may also choose a more active lifestyle with social activities, nutritional and housekeeping supports.

Starting at age 70 the gap gradually increases, such that the average of those over 75 living alone is 34.5% - ranging from a low of 32% in Ontario to a high of 42.5% in Saskatchewan. With longer life expectancies and more people living into their eighties, that ratio increases further to 40.1% across Canada, and ranges from 37.4% in Ontario to 49.7% in Saskatchewan.

Another major factor in the need for retirement homes is dictated by our North American lifestyle, with both spouses working, raising children, as well as attempting to help an aging parent and trying to cope with busy lifestyles. A review of Labour participation rate indicates both couples working in the following chart. Interesting is the fact that those with children are working more:

No wonder many new retirement home residents say "I wish I'd made this move sooner".

Look for our upcoming research on the role of unpaid caregivers - families, neighbours and friends. Our initial findings are that with the aging of the population, we’ll start to run out of caregivers by 2021.

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