Aging in a Foreign Land

There are two population trends that are changing the social landscape of Canada and are going to have an impact on how programs and services are delivered.

As in other parts of the world, the Canadian population is aging – with the number of Canadians age 65+ expected to double to 10.4 million by 2036. In addition, Canada’s population is also becoming increasingly diverse, with many older adults also being immigrants. On the 2006 census, while 20% of the overall population was immigrants, the corresponding figure among older adults was 30%.

A working paper from Ontario-based network CERIS (Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement) sought to explore the aging experiences of older immigrants in Canada. The key findings from this study include:

  • Older immigrants, especially those who have recently arrived, are more likely to live in the top 3 Canadian CMAs (Census Metropolitan Areas) – Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver
  • Home countries of older immigrants have changed in the past 30 years, with almost half of older immigrants now arriving from South Asia and East Asia rather than Western Europe
  • Slightly more than half of the older adults who arrived recently did not have knowledge of the official languages of Canada, however they were more likely to have post-secondary education than their Canadian-born counterparts
  • Recent older immigrants were more prone to ill health in the long-run because of limited social networks, inadequate knowledge of the official languages and relatively low income

The Centre for Elder Research has recently completed a project looking at the health and social service use and needs of older South Asian immigrants in the regions of Peel and Halton. With support from local ethno-specific community organizations, over 300 older South Asian immigrants participated in the project and shared their unique experiences of aging and accessing services in Canada.

Aging away from their country of origin and in many cases, away from extended social networks, can have physical, cognitive, social and emotional impacts on older immigrants. For this reason here is a need for continued research in this area, particularly research that can inform policymakers and community organizations on how to best meet the unique needs of older immigrants living in Canada.

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