Thursday, May 22, 2014

Health issues for the Senior Population

Over the coming years, especially as the first Baby Boomers turn 65 years old, it is possible that a new definition of “senior” will replace the current one. What it generally means to be a senior, for seniors themselves as well as for society in general, could go through an important redefinition. One of the term that has been coined in Canada for seniors is Zoomers, in the US the terms is Baby Boomers, I like the term Sonic Boomer, whatever term is used people my age are redefining aging.

The aging of the population will accelerate over the next three decades, particularly as individuals from the Baby Boom years of 1946 to 1965 begin turning age 65. The number of seniors in Canada is projected to increase from 4.2 million to 9.8 million between 2005 and 2036, and seniors’ share of the population is expected to almost double, increasing from 13.2% to 24.5%. Population aging will continue between 2036 and 2056, but at a slower pace. Over this period, the number of seniors is projected to increase from 9.8 million to 11.5 million and their share of the total population is projected to rise from 24.5% to 27.2%.

 Most seniors are women, and this is especially so in older age groups. In 2005 women accounted for almost 75% of persons aged 90 or older, while they accounted for 52% of persons aged 65 to 69. Longer life expectancy among women explains their over-representation in older age groups.

However, differences in life expectancy between women and men have begun to narrow and consequently the gender composition of older age groups is expected to become more even in the coming years. There is already some evidence of this shift. For example, between 1981 and 2005, the share of persons aged 80 to 84 who were men increased from 37% to 39%.

By 2021, men are projected to account for 43% of 80 to 84 year olds, with this share projected to increase to 46% by 2056. The same trends are projected within other older age groups.

Cancer and heart disease are the main causes of death for seniors. Between 2000 and 2002, deaths caused by cancer have increased slightly among seniors aged 85 and over (a rate of 2,064 per 100,000 in 2000 versus 2,121 per 100,000 in 2002), remained approximately the same in the 75 to 84 age range and declined non-significantly among younger seniors. Since death rates for all causes were declining at the same time, cancer represented a slightly larger proportion of deaths in 2002 than in 2000. For example, among persons aged 75 to 84, cancer was the cause of 28.8% of all deaths in 2000, compared to 27.8% in 2002.

Among persons aged 65 to 74, cancer was the cause of 42.2% of all deaths in 2002, compared to 40.9% just 2 years before. Senior men are more likely to die from cancer than senior women. In 2002, 996.6 per 100,000 men aged 65 to 74 died from cancer, compared to only 650.3 per 100,000 women in the same age group.

The same pattern was evident in older age groups, and even more among persons aged 85 and over. Among the 85 years old and over, for deaths caused by cancer, the rate was 1.9 times greater for men than for women. Between 2000 and 2002, the second main cause of death for seniors, heart disease, has declined. This was true for men and women as well

Some chronic conditions are more likely to affect seniors while others, like asthma or back problems, are prevalent in all age groups. Arthritis or rheumatism is the most frequently reported chronic condition among seniors. In 2003, 44% of 65- to 74-year-olds and 51% of those 75 and over reported having arthritis or rheumatism, with higher proportion of women affected than men did. High blood pressure was the second most common chronic condition among seniors. In 2003, this disease affected more than 40% of seniors. Women were particularly at risk: half of women aged 75 and over reported that they had been diagnosed with high blood pressure, compared with 37% for men in the same age group.

Obesity, a factor that is highly correlated with the probability of developing high blood pressure and arthritis (Wilkins, 2004), has been on the rise during the past years (Tjepkema, 2005). 

Source: A Portrait of Seniors in Canada 2006 from Stats Canada

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