The Silver Tsunami: How Our Aging Population Will Shape Canadian Cities in the Coming Decade

February 10, 2020 5 Minute Read

The Silver Tsunami: How Our Aging Population Will Shape Canadian Cities in the Coming Decade

2018 marked a generational tipping point, with more seniors than children. By 2046, Ontario will have twice as many seniors, representing a startling 23.4% of the population.

This shift will impact everything from housing to healthcare, pushing families to make difficult choices about where and how their aging family members will live.

As the oldest Baby Boomers prepare to turn 75, the question of how our cities will support them has never been more important.

Getting Old in TO

Each city faces its own unique challenge in this respect, although they share a common thread: Will supply be able to keep pace with unprecedented demand?

In Toronto, the senior’s population is set to jump from 427,127 to 633,905 in the next decade, yet much of the city is comprised of low-rise homes with strict zoning that prevents even mid-rise developments.

While more and more seniors are choosing to “age-in-place” by remaining in their homes well after retirement, a growing number will require long-term care as they enter the final decades of their lives.

Seniors By Dominant Age Group
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How the industry responds to these changing demographics remains to be seen, but a broader range of models – from serviced apartment buildings to retirement “campuses” – are likely to take shape.

Areas surrounding major downtown hubs, including much of the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGHS), will also likely see a rise in seniors housing.

No matter the solution one thing is clear – our cities and communities as we know them today will look vastly different in the coming decades. And it’s worth examining how.


How We Live Now

Seniors accounted for 25.0% of Canadian homeowners in 2016, according to a study from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

That’s up 5.0% from 2006, and a trend that the CMHC says will likely continue as our population continues to age.

It’s part of an ongoing trend of seniors enjoying better health and staying in their homes longer before downsizing.

Total Population By Dominant Age Group
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It’s also one that becomes starker when considering which areas of the GGHS currently have the largest senior’s population.

North York, pockets of Mississauga, Vaughan, Markham and Burlington all have a high percentage of senior homeowners who have yet to downsize to smaller homes in denser areas.

Many of these areas will see their senior’s population grow from anywhere from 30.0 to 70.0% in the next decade, as more Baby Boomers cross the 75 years of age threshold.

In downtown Toronto, the senior’s population is relatively low, and looks to remain under 12.5% of the total population in the coming decade.

But no neighbourhood is completely free of this demographic shift, begging the question – where will this generation live when they do leave their homes for good? This could be especially problematic for downtown seniors with fixed incomes as the price of all forms of housing continues to skyrocket.



Preparing for What Comes Next

A rapidly aging population won’t be the only trend disrupting the Toronto market in the coming decade.

While Canada’s fertility rate continues to decline – currently sitting at just 1.5 new births per woman – Toronto will singlehandedly welcome one million new residents in the next 10 years, largely the result of robust immigration to the region.

Many of those new residents will also be looking to access long-term care facilities at the same time as some Baby Boomers because our elderly population is living longer than ever before.

On average, a man who turns 65 today can expect to live an average of another 19 years, while a woman will live an additional 22 years, according to Statistics Canada.

By 2050, there will be more than twice as many people needing long-term care provided outside of a hospital.

These forces will create pressures like never seen before and reshape the seniors housing market compared to what it is today.

2030 and Beyond

So how will seniors housing offerings change in the next ten years?

Part of the shift will have to do with mindset. While the Silent Generation was known for saving, Baby Boomers have been more willing to spend and invest and have higher expectations for their quality of life.

“Campuses of care,” where a range of different housing options are built in a single area, could grow in popularity, allowing residents to shift from assisted living to long-term care as they age.

Boomers will likely be looking for a housing solution that focuses on health rather than sickness, prioritizing an active lifestyle, independent living and community programming.

And while not all seniors will be able to afford high-end offerings with the most amenities and programming, a range of seniors housing products will start to emerge across the price spectrum, from mid-tier retirement communities to purpose-built rental buildings. While in the short-term demand may not meet supply, investors able to wait will find that there is more than enough interest in the next 10 years and beyond.

The Silver Tsunami Map Legend


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