e particularly revealing. Although many different reasons were cited, the two reasons that appeared in all documents are critical for discussion: 1) population aging was occurring and 2) the need to address challenges and issues currently faced by senior citizens. These two reasons suggest a benign but reactive approach as population aging has been evident for decades, and so it is unfortunate the older persons living today in Canada have challenges and issues to contend with. Regardless of this concern about reactivity, these documents could have instead identified population aging as a problem with negative implications for Canadian society. These documents could have focused on reducing the challenges and issues for non-seniors arising from the growing number of older persons. A much more positive approach was evident instead, and in fairness, it should be recognized that it would be impossible to prevent all challenges and issues for seniors in advance of rapid and substantial population aging. It is also possible that much progress has already been made, and so the issues and challenges facing seniors now are less problematic than if no prior work had been undertaken.

It is also important to consider the symbolic value of these documents. The stated reasons for creating these documents are together highly commendable, as they demonstrate a wide ranging consideration of socially-relevant needs and issues. For instance, the identified needs to create age-friendly communities, address poverty and social isolation among seniors, enable aging-in-place, improve continuity or integration of services to better support seniors as they age, and for greater support of wellness and healthy aging initiatives to enhance wellness into advanced old age indicate much interest in ensuring Canada is a positive place to live and a successful society overall. In addition, these documents show important policy bodies exist or can be readily created - ones that are evidently well informed on the needs of older persons as well as the broad socially-responsible implications of population aging for Canada.

As identified above, the suggested action strategies and/or change recommendations in the 14 documents varied considerably. This variance is understandable, as each document was designed to address different issues or aspects of population aging. Most documents contained many diverse recommendations, but with considerable overlap across them indicating considerable synergy in thinking and thus relatively similar action strategies and/or recommendations across Canada. Although some policy documents focused narrowly on poverty and social isolation in aging [25] or the need for age-friendly communities [24], the recommendations to address these issues were relatively similar to the recommendations in other documents, such as those that focused on enabling work (paid and volunteer) in later life. The most common action strategies and/or recommendations are also of note. The most common were focused on ways to enhance, enable, or encourage active aging and healthy aging (8/14 documents), ensure financial security for older persons (7/14 documents), and enhance integration of services for seniors (7/14 documents). Ways to increase respectful recognition and inclusion of seniors in society (6/14 documents), and recommendations to enable or support aging-in-place (5/14 documents) were additional common strategies across multiple documents. Although commendable, progress reports are now needed. Some are already emerging, such as the 2009 Province of New Brunswick’s progress report [32] on the 2008 New Brunswick seniors’ independence support strategy [33]. The 2009 report indicates considerable progress was made in one year. This rapid progress is commendable and perhaps entirely possible because a clear and compelling policy document was developed. As such, a number of advantages to developing and having policy documents on hand were evident, including the impetus and directed efforts arising from recognized issues or needs and action plans [34-37]. These advantages appear to have been recognized outside of Canada, as many other countries have developed population aging policy documents to similarly focus attention and efforts [38,39]. The biggest disadvantage of the Canadian documents at this point in time appears to a lack of follow-up information on whether the action strategies or recommended changes were implemented and what the impacts or outcomes of the implemented ones have been. Evaluation studies are thus indicated.


With population aging becoming more evident in Canada, as the large babyboom generation is now aging, a systematic review was undertaken to determine if governments across Canada are prepared for or are becoming prepared for a much larger number of older persons and a major increase in the proportion of the public that is age 65 and older. This search for provincial, territorial, and federal government documents established the presence of population aging policy and thus an official awareness of population aging in all jurisdictions except two northern ones. Clearly, for some time now, most Canadian governments have recognized population aging as a matter for public policy. The policy purpose and action content varied considerably across the existing policy documents, although most were designed to address current issues and challenges faced by seniors, and to guide action toward a preferred future with population aging. As population aging continues, it will be increasingly important to determine if these policy plans for population aging are being carried out and what their impacts or outcomes are.


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