Strategy Demographic Imperative

Older adults are a significant and growing part of the population in the Toronto. Over the past 40 years, the number of older adults living in the city of Toronto has increased by over 200,000.

By comparison, the number of people under 30 years has decreased by over 135,000. Today, based on 2011 Census figures, there are 680,945 adults over the age of 55 years in Toronto. These residents represent about one quarter of the total population (Figure 2.1).

The growth in the older adult population is also expected to accelerate in coming years. Multiple estimates, including the City's Flashforward research study (Flashforward, 2006) and a study in support of the Ministry of Infrastructure's Growth Plan (Hemson, 2012), expect that older adults will make up a larger percentage of Toronto's population. By 2041, Hemson forecasts that there will be approximately 1.2 million adults 55 years and older in Toronto (Figure 2.2). There is a clear demographic imperative to address the needs of older Torontonians.

Click on graphs for larger versions

Population of Toronto
Figure 2.1
Like many municipalities in Canada, older adults make up a sizable portion of the population of Toronto.
Source: Statistics Canada 2011 Census

Forecasted Percent of Total Population
Figure 2.2
Estimates from multiple agencies forecast significant growth in Toronto's older adult population.
Source: Statistics Canada 2011 Census, Hemson Consulting Ltd. 2012

Population Growth

The growth of the older adult population is driven by two main factors (Figures 2.3 and 2.4). First, the life expectancy of Canadians has increased significantly, from 71.1 years in the 1960s to 80.8 years in 2009 (World Bank, 2013). As result, the number of people over the age of 80 is growing faster than any other age group in Toronto. The second factor is the "baby boom" generation, people born between 1946 and 1964, who are now between the ages of 55 and 64.

As the number of older people living in Toronto increases, the City will need to address the increased demand for services for older adults. More than this, these services will need to accommodate a variety of expectations and experiences given the broad diversity that exists within this age group.

Change in Population by 5-Year Age Group (2001-2011) graph

Change in Population by 5-Year Age Group (2001-2011)
Figure 2.3
Since 2001, the fastest growing parts of Toronto's population are its oldest residents and those between the ages of 55 and 64.
Source: Statistics Canada, 2001 and 2011 Census

Population Change (2001-2011) in Older Adult Population 55+ map

Population Change (2001-2011) in Older Adult Population 55+
Figure 2.4
The number of adults 55 years and older has increased in all but one of Toronto's neighbourhoods.
Source: Statistics Canada 2001 and 2011 Census
Prepared by: City of Toronto Social Development Finance & Administration Division, Social Policy, Analysis & Research Unit

Living Arrangements

Living alone can compound the risk of social isolation. According to recent Census data, over one in five adults (22%) 55 years and older live alone. That number is double for the oldest of Torontonians, with almost half (44%) of those 85 years and older living alone (Figure 2.5). Notably, 72% of adults 65 years and older are women.

A significant proportion of people experiencing homelessness are older adults. According to the 2009 Street Needs Assessment, almost one-fifth of the homeless population in Toronto was over the age of 50.

Adults 85+ Living Alone map

Adults 85+ Living Alone
Figure 2.5
Adults 85 years and older and living alone are located in many neighbourhoods across Toronto.
Source: Statistics Canada, 2011 Census
Prepared by: City of Toronto Social Development Finance & Administration Division, Social Policy, Analysis & Research Unit

Health and Activity Limitations

Older adults are more likely than the rest of the population to have health-related issues. Around 70% of Torontonians 80 years and older report a disability or activity limitation that has lasted or is expected to last six months or more (Figure 2.6). Almost 40% of Toronto residents 75 years and older describe their health as either "fair" or "poor" (Figure 2.7).

Older adults under the age of 80 report significantly better health. Less than half of Toronto's residents between the ages of 65 and 79 report physical or mental disabilities. Over half (55%) of those under 75 describe their health as "very good" or "excellent."

Activity Limitations (2005-2010) graph

Activity Limitations (2005-2010)
Figure 2.6
Older Torontonians are more likely to experience activity limitations or disabilities.
Source: CCHS combined waves 2007/08 and 2009/10, CRICH

Self-Reported Health
Figure 2.7
More than a third of Toronto residents over the age of 75 describe their health as "poor" or "fair".
Source: 2010 Canadian Community Health Survey


Many older Torontonians have low incomes. In 2009, over 114,000 Toronto families with at least one member 65 years or older were at or below Statistics Canada's two-person low-income cut-off (LICO) measure of $29,000 (Figure 2.8).

Whether by choice or necessity, it is not surprising that increasing numbers of older adults are working beyond retirement age. Since the end of mandatory retirement in Ontario in 2006, the number of adults 65 years and older participating in the work force has more than doubled. There were 52,000 adults 65 years and older participating in the workforce in 2011, compared to only 24,400 in 2006, according to Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey.

Consistent with this trend, the number of unemployed older adults has also increased. In 2011, there were 3,000 unemployed adults 65 and over, compared to 1,900 in 2006.

Older Adult Income Distribution
Figure 2.8
114,360 families with at least one member 65 years of age or older have incomes below Statistics Canada's two-person low-income cut-off of $29,880.
Source: Statistics Canada Income Statistics Division 2009

Linguistic Diversity

Similar to the city's population in general, older Torontonians are linguistically diverse. According to the 2011 Census, over a third (37%) of adults 55 and over spoke a non-official language on a regular basis at home. This linguistic diversity is most prominent in the oldest age cohorts. Of Toronto residents 75 years and older, 42% spoke a non-official language at home.

Immigrants and Newcomers

The 2006 Census found that 68% of Torontonians 55 years and older were immigrants. This percentage is higher than for any other age group in Toronto. It is also more than double the proportion of older adults who are immigrants in either Vancouver or Montreal.

Newcomer older adults are a particularly important and sizable group in Toronto. In 2006, there were 40,340 immigrants 55 years and older who had arrived in Canada within the last 10 years.

More recent 2011 data from Citizenship and Immigration Canada shows that an average of 8,768 permanent and temporary residents 55 years and older land in the City of Toronto every year.

These numbers are significant because, compared to other immigrant seniors and Canadian-born older adults, newcomer older adults are more likely to be visible minorities, have lower income, have less positive health and are less likely to speak one of the official languages.


Similar to communities around the world, there is a clear demographic imperative in Toronto to address the issues facing older adults. Where Toronto's experience will be unique is in its high level of diversity.

The City must recognize the increased vulnerability that exists when such factors as immigration, linguistic diversity, disability, and sexual orientation intersect with the challenges of aging.

On its own, each factor can create obstacles to accessing necessary programs and services in Toronto. Combined, these factors can magnify the vulnerability that an older adult faces on a daily basis.

Vulnerability is the result of the interaction between the challenges a person faces and the resources that they can access when facing those challenges. Vulnerability includes poverty, structural inequality, social networks and social supports, personal limitations, and physical location.

The City of Toronto must ensure that its programs and supports respect the different lived experiences of older Torontonians. Addressing these intersecting challenges and obstacles will ensure that Toronto can become an age-friendly city that is inclusive of everyone.

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