Health

Number of NWT seniors rose 70% in past decade


The population of people aged 60 or over in the Northwest Territories rose by 68.5 percent in the past decade – the second-highest increase in Canada and well above the national average.

The figures were reported by the NWT Bureau of Statistics this week. Overall, the territory’s population has remained parked at 45,000 for the past three years, fluctuating only slightly.

Work to accommodate the growing number of seniors is evident across the NWT, invariably accompanied by concern that those efforts will be outpaced by the growing number of seniors.

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For example, Yellowknife seniors’ care facility Avens is planning a huge expansion in the next few years, adding space for more than 100 seniors, far higher than its current capacity.

Meanwhile, new NWT health minister Julie Green has stressed that she will prioritize urgent action to better organize the territory’s services for seniors.

“It’s very important to me that we develop a whole-of-government approach to seniors rather than piecemealing it through the departments,” Green told Cabin Radio last month.

“Our population of seniors is growing rapidly as we all know and we want them to age in place.

“We need to provide more personal support worker care – which is for everyday tasks, like going grocery shopping and cleaning the oven – and medical care, which will allow people to stay where they are for a longer period of time.”

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That may be easier said than done.

Extending that level of service across the territory’s 33 communities, many of them remote and with seasonal or no road access, requires significant funding and staffing.

Where the money and workers will come from is unclear, especially as Covid-19 adds new financial pressures.

Last week, finance minister Caroline Wawzonek acknowledged the turbulent fiscal climate would mean something of a “status-quo” budget is delivered next year.

Meanwhile, the number of Elders in need of services continues to rise.

Only Yukon, where the population of seniors rose by 77.4 percent in the past decade, was the increase more pronounced. The average growth of the seniors population across Canada was 38.5 percent in the same period.

However, the NWT still has the second-smallest proportion of seniors among provinces and territories.

The NWT Bureau of Statistics said 14.6 percent of the territory’s population – around 6,500 people – are aged 60 or over.

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