Fitness Industry Council of Canada lobbies for physical activity subsidy for seniors
How is Canada preparing for the seniors’ boom?
According to Statistics Canada, population projections show that the growth of people aged 85 and older will triple by 2050, but we will start to see the effects of an older population starting in 2031 as Baby Boomers – born between 1946 and 1965 – crest into the era of seniors discounts. By 2050, the 85 plus population could reach more than 2.7 million Canadians.
What will be the cost of an inactive senior population?
The percentage of adults meeting physical activity guidelines in Canada declines with age – which should be a growing concern for politicians. In a March 2023 interview, Liberal MP Adam Van Koeverden said: “The more we invest in health, the less we need to invest in healthcare.” According to the National Population Health Survey, only 14% of seniors are sufficiently active – and 65% of seniors were completely inactive.
This is why the Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC) is lobbying the federal government to invest in seniors; In our pre-budget submission, we proposed the government include a physical activity tax subsidy of $500 per Canadian over the age of 55.
“The number one reason seniors end up in the emergency room is due to falls,” says Gabriel Hardy, Executive Director of FIC. “What can help prevent falls? Working on strength, balance and stability – all things that happen inside our facilities, or with skilled trainers, active aging experts, kinesiologists, and in group fitness classes.”
In the white paper “A Healthy Aging in Canada: A New Vision, a Vital Investment” the Public Health Agency of Canada estimated that the cost of fall-related injuries in Canada among the over 65 population is roughly $2.8 billion dollars a year. Furthermore, the paper estimated that a reduction in falls by 20 percent would result in 7,500 fewer hospitalizations.
Physical activity is essential not only for fall-prevention, but also for preventing and treating key ailments that affect seniors, such as arthritis, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, many types of cancer and osteoporosis. As Canada’s senior population grows, it is essential to focus not simply on lifespan, but healthspan and explore ways to incentivize and motivate seniors towards increasing activity levels.
“We know that cost can be a limiting factor for seniors, who are often on tight budgets,” adds Hardy. “This is why FIC is asking the government to step up with a physical activity subsidy for seniors now.”
The term active aging encompasses physical, mental and social well-being, encouraging seniors to stay engaged, and maintain their independence as long as possible; healthspan goes beyond simply the absence of disease, into real quality of life for older adults. In a major study in the United Kingdom aimed at changing health behaviors, people over the age of 65 were offered regular group exercise classes focusing on balance, strength, mobility and cardiovascular fitness. A year after the program ended, researchers found that the seniors had maintained their mobility gains.
As the Canadian senior population grows, Canada must focus not only on the cost of triaging an inactive senior population, but the toll it will take on the younger generations of caregivers. This is why FIC believes a subsidy for seniors must be put into place now that will incentivize seniors towards a more active lifestyle.
“We spend the majority of our healthcare funding on treating preventable physical and mental health conditions,” says Hardy. “This hasn’t worked, and it isn’t working. We must try something new, and creating a physical activity subsidy for seniors is a good starting point. Our fitness facilities provide more than skilled and experienced trainers – seniors can come for their social health, to battle the effects of isolation and loneliness, and for that extra motivation.”
In a recent interview, Senator Marty Deacon said: “Healthy living is going to result in healthier people in an aging population. We need to make sure we are promoting health, which involves physical activity, mental health and social health.”
As Canada continues to evolve its approach to active aging, it has the potential to be a world leader. By investing in seniors’ health, Canada is not only ensuring a brighter future for its elderly population but also setting an example for active aging worldwide.
Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC) is the not-for profit trade association that represents the voice of fitness facility operators across Canada. Representing more than 6,000 facilities with more than six-million members nationwide, FIC pursues a legislative agenda in the hope of bettering the fitness industry for both consumers and operators. FIC aims to work with both industry and government to improve the health and physical activity levels of Canadians.